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The Wallabies’ visit offers another opportunity for Wales to heal a running sore – how to launch their autumn series with a victory. We look at their saga of slow starts On your toes: Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate man the barricades as Rocky Elsom carries in 2010 (Getty) Hands up: Wales in training this week ahead of the 2017 Under Armour Series (Huw Evans Agency)That was a dark day for Wales – but each year is a new opportunity to wipe the slate clean. The next opportunity is on Saturday, when skipper Alun Wyn Jones will be one of seven Lions in the starting XV. There are three uncapped players on the bench in Dragons prop Leon Brown, and Ospreys duo Sam Cross (flanker) and Owen Watkin (centre). Don’t miss it!Wales autumn Tests* Wales v Australia, Sat 11 Nov, 5.15pm* Wales v Georgia, Sat 18 Nov, 2.30pm* Wales v New Zealand, Sat 25 Nov, 5.15pm* Wales v South Africa, Sat 2 Dec, (2.30pm) With three minutes left, the Ospreys lock latched onto a loose pass in his 22 and galloped towards the distant try-line… only for Zac Guildford to cut him down near the other end.So ended Welsh hopes of achieving a rare feat – avoiding defeat to the Kiwis. Stephen Jones’s four penalties, two of them late in the game, had set up the tantalising prospect of an upset, but ultimately Andrew Hore’s try and four Dan Carter goals saw the All Blacks home. It’s one of 30 New Zealand wins from 33 clashes against Wales.High rise: empty seats marked the 2010 Wallaby match that launched a poor autumn series for Wales2010: Wales 16 Australia 25There were 20,000 unsold seats for this two-score reverse, in which a young Kurtley Beale was at his sumptuous best. Tries by Man of the Match Beale, David Pocock and Ben Alexander put the game to bed long before replacement Richie Rees grabbed a late consolation to go with Stephen Jones’s goal kicks.Wales’ one bright spot was a powerful scrum that eked out six penalties, while Sam Warburton’s injury enabled Martyn Williams to come on for his 100th Test cap, four of them earned with the Lions.Things didn’t improve that autumn as Wales lost to New Zealand and South Africa and were held to a draw by Fiji.Dancing with Pumas: Joaquin Tuculet spills a high ball under pressure from James Hook Getty)2012: Wales 12 Argentina 26Who can forget Wales’ 2012 autumn series? At a critical juncture when results would shape the rankings for the upcoming RWC 2015 draw, Wales collapsed in a heap, losing to Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia to drop outside the world’s top eight.The Pumas lost two playmakers, Felipe Contepomi and Juan Martin Hernandez, to injury, but tries by Juan Imhoff and Gonzalo Camacho in the third quarter took them well clear.Halfpenny’s penalty quartet was all Wales had to show from a game in which they made no line breaks and entered Argentina’s 22 on just two occasions. The boos rang loudly at the final whistle and would be heard again that November.Flat out: Justin Tipuric makes a spectacular tackle in the 2013 opener, when injuries plagued Wales2013: Wales 15 South Africa 24Dealing with injuries is part of the game, but Wales were dealt a particularly bad hand four years ago. Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies and Adam Jones all retired hurt in the first half and the Boks capitalised with early scores by Jean de Villiers and Bismarck du Plessis.With ten Lions in the starting XV, Wales were unlikely to roll over and Halfpenny’s boot kept the scoreboard ticking.However, after a period of uncontested scrums caused by the sin-binning of Gethin Jenkins and Coenie Oosthuizen, South Africa sealed the deal with Fourie du Preez’s try 15 minutes from time. Morne Steyn garnered 16 points.We’ve been here before: Wales came close in 2014 but Bernard Foley spoiled the party (Getty)2014: Wales 28 Australia 33“We tend to start the first game in the autumn pretty slowly against a team that’s been together for a long time,” said Warren Gatland after this defeat, something you may have gathered.In truth, Wales had lots to smile about, outscoring the Wallabies four tries to three in an adventurous display. Rhys Webb, Alex Cuthbert and Alun Wyn Jones crossed before half-time and a penalty try on 64 minutes put Wales ahead and within reach of glory.Enter 18-point Bernard Foley as party-pooper, his drop-goal and penalty averting danger. Israel Folau (two) and Tevita Kuridrani scored tries and Foley got Man of the Match.Imposing backdrop: last year’s opener saw Michael Cheika’s Wallabies take Wales to the cleaners2016: Wales 8 Australia 32And so to last year, probably the most grisly of all these Welsh defeats. Stephen Moore, Reece Hodge and Tevita Kuridrani bagged first-half tries as Wales barely fired a shot – they were lucky to be only 20-3 adrift at the interval.“We were very disappointed and frustrated by that first-half performance,” said caretaker coach Rob Howley. “The players were pretty distraught at half-time. They never had a foothold in the game.”It took Wales 28 minutes to have attacking ball in the Wallaby half and territory and possession figures were off the scale for a Tier One clash.Further tries by Bernard Foley and Dane Haylett-Petty, who spoiled Sam Davies’s debut off the bench by intercepting his pass, completed the rout, with Scott Williams the lone Wales try-scorer.It was Australia’s biggest away win in the fixture since the days of Lynagh and Campese in the 1991 World Cup and vindication of Michael Cheika’s decision to play Michael Hooper and David Pocock in the same back row. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The portents for Wales aren’t promising. When they face Australia on Saturday, they will be seeking their first win in the opening match of an autumn Test series for 15 years.Gethin Jenkins, the fourth most-capped player in history with 134 Test appearances, was making his debut the last time Wales opened their autumn campaign successfully – a 40-3 defeat of Romania in Wrexham in 2002.Since then, and excluding four World Cup years when no autumn series was played, Wales have failed to win all ten of their opening November Tests.A creditable draw 11 years ago is the only ray of light amid the gloom caused by the southern hemisphere’s finest, and Warren Gatland’s men will be aiming to end a run of 12 consecutive losses to the Wallabies when they meet at the Millennium Stadium this weekend.We take a look at the first-up games that got away from Wales in autumns past…Roaring: Stephen Jones lands one of his eight successful kicks against the Springboks in 2004 (Getty)2004: Wales 36 South Africa 38Mike Ruddock was the Wales coach when the Springboks forged a 23-6 lead after half an hour, with eye-catching tries by Jaco van der Westhuyzen and Joe Van Niekerk.Schalk Burger’s yellow card turned the tide, Gavin Henson crossing twice, and Boks coach Jake White, confused by the stadium clock, threw on loads of subs thinking time was all but up, only to discover there was still eight minutes remaining.Dwayne Peel scored Wales’ third try but the visitors held on. “I really put myself under pressure,” White said afterwards.Jean de Villiers and Percy Montgomery scored the Boks’ other tries, while Stephen Jones kicked 21 points on the day Ryan Jones and Luke Charteris both made their Wales debut.Impeccable: Dan Carter scores during his Man of the Match display in 2006 – a record Welsh defeat2005: Wales 3 New Zealand 41This remains Wales’ record home defeat by the All Blacks. Dan Carter was in his pomp, scoring two tries and landing all his kicks for a 26-point haul.“He can do anything, pretty much,” said wing Rico Gear, who became the 19th player to score a Test hat-trick for New Zealand.Wales were missing six of that year’s Lions squad but the nature of the defeat was hard to stomach for the reigning Grand Slam champions, for whom Lee Byrne made his debut.King of Cardiff: Shane Williams scores Wales’ first try as they battle to a thrilling draw in 2006 (Getty)2006: Wales 29 Australia 29Ah, this was more like it! Pessimism reigned when skipper Stephen Jones departed injured with Wales trailing 17-6 to a Wallaby side featuring Matt Giteau, Mat Rogers and Stephen Larkham in a new-look 9-10-12 axis.But Wales rallied, Shane Williams and Martyn Williams dotting down as the tension and excitement mounted.A solo try by Chris Latham looked to have won it but James Hook, a replacement for Jones, brought the scores level with a 71st-minute penalty.Cameron Shepherd (two) and Giteau were other try-scorers and Australia coach John Connolly said: “What was most heartening was that defences were breached not because of weak tackling but because they had been outwitted.”Nabbed: Andy Powell is tackled by Adrian Jacobs and JP Pietersen in 2008 (Gallo Images/Getty)2008: Wales 15 South Africa 20Adam Jones led Wales out on the occasion of his 50th cap. Warren Gatland had steered Wales to a Grand Slam in his first year in charge, but they’d lost twice to the Boks that summer and this was more of the same.James Hook again came on for Stephen Jones but Jean de Villiers intercepted his pass to add to Adi Jacobs’s try and give the Boks a 20-3 cushion.Wales showed some of their famed fighting spirit and Leigh Halfpenny, a 19-year-old debutant, slotted his first Test points – he now has 668 – to go with four Hook penalties. But victory proved elusive.Over and out: Andrew Hore bags the only try of the 2009 clash that again went the way of the visitors2009: Wales 12 New Zealand 19Alun Wyn Jones has managed nine Test tries down the years but he might swap a few of them to change the outcome of one he didn’t score in this match.
Since “Year of the MOOC” became a catchphrase in 2012, massive open online courses have had their fans and detractors. Some have claimed that online learning is a “disruptive revolution” and a harbinger of the end of residential colleges, while others have called MOOCs at best “mere marketing” or at worst an abject failure, singling out low completion rates.Expanded data and research about MOOC participants and evidence-based assessments of online learning trends might, however, begin to move the conversation beyond anecdotes and heated opinions.Today, a joint Harvard and MIT research team published one of the largest investigations of MOOCs (massive open online courses) to date. Building on their prior work — a January 2014 report describing the first year of open online courses launched on edX, a nonprofit learning platform founded by the two institutions — the latest effort incorporates another year of data, bringing the total to nearly 70 courses in subjects from programming to poetry.“We explored 68 certificate-granting courses, 1.7 million participants, 10 million participant-hours, and 1.1 billion participant-logged events,” said the study’s co-lead author, Andrew Ho, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and chair of the HarvardX research committee. The research team also used surveys to gain additional information about participants’ backgrounds and intentions.Ho and MIT’s Isaac Chuang, professor of physics, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and senior associate director of digital learning, led a group effort that delved into the demographics of MOOC learners, analyzed participant intent, and looked at patterns that “serial MOOCers,” or those taking more than one course, tend to pursue.“What jumped out for me was the survey that revealed that in some cases as many as 39 percent of our learners are teachers,” said Chuang. “This finding forces us to broaden our conceptions of who MOOCs serve and how they might make a difference in improving learning.”Key findings The researchers conducted a trend analysis that showed a rising share of female, U.S.-based, and older participants, as well as a survey analysis of intent, revealing that almost half of registrants were not interested in or were unsure about certification. In this study, the researchers redefined their population of learners from those who simply registered for courses (and took no subsequent action) — a metric used in prior findings and often cited by MOOC providers — to those who participated (i.e., by logging into the course at least once).Participation in HarvardX and MITx open online courses has grown steadily, while participation in repeated courses has declined and then stabilizedFrom July 24, 2012, through Sept. 21, 2014, the end of the study period, an average of 1,300 new participants joined a HarvardX or MITx course each day, for a total of 1 million unique participants and 1.7 million total participants. With the increase in second and third versions of courses, the researchers found that participation in second versions declined by 43 percent, while there was stable participation between versions two and three. There were outliers, such as the HarvardX course CS50x, “Introduction to Computer Science,” which doubled in size, perhaps due to increased student flexibility: Students in this course could participate over a yearlong period at their own pace and complete at any time.A slight majority of MOOC students are seeking certification, and many participants are teachersAmong the one-third of participants who responded to a survey about their intentions, 57 percent stated their desire to earn a certificate; nearly a quarter of those respondents went on to do so. Further, among participants who were unsure or did not intend to earn a certificate, 8 percent ultimately did. These learners appear to have been inspired to finish a MOOC even after initially stating that they had no intention of doing so.Among 200,000 participants who responded to a survey about teaching, 39 percent self-identified as a past or current teacher. Twenty-one percent of those reported teaching in the course topic area. The strong participation by teachers suggests that even participants who are uninterested in certification may still make productive use of MOOCs.Academic areas matter when it comes to participation, certification, and course networksParticipants were drawn to computer science courses in particular, with per-course participation numbers nearly four times higher than in courses in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. That said, certificate rates in computer science and other science- and technology-based offerings (7 percent and 6 percent, respectively) were about half of those in the humanities and social sciences.The larger data sets also allowed the researchers to study those participating in more than one course, revealing that computer science courses serve as hubs for students, who move to and from related courses. Intentional sequencing, as was done for the 10-part HarvardX Chinese history course “ChinaX,” led to some of the highest certification rates in the study. Other courses with high certification rates were “Introduction to Computer Science” from MITx and “Justice” and “Health in Numbers” from HarvardX.Those opting for fee-based, ID-verified certificates certify at higher ratesAcross 12 courses, participants who paid for “ID-verified” certificates (with costs ranging from $50 to $250) earned certifications at a higher rate than other participants: 59 percent, on average, compared to 5 percent. Students opting for the ID-verified track appear to have stronger intentions to complete courses, and the monetary stake may add an extra form of motivation.While engaging thousands of global learners online, a research report suggests that MOOCs, such as “Visualizing Japan,” have had equal if not greater influence on enhancing residential learning and empowering teachers with novel content and tools.Questions and Implications Based upon these findings, Chuang and Ho identified questions that might “reset and reorient expectations” around MOOCs.First, while many MOOC creators and providers have increased access to learning opportunities, those who are accessing MOOCs are disproportionately people who already have college and graduate degrees. The researchers do not necessarily see this as a problem, as academic experience may be a requirement in advanced courses. However, to serve underrepresented and traditionally underserved groups, the data suggest that proactive strategies may be necessary.“These free, open courses are phenomenal opportunities for millions of learners,” Ho emphasized, “but equity cannot be increased just by opening doors. We hope that our data help teachers and institutions to think about their intended audiences, and serve as a baseline for charting progress.”Second, if improving online and on-campus learning is a priority, then “the flow of pedagogical innovations needs to be formalized,” said Chuang. For example, many of the MOOCs in the study used innovations from their campus counterparts, like physics assessments from MIT and close-reading practices from Harvard’s classics courses. Likewise, residential faculty are using MOOC content, such as videos and assessment scoring algorithms, in smaller, traditional lecture courses.“The real potential is in the fostering of feedback loops between the two realms,” said Chuang. “In particular, the high number of teacher participants signals great potential for impact beyond Harvard and MIT, especially if deliberate steps could be taken to share best practices.”Third, advancing research through MOOCs may require a more nuanced definition of audience. Much of the research to date has done little to differentiate among the diverse participants in these free, self-paced learning environments.“While increasing completion has been a subject of interest, given that many participants have limited, uncertain, or zero interest in completing MOOCs, exerting research muscle to indiscriminately increase completion may not be productive,” explained Ho. “Researchers might want to focus more specifically on well-surveyed or paying subpopulations, where we have a better sense of their expectations and motivations.”More broadly, Ho and Chuang hope to showcase the potential and diversity of MOOCs and MOOC data by developing “Top Five” lists based upon course attributes, such as scale (an MIT computer science course clocked in with 900,000 participant hours); demographics (the MOOC with the most female representation is a museum course from HarvardX called “Tangible Things,” while MITx’s computing courses attracted the largest global audience); and type and level of interaction (those in ChinaX most frequently posted in online forums, while those in an introduction to computer science course from MITx most frequently played videos).“These courses reflect the breadth of our university curricula, and we felt the need to highlight their diverse designs, philosophies, audiences, and learning outcomes in our analyses,” said Chuang. “Which course is right for you? It depends, and these lists might help learners decide what qualities in a given MOOC are most important to them.”
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