iPads and Health Care

By Kyungmi Park, Eunkwang Joo and Soren Svejstrup

All internal-medicine residents at the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins are given iPads; entering medical students at Stanford are given vouchers they can use to buy one. iPads are also being implemented in hospitals and in private practices, and it can therefore be argued that tablets are becoming a standard tool in the practitioning of medicine (I). Of course this introduction of tablets into the healthcare industry has led to some changes in the way doctors, nurses, and patients collaborate.

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MOOCs: The Myth Of Online Classrooms

by Sandra Helsley, Ajeeta Dhole, Kate Rushton

In The Myth of the Paperless Office, Sellen and Harper write, “For each limit, for each set of actions that paper prevents, there is a set of actions that it enables. In other words, each limitation is also an affordance.” In a previous post, Ignacio, Andrew, and Sydney wrote about the impersonal nature of online education. In this post, we apply the concept of affordance to MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, and consider how online education does and does not afford certain types of learning behavior, just as paper does and does not afford certain types of work processes. As with the paper vs. digital debate, the opportunities and limitations of MOOCs may be understood by comparing affordances of an online course experience with an in-person course at a university.

MOOCs such as Coursera or Udacity provide open and (typically) free access to high-quality educational resources to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. Online courses are designed to afford autonomy to students. Students are not held to instructor-defined deadlines, and are able to self-pace their progress. Students are free to explore online content in a non-linear fashion, unlike a physical classroom setting, where the flow of the course is choreographed by instructors, the flexibility and autonomy allows each student to personalize their own educational experience to meet their specific learning needs and abilities. Additionally, the “massive” numbers of student subscribers in each class afford access to a much larger and diverse peer network to learn from and collaborate with.

However, analyses of MOOCs reveal many problems with the online format that may, in part, be attributed to their open-ended affordances. Online courses have notoriously poor completion rates: studies estimate that fewer than 1 in 10 students who sign up for a course complete it, and in at least one case the number was lower than 5 percent. In contrast, although a comparison cannot be made for specific classes, UC Berkeley has a retention rate of around 95%.  Part of the issue is certainly economic: most MOOCs are free and open to all, and the cost of signing up is low, but so is the penalty for failing to finish. Completion rates are low even for paid online courses (somewhere in the neighborhood of 30%).

Aside from economics, the difference in completion rates between online and offline classes may be attributed in large part to the affordances of a physical classroom. Face-to-face interactions have two main benefits for learning: interactivity and accountability. Online courses may offer some proxy for attendance (e.g., a “who’s online now” feature), but there is no real replacement for the transparency of face-to-face interactions. In a physical classroom, students are expected to attend classes for the duration of the lesson, pay attention to the instructor, answer questions when asked, and complete assignments by instructor-defined deadlines. None of the above applies online. When a student’s motivation flounders, classroom norms compel him to retain some semblance of participation, but the online student may simply log off.

The lack of physical presence also has implications for the quality of learning: in a traditional class, instructors may gauge the effectiveness of their teaching based on students’ facial expressions and body language. This also helps the instructor identify students who are struggling. In contrast, MOOC students are anonymous and too numerous to customize for different learning styles. Additionally, lectures are usually pre-recorded, so spontaneous one-on-one attention is nearly impossible.

MOOCs offer a standardized, one-size-fits-all approach to education that demands a high level of self-motivation and independent learning. Given these constraints, it’s not that surprising that only a subset of students succeed. In fact, the students who do well are autodidacts who have the least need of a free university education.

What does this spell (pun intended) for the future of online education? MOOCs have great potential to disrupt traditional educational expectations. With flexibility, autonomy, and open access to top-notch educators, the benefits of online learning would seem to outweigh its inadequacies. Yet the low completion rates suggest that so far, MOOCs are a bit of a bust.

Perhaps if MOOCs are to be fully successful, society needs to take a different approach to how we think about online courses. As with DanTech “going paperless,” online education requires a paradigm shift: we need to change the underlying work processes of taking a class online, instead of pretending to take a class as per normal.

There are a number of ways this has been done successfully. Websites like Codecademy offer programming courses through comparatively short, guided modules. Students who are interested in learning can sign up for free and go through any number of hands-on technical exercises, with less time spent watching lectures than on websites such as Udacity or Coursera.

This shorter, step-by-step method affords a smaller time requirement, while still providing the restrictive affordances that the more open-ended courses lack. Added gamification encourages students to earn points for completed modules, and unlock achievement badges when certain tasks are completed.

In a few cases, lessons from the online Khan Academy are assigned to students as homework, allowing teachers to spend less time lecturing, and devote more time in class providing customized one-on-one feedback, especially to those who might be struggling and need more help. In this way, MOOCs can be used to augment in-class education, rather than supplant it entirely.

Online education is still a nascent innovation. It seems unlikely that the effectiveness and stature of traditional classroom education will be superseded by online education in the near future. But there is no denying that MOOCs have the potential to disrupt the privileged nature of classroom education and democratize education for the masses.


Big Data and Qualitative Research

By Isha Dandavate, Sophie Barness, Seema Hari

Big data analysis has become a widely used tool– Netflix used it to inform the creation of “House of Cards,” Nate Silver used it to predict the results of the presidential elections, and Grameen Foundation uses it to better tailor financial services for poor households. However, big data comes with its own set of problems. This New York Times op-ed piece, by David Brooks, discusses situations in which data doesn’t work; and coincidentally these are situations in which the strengths of qualitative research could be leveraged.

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Digital Humanities: Leveraging Quantitative Methods for Literary Analysis

by Christine Petrozzo, Vaidyanath Venkitasubramanian, Sayantan Mukhopadhyay

Novels, Authors and The Big Data Analysis

Man has always been looking for ways to discover insights about culture. Today, one of the biggest tools at our disposal is the large volume of data available through technological methods. Up until recent times, analyzing a handful of texts did not yield much, namely regarding the context in which the text was written or additional interesting details explaining the reasons influencing a particular author in history. However, with the advent of big data and computational techniques, the fields of humanities and social sciences have evolved, helping these researchers identify statistical patterns and create data-driven hypothesis testing.

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Crowdfunding : The Kickstarter Phenomenon

by Bharathkumar Gunasekaran, Divya Anand, Eungchan Kim

Kickstarter is the world’s largest crowdfunding platform for funding creative projects. It was launched in 2009 and has gained a lot of traction since then. Given the amount of media and user attention this website has been garnering, we believe that it would be interesting to look at this crowdfunding phenomenon through the lens of E.Roger’s ‘Diffusion of Innovation’ theory. The key elements of this analysis include an overview of: (i) The innovation (ii) Communication Channels (iii) Time and (iv) Social System

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Office Hours This Week

Stuart Geiger will be holding his office hours (as usual) on Tuesday 1-3pm (in the 1st floor alcove).

Jen Schradie will not be holding office hours at her usual time on Thursday (she held substitute office hours on Google Hangouts this past Sunday).

Since I am out of town this week I will not be holding office hours as usual this Tuesday. Substitute office hours will be at my office (room 312, South Hall) NEXT Monday (Feb 18, the day before your first assignment is due) 2-4pm. If you plan to drop by, please e-mail me and let me know around what time you plan to come by so I can get a sense of how many students to prepare for and maybe set up a schedule if that’s necessary.


Flickr Mini-Assignment #1

Flickr Mini-Assignment #1: Thinking about Actor-Network Theory – due Tuesday Feb. 12th

Photograph an artifact/entity (human or non-human) that is not in use in the way we typically expect (either broken or enrolled in an uncommon or counter-intuitive way).

Post directly to our Flickr pool or (for those of you who don’t wish to create or use your Yahoo, Facebook or Google account to login – e-mail to Stuart: sgeiger@gmail.com)

In the caption section answer one of these questions:

What (missing) entities must it be enrolled with to make it what it more typically is?

How is it enrolled in this particular case to make it what it isn’t?

Completing this mini-assignment contributes to your class participation grade.