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e-Learning Digest No 72 - Aug 10

A monthly digest of e-Learning news

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
16 August 2010

UK Conferences & Workshops

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First UK Private University in Decades to be Created

Universities minister David Willetts has cleared the way for the UK's first new private sector university for more than 30 years by allowing London-based BPP - part of the group that owns the University of Phoenix - to become a university college.  BPP has 14 regional branches offering law and business degrees; it now plans to expand into health and teaching degrees.  The UCU warned that an expansion of the private sector would be a “disaster” and that the creation of a new private university was the “beginning of a slippery slope”.

[BBC]

The Times Higher describes StraighterLine as the “Ryanair” of university instruction.  It offers no-frills courses designed by former professors that can be provided at students' convenience and transferred towards degrees at other institutions.  They are delivered online and feature collaborative study groups and live tutorials, with advisers available via email.  Each course costs only $39 plus $99 a month for the duration.  StraighterLine would not disclose specific data but claims its enrolment equalled that of a small university less than six months after commencing full operations.  It has also just announced a partnership with Thompson Rivers University in Canada.

[Times Higher Ed]

In Brazil, Pearson is taking a £326m stake in the learning systems division of Sistema Educational Brasilerio (SEB).  The deal will more than double the size of Pearson's education business in Brazil and includes an agreement that will ensure that SEB's remaining schools and higher education institutions remain “major customers” of Pearson.  Pearson said Brazil is one of the world's largest education markets with 56m students and an educational materials market valued at about $2bn.

[Giles Clark]

Pearson is also acquiring Americas Choice for $80m, giving it a prominent role in US school improvements (and access to some of the $17bn about to be invested by the Obama administration).  The company is also setting up a similar school improvement business in the UK.

[PR Web]

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Chalk(face) and Cheese…

As first reported in Digest 70, the University of California is pressing ahead with plans to offer, “…a highly selective, fully online, credit-bearing program on a large scale - and that has not been done,” according to UC Berkeley law school Dean Christopher Edley.  His staff are not so enthusiastic and have set out their thoughts and concerns in a report, in which they claim the initiative will, “…threaten the quality of UC undergraduate education, the right and ability of Senate faculty to safeguard educational standards, and the existence of a public university in which excellent students are taught by excellent research faculty.”

[George Siemens]

The idea that online learning is a “poor substitute” for campus provision is a myth, according to Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library and chair of the UK's Online Learning Task Force.

[Times Higher Ed]

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US Colleges Hire Companies to Build Their Online Courses

The Chronicle reports that, “As more colleges dip their toes into the booming online-education business, they're increasingly taking those steps hand-in-hand with companies like Embanet.  For non-profit universities trying to compete in an online market aggressively targeted by for-profit colleges, the partnerships can rapidly bring in many students and millions of dollars in new revenue.”  However, there are concerns that the quest for profits will compromise standards (e.g. multiple-choice exams).  According to Tony, “Underlying all this is the belief that online teaching is second rate and therefore can be contracted out without loss to the institution.  Big mistake.”

[Tony Bates]

Tony also reports an article in Inside Higher Ed which looks at whether institutions should focus primarily on local markets for online students.  A 2008 Sloan Consortium study found that, “Institutions believe that online will open up their enrolments to more students from outside of their normal service area […] However, the reality is that this has not yet occurred in any large numbers.”  Richard Garrett, managing director of Eduventures, says that in routine surveys his firm has done over the last three years, roughly 65 percent of online learners have said they prefer an institution with a physical presence within 50 miles.  See also Effectiveness of Fully Online Courses for College Students by Smith-Jaggars & Bailey (2010).

[Tony Bates]

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Bill Gates On Online Learning

On p9 of his 2010 Annual Letter, Bill Gates describes the potential for online learning and also gets to the heart of a growing problem: the fact that there's more and more of it out there.  This makes it increasingly difficult to know whether the link you're about to follow will lead to something at the level or quality you need, so it looks like the Gates Foundation may be about to fund some investigation into standards.

[JE]

He also spoke on the subject at the recent Techonomy conference, claiming that, “Five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world.”  He also noted that western textbooks are three times longer than the equivalents in Asia, often because they are written by committee, meaning that more things are simply added on top of what’s already in there.

[TechCrunch]

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OU Course Production, 1971

This 1971 paper describes course production at the OU (“the newest and most unusual of British universities”).  A number of problems seem to emerge: grappling with new technologies and study methods, getting the right mix of media, not enough time, money or resources, endless revision cycles, the “pressing need for assistance [sic] who can engage in literature searches - e.g. to locate background reading materials, and suitable illustrations”.  Phew.  Thank goodness those chaotic days are long gone.

[Tony Hirst, Pete Mitton]

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How Long is a Piece of String?

Sitting right alongside “is space infinite?” in the ultimate list of unanswerable questions comes “how long does it take to create e-learning?”  In 2007 Brandon Hall suggested around 220:1 but, if you know better, you have until 31 Aug to submit your alternative thoughts to their latest survey on development ratios.

[JE]

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Milo the Virtual Human

Microsoft’s virtual human, Milo, was first seen last year’s E3 Expo but he seems to have been sent to his room since then.  He re-emerged at last month’s TED conference in Oxford in a presentation by inventor Peter Molyneux.  This 4 min BBC video of Milo really is a ‘must-watch’.

[Gabrielle Price]

And on the subject of TED, do try to spare 10 mins to see Hans Rosling giving his sixth TED talk on the subject of population growth.  This is just as compelling as the first five, and this time it’s a little less PowerPoint and a little more IKEA.

[JE]

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Universities and Libraries Move to the Mobile Web

Mobile web comes under the Educause microscope, with some useful data and analysis on current device/app usage and trends.  I’ve always been sceptical about a desire to do any serious amounts of ‘learning’ on phones or PDAs – but mobile web and ‘finding out stuff’ is an obvious winner (as the 270,000 people who accessed MIT’s shuttle bus timetable in a 6 month period will testify).

[Liz Mallett]

The Jul/Aug Educause Review is devoted to all things ‘open’, and is well worth a visit.

[Anne Howells]

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Academics and Techies Have Different Views on Ed Tech

A new CDW report, The 2010 21st-Century Campus Report: Campus 2.0, highlights the divergence between IT staff and faculty members over educational technologies.  For example, 72% of IT staff consider online collaboration software “essential” (vs 31% of faculty members) and 68% said virtual learning is essential (vs 35%).  But educators weren't unenthusiastic about every technology, with 67% regarding digital content as essential.  Amongst IT staffers, 6% thought their IT infrastructure was “aging” or “in the dark ages”, but 38% regarded it as adequate and 9% though it cutting edge.

[Campus Technology]

Shock, horror.  Anya Kamenetz has discovered that most professors are Luddites: e.g. 84% don’t blog and 3% don’t know what a blog is.

[Stephen Downes]

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User Concerns with LMSs and VLEs

IMC (UK) Learning has examined how organisations use their LMSs and VLEs and how beneficial they are at meeting business needs.  They found that 21% of respondents do not use an LMS/VLE and have no plans to do so.  Of the remainder, 30% are completely satisfied with their LMS/VLE and 27% felt it had yielded a large return on investment; 7% had seen no ROI and 30% were concerned that their LMS/VLE might not meet future needs.

[eLearn Magazine]

Get the latest news on planned OU VLE developments – including audio recording, quiz engines, Elluminate, Moodle 2.0 and the accelerated roadmap – from Ross’s August VLE podcast.

[Ross MacKenzie]

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European Training Survey

CEGOS has surveyed over 2200 employees across the UK, France, Germany and Spain to shed light on staff perceptions of learning in business.  They find that staff are highly motivated to develop their skills: 76% are willing to give up their free time to study, 53% are prepared to part fund it and 65% are motivated by the potential to increase their salary.  Blended learning is increasing in popularity, including the use of online collaborative tools, with the UK and Spain leading the way.

[Towards Maturity]

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Digital Information Seekers

JISC has commissioned two pieces of research into digital information.  One, conducted in conjunction with The British Library, looks at The Google Generation – Myth or Reality; the second, with OCLC Research in the US, asks, What does the digital information seeker look like?

[ALT]

This nicely made video from PR company simplyZesty describes the shape and size of online social media in the UK; just a shame they don’t cite their sources.

[Mat Schencks]

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Deepwater Horizon and eLearning

The guys at the Multimedia Learning site have twigged that different news organisations have generated a variety of visualisations to explain the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.  They’ve put these together in categories (timelines, infographics, interactive maps, etc) so eLearning designers can analyse what works well, what doesn’t, and what they could learn for future eLearning practice.

[JE]

Of course, we probably didn’t allow for BP doctoring their own visualisations.

[Slashdot]

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eBook Corner

NOOKstudy, from Barnes & Noble, is a PC and Mac application that allows your computer to do Nook-like things with eBooks.  Why bother?  Because, according to TechNewsDaily, it “…offers more than just cheap textbooks. The service includes class materials, study aids, test guides and access to industry publications from just about every profession that can be studied in school. Teachers can even get into the service and offer lecture notes, syllabi, presentation slides and more.”  I wish it well, but I’m just not sure about that “Designed for students, by students” strapline.  Pot Noodle, anyone?

[Pete Mitton, Giles Clark]

There’s also now a Nook app for Android, giving access to 1m+ eBooks.  [TechCrunch]

For the past three months, Amazon has sold 143 Kindle eBooks for every 100 hardback books.  According to CEO Jeff Bezos, “The growth rate of Kindle device unit sales has tripled since we lowered the price from $259 to $189.”

[Mat Schencks]

Nicholas Negroponte predicts the demise of the physical book within 5 years.  Far fetched?  Just consider the sales figures for physical music.

[Ross MacKenzie]

Amazon will open its UK Kindle store on 27 Aug and start shipping two updated devices – priced at £149 (3G) and £109 (Wi-Fi) – on the same day.

[Giles Clark]

Seth Godin thinks it’s time for a “paperback” eReader.  He suggests that Amazon forget about a touchscreen and 3G and aim for a mass-market device that could be sold for just $50.  The smart money suggests that eBook sales will explode but eReaders will not, particularly as competition from more versatile smartphones and tablets increases.

[Wired]

The Humane Reader is already there (sort of).  It costs $20 to make and allows eBooks (or an offline Wikipedia site) stored on an SD card to be read on a TV screen by those who cannot afford or access more typical platforms. 

[Giles Clark, Chris Douce]

Or you could try the soon-to-appear $99 Copia Ocean Reader, with its 5” colour touch LCD screen.

[TechCrunch]

Cheaper still is India’s £23 touch screen tablet, due in 2011 with the promise of word processing, web browsing, eBooks and videoconferencing.  “This is our answer to MIT's $100 computer,” human resource development minister Kapil Sibal said as he unveiled the device.  Sibal turned to India's elite technical universities to develop the $35 tablet after receiving a “lukewarm” response from private sector players.

[Giles Clark]

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Universities Offering ‘Free’ iPads

More US universities are announcing plans to give iPads to undergraduates.  Seton Hill University and Northwest Kansas Technical College both plan to provide their entire undergraduate populations with iPads (approximately 2,100 and 8,000 students, respectively).  Oklahoma State University plans to distribute iPads to an estimated 120 students in the autumn.  “The goal is to push this tool as hard and as far as we possibly can to really see what the limitations are,” said visiting associate professor, Bill Handy.  That’s a curious statement – if I were a student, I’d prefer to think they were looking to see what the ‘opportunities’ were, rather than using me as a guinea pig.  (Also, more detail on this from Wired).

[The Chronicle of Higher Education]

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Kahn Academy

Salman Khan has put his Harvard MBA to good use by founding the Khan Academy, “a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere”.  Sal runs the organisation from home, he has never studied education, has no teaching credentials and his short videos are made in his bedroom with a $200 Camtasia Recorder and a free copy of SmoothDraw3, and are hosted on YouTube.  His 1400+ videos are viewed around 70,000 times per day and, since its inception in 2006, the Khan Academy website has recorded more than 16 million page views.

[Stephen Downes]

More free material is available from the Open Culture site (250+ free courses in the liberal arts and sciences from the world’s leading universities, although they’ve barely taken the trouble to look outside the US), Einztein, which does include some OU and other international contributions, and Videoleactures.net, with over 2,000 video lectures from across the academic spectrum.  Also, check out the OEDb site for 200+ links to open courseware collections.

[George Siemens, Stephen Downes]

The Open University of Hong Kong has just launched its Open Learning site, offering free courseware, videos, a personal learning log and ePortfolio, plus community/alumni support.

[Tony Bates]

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Emerging Technologies in Distance Education

George Veletsianos has just published Emerging Technologies in Distance Education under a CC licence with AU Press.  There are four sections covering: foundations of emerging technologies in distance education; learning designs for emerging technologies; social, organizational, contextual factors in emerging technologies implementation; and interaction/communication with emerging technologies.  George also reminds us that his own (with Peter Tittenberger) Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning is still available from all good websites.

[George Siemens]

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The Meanings of Colour

We all know that colour can be a powerful way of conveying meaning, but do the same colours mean the same things in different countries and cultures?  Globalisation Group has put together a helpful chart of Colour Meanings by Culture.  It may not be 100% complete and it may not be 100% referenced, but it’s very useful starting point.

[eLearning Brothers]

You want more?  Try Mashable’s 17 Web Tools for Working with Colors.

[JE]

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How the Brain Learns

ASTD’s Learning Circuits blog has asked the question Does the discussion of “how the brain learns” impact your eLearning design?  The contributions and comments are building, including a useful list from Tony Karrer of 32 recent posts on brain, learning, eLearning design.

[ASTD]

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ToneCheck

ToneCheck – available in beta, but only for Outlook at the moment – aims to identify the emotional definition of words and phrases in order to help users improve the clarity of their email communication.  It gauges words and phrases against 8 levels of connotative feeling, enabling end users to make real-time corrections and adjust the overall tone of messages using a simple menu system.

[TechCrunch]

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St. Marys Mobile Learning Project

They start ‘em young in St. Marys, Ohio.  As part of a district-wide mobile learning project that has now run for 3 years, 900 students from 3rd to 6th grade each have their own mobile learning device (MLD).  “The kids would go home and have … their Nintendos, their Wiis, their systems, and then we’d bring them to school and take all that away from them – anything that was stimulating for them, anything that was motivating.”  The MLDs have transformed class activities and have noticeably improved enthusiasm, engagement and academic attainment.

[Tony Bates]

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Shorts

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And Finally…

Amazon now sells clip-on laptop car trays - ideal for doing some urgent work in the car while parked.  However, according to comments on the Amazon site, some purchasers have been a little more ambitious:

  • “I never again have to worry about missing an important business email or video conference as I zoom from meeting to meeting on the motorway.”
  • “I actually tried to set up a webcam on my dashboard with a camera window open on my laptop so I didn't need to look up at all, but I stopped doing that because the lag gave me a couple of hairy incidents.”
  • “I got one for my 90yr old mother.  She is an avid crossword puzzle fan and now she can work on them while she is driving back and forth from bingo at the senior center.”
  • “It really needs a rubber coating or else the laptop slides off on curves or when you turn the wheel too fast.”
  • “In several accidents that I have had while using this, the airbag causes the laptop screen to slam shut.  I have suffered several broken fingers.”

[Gabrielle Price/Computer Weekly]

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