Dear Commons Community,
Hal Plotkin, Senior Policy Analyst at the U.S. Department of Education, gave the keynote address yesterday to over 2,000 attendees at the Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning. There were three parts to his presentation.
First, he warmed the audience by acknowledging that the Sloan Consortium and it members were the pioneers in developing online learning as a viable modality for delivering higher education. He commented that the Sloan community has been doing this for two decades and way before the MOOC phenomenon of the past couple of years.
Second, he shared with the audience his own personal story of being a high school “dropout” who worked in a pizza parlor in order to help support his family. And how one day, he wrote to the local newspaper in response to an editorial on dropouts, that he did not like the term and instead was “pushed out” by life circumstances beyond his control. He eventually completed high school and college and went on to a very successful career as a journalist and commentator.
The third part of his presentation essentially promoted the policies of President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He reviewed aspects of the Department of Education’s Learning Powered by Technology plan, and emphasized the role of online and technology-enabled learning in meeting President Obama’s 2020 college graduation goals. He also commented on the creation and continuous improvement of reusable open online learning resources, competency-based education, and community college initiatives. These drew polite applause.
My view was that the first two parts of his keynote were fine but that once he started politicizing his presentation, the audience knew that there would be little room for critical analyses of the policies that he was promoting.