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e-Learning Digest No 67 - Mar 10

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
15 March 2010

Funding Cuts

Funding cuts continue to bite worldwide.  Louisiana State University had $12.6m slashed from its budget and was given just 2 weeks to implement it.  Massachusetts cut $62m from its HE budget before Christmas, and 37 US states have so far either cut funding or raised fees.  Across the border, the University of Alberta, already coping with a $59m reduction in funding, has just had another $20m cut.  [George Siemens]

In Europe, apart from the UK, cuts have occurred or are planned in Spain (10%), Hungary, Ireland (6% + 10%), Italy, Lithuania (50%) and Poland.  Meanwhile, the FT reports that employment of ‘academic professionals’ has risen by 9.9% since 2003, whereas manager numbers rose by 33%, and 'artistic, media, public relations, marketing and sports occupations' by 27%, according to data from HESA.  [University World News]


Leitch Skills Targets Branded “Wishful Thinking” by CBI

Remember the Leitch report, from back in the days when funding was plentiful and tweets were what Jonathan Ross bought his kids?  Richard Lambert, director general of the CBI, says that the ambitions set out in the Leitch report - that the UK should be in the upper quartile of OECD countries for skills by 2020 - are “wishful thinking”.  Speaking to delegates at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) Skills, Jobs, Growth convention, Lambert said the global skills challenge had changed beyond recognition as a result of both economic and social factors.  [TJ Online]


Credibility of Online Degrees

The old chestnut of ‘real degrees’ pops up with monotonous regularity although, with Business Weekly reporting in Jan that the US is home to 810 bogus universities, perhaps the doubters have a point.  Indiana University’s Craig Howard has been teaching online for two years and sees things differently.  He thinks a lot of the problem lies in perceptions: people expect online learning to be shorter, easier to learn and easier to cheat.  [eLearn Magazine]

University of South Florida’s ECampus supports more than 84,000 enrolments in 2,000-plus distance learning modules each year.  Executive director, Kathleen Moore, believes there are four myths about e-learning: it will be easier than classroom; there won’t be much interpersonal activity; students fear their lack of technical skills (“I couldn’t upload my paper” is becoming the new “dog ate my homework”); and employers won’t rate it as a ‘real’ degree.  [JE]

Elizabeth Gruenbaum presents a short review of literature on Predictors of Success for Adult Online Learners.  She finds a mixed bag of evidence and, although she lists no overall conclusions, the underlying message seems to be that the technology is a side issue; it’s the attitudes of tutors/facilitators and students that are the critical factors.  [eLearn Magazine]


Pre-election Debate

There must surely be no greater pleasure than hearing three politicians talk for 2 hours.  Join David Lammy, David Willetts and the other one for an open discussion, recorded last month, on the future of UK universities.  [THE]


Part-time HE Study no Panacea

Part-time higher education should not be seen by the Government as a ‘substitute’ for full-time study, according to Bahram Bekhradnia, director of HEPI.  “The pressures of part-time study are enormous … we should be under no illusion that it is an easy road to follow and should be doing all we can to encourage young people in particular to study full time.”  [THE]



SkillSoft, one of the world's largest commercial e-learning suppliers – having absorbed Smartforce, CBT Systems and NETg over the years - has just been acquired by a group of private equity firms for approximately $1.1 billion.   [JE]


College of Law Expands Online

The College of Law is investing £1.2m in a new office in Bristol, from which online tutorials, tests, podcasts, forums and group assessments will complement traditional teaching.  According to Bristol 24-7, “The College of Law has already established itself as a provider of e-learning in the industry, having developed more than 400 i-Tutorials - online video recordings of teaching experts supported with slides and online exercises”.  [JE]


Global eLearning Market tops $27bn

Ambient Insight reports that the global market for eLearning reached US$27.1 billion in 2009.  The Worldwide Market for Self-paced eLearning Products and Services: 2009-2014 predicts a five-year compound annual growth rate of 12.8% overall, but an impressive 33.5% for Asia.  Key findings include: a resistance to content that has been translated, but not truly localized for specific countries; and a boom in global demand for courses offered by for-profit international virtual education providers.  [JE]

And here’s a link to a recent Sloan Consortium report – Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009 – referred to last month.  [George Siemens]


HE’s New Global Order

Higher education continues to grow in its importance for building a culture of aspiration, socioeconomic mobility and national economic competitiveness.  This paper, from Berkeley’s Center for Studies in HE, outlines a convergence of approaches toward building ‘Structured Opportunity Markets’ in HE.  It notes that the EU offers important insights on how to pursue higher education reform in the modern and increasingly competitive global context.  Meanwhile, EU adviser Professor Frans Van Vught thinks Australia has the potential to be the most diverse and therefore among the most effective HE sector in the world.  [University World News]

Yale’s President, Richard Levin, gave a presentation at the Royal Academy last month about the rise of Asia’s universities.  In the 1960s, 70s and 80s the Asian HE agenda was to increase the fraction of their populations provided with postsecondary education.  Their initial focus was on expanding the number of institutions and their enrolments, and impressive results were achieved.  Today, nations such as China and India are delivering on an even more ambitious agenda.  [University World News]

48.3% of Korean Internet users took some form of e-learning in 2009, according to the Korea Times.  Those under 19 years old showed the most brisk usage for the high-tech studies at 72 percent while the rate was a mere 18.4 percent for those aged 50 or older.  [JE]


English Language eLearning Big in Asia

Japanese startup Moonshot aims to teach kids English by means of online gaming, helping them build a vocabulary of 600 words and 200 phrases, that will enable them to read up to 50 classic children’s books.  Japan has a significant English language learning market, with nearly 50% of families paying for their children to take a form of supplemental English education.  A similar scheme called WizWorld was recently launched in China.  [TechCrunch]

Wyoming-based Eleutian provides English-language instruction using videoconferencing to K-12 public and private school students and business executives in South Korea, Japan and China.  Eleutian’s Robert Grady believes, “The market for English-language training is currently more than $100bn annually and will continue to grow as English becomes the global language of commerce.”  [JE]


European and Asian eLearning Practices

If you’re interested in the state of e-learning in 39 countries across Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia, look no further than this comprehensive two volume set of PDFs, edited by Turkey’s Prof Ugur Demiray.  Funding and infrastructure remain issues in some areas, meaning that eLearning is often a stand-alone medium, delivering instruction or resources.  [Stephen Downes]


The State of Social Media

Brian Solis has gathered together some useful data on the state of social media around the world; I particularly like the conversation prism, even though I don’t quite know what to do with it.  Pete Warden has taken a purely US perspective, based on an analysis of Facebook profiles, and divided the nation into seven new states.  [George Siemens]


Alex Laptop for IT Novices

For novices who want a simple and supported approach to computing, the Linux-based Alex laptop is an interesting proposition.  For a two-year contract at £39.95 per month, you get the laptop, OpenOffice, broadband, 10GB of online storage, anti-virus, telephone support, software updates and an encrypted USB drive that enables users to login to their desktop from any other Alex.  [JE]


Open Educational Practices and Resources

Niall Sclater is one of many contributors to the Open e-Learning Content Observatory Services (OLCOS) Roadmap 2012.  It’s a detailed report which includes a useful listing of projects and resources in Sect 9, and one or two statements of the obvious, such as “Business models in OER will remain tricky” (p12).  Creative Commons is also trying to assemble an Open Database of Educational Projects and Organizations.  [Stephen Downes]

In the latest Educause Quarterly Review, Patrick McAndrew, Eileen Scanlon and Doug Clow predict an Open Future for Higher Education, as new technologies continue to appear and attitudes towards online and social activities change.  [University World News]


School Used Student Laptop Webcams to Spy on Them

Laptops issued to high-school students in the well-heeled Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion allegedly have webcams that can be covertly activated by the schools' administrators, who have used this facility to spy on students and even their families.  The issue came to light when a child was disciplined for “improper behavior in his home” and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence.  [Slashdot]


Future of Digital Publishing

Customised online textbooks are nothing new; some are being used by the OU – but they’re normally a collection of discrete chapters that have been (electronically) bound together.  Macmillan has now gone further and is introducing DynamicBooks, which will allow lecturers to edit digital textbooks and customize them for their individual classes.  They will be able to reorganize or delete chapters; upload course syllabuses, notes, videos, pictures and graphs; and perhaps most notably, rewrite or delete individual paragraphs, equations or illustrations.  [Giles Clark]

Travellers at Frankfurt Airport can now print-on-demand (POD) same-day editions of around 1,000 newspapers in 38 languages at the airport’s Virgin Media Store.  The Economist reports that around 6% of worldwide book sales are now POD, and that 10% of Cambridge University Press’s sales of academic and professional titles are generated by books printed on demand - compared with 3% five years ago.  On Demand, a company allied with publisher Ingram, now has Espresso POD machines in 30 bookstores worldwide, including Blackwells in London.  [JE]

Tim O'Reilly expressed some interesting views on “The Future of Digital Distribution and eBook Marketing” at the O’Reilly Tools of Change 2010 Conference.  [Giles Clark]

65% of US teachers and administrators at the recent ASCD conference believe the printed textbook will soon be completely replaced by interactive and e-learning tools, echoing findings from a recent report by the Gates Foundation in which only 12% of teachers saw improved academic achievement through traditional textbooks.  [JE]

In a lengthy article, Publishing: The Revolutionary Future, in the New York Review of Books, Jason Epstein takes us on a journey from Gutenberg to infinity and beyond.  Epstein is a self-confessed print addict but he raises some interesting points along the way, informed by his long career in publishing.  [Richard Easterbrook]


Kobo Books Launches in UK

The music industry learned not to lock files to one device, but Amazon is trying to do that with Kindle.  Kobo is about to challenge this, offering free ePub reader software for PC, Mac and smartphones.  It has over two million eBooks to choose from, including thousands that are free to download, and a UK bestseller list priced at £8.99 or less.  [TechCrunch]


Learning about Learning Technologies

Epigeum has released 7 online courses (10 hours content) about Learning Technologies, developed in conjunction with 18 international universities with Diana Laurillard as Lead Advisor.  [ALT]


Flash for Mobiles

Adobe is moving to position Flash as the write-once, deploy-anywhere solution for both the mobile Web and apps, announcing plans to bring Adobe AIR to mobile devices, starting with Android and Blackberry phones.  Adobe wants developers to create their apps using its developer tools and then output them as AIR apps for Android and Blackberry phones, native iPhone apps, or Flash apps on the Web.  Flash Player 10.1 is due in the next couple of months, which will include support for mobile video.  [TechCrunch]

However, Flash developer Daniel Dilger says Flash will probably never work well on touch screen devices such as the iPad and many smart phones, because most current Flash programs require a visible mouse pointer and it’s not possible to distinguish between a ‘hover’ and a ‘click’ on a touch device.  [Slashdot]

MIT has released a free iPhone app providing news on research, real time campus shuttle tracking, an interactive campus map, a searchable people directory and emergency notification feeds.  [Campus Technology]


Mugtug Sketchpad

Sketchpad is a nice drawing/painting tool, and it’s free, but the most amazing aspect is that it’s been developed not with Flash or any of the heavy programming tools, but using JavaScript with the element of HTML 5.  It doesn’t currently work in IE, although a compatible version is promised soon.  [Chris Hough]


Augmented Reality Maps

Microsoft’s Blaise Aguera y Arcas’s 8 min TED talk demonstrates the latest Bing maps, which include street views, crowd-sourced images and live augmented reality video.  He also proves that old maxim: never work with children, animals or software developers.  [Ekkehard Thumm]




And Finally…

Thanks to Pete Mitton for bringing hot news from Vol 1, Issue 1 of Classroom Computer News (Sep 1980).  According to Microsoft’s Vern Rayburn (p5), in the next two to five years, the microcomputer will become “friendlier”.  It will speak when spoken to, respond to spoken commands and will be able to hum the Bee Gees.  Vern was obviously destined for a bright future, but perhaps not with Microsoft.  Other highlights include:

  • Apple (“started in a Palo Alto garage”) hopes to raise $20m through sales of stocks (p1).
  • There are fears (p4) about uptake of computers in classrooms – “how can media people keep the school’s new micros out of storage closets”?
  • The code samples (pp10/11) prove you can never have too many Goto’s.
  • Cassettes are so last year (p24).  Floppy disks are available in 8” or mini 5¼”, the latter holding up to 1600 type-written pages.
  • Texas Instruments new Math Marvel causes young children to be beside themselves with happiness (p29).

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