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Kevin Kelly over at Cool Tools points to a free PDF version of a pay for text that guides people through an equivalent curriculum to a Masters in Business Admin. In describing the benefits of this guided self learning he points out that an MBA could set you back 10’s even 100’s of thousands of dollars, while purchasing the printed texts might only set you back $500. What the text doesn’t give you, as Kevin acknowledges, is a network of friends or business contacts at the end of your course. Ah! Enter a networked learning model to support this text perhaps. A way for people who are using this text to make contact and communicate about their efforts. Clearly the information doesn’t change all that much, but the packaging (and the fees) change considerably. Is this the niche that traditional education ought to be looking at more closely? I think so. A beautifully packaged and engaging text, that prints on demand through a service like Lulu, and so can be always up to date with the latest information. Supported by an online learning community with value added services on offer. Such as formal recognition of learning if it is needed.

Would it work for many other subjects? I think it might. Right now I’m building a deck. I’d like to know how to do it right, but I don’t intend to enrol in a course to learn how to build it either. So I search the net and talk to friends and industry people. I get little bits of info, but not the hole shebang you know.. Not surprisingly, Internet info specific to NZ requirements is hard to find in the popular servers.. seems you gotta be in the know before you can get to know. Show me a handy, all-I-need-to-know text, supported with online video, all relevant to NZ requirements and materials and available accross any number of popular servers (like they’re starting to do with promotion widgets and distributed promo for movies these days) I couldn’t help but find it! Once found, I would still pay about $100 for the package in my hand too – to save me having to download, print, bind, package it etc.

Now, it just so happens that I have rather enjoyed the landscaping, planning, building and talking with council process. I think I’d like to know more about all this and maybe consider helping a friend or two, or even going into business… what was that web address for that book again? Oh! there it is on the cover… hey! They offer a recognition of prior learning for the formal qualifications they also offer! And short evening classes for anything I might be a bit weak on! That sounds much better than a 3 year full time study plan. I just want to dabble in it for now and maybe build up to something…

Update: Will Richardson went further with Personal MBA (see first comment) to find their website: http://personalmba.com/

Janet Hawtin in TALO sent through URLs to the slides of a workshop for the Education Network Australia by Ken Price…

Web 2.0 and education: best friends or worst enemies

[seems there are still many people in our "leading" education agencies still waking up to this Web2 thing while some of the "early adopters" start pulling each other apart Keen style.]

Ken’s presentation is a good overview. Does the usual (but necessary) overkill-to-hammer-the-point-home on the many many useful tools out there, but more importantly he posits a few questions and considerations… nothing too heady… nothing that questions the very fabric of education and the like.. just everyday questions for everyday people getting by day by day.

About half way through he posits the idea that schools go through 5 stages when presented with a technology:

  1. Some online tool becomes available freely available
  2. Students use it at home and school
  3. Some educators may (validly or otherwise) see this tool as a threat. They respond by restricting, renouncing or simply banning it.
  4. Tool becomes widespread in wider community (Gladwell’s Tipping Point reached?). Student use or expectation reaches critical mass, education sees its potential and the need to provide it securely
  5. Education responds with a secure and manageable replacement… And everyone breathes a sigh of relief….

Now, I’m not sure if Ken was hinting at something there with that last line ending in a … , and later in the presentation it becomes a little clearer, but I’m personally not feeling clear enough on this…

It does appear in education to be the common road to take – responding with a “secure and manageable replacement”. Why is that the default, and why am I the only one who continues to take issue with that?

Ken shows a long long list of free web based tools with examples of their uses (as we all do). I didn’t see any “secure, manageable, replacements” in his list, and I certainly can’t imagine a school, or even a centrally controlled agency of the State like EdNA or Department of Ed successfully “managing a secure replacement”. The only example I can think of is email, (I won’t even acknowledge the arsed up attempts with LMS and SharePoint!) and even email is going back the other way as we all start adopting gMail accounts for the better functionality than the State email provides. I know for sure that if they did try and provide a manageable and secure replacement, it’d take so long to get through, and be so crippled and unpopular by the end of the process, (the millions of dollars spent by NSW on webservices anyone? check the history, what a flop!) that it could never even hope to be web2 (needing popular participation and all!). What is this security we keep noding to as though we all know what it is? Is it a mish mash of network computer security and duty of care? I reckon its the terrorism we all know is waiting at every airport and bus stop… fear – paralysing fear.

Ken does list risks later on though… are these the things he/we refer to when we say secure?

  •  Where is your data?
  •  Who else can get to it?
  •  Does the application encourage inappropriate use?
  • What happens if the service provider has technical problems, goes out of business?
  • Usernames and passwords – how to manage them all?
  • Security risk if you use same username/pwd as on your own systems? Need for different levels of password
  • Data volume and bandwidth requirements

These are risks, some of them I think we just need to get over really, but all of them have a range of management strategies possible in the practice of Web2 before we expect our underpaid, and over worked IT managers to provide a “manageable and secure replacement” – that by the way, should be as cool and popular as all the web2 tools we are already using…

Poor guy, by the time he gets through all the red tape to get a project going that simply investigates this web2 thing (because he hasn’t found time to keep on top of the RSS feeds the past 3 years), the deal he’s been negotiating with Microsoft Sharepoint, Elluminate and Blackboard over the past few years has finally started to look possible… and by the time he gets all his staff up to speed with this Web2 bubble, it will have tp’d off to the Second Life and virtual worlds crew who will have figured out a way to integrate Web2 with Web3D and the 2nd wave teachers watching Ken will be asking for a “manageable and secure version” of Web3D too!

Ken’s presentation is worth looking at. Its nicely self contained so you don’t feel like you need him there to talk you through it. It raises some good questions – perhaps tries to answer them too much, and covers a good range of issues for schools to be thinking about.. while the rest of us think about how to get those issues out of schools.

A week ago I was contacted by Andrew Schwatz from Custom Writing. He was offering me $25 per month to put a link on my website to his. Naturally I was flattered to think that someone out there thought that my blog would be a good vehicle to promote another webservice, and I was curious to know what that service was.

Boy! was I surprised and riveted by the audacity! Custom Writing is a service that will write you an essay that is guaranteed to be free from plagiarism and to not get picked up by plagiarism checkers like turn it in.

Custom-Writing.org offers professional academic research and writing services in any field of study. We guarantee highly qualified, confidential essay writing strictly in accordance with your instructions. When ordering paper writing services from Custom-Writing.org, you can have your essay completed in 12, 8 or 6 hours! Custom-Writing.org organizes own work using simple formula: Quality Writing + Responsibility + Personal Care = Success. When ordering essay writing services, rest assured, we are fully dedicated to your academic success!

We Guarantee:

— Quality research and writing
FREE plagiarism report
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— 24/7 Instant Support
— 275 words per page
— Double-spaced, 12pt Arial
— Essay within 12 hours!
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Check out their pricing! Not too bad at all!

So I’ll add a link alright, and I’ll do it for free! This is thoroughly interesting stuff and right down my alley, in terms of pressuring education and academia to rethink its role and practices.

So I replied to Andrew and asked for an interview. Within a few hours he replied with a, “yes, send the questions through..” I buzzed my office with the disturbing news of a service that will write essays for you, and the questions came flying. I noted them down and sent Andrew the list. He had the answers for me next day. Here they are:

Is this a kind of plagiarism? Does your service get around the plagiarism checkers like ‘Turn it in’?

Yes, the papers we provide are plagiarism free – neither TurnItIn, nor any other plagiarism detecting software cannot find any plagiarism. Papers are 100% custom written, so the only way to find out that the paper was not written by a student is to compare the regular writing style of a student with the writing style in the paper. Still, at our writing service, a student can upload samples of own work for writer to review – so, the possibility for a teacher to find out is really minimal and for a teacher to prove – virtually impossible.

How do you see your role in the field of education?

    No person can be equally good at everything – if he/she is, then this is the wrong path, a student talent is lost. There are people who are good at Math and IT – let them develop their skills in this field instead of torturing them with writing assignments. What is really the point of this, if students must waste hours developing skills they will never be professional in instead of concentrating on the field their future career will depend upon? I really see the role of custom writing services in education as a relief for those who have already chosen their career, who know their path, and have already somewhat succeeded in it – since services are somewhat costly and in order to buy a custom written paper, a student must have a job (the most part of our customers). Furthermore, academic writing services spare time for students to develop in the field they chose to, so, to some extent, this is a plus for their education too.

    The very existence of custom writing services shows that educational system is imperfect: assessment tools are not objective. Writing services simply indicate that a problem in assessment techniques exists and push educational system forward to development and innovation by making them analyze the appropriateness of writing assignments as an assessment tool.

    How much do you think your service potentially subverts assessment in education?

    Do you really know any widely recognized tests that assess writing skills, aside from assessment of students majoring in writing? Student knowledge simply cannot be assessed by off-class writing assignments. I do not think that assessment in education is subverted by the work of writing companies. Instead, it points out the possible failure of academic assessment techniques and, by doing so, makes a favor. Essay writing is not an effective assessment tool with or without existence of custom writing companies.

    Does you your service subvert academia? – good bad, doesn’t matter, other…

        To some extent, yes, but not without help of educational system itself. Since essays are used as an assessment tool, which is a wrong method for testing student knowledge, students are seeking the way out. This is not bad in itself, since, as previously stated, they receive an opportunity to devote themselves to the path chosen – whether Math, IT, or Dance, but this, perhaps, shapes a wrong worldview, as students have to deal with ethical dilemmas imposed by society, which should not have happened if academic institutions were to develop better assessment techniques and a more personalized, individual interests based educational program.

        Does your company object to standardised assessments like essays?

          Yes, definitely, yes. Take-home essays are simply pointless for objective assessment of student knowledge, especially if it is for classes like Economics or Math – where exact, subject specific knowledge is what does count.

          Does your service undermine the quality of education and hence the work that people take on through their educational credentials?

            Nope, do not think so. Once again – the question and the problem itself lies in effective assessment techniques, which definitely should not be in essay format. When it comes to applying for a job – experience and testing conducted by a hiring company – is what does count, not educational credentials. From this perspective, companies like ours only help – we spare the time for students to develop in the field they chose to, which will then be their career path.

            Do you have alternative visions for knowledge creation and sharing?

              With the advent of online social networks, I think that one could definitely come up with an alternative to regular writing assignments. Why not let students communicate and develop their own interest based social networks where they could stand up for their views in academic related subjects that do interest them? For students majoring and/or interested in IT or Math – let them discuss in a written form questions that interest them – both professional knowledge and writing skills would develop. Math and IT students need writing for communicating own ideas in a written form in a professional manner, perhaps, using specialized IT/Math vocabulary. What would develop their writing skills better than an open discussion on an education related topic of own choice? Academic institutions perceive Internet as a threat instead of enjoying all the benefits and opportunities it offers for improvement of education.

              Without giving away your competitive secrets, how does your company work? what is the process for your creations?

              Basically, we accept orders from customers through an online order form, where they fill out assignment details, provide a deadline. We then make the order available to our writers who work remotely for them to apply for the work. Once a number of applications is submitted, the best writer is chosen and the order is transferred to his/her personal work account. Students can upload files needed, communicate with writer directly to guide him/her. Once the work is completed, it is uploaded directly to our support team. We then check the work and send it to customer. That’s it.

                Where do the people who write for you come from? What is their background? Are they paid well? What are their conditions (working from home?)

                  We have a large database of writers working remotely, primarily from home. Most of our writers come from UK and US. A few years ago it was rather difficult to find a good writer. Now, we receive 5-10 applications daily. Are they paid well? I guess enough for them to work for us, not to drop the work, and receive overall positive customer feedbacks. Not long time ago, we gave a try to foreign writers and, let me tell you – we were really surprised by the quality of work produced. You can get a PhD writer from India , who is a lecturer in a University, where all classes are taught in English, to produce a neatly written document that will get an A+ for a native speaker. Even though we are not yet switching to writers with PhD degrees whose English is second language – believe me, IT is not going to be the only field outsourced to India in the nearest future. Check out optimization forums, where content for most of US based websites is written by teams of writers coming from the Third World .

                  I imagine your service has to be fairly generic – how would you approach quite specific subject areas, where either specific knowledge or local dialect is needed?

                    You are a bit mistaken here, for off-line writing agencies – you are right, but for online – we have hundreds of writers who can log in into their accounts and apply for the work they are most skilled at.

                    Anything else you would like to add? what are the stats of people using your service? How many, where from? etc

                      Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with the exact stats of people using our services and even if I do, it will not be representative in terms of students overall, since the market share of company can hardly be estimated with a certain level of accuracy. Overall, most students are either US residents or foreign students studying in the US (about 70%). UK – the next country on the list (15%), Australia , Canada – the next ones (5%). Some – coming from Japan , China , Russia , Poland (10%). Most students who use our services are overloaded with work, have family problems, or are too busy with all the different activities. They are not cheaters; they are simply seeking a compromise in difficult situations and imperfection of assessment techniques helps to find it in custom writing companies.

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