Thursday, August 29, 2013


Friday Fragments

This one is for the techies.  We use Moodle for our online courses, and our local server space is fairly limited.  Our online services people have developed several brief videos to help students who are new to online learning pick up some how-to’s.  

We’re trying to figure out if there’s a way to post those videos to YouTube (or something similar) in a way that only the students enrolled in relevant courses would have access to them.  I’m envisioning a link on our password-protected site that would take students to a special section of YouTube where they could see the videos.  

Has anyone found a reasonably elegant way to target videos at a certain group of students, without having to use local servers?


The Onion has stepped in it a few times recently, but these two pieces are genius.  They’re a welcome reminder that sometimes humor can tell truths that straight journalism just can’t.


If you’re on Twitter and you aren’t yet following Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd), you’re doing it wrong.  Her observations on the racial implications of Miley Cyrus’ VMA act went viral, and rightly so, but she made a wonderful observation yesterday that’s much more directly about higher education.

From the outside, it’s easy to wonder why students who don’t have much money often choose very expensive for-profits over much less expensive community colleges.  Cottom pointed out, correctly and succinctly, that there’s a difference between total cost and upfront, out-of-pocket cost.  The for-profits understand that at a level that community colleges generally don’t.  A student who won’t blink at tens of thousands of dollars in student loans will balk at a forty dollar application fee.  The loans don’t seem real, but the fee does.  It’s the same principle behind “no payments for ninety days!”

She’s right, obviously, and there’s much to learn from the observation.  

Time horizons can shrink pretty badly when you’re strapped.  If the very short term is prohibitive, the long term is irrelevant.   Little things like bus passes and emergency loans can make tremendous differences at the right moments.  

I know it’s out of fashion to suggest that we have anything to learn from the for-profits, but in this case, we do.  We can use those powers for good.


The Boy is doing Fall baseball this year, to have something athletic to do until basketball season starts.  (Having tried it for a few years, we’re just not soccer people.)  The Girl’s gymnastics start up again next week.  Music lessons continue, and Lego League is just around the corner.

There’s the start of school, and there’s the start of after-school.  After-school is harder.  Summer, we hardly knew ye...

How about a password protected blog with the videos?

The other thing for-profits do better is offer classes in a way that is convenient for students rather than faculty. Nights, on-line, multiple sites, all of those are more common in the for profit world. It's something for the rest of us to think about - what accommodations do we make for the needs of our working students?
You probably want your faculty to upload videos to YouTube and make them "Unlisted" rather than public or private.

Google for "Youtube video privacy settings" and you'll find this on the first hit:

Unlisted videos

Making a video unlisted means that only people who have the link to the video can view it. To share an unlisted video, just share the link with the people who you’d like to have access to it, and they’ll then be able to see it. Unlike private videos, the people you share the video with do not need to have a Google account to see the video, and they can share with more people simply by forwarding the link to them.

Unlisted videos won’t appear in any of YouTube's public spaces, like your channel page or search results.

Anyone who knows the video’s link can place the video in a playlist, even a public playlist. This could make the video visible on other parts of YouTube, including the homepage.

Your video could appear elsewhere on the web if you or anyone who you shared the video with shares it more broadly. For example, if somebody with whom you share the video goes on to share the link through an email or posts it on a blog, then all the people who access that link will be able to view the video.
This sort of video doesn't sound like something that's super sensitive to me. Why classify it? Does it actually cause any harm to make it publicly available? I think it's just uninteresting to anyone else. Or, if it's of more general interest, then it can be a public service to the world.

I always make my course notes and assignments available to the world. It happens that my university's IP policy gives me full rights to all materials I create (actually, except for course outlines and final exams). I also greatly appreciate consulting other peoples' course materials to figure out what they are doing. We are in the business of making knowledge available here. I actually think it ought to be part of the job; one of my pet peeves is when people don't make their course materials available for no good reason.
I assume you mean your server capacity is limited (flops and bandwidth), not capacity. Disk is cheap.

I'm with the others. Just use YouTube and put the links behind your "paywall". One advantage of this not mentioned above is that you can change how you Manage Learning without having to reload everything that isn't affected by changing systems. This is a big deal for content.

Whether you hide it or not is probably irrelevant. I think you underestimate how many videos are on the interwebs and how many people care about your topic. Videos used for both review and content delivery (for hybrid and web classes) in one high enrollment class at my college barely push into the 4 digits. The story of "Oh Sweet Lorraine" beats that hit count in an hour.

But why hide your candle under a bushel? If you have something really useful to anyone, maybe even high school students, put it out there and feature it on your web site. Use it as a recruiting tool in your region.
Excellent Onion pointers, thanks. Here are two more:,33641/?ref=auto,33690/?ref=auto
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