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e-Learning Digest No 154 - Jun 17

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
15 June 2017

UK Conferences & Workshops

Online learning and adult education MOOCs

  • 12 Jun (4 wks x 3 hrs) Explore Animation, London Film & TV School [FutureLearn]

  • 12 Jun (5 wks x 3 hrs) Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media, UCL [FutureLearn]

  • 19 Jun (8 wks x 12 hrs) Big Data and Education, University of Pennsylvania [edX]

  • 19 Jun (5 wks x 4 hrs) >Advanced Instructional Strategies in the Virtual Classroom, University of California [Coursera]

  • 19 Jun (5 wks x 4 hrs) >Performance Assessment in the Virtual Classroom, University of California [Coursera]

  • 19 Jun (5 wks x 6 hrs) >Learning to Teach Online, University of New South Wales [Coursera]

  • 19 Jun (4 wks x 8 hrs) >Disability Awareness and Support, University of Pittsburgh [Coursera]

  • 19 Jun (6 wks x 4 hrs) >Blended Learning: Personalizing Education for Students, Silicon Schools Fund [Coursera]

  • 26 Jun (4 wks x 10 hrs) >e-Learning Ecologies: Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning for the Digital Age, University of Illinois [Coursera]

  • 26 Jun (3 wks x 4 hrs) >Get Interactive: Practical Teaching with Technology, University of London [Coursera]

  • 26 Jun (4 wks x 3 hrs) >User Experience: Research & Prototyping, University of California [Coursera]

  • 24 Jul (2 wks x 4 hrs) >Learning in the Network Age, University of Southampton [FutureLearn]

  • 21 Aug (8 wks x 6 hrs) >Instructional Design Models, University of Maryland [edX]

  • 11 Sep (6 wks x 45 hrs) Digitizing Higher Education, University of Texas [edX]

  • 26 Sep (3 wks x 4 hrs) UX Research at Scale: Analytics and Online Experiments, University of Michigan [edX]

Self-paced online learning and adult education MOOCs and BOCs



[Wonkhe; Huffington Post; The Guardian; THE; University World News; The Pie; BBC]

So how is H.E. looking under our shiny new strong-ish and stable-ish government?  We learned from The Observer at the weekend that Theresa May called the election at Jean-Claude Junker’s urging because he feared a slim majority would make Brexit negotiations difficult.  So that went well.  The Cabinet still has Justine Greening as Secretary of State for Education with Jo Johnson as Universities & Science Minister and Greg Clark at Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  The student vote was seen as a key factor in Labour successes in university seats such as Bath, Brighton, Bristol, Canterbury, Cambridge, Derby, Leeds, Portsmouth and Plymouth, and the YouGov site has some revealing charts to show how people voted by various demographic measures.

Dave Phoenix, VC of London South Bank University has entered into the part-time and mature HE students’ debate (over 40% of his own students are part-time), challenging funding decisions, questioning whether the Government really is open to “exploring ambitious new approaches to encourage lifelong learning” as its Industrial Strategy Green Paper claims, and suggesting that “apprenticeships and new forms or learn while you earn solutions should have an impact [but] it will not meet the needs of many.”

More than 1,300 academics from the EU have left British universities in the past year, a rise of 30% in just two years.  Universities most affected included Cambridge (losing 184 EU staff), and Edinburgh (96).  As an example of the impact of Brexit on future research, delegates at last month’s Going Global conference were told that there are 5,000 research collaborations between the UK and France currently being funded by Horizon 2020 money, all of which could be at risk until future arrangements are agreed.  In the meantime there was a desire by academics from both nations to pursue potential options regardless of inter-government negotiations, with flexible models, global cities and partnerships, and research collaborations emerging as the three most popular themes.  Also last month, a newly formed group of British and Australian VCs, and UUK are also keen develop mutually beneficial relationships, echoing those woven into the 2003 Singapore and Australia free trade agreement and a more recent 2015 China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

The University of Birmingham will open an overseas campus in Dubai next September, teaching a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes – beginning with Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, Primary and Secondary Education, and Business – that focus on the needs of the labour market in Dubai.  There will be “full transferability, full equivalence” between degrees and fees offered in Birmingham and Dubai, allowing mobility of students between both campuses.

The New York campus of Glasgow Caledonian University has been given permission to award degrees by the NY State Education Department, making it the first foreign institution to achieve this status.  The campus first opened in Sep 13 and a reported £5.6m has been invested in the project.


M(O)OC News

[The Chronicle; EdSurge; IRRODL; Stephen Downes]

After the initial hype, do MOOC ventures like edX still matter?  Not surprisingly, edX’s Anant Agarwal believes so.  In this interview with The Chronicle he notes that, unlike a growing number of their competitors, the edX platform code and the majority of edX learning content remains free.  Starting with around $60m of funding from MIT and Harvard has helped, but edX expects to get to “sustainability by about 2020”.

MEDSKL is a sort of medically-flavoured Khan Academy tribute act, founded in 2015 by clinical epidemiologist, Prof Sanjay Sharma, when he saw how his students were attracted to online and social content.  Since then, nearly 200 medical faculty members at more than 70 universities have contributed to MEDSKL.  Each module consists of a short lecture (typically 15–18 minutes), a short animated video covering the main points, in-depth notes and a discussion forum.  Sharma says the brevity of their lectures are intentional. “The TED Talk folks got it right,” he says. “That length is a sweet spot – you communicate what your audience needs to know without losing their attention.”  More than 60 universities around the world currently assign the site’s resources.

In Understanding Learners’ Motivation and Learning Strategies in MOOCs, researchers firstly make the point that motivations and behaviours are likely to be different for OERs compared to paid-for learning – and so we shouldn’t be overly surprised or concerned about dropout rates.  Secondly, they report on investigations into motivation and learning strategies of MOOC learners based on questionnaires completed by 6,335 participants in an edX MOOC: Introduction to Programming with Java (5 wks x 7 hrs).  Self-reported results indicate that learners were highly motivated and confident of success, but their learning strategies, particularly in respect of time management, could be improved.

Inge de Waard has compiled some online course & MOOC video scripting guidelines, based on recent research.  A lot of it is blindingly obvious once you’ve read it, but it’s amazing just how often we need reminding.

Moodle has launched its new academy MOOC platform – currently hosting four courses from Dublin City University with ‘TBC’ start dates.


Commercial News

[Inside Higher Ed; EdSurge]

Barnes & Noble Education began its diversification into educational data a year ago with the acquisition of HE startup LoudCloud, which offers OER materials and learning analytics tools.  Now the company has just entered into an agreement with non-profit Unizin to provide its 22 university members including Penn State, Colorado and Florida, with its LoudSight predictive analytics software.  According to COO Robin Littleworth, “We’re poised to take the lead in learning analytics”.

Pearson has entered into a partnership with Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University School of Nursing to provide comprehensive online program management services, including marketing, recruitment, student support, help desk support and student retention services in a move to increase access to the university's online Bachelor of Science in Nursing completion, Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice programmes.

Top Hat has raised $7.5m in funding to help launch and expand its peer-to-peer digital textbook marketplace.  Its authoring platform supports the creation of ‘coursepacks’ that can contain text, images, videos and interactive content such as live Twitter feeds and maps.  Finished products are checked by plagiarism software and can then be offered to users for a fee (of which the author gets about 50%) or at no cost.  Authors can later issue updates which users can choose to accept or reject.


Promises and Pitfalls of Online Education

[Stephen Downes]

Online courses offer the potential to extend higher education to students who are less advantaged, and yet it is often the case that these are the very students who are least well prepared for HE in general and online learning in particular, and would benefit more from a face-to-face approach.  Brookings has just published a US online learning study based on over 230,000 DeVry University students who, on average, take about two-thirds of their courses online.  They found that ‘top’ students coped and learned well, scoring grades that were comparable to F2F tuition, but lower-performing students were more likely to dropout and/or achieve lower grades, both at the time and in future modules.  In concluding, the authors continue to support the benefits of online education but warn that, “the tremendous scale and consistently negative effects of current offerings points to the need to improve these courses, particularly for students most at risk of course failure and college dropout.”


Teaching Learners to be Online Students

[Inside Higher Ed]

Any organisation thinking of introducing measures to induct new students into studying online might be advised to see how the University of Nebraska tackled the problem.  Their new Student Success Centre includes answers to basic orientation questions that all new students need to know – e.g. university orientation, getting up and running online, understanding programme requirements and academic expectations – plus expertise from library and writing centre staff.  Because it was optional, its creators knew it had to be “compelling enough to use” and early signs are encouraging, with healthy page view stats (particularly at the start of each term) and library resources and faculty/professor videos rated as the most helpful parts of the site. 


Don’t Let Personalised Learning Become the Processed Food of Education

[Stephen Downes]

…and any organisation thinking of introducing personalised learning might take heed of commentary from Education Next’s Mike Petrilli, who worries that “…it may be reinforcing some of the worst aspects of standards-based, data-driven instruction. Namely: It might be encouraging a reductionist type of education that breaks learning into little bits and scraps and bytes of disparate skills, disconnected from an inspiring, coherent whole.”  Jay Lynch wrote last year about why we don't need a 'Netflix for Education' – chiefly because learners are happy to tell us what they want but the research shows that, unlike picking movies, most are poor judges of what they need to learn most effectively.


Student Academic Experience Survey

[Rebecca Galley]

The 2017 HEA/HEPI survey of UK students was published last week with findings including:

  • Student perceptions of ‘value for money’ continue to drop across HEIs

  • ‘Alternative providers’ are providing a more positive learning experience on several measures and better perceived value for money

  • Students who undertake employment for ten or more hours a week are less likely to feel they are learning ‘a lot’, confirming that undertaking paid employment for more than a few hours a week can be detrimental to academic work

  • Two thirds of students think their learning is progressing ‘a lot’ but responses differ significantly across student type (subject, ethnicity, financial status, living at home, etc)

  • Students remain unconvinced that it is important for the academics that teach them to be active researchers

  • An overwhelming majority of students dislike the idea of tuition fee rises being linked to their institution’s performance in the Teaching Excellence Framework

  • Workload, teaching methods and class sizes vary enormously between subject areas


Online Learning – from Innovation to Adoption

[Stephen Downes]

The CHLOE Survey of 104 US universities and colleges, Online Learning – from Innovation to Adoption, showed healthy enrolment growth in fully online programmes in all institutions except community colleges.  Some 56% of institutions reporting the online education market as “much more competitive” and yet over 90% of indicated that the price of online was either the same as or higher than F2F programmes.  Growth in enrolments was reported to be the main driver for investment in online learning (61% of public 4-yr schools), but with student completion (7%), quality enhancement (7%) and cost reduction (0%) considered far less important.  About 75% of respondents described an online course development model in which academic autonomy was valued to the point where there was no requirement to engage with instructional design specialists.  Ouch.


Handbook of Learning Analytics

[Terry Anderson]

The Handbook of Learning Analytics is a comprehensive 2017 snapshot of analytic concepts, techniques, applications and strategies which, “aims to balance rigor, quality, open access and breadth of appeal and was devised to be an introduction to the current state of research”.  Its 30 peer-reviewed chapters feature a range of prominent authors from the learning analytics and educational data mining research communities.


Learning Technology Research Project into Mobile-Centred Learning

[Stephen Downes]

Agylia have published the findings of a Learning Technology Research Project into Mobile-Centred Learning, conducted in collaboration with the University of the West of England on 349 L&D professionals.  Interestingly, the researchers used a specially designed HTML5 mobile app about “Modern Learning Technologies” as the medium for training users, demonstrating features and collecting behavioural and opinion data.  Most important design features were found to be:

  • An attractive, easy-to-use and intuitive UI/UX (most important for 35% of participants)

  • Bite sized chunks of learning content (17%)

  • A good variety of content, activities and quiz questions (17%)

61% of participants completed the programme, an average knowledge score of 71% was increased to 84% through the use of repetition and re-questioning across modules, and only 21% of participants expressed the view that a 40-minute module was an acceptable length for mobile learning.


Music Teachers and Students Fall for Neuromyths


It’s a while since we’ve done any neuromyth-bashing, so here’s the findings of a recent study in which 91 music teachers from German state schools and 125 students studying to be music teachers at German universities were asked to read through a list containing 7 neuromyths and 7 facts and identify which were scientifically substantiated and which unsubstantiated.  They endorsed, on average, around 40% of the myths, mistakenly believing them to be scientifically supported facts. 



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