Where will the money for MOOCs come from?

The thing that caught my eye about this report in the Chronicle of Bill Gates’ keynote at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit was:

“In the Q&A, Mr. Gates predicted that MOOCs would not be “place-based” classes but would be led by a small subset of instructors who taught to a broad audience. There’s a set of people, he said, who are really good at it and who have big budgets and great support.”

I’ve been wondering where the money will come from to create MOOCs (who hasn’t). Right now most institutions are simply absorbing the cost for their own early ventures with MOOCs because this is a game that everyone wants to get into without necessarily knowing where it will lead, or even the rules of the game. A few of the lucky ones may have external funding to create their MOOCs. However if you’re a university with any ambition for online learning, can you afford not to be dabbling with MOOCs right now? But longer term, when the initial rush to go live is over and the revenue models are known for the big players, how many can afford to remain in this space? I think Gates is probably right. MOOCs, or whatever they turn into, may remain the product of a small number of players with big budgets and great institutional support. Those of us without the cash will have to come up with different sustainable models for production and support for our online learning, or else mooch rather than MOOC.

Goodbye Google Reader hello Feedly

Feedly logo
Feedly logo

The retirement of Google Reader has forced me like many others to look for an alternative service to manage my RSS subscriptions. I’ve tried a number of services and apps and have decided to go with Feedly, at least for now. Feedly made the transition from Google easy because I started using it as an interface to my Google Reader account in the weeks leading up to the switch off so there was no need to export my feeds from Google. I like Feedly’s web interface, and use that the most, although I also have the iPad and iPhone apps and use those occasionally. There’s also an IFTT Feedly channel, so I might play with that too.

Some people are saying that Google dropping Reader is another small step away from the open web towards a closed walled-garden web composed of proprietary services. In terms of RSS at least, I’m not that pessimistic. For a long time RSS was my main route to getting all the news I read from multiple sources. But in recent years I’ve been getting news and updates via all kinds of other routes including Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. I now mostly use RSS as a way of keeping up to date with various blogs. It fits with my workflow. I use Twitter to find out about updates to apps and web services that I use. I read one or two of the big news meta sites like TechCrunch and The Verge, and I subscribe to a number of Linkedin groups for professional interest. RSS has a place, and for that Feedly works well for me.

Dave Winer clearly has a view on this, as he was instrumental in most of us using RSS to read news in the first place (whether or not most people knew it). There’s much to be optimistic about for the future of RSS in Dave’s piece, even if he’s not sure himself. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Bulletproof blog

HackedI’ve had an interesting few weeks fixing my blog. It was hacked. I suspect – though I have no direct proof – through my domain host CPanel account. Reading around the Internet, the host that I had chosen and had been happy with for a number of years had been victim to a server attack since early in the new year, and the account details of customers had been posted online somewhere. My CPanel password was relatively strong and not guessable (it wasn’t a dictionary word) yet a file was uploaded to my account via CPanel file upload. When I asked my domain host about it and how they think my account was hack they simply said via an unsecured script, and didn’t elaborate whether it was in my WordPress install or on their server. Anyway, after much cleaning and reinstalling – thank goodness I paid for routine site backup – I’m now back online with a clean site.

As a result of all this unwanted excitement I’ve made a few changes. Most importantly I’ve changed my domain host. I’m now with Bluehost, one of the few hosts recommended by WordPress themselves. I couldn’t be happier. It was an easy switch and I’ve now got more control than ever before over my CPanel account. I’ve also paid for BulletProof Security Pro plugin. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re a serious WordPress user. I used the free version for a while and liked it. The Pro version is just terrific and for the first time I feel safe in my WordPress bed at night. The owner Ed Alexander is so helpful. Please do seriously consider this plugin if you manage your own WordPress installation.

As an extra layer of security I now also use CloudFlare. I’m completely new to the word of content delivery networks and web application firewalls. It’s early days to know whether I’m benefitting from the claimed security and performance improvements, but the basic version is free with Bluehost so I’m giving it a go.

If you have any WordPress security tips and favourite plugins please let me know in the comments.