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e-Learning Digest No 69 - May 10

A monthly digest of e-Learning news

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
14 May 2010

OU Annual Conference

This year’s annual OU annual conference - Learning in the Open World - is being held entirely online on 22 & 23 Jun.  We hope this will make it easier for people to ‘attend’ specific sessions, particularly those based outside Walton Hall for whom distance may have been an issue in previous years.  We also hope to encourage some staff to dip a first toe in the water of online collaboration and communication tools such as Elluminate.  To find out more, your first port of call should be the conference Cloudworks page, where you can register your interest by clicking the 'Mark as attending' button.  More detailed conference information will follow over the coming month.

[Martin Weller]

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UK Conferences & Workshops

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eLearning Exemplars

I have a list of eLearning exemplars and demos that I’ve tended lovingly over the years and which comes in handy on eLearning design workshops or discussions around new and updated materials.  I’ve smartened it up and offer it here as an Excel spreadsheet, containing links to over 100 eLearning exemplars [only accessible to OU staff] which can be sorted by topic, genre and development tool.  All are aimed at adult learners and none should require downloading, installing or registration.  There is deliberately a mix of quality levels (it’s sometimes useful to see an example of what we don’t want) but I have not attempted to score them – because any rating would vary according to the criterion used (e.g. pedagogy, usability, interactivity, etc).  Any feedback and suggestions would be welcome.

[JE]

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HTML 5

Who needs PowerPoint?  This good example of a multimedia slideshow about HTML 5, developed using HTML 5 is worth a look, but don’t waste your time using Internet Explorer (at least, not until IE9 appears) – Chrome or Firefox are safer bets.  Need more convincing?  Try Doug McInnes’ Asteroids game, written entirely in HTML 5.

[Jonathan Gudgion]

Upside Learning's Yogesh Agarwal asks, is HTML5 ready for eLearning development?  In particular, is it able to deliver the goods on non-Flash mobile devices? 

[JE]

Collaborative document company Scribd has taken the plunge and started last week to convert all documents from Flash to HTML5.  Scribd’s Jared Friedman says, “We are scrapping three years of Flash development and betting the company on HTML5 because we believe HTML5 is a dramatically better reading experience than Flash.  Now any document can become a Web page.”

[TechCrunch]

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Open Educational Resources

The OPAL project is an international network to promote innovation and better quality in education and training through the use of open educational resources.  Gráinne Conole is leading OU activities and she and her team would welcome your input – via their Cloudworks page – on the work they’ve done so far.

[Chris Pegler]

JORUM is accepting entries until 25 Jun for this year’s OER learning and teaching competition, with an opportunity for winners to receive a cash prize and present their work at ALT-C in September.

[Liz Mallet]

USA Today reports that Pres Obama's planned $500m to create free online courses never materialized, but National Repository for Online Courses (NROC) director Gary Lopez says its membership is increasing as many US colleges experience enrolment booms beyond their physical capacity.  The article also takes a closer look at the real costs of ‘free’.

[JE]

Interesting 15-min TEDxNYED talk from Brigham Young’s Prof David Wiley about openness in education, in which he argues that knowledge should be treated as non-competitive, “I can give some of my expertise to you without giving it away”.  He also contends that, in a digital online world, we’ve never been in a better position to do this.

[Stephen Downes]

And how do we achieve it?  Tony Bates has some answers in What do instructors need to know about teaching with technology? and Jeff Cobb provides links to five essential self-education sites and 35 Free Online Business Education Sites.

[Stephen Downes]

~~~~~~~~

Moodle Modules

UK supplier, Epic, presents its list of five top Moodle modules, including the Open University Wiki (plus a ‘highly commended’ for the OU search block).  They also link to Moodle partner HRDNZ’s non-standard Moodle site which includes modules offering a range of functionality from Accessibility (font/colour settings, which I found a bit flaky in IE) through to a Wikipedia block.

[Epic]

A survey by the US eLearning Guild has shown Moodle to be the most popular LMS/VLE for the second year running, followed by Blackboard.  Desire2Learn and Sakai, both about to be included in a learning platform study for the OU, don’t make the listing.

[JE]

Wrexham Local Authority has rolled out a Moodle-based Wrexham 14-19 eLearning Portal, linking 10 secondary schools and other local organisations.  A spokesperson said, “Mae’r porth yn cynnal nifer o fforymau a chylchoedd trafod i gefnogi rhannu arferion da ac yn rhoi mynediad at ystod o adnoddau dysgu ac addysgu.”

[JE]

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Mobile Blackboard

Blackboard has released a Mobile Learn version of the company's VLE/LMS, ported for mobile devices such as Android-based phones, iPhone, iPod, and BlackBerry.  The 3 min video demo is quite impressive.

[eLearning Guild]

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US Students Take Longer to Gain Degrees

A report from the US National Bureau of Economic Research has found that the time taken to achieve a BA degree has increased from a mean of 4.69 years in 1972 to 4.97 years in 1992.  Looking at non-top-50 universities, the mean time to graduate is 5.08 years, with only 34.7% achieving a BA within four years.  The report attributes this not to students’ abilities or the quality of their schooling, but more to worsening staff:student ratios and the need for students to conduct paid work alongside their studies in order to cover tuition and living costs.

[Tony Bates]

Separate research by professors Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks found US students in 1961 spent an average of 40 hours per week on academic work but, by 2003, that had fallen to just 27 hours.  Marks believes there may be two factors influencing this: first, professors want more time for research so they set less work; second, students give better course evaluations to easier courses.

[University World News]

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iProf

iProf is India’s first personal education tablet.  The £220 Android device has a 7” touch screen and comes bundled with content from ‘premier educational institutes’.  Learners will be supported by a chain of 30 iStudy Zones in cities across India, with a planned increase to 250 cities within 18 months.  The company hopes to address three major problems that plague e-learning from spreading namely low computer penetration, content piracy and broadband connectivity. Also, there is an acute shortage of good quality professors. “We have created an infrastructural solution which is easily scalable, enabling access to high quality education that solves all the issues,” said Sanjay Purohit, Founder and CEO, iProf Learning Solutions India.

[JE]

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Udemy

Udemy is “a website that enables anyone to create an online course” - a claim guaranteed to make my heart sink at the thought of talentless hoards demonstrating their talentlessness to the world.  However, the site looks promising, and includes material from Stanford, Berkeley, MIT and Yale.  It also provides a live virtual classroom, where instructors can host a live video conference with students using Udemy’s proprietary live video technology which includes a whiteboard, presentation viewer, chatroom, and file-sharing component.  Over 10 videos can stream on Udemy Live and 1000+ users can watch a session.  This could be the crucial differentiator between Udemy and the numerous other educational video sites.

[TechCrunch]

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Teens and Mobile Phones

According to this latest Pew Internet report, 75% of US 12-17 year-olds now own cell phones, up from 45% in 2004, and 88% of teen cell phone users are text-messagers.  54% of teens are daily texters, with a third sending more than 100 messages per day and girls texting much more than boys.  Of those who own smartphones:

  • 31% exchange instant messages on their phones
  • 27% go online for general purposes
  • 23% access social network sites
  • 21% use email
  • 11% purchase things online

[TechCrunch]

And a study by the University of Maryland suggests that US students are hooked on cellphones, social media and the Internet and showing symptoms similar to drug and alcohol addictions.  200 students were asked to give up all media for one full day and, after 24 hours, many showed signs of withdrawal, craving and anxiety along with an inability to function well without their media and social links.

[University World News]

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Intel Classmate

Intel’s child-friendly Classmate PC, has just entered its latest incarnation, with a new Atom 450 processor giving 8.5 hrs battery life, a 10” foldable, twistable, touch-screen with stylus, wireless connectivity and water-resistant keyboard and screen.  However, at around $499, it’s moved to a different position in the marketplace: one-laptop-per-middle-class-child.  It will shortly be available in the UK, branded as the Fizzbook Spin.  Groan.

[JE]

~~~~~~~~  

Browser News

Microsoft’s browser market share has fallen from around 95% in 2003 to below 60% as competitors Firefox (24.5%), Chrome (6.7%, up from 1.7% a year ago) and others gain ground.

[BBC]

The latest version of Chrome now hides the “http://” in the address bar in the interests of simplicity.  Fine unless you need to FTP something.  Slashdot also reports impressive improvements to Chrome rendering speeds.

[CNET]

Zoodles has just launched a kid-friendly browser.  It’s a free download, plus there is a premium services which is more configurable and blocks unwanted adverts.

[TechCrunch]

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HEFCE Online Learning Task Force

The HEFCE Online Learning Task Force aims to “maintain and develop the position of UK higher education (HE) as a world leader in online learning”.  How are they doing?  Check out their mid-term update report

[Tony Bates]

Tony also reports on the European-funded Re.Vica project, which has reviewed over 300 virtual HE campuses from the past decade and has just published a thorough analysis of the US as an education/HE/e-learning provider.

[Tony Bates]

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Digital Textbooks

Craig Mod writes about embracing the digital book, discussing usability, appearance and features, particularly in respect of iPad v Kindle.  The New Yorker also examines the competition between these two platforms.

[The Xplanation]

Xplana’s Rob Reynolds presents a detailed prediction/analysis of the US HE digital textbook market over the next 5 years.  He predicts a market exceeding $1bn, requiring different approaches from students, institutions, publishers and device suppliers.  One aspect he doesn’t seem to address is what these digital books might be like – static clones of their printed ancestors, or more of an interactive, multimedia learning experience?

[The Xplanation]

Researchers in Ohio looked at 2,000 students enrolling in 14 psychology courses across the state who were given the option of purchasing a print copy of their textbook for $134 or an e-text version for $50.  They found 22% purchased the e-text – some for economic reasons, but 41% of these reported preferring a digital textbook to the printed version.  Traditional-aged college students were 1.73 times more likely to purchase the electronic text than students 24 years or older.

[Campus Technology]

Google will launch its Editions eBook store later this year.  Unlike competitors such as iBooks and Amazon, Editions books will not be tied to a specific platform.  Google also has a larger inventory, currently exceeding 12m digital books.

[BBC]

And a report by the Research Information Network (RIN) concludes that budget cuts are going to keep squeezing libraries, with eBooks likely to be the only long term winners.

[Giles Clark]

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iPad Usability

Jakob Nielsen has reviewed iPad usability, concluding that “iPad apps are inconsistent and have low feature discoverability, with frequent user errors due to accidental gestures. An overly strong print metaphor and weird interaction styles cause further usability problems”.  A 93 page report is available for free download.

[Jakob Nielsen]

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eLearning Books

Tony Bates reviews a new book, An Introduction to Distance Education: Understanding Teaching and Learning in a New Era, which he describes as “a collection of essays by mainly Canadian authors, although there are also authors from the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Spain.”

[Tony Bates]

And, from former New York Times journalist Anya Kamenetz, comes a new book called DIYU: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, in which she argues that in the age of constant connectedness and social media, it's time for the monolithic, millennium-old, ivy-covered walls of universities to undergo a phase change into something much lighter, more permeable and fluid.

[University World News]

Closer to home is Janet Macdonald and Linda Creanor’s new book on Learning with online and mobile technologies which is, Janet assures me, exceptional value at under £15.

[Janet Macdonald]

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Learning Design

Did IMS LD fail to transform your life?  Guillaume Durand is proposing Simple Learning Design (SLD) as an add-on for the IMS Common Cartridge (CC) specification.  Scott Wilson thinks Durand hasn’t got it quite right, retaining things from LD that should have been discarded (e.g. conditional branching) and leaving out things that would have been useful (e.g. small groups, as opposed to individual students or the whole cohort).

[Stephen Downes]

Clive reports on last month’s ALT/eLN webinar on learning design, at which Cathy Moore challenged designers to see whether we could lose the information completely by teaching the job aid rather than the knowledge; while Patrick Dunn maintained that nobody learns from content anyway, only from experience.

[Clive Shepherd]

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Scitable

Scitable is a “free science library and personal learning tool brought to you by Nature Publishing Group, the world's leading publisher of science”, part funded by multinationals such as Roche and Tata.  The site is currently focused on genetics, but has received additional funding which it hopes to use to broaden its coverage.

[JE]

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Shorts

  • 90% of the 231 new MPs are graduates, but only 13 have worked in higher education.  [TES]
  • Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) has adopted open source Claroline as its VLE/LMS.  [JE]
  • Board800 is a free, online, sharable, whiteboard application.  [Stephen Downes]
  • Apple sold one million iPads in the 28 days following US release.  UK sales begin on 28 May, starting from £429.  [BBC]
  • Middlesex University is offering an MSc/PGDip in Digital Inclusion as a two-year, part-time course starting in Oct.  [Robin Stenham]
  • Microsoft has announced Version 4 of Silverlight, claiming that Silverlight is installed on 60% of Internet-connected devices.  [Campus Technology]
  • Another month, another brain training study.  This one, based on 11,000 adults, suggests that brain training games don’t work.  [BPS]
  • ‘Planning for Higher Education’, issue 38(3) lifts the lid on the detailed costs of providing HE in the US.  [Tony Bates]
  • Adobe has launched Creative Suite 5, including an improved version of Photoshop with tools which are more ‘content-aware’.  [eLearning Guild]
  • Microsoft’s free, Photosynth allows photos to be stitched into a pseudo-panorama.  [Stephen Downes]
  • Microsoft’s new Fix It software keeps an eye on a PC and automatically repairs common faults.  [BBC]
  • Minput uses optical sensors to allow your mobile phone or MP3 player to act like a mouse or scroll/click wheel.  [Campus Technology]
  • Typical.  Just as we recruit a CIO, Chicago, Cornell and MIT decide they don’t need one any more.  [Ross MacKenzie]
  • Interesting graphic from motionplan depicting the shape and size of the US eLearning market.  [Clive Shepherd]

~~~~~~~~

And Finally…

As World Cup fever starts to build and St George’s flag manufacturers spot an exit route from the credit crunch, the Journal of Economic Psychology, issue 31(2) is devoted entirely to the economics and psychology of football.  Presumably this research is predicated on us each having a brain of two halves…

[BPS]

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