My Birth Family

This photo was taken in between performances of a concert we gave in Arizona, where our parents spend the winter.

I have:

Married parents-a father and a mother

Eight supportive siblings

Twenty-seven first cousins

Forty-one nieces and nephews

An extended-family organization of my father’s siblings numbering 243 living individuals

An annual family reunion

A loving wife to whom I’ve been married for 36 years

Four children and their spouses

Four delightful grandchildren


How blest I’ve been!

Family photo

My parents and siblings. We performed a concert of popular and folk music in Quartzsite, Arizona, February 22, 2014.





What Are MOOCs?

What are MOOCs?

Do MOOCs impinge the current model of higher education? How disruptive is this technological change?

What are MOOCs?

Massive Open Online Courses. College level courses, undergraduate and graduate.

Coursera screen shot


What kind of courses?


Everything from poetry to artificial intelligence to logic to computer circuits.


How many people take them?

A recent course in logic attracted 170,000 sign-ups. (I took it.) Half showed up for the first class. 10% of them may have completed. That sounds paltry, but 8,500 students completing that course represented a professor’s lifetime output using the old classroom model.

Where can I see an introductory video about MOOCs?


Professors from what colleges are making courses available for free or little cost?


Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and many other colleges, both prestigious and obscure.


Which websites are the major providers of MOOC content?


Coursera, Udacity and EdX

How much do they cost a student?

Most are free. Sometimes they cost $30-50 in proctoring fees. Sometimes students will purchase an e-textbook or a paper textbook. This is one way professors who author a book that accompany their course can really cash in.

George Tech offers an accredited master’s in computer science, entirely on-line, for $7,000, a fraction of its normal cost. (This program is not free, “open,” though it is part of the disruptive technology revolutionizing higher education. This fact sheet deals with the larger picture, not just MOOCs which are technically free.)

How might they transform higher education?

Students will take lectures from the best professors. Students can be remote; many more can be served, for little marginal cost. Students can work full-time and view courses at an hour of their choosing. Tests can be proctored at testing centers for validity. Tuition will be free or perhaps 1/10 of present tuition. That portion of a student’s education that has been provided in impersonal lecture halls is highly amenable to this new format for learning. 10-100% of various degrees can be earned through MOOCs. History is well-suited. Computer science, too. Ceramic arts is poorly suited. Biology, chemistry, and physics labs require equipment and in-place learning, rooting at least this portion of learning these disciplines to the same mode as at present. Surveying, nursing clinicals and teaching practicum are on-site. Many psychology, sociology and education courses, to name a few, lend themselves to on-line presentation.

Who will save money?

Students. Parents. Taxpayers.

How many more students will be served?

The world-wide audience is boundless. In Montana, students in remote areas could gain knowledge and skills, un-hampered by distance problems.

How will student debt change?

Total student indebtedness now tops $1 trillion. Watch this number plummet.

Who will lose pay and position?

Unskilled lecturers. Administrators. Support staff.

Which universities are employing MOOCS?

The large and small, the prestigious and the lowly. A University of Chicago graduate-level finance course blends the professor’s video lectures-which he shares with the rest of the world for free- with classroom experience for the three dozen paying grad students he has.

Are they the future of education?

They have great potential to open doors to many more students. The mix of short videos and quick quizzes gives feedback to course presenters that show them where to improve their courses.

What are their strengths and shortcomings?

One shortcoming is the fact that some learning is best accomplished face-to-face, though MOOC teachers are quickly learning how to engage students with each other, teaching assistants, and themselves. Interaction hurdles are evaporating. Low cost is an obvious strength, from the student perspective.

How will universities re-configure themselves?

When the accreditation hurdle is cleared, greater variety will emerge. Research universities may retain their research function, while their teaching function splits into in-person and video segments. No brick and mortar space, and few state financial resources will be devoted to remedial courses in reading, writing and math. Students seeking accreditation from 2-year schools will fulfill most of their core requirements online. Campus footprints will shrink. The number of brick and mortar campuses will decline. One expert estimates that half of all colleges will merge or disappear in the next 10-15 years. The savings could be enormous.

How is Northern Arizona University side-stepping the accreditation hurdle?

Offering a competency-based degree. Competency is what employers are looking for after all, not credentials based on “seat time.” (Advertisement in WSJ, April 3, 2014)

How will a school with an on-time graduation rate of 2.5% like MSU-Great Falls change?

MOOCS and other disruptive technologies may threaten its survival.

How will university building budgets change?

No new brick and mortar investment will be needed. Campuses can be re-purposed.

How will state budgets alter?

States spend millions per year-Montana spends $281 million in general funds-to support higher education and could see that figure drop by a third to a half. Taxpayers get more graduates with skills and wisdom at a lower cost.

How will federal spending change?

Federal budgets in support of higher education can take a partial sabbatical.

Who will profit the most?

Besides students, parents and taxpayers, rock-star professors who have mastered the craft of teaching lucid lectures laced with funny examples and demonstrations stand to become wealthy. Certification and proctoring companies will arise. Technologists who enable the delivery of these learning platforms will profit. Talented teaching assistants will command better compensation.

“It is only a matter of time before many university classes are taught virtually by superstar professors assisted by armies of low-paid onsite assistants. State universities will then be able to educate significantly more students at a fraction of the current cost. For many students this will be a great boon—a certified and possibly quality education at a cheap price. For most California voters, this is a good deal. But it is precisely what the faculty at San Jose State fear.”

For more information consult this Wikipedia page.







Caffeinated Energy Drinks Surge

It appears that food stamp dollars are moving away from artificially sweetened diet sodas and moving toward caffeinated energy drinks. It appears that Red Bull and Monster are picking up more of the food stamp dollar. And that’s a good thing inasmuch as the name of the program is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The Diet Soda Business is in Freefall  This is the link to the WSJ article.


From the Wall Street Journal article:

There are some areas of growth, however. Beverage Marketing estimated that U.S. volumes of caffeinated energy drinks and ready-to-drink coffee rose 5.5% and 6.2% last year, respectively.

Sales of sports drinks edged up 0.6%, though volumes of fruit drinks dropped 1.9%.

Diet sodas represent nearly a third of U.S. soda sales but have posted three straight years of declines.

Monster Drink