The web-site is now in readonly mode. Login and registration are disabled. (28 June 2019)

e-Learning Digest No 145 - Sep 16

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
15 September 2016

UK Conferences & Workshops

Online Learning MOOCs

Self-paced Online Learning MOOCs






[THE; Steve Parkinson; Wonkhe; The Telegraph; University World News]

The OU is launching a new validation service for FE colleges and alternative providers as it aims to become the biggest player in validating qualifications for that part of the sector.  The OU has validated other institutions’ courses since 1992 and, in addition to the 25 for which it already validates qualifications, the OU has announced five new partners.  It aims to speed up the historically slow process by working with the QAA to ensure that colleges can use documentation produced for review by the agency for validation as well, removing the need for work to be duplicated.

Consultancy UK reports on the OU’s partnership with KPMG to provide three higher-apprenticeship scheme programmes for businesses seeking to train: Healthcare Practitioner Assistant Higher Apprenticeship; Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship; and Digital and Technical Solutions Degree Apprenticeship.

Wonkhe has just published its Higher Education Power List for 2016.  Top three are Teresa May, Angela Merkel and David Davies/Oliver Robbins, with Jeremy Corbyn new in at 41, just 7 places ahead of Peter Horrocks (“OU’s external influence continues unabated however: their fingerprints could be seen all over the in the parliamentary debate for the second reading of the HE Bill and Horrocks himself is personally more visible than most VCs in the sector”).

A UCL study, The Entry and Experience of Private Providers of Higher Education in Six Countries, has looked at the emergence and nature of the private higher education sector in the United States, Australia, Germany, Poland, Japan and Chile, finding that: “relative to the public sector, the quality of provision, especially in the for-profits, is often found wanting, while tuition fees are usually higher.  This suggests the need for much tighter regulations in the UK for all private providers, and not just those receiving government funding”

The number of students from EU countries applying to British universities has jumped by 11% to 26,800 - the highest number on record.  EU students have access to lower fees and student loans but there are fears they could lose their benefits after Brexit; however, experts now fear the number of those leaving the country without paying their loans back at their end of their degrees could rise.  There are also concerns over “a likely sudden decline in EU student applications across the UK” unless reassurances are made, according to the head of UUK.  More than 125,000 EU students are currently studying at UK universities, making up 5% of the entire student population.

British universities and scientists say a United Kingdom government statement promising to underwrite funding for approved European Union science projects “applied for before the UK leaves the EU” will only partially address concerns that they are already being excluded from EU consortia.  Philip Hammond announced last month that the Treasury “will underwrite the payments” of awards such as Horizon 2020 funding “even when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU”.

HEGlobal – a joint initiative between the British Council and UUK – reports having regular conversations with university chiefs about the likely impact of Brexit, with many asking about opportunities to expand transnational education on the European continent.  The delivery of British TNE is growing five times faster than international student recruitment to the UK over the last two years but only around 23% of British TNE programmes are on offer in the EU, with SE Asia forming the largest market.  Middlesex University is one of the strongest UK HEIs for transnational education internationally with over 5,000 TNE students.

THE reports that all but three English HEIs are to charge >tuition fees of £9,250 for at least some of their courses under the first year of the teaching excellence framework.

Peter Horrocks looks back at his first year at the helm of the OU.  How did the dilithium crystals hold up against the strange new worlds of part time students, regional centres, MOOCs and social mobility?



[WhaTech; Audrey Watters; EdSurge; Inside Higher Ed]

Business research organisation, MarketsandMarkets, has released a new report, snappily entitled: “Massive Open Online Course Market by Platform (CMOOC, XMOOC), Course (Humanities, Computer Science & Programming, Business Management, Education & Training), Service (Consulting, Implementation, Training & Support) & by Region - Global Forecast to 2020”.  In this they estimate the MOOC market growing from $1.83bn in 2015 to $8.50bn by 2020, at an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36.0%.  The report is pay-walled but the brief summary seems to focus mostly on IT issues: “MOOCs are likely to evolve into a scale business, which relies on the technology and data backbone of the medium to optimize and individualize learning opportunities for millions of students.”

Daphne Koller is leaving Coursera to pursue her passion for “machine learning and its application to improving human health” with Alphabet (Google)-owned biotech company, Calico.

Learners in MIT’s Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge and Consciousness MOOC now have the option to have their essays graded and reviewed by real, flesh-and-blood philosophers.  The goal, according to MIT, is twofold: to give learners from all over the world an introduction to basic philosophical topics and – for those who pay $300 for an identity-verified certificate – an opportunity to improve their written argumentation skills and to experiment with new employment opportunities for philosophers.  Although MIT’s edX platform has piloted automated essay grading, the technology is not yet considered trustworthy.

Coursera has launched an >enterprise edition to provide professional training and development in the workplace.  The platform will offer more than 1,400 university courses, provided in partnership with 145 university partners.

Imperial College has joined edX, initially offering a series of courses, Essentials for MBA Success, developed to provide learners with the knowledge necessary to prepare for pursuing an MBA.  The four-part series covers maths, finance, data analysis and accounting.

Udacity has launched an offline learning app for iOS and Android.  This appears to do exactly what you’d expect it to do, although there is no explicit mention of tracking or synchronisation.


Commercial News

[The Chronicle; George Siemens; Audrey Watters; Martin Weller]

The University of California at Berkeley has indefinitely >suspended its proposed “global campus” because of its budget deficit, even though the Berkeley chancellor had previously said it would be “entirely supported by philanthropy and external partnerships.”  The project was pitched as a research hub at which partner universities from around the world would offer programs for students both from the United States and abroad.

ITT Tech – one of America’s largest for-profit college chains – is closing, just days after the Dept of Education banned the company from enrolling new students using federal student aid.  But perversely, the Dept could now pick the $485m loan bill for the 40,000+ displaced ITT students.

>Learning Pool – Northern Ireland’s largest e-learning company – has acquired Mind Click, with offices in Brighton and Nottingham.  The enlarged company now becomes a major supplier of the Moodle-based Totara LMS/VLE.

>John Wiley & Sons will acquire Atypon – a technology partner that enables scholarly societies and publishers to deliver, host, enhance, market and manage their content online – for $120 million.  Atypon’s Literatum platform hosts nearly 9,000 journals, 13m articles and more than 1,800 publication web sites for over 1,500 societies and publishers, accounting for a third of the world’s English-language scholarly journal articles.

The US Patent Office last month issued a patent to Elsevier entitled “Online peer review and method”.  The publisher sought very broad claims that could have covered a wide range of online peer review, although these were narrowed significantly before the application was granted.


Global Self-Paced e-Learning Market in Steep Decline

[THE Journal; EdSurge]

The latest global self-paced e-learning market report from Ambient Insight predicts a negative compound annual growth rate of -6.4% over the next five years, with revenues dropping by $13.5bn to $33.4bn by 2021.  These figures are heavily influenced by the US (-5.3%) and Chinese (-8.8%) markets – a combined decline of $6.8bn over the next five years.  The UK ranks number seven in terms of annual expenditure but is the only top seven country with a positive 5-year growth forecast (+5.2%).  The 69pp report is free and well worth a skim, if only to spot snippets such as: “Interestingly, while the interest in OER is picking up in the PreK-12 segment, there is virtually no adoption of OER in the higher education segment” (p.15).

A more positive outlook comes from the Center for Online Education, which reports that online degrees are growing in popularity among US traditional four-year colleges and universities.  Of the top-ranked schools, nearly 75% offer online degrees, and about half are increasing their online degree offerings.  The fastest adopters of online learning include both public and private colleges and universities, including some academic heavyweights like Harvard and Johns Hopkins.  Most prevalent subject areas are Education, Health and Business.


Scaling up Online Learning


Jisc has produced a comprehensive series of guides to help institutions with the processes and decisions involved in scaling up online learning at an organisational level:

For those moving into social media, there is also research and guidance on introducing Twitter into the classroom and Facebook pedagogy and education in apprenticeships.


Making HE More Openly Accessible


A new EC report, Opening up Education: a Support Framework for Higher Education Institutions, finds that, although opening up education is a policy priority in Europe, many HEIs in Member States do not have a strategic plan for achieving this.  The authors recommend five specific measures:

  • Having a holistic strategy for opening up education that encompasses the 10 dimensions of the OpenEdu framework

  • Making the open education strategy part of the overall institutional strategy

  • Promoting intra, inter and cross-border institutional collaborations and partnerships in order to achieve open education goals

  • Exploring new practices and welcoming changes

  • Revising their practices at all levels: mission statement and vision, current organisational management structures and day-to-day policies, and the institution’s role in the community and globally


Tracking Changes in LMS/VLE Usage

[Audrey Watters; Phil Hill]

Data from Client Stat tracks LMS/VLE usage by institutions in the US, showing Blackboard as the clear leader.  Some way behind in second place is Moodle, followed by Canvas, which is the fastest growing LMS; 283 institutions are running multiple LMSs.  The data also tracks institutions that have switched LMS, with the top three movers being Angel to Blackboard, Blackboard to Canvas and Angel to Canvas.  Of those institutions that host with an LMS vendor, 91% remain customers of that LMS 3 years later; and Moodle institutions are most likely to self-host (64%)

And from our damn-lies-and-statistics correspondent, Phil Hill, comes definitive evidence that the global LMS/VLE market size is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24.7%, from $5.22bn in 2016 to $15.72bn by 2021.  Or shrink by -14.6% (“the global platform market is in freefall”) with revenues plummeting to $3.2bn by 2021, down from $7.1bn in 2016.


Augmented Reality Could Speed Up Construction Projects

[Allison Littlejohn; Canvas; TechCrunch]

It may surprise you to learn that there is much more to augmented reality (AR) than Pokemon Go.  Fridolin Wild and Peter Scott described two years ago >how an augmented reality job performance aid could be used for kinaesthetic learning in manufacturing work places, and now employees at a Rhode Island construction firm putting the theory into practice by using Microsoft’s augmented-reality computer, HoloLens – replacing paper blueprints with life-size 3D models of a $70m STEM Academy about to be constructed in Boston.  Spotting just one mistake alone (planned steel frames were too long) saved the costs of the AR investment.

Fancy learning a bit more?  Canvas has a 1hr-per-week MOOC starting on 26 Sep on >Zappar Powered STEM Learning Using Augmented Reality.  And you might also be interested in Google’s new iOS app, >Cardboard Camera, which lets you capture panoramic images with audio and share with others.


Physical Textbooks vs e-Books

[Giles Clark; Audrey Watters; Mark Nichols; TechCrunch; Jisc]

Writing on the Scholarly Kitchen, Robert Harrington speculates on the future of textbooks in a discourse that ranges from OERs through to personalised learning, via McGraw Hill Create, Blackboard, Flat World and student preferences.  It’s an interesting read with some useful links but it’s quite thin on evidence and lacks any substantive conclusions, other than the anodyne “…in all the excitement in the potential of ebooks do not ignore the print – there is value in both forms.”

Research from Pew into US reading habits shows 1 or 2 percentage point increases in uptake of print, e- and audio books over the past year, whereas the five-year picture shows print declining (from 71% of adults reading at least one book in 2011 to 65% in 2016) but with increases for audio (11% to 14%) and e-book use (17% to 28%).  28% read both print and digital books last year (although 26% read none at all) with college graduates and top earners being most likely to read in multiple formats.  Of those reading e-books, the tablet was the most prevalent platform and the fastest growing since 2011 with the dedicated e-reader last on both counts.

Some of us aspire to students having their text in any colour they like, as long as it’s e- and, in Reading and Studying on the Screen: An Overview of Literature Towards Good Learning Design Practice, Mark Nichols considers studies related to reading on screen, describes its affordances over print and suggests good practice principles for on-screen learning design.  The evidence and logic of his arguments are difficult to fault and the design principles he offers are sound but he notes that, “although people are reluctant to study on screen, they can potentially do so as efficiently as on paper” (Ackerman & Goldsmith, 2011).  Reluctance is a curious but obdurate human trait and, in a world where some people still prefer to write cheques, get their films developed at Boots, and steam a Christmas pudding for 3 hrs rather than popping it in the microwave for 3 mins, perhaps we should carefully consider whether all learners are ready for on-screen only.

Amazon has launched the Kindle Reading Fund which is aimed at making digital books more easily available worldwide by donating Kindle hardware and e-books to communities and projects around the world.  An example of this is Worldreader, which runs reading programs in the developing world and, over the past 6 years, has helped more than 4 million readers access a library of books.

Jisc is making available >23 core maths and English resources through its e-books for FE service.  The ebrary platform will hold titles from the AQA, Edexcel, OCR, SQA and WJEC exam boards.


How Should We Measure Online Learning Activity?


How reliable and comparable are different content analysis (CA) methods used to measure the extent to which knowledge/opinion sharing and learning takes place in online courses?  Researchers from Southampton used four different analytical approaches – the Digital Artefacts for Learning Engagement (DiAL-e) framework, Bloom’s Taxonomy, Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) and Community of Inquiry (CoI) – to examine more than 20,000 comments prompted by the 110 learning ‘steps’ in the 6-week FutureLearn MOOC, ‘The Archaeology of Portus’.  They found good correlation of measures of pedagogical value (PV) between the four approaches (particularly Bloom and SOLO) and they offer explanations as to why this might be, given that each measures different properties.  However, there were mixed results for correlation between PVs for each CA method and typical interaction measures (sentiment, words per sentence, likes).


Women and STEM

[Stephen Downes]

Researchers from the University of California investigated whether females from different countries were more likely to enrol in and complete STEM MOOCs compared with males.  Based on 2012-13 data from HarvardX/MITx, they found that, whereas females were less likely to enrol in STEM MOOCs (5.25% in Bangladesh to 38.32% in Philippines, with the UK at around 23%), they were equally likely to complete them (overall, 2.98% of female enrolees compared with 3.01% of males).  There were also smaller gender gaps in STEM MOOC enrolment in less economically developed countries and females were more likely than males to complete STEM MOOCs in countries identified as having a high potential to become the largest economies in the 21st century (e.g. 52.7% for Indonesia but, notably, 0% for Japan).



[Practical EdTech]

TurboNote is a Chrome extension that works with YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix, and Facebook to enable users to take notes while watching a video in the same web browser window.  Notes are automatically time-stamped and can be edited and shared via social media or email.


Students May Learn Better from Attractive Lecturers


ALs take note.  One hundred University of Nevada students were asked to listen to an audio recording of a 20 minute physics lecture, delivered by a man or woman.  They were also presented with a photograph of either a highly attractive man or woman, or an unattractive man or woman, and told that this was their lecturer.  They then completed a multiple-choice quiz about the lecture content. Those who believed their lecturer was attractive scored better on the quiz (18.27 items correct) than those who’d been led to believe their lecturer was unattractive (16.68) – a small but statistically significant difference.  The positive effect was the same regardless of whether the lecturer and students were the same sex or not, which to the researchers indicated the effect is cognitive in nature, to do with motivation, attention and expectations, rather than sexual interest.



  • Young refugees accepted by Germany since the beginning of last year will cost the country an estimated extra €67bn to educate and train.  [UWN]

  • Twitter’s 140 character rethink, announced back in May, will come into effect on Mon 19 Sep.  [Steve Parkinson]

  • Lenovo's new Yoga Book tablet has a digitiser pad that can act as a keyboard, graphic tablet or take a digital copy of handwriting.  [BBC]

  • …whereas Acer’s Predator laptop has a 21” curved screen which “should make it more immersive to play video games”.  [BBC]

  • Google will phase-out Chrome packaged apps for Windows, Mac and Linux because only about 1% of users regularly use them.  [TechCrunch]

  • Nielsen Norman suggest their >top 10 tips for UX success from agile practitioners.  [N/Ng]

  • …but Whitney Kilgore believes we’re witnessing the growth of a new field: >Learner Experience (LX) Design.  [EdSurge]

  • Show TinEye an image and it will interpret the content and find similar images from its index of around 16bn assets.  [Sussex TEL]

  • Inspiring 4 min video about retired Jackie Barrow who acts as a >cloud-based surrogate granny for young kids in Indian schools.  [Chris Evans]

  • Interesting graphic from Angela Watercutter showing the surprising partnerships that rule pop culture.  [Wired]

  • MIT and Microsoft’s DuoSkin turns temporary gold leaf tattoos into digital interfaces.  [TechCrunch]

  • A new £99 Raspberry Pi Starter Kit will include a case, keyboard, mouse, SD card, power supply, HDMI cable and manual.  [BBC]

  • Google has expanded its Art and Culture app to include more than 150 interactive natural history stories and over 30 virtual 3D tours.  [Engadget]

  • TFL’s latest Tube map shows walking steps between adjacent stations in a bid to encourage more walking.  [Wired]

  • It’s from Martin Weller so it must be profound: a visualisation of vocabulary used by rap musicians.  [EdTechie]

  • Cadmus uses keystroke analytics to build up a profile of a student's typing style to detect potential cheats.  [UWN]

  • The Telegraph looks at new features (and UK costs) for the new iPhone 7 and iOS 10.  [The Telegraph]


And Finally…

[Nicky Ellis; NewsBiscuit]

From our political news desk, the Independent reports that North Korea has banned sarcasm because Kim Jong-un fears that people are only agreeing with him ‘ironically’.  People have been warned about directing sarcastic remarks against Kim Jong-un or his regime.  As an example, saying “this is all America’s fault” would constitute unacceptable criticism.

And from closer to home comes news of UK government plans to turn every school into a Grammar Academy, with increased exposure to the eleven plus exam ensuring that “almost every young adult in the country hence will know how many men it takes to dig a hole in three hours if four men are required to dig the same hole in ten”.

Extra content

Embedded Content


Contribute to the discussion

Please log in to post a comment. Register here if you haven't signed up yet.