Getting hands-on with online education – A Crash Course on Creativity

Tina Seelig's Innovation EngineI’ve been following the developments in the online education space with increasing interest over the last year or so, with the available options and choice growing seemingly by the day. The likes of Coursera, Venture Lab, and Udacity now have an impressive selection of courses, across the full range of the sciences, technology, arts and humanities. Then there are the likes of Codeacademy (learn to code), Skillshare (a global marketplace for classes), and the inspirational Khan Academy.

Back in October, whilst browsing the courses on offer starting soon, I came across A Crash Course on Creativity. Taught by Tina Seelig, Executive Director of Stanford’s Technology Ventures Program, the course is described as:

This crash course is designed to explore several factors that stimulate and inhibit creativity in individuals, teams, and organizations. In each session we will focus on a different variable related to creativity, such as framing problems, challenging assumptions, and creative teams.

The course is highly experiential, requiring each student to participate actively, taking on weekly projects. Each Wednesday a new challenge will be presented, and the results are due the following Tuesday. Some of the challenges will be completed individually, and some will be done in teams. There will be a two-week project toward the end of the course that will allow you to use all the tools you have learned.

To foster collaboration and learning between the students, we will craft teams for each assignment. Each project will be done with a different team, so students get a chance to work with a wide variety of participants. All submissions will be viewed and evaluated by the course participants. There will also be a course Twitter feed and Facebook page, and several scheduled Google Hangouts that will enable active discussions on specific topics.

This was a course that both appealed to me, relevant to my work and interests, and would give me a real hands-on experience of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

I enrolled right away, and by the time the course was about to kick off, I found myself jumping into something with over 35,000 other students, literally from all corners of the globe. Fantastic!

We’re coming towards the end of the course, and it has been a fascinating experience, I’ll share my progress, course assignments and observations of the experience in subsequent posts, along with some comparisons with having a crack at learning Ruby on Rails via One Month Rails on Skillshare for which I blame Mike Fraietta! 😉

Meanwhile I’ll leave you with Tina Seelig’s TEDxStanford talk: Introducing the Innovation Engine

Pressure from the cloud

No, we’re not talking meteorology here!

I have been keeping an interested eye on some of the developments from Amazon with their Amazon Web Services, so when I saw the following tweet from friend/colleague/troublemaker @MasterMark, it made me sit up!

Oh, dude! It’s a war, and cloud is a battlefield. #orcl swallows #sun, and days l8r, #ibm announces the end of licenses.

He is referring to this article, announcing the availability of IBM technology in the cloud, running on AWS’  EC2 platform, with an innovative approach to licensing.

On Amazon EC2 you can run many of the proven IBM platform technologies with which you’re already familiar, ….. By choosing Amazon EC2, you can get started in either of two ways. You can pay by the hour only for what you use, through Amazon EC2 running IBM. Alternatively, you can bring many of your own IBM licenses to run on Amazon EC2.

This got me thinking of the impact that this could have on certain internal applications that suffer from performance and scalability issues. For example, global instances which see spikes as people come online across different timezones. Do you scale for the spikes, or the average load and take the performance hit during peak use?

Amazon’s EC2, combined with applications such as IBM’s Websphere Portal, is now giving the enterprise an interesting choice. Do we put the application server out in the cloud, and have the flexibility to scale up and down according to demand?

Yet many corporations are still wary of the cloud, preferring to keep things on the inside, under their watchful eyes. So how would a large organisation replicate and offer something capable of this internally? I imagine virtualisation would be at the heart of any attempt, but the investment required would be significant, if not exorbitant, both in infrastructure and software. Could they even get close to competing on cost, ease of administration, billing…?

When will we see new expectations – I’ll call them “cloud-induced” –  take hold in the enterprise, where factors such as flexibility, agility, almost-zero required investment, take an increasingly higher priority? It strikes me that it will rapidly become harder for IT departments to provide and manage internally-hosted solutions that meet user expectations, as awareness of the cloud’s capabilities grows in the business.

Think about it. All Amazon ask of us is a credit card number….

Oh the irony!

This caught my eye via google alerts, emphasis is mine.

In a perfect world, all email clients would render our designs the way we intended it to be. Seeing as how browser compatibility for the web is still some way off, email client standardization would be eons away from reaching display nirvana.

Together with Outlook 2007, Lotus Notes is a very difficult email client to comply your designs with.

I left a comment explaining how Lotus Notes 8 is somewhat improved in this area.

Source: Online Marketing Business Blog: HTML Email and Lotus Notes

Chris Brogan: What Social Media Does Best

Chris Brogan has a great post in his series on social media.

This list is a must read!

  • Blogs allow chronological organization of thoughts, status, ideas. This means more permanence than emails.
  • Podcasts (video and audio) encourage different types of learning, and in portable formats.
  • Social networks encourage collaboration, can replace intranets and corporate directories, and can promote non-email conversation channels.
  • Social networks can amass like-minded people around shared interests with little external force, no organizational center, and a group sense of what is important and what comes next.
  • Social bookmarking means that entire groups can learn of new articles, tools, and other Web properties, instead of leaving them all on one machine, one browser, for one human.
  • Blogs and wikis encourage conversations, sharing, creation.
  • Social software, like Flickr and and even, promote human-mediated information sharing. Similar mechanisms inside of larger organizations would be just as effective.
  • Social news sites show the popularity of certain information, at least within certain demographics. Would roll-your-own voting within the company be useful?
  • Social networks are full of prospecting and lead generation information for sales and marketing.
  • Social networks make for great ways to understand the mindset of the online consumer, should that be of value to you.
  • Online versions of your materials and media, especially in formats that let you share, mean that you’re equipping others to run with your message, should that be important (like if you’re a marketer).
  • Online versions of your materials and media are searchable, and help Google help you find new visitors / customers / employees.
  • Social networks contain lots of information about your prospective new hires, your customers, your competitors.
  • Blogs allow you to speak your mind, and let the rest of the world know your thought processes and mindsets.
  • Podcasts are a way to build intimacy with information.
  • Podcasts reach people who are trying out new gadgets, like iPhones, iPods, Apple TVs, Zunes, and more.
  • Tagging and sharing and all the other activities common on the social Web mean that information gets passed around much faster.
  • Human aggregation and mediation improves the quality of data you find, and gives you more “exactly what I was looking for” help. (See also, Mahalo).
  • Innovation works much faster in a social software environment, open source or otherwise.
  • Conversations spread around, adding metadata and further potential business value.
  • People feel heard.

I could pick any as a favourite!

Marketing Pilgrim > Is Google Sick of Flash Web Sites? New Feature Encourages Users to “Skip Intro”

This post from Andy Beal caught my attention today, commenting on google’s latest feature. As part of its search results, Google is letting us skip a site’s flash intro.

So you know what we are discussing, here is an example search. Check out the [Skip Intro] link to the right of the result.

The new feature in itself I didn’t find particularly notable. However, Andy closes by saying (emphasis mine):

This suggests that Google is algorithmically detecting homepages that are all Flash, and taking it upon themselves to help you skip the intro.

What do you think about this? Great for searchers, but taking liberties with a site owner’s right to display a page as he intended?

Now this made me sit up!

This “right” Andy mentions was taken away with the advent of RSS. It brought into play a whole new way of users navigating the sites they now only rarely visit. Gone are the days when a site owner could “control” the landing page to their site, and what the user had to wade through just to get to what they wanted. Flash intros should be a thing of the past, and I don’t see why google is “taking liberties” in helping people actually get to the content they are looking for. I think site owners should see it that way also.

It surprised me, to see this question coming from a marketing blog resplendent with its RSS feeds and the like. If online marketing types are advising people to move towards RSS and social media, they need to also be explaining some of the consequences.

On Facebook? Shop at Overstock? Then read on…

Some thought-provoking commentary for all us Facebookers out there. Particularly at this time of year, when we are all turning to the internet to help with the task of Christmas shopping.

Here is some poor guy’s story, painfully making it clear why Facebook’s Beacon is a bad idea in its current form:

I purchased a diamond engagement ring set from overstock in preparation for a New Year’s surprise for my girlfriend. Please note that this was something meant to be very special, and also very private at this point (for obvious reasons). Within hours, I received a shocking call from one of my best friends of surprise and “congratulations” for getting engaged.(!!!)

Imagine my horror when I learned that overstock had published the details of my purchase (including a link to the item and its price) on my public facebook newsfeed, as well as notifications to all of my friends. ALL OF MY FRIENDS, including my girlfriend, and all of her friends, etc…


I am totally distressed that my surprise was ruined, and what was meant to be something special and a lifetime memory for my girlfriend and I was destroyed by a totally underhanded and infuriating privacy invasion. I want to wring the neck of the folks at overstock and facebook who thought that this was a good idea. It sets a terrible precedent on the net, and I feel that it ruined a part of my life.

Groundswell (Incorporating Charlene Li’s Blog): Close encounter with Facebook Beacon

Be careful out there folk, and think about what these things involve.

Via ChiefTech

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