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e-Learning Digest No 73 - Sep 10

A monthly digest of e-Learning news

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
16 September 2010

UK Conferences & Workshops

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Google Apps at the OU

The OU began rollout of Google Apps for Education to small groups of opt-in students on 19 Aug, with much wider rollout planned for next Feb; in parallel with this, First Class email is being phased out.  More detailed information is available on the LIO project pages and in the recently revised OU Computing Guide.

[Rhodri Thomas]

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Samsung Galaxy Tab

Star of the recent IFA technology fair in Berlin was Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.  Originally billed (by the press) as a direct iPad competitor, it is now clear that it will have its own market slot.  Sure, the 7” screen isn’t as big as an iPad, but it’s big enough to display some serious content (including Flash), it has a 3.2 MP back camera (including flash), another on the front for video calling and – big differentiator – it’s a phone.  This means, according to TechCrunch, that Samsung can set a premium price, possibly up to $800, although CNET is predicting a much lower $200-$300.

[CNET]

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Scotland’s First “iSchool”

All 105 students at the Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock will now take all their lessons on iPads.  Each of the children will have their own iPad which is hooked into the school's wireless network, allowing them to access "pre-approved websites for lessons in English, maths, languages and history."  Hmm.  I thought iPad was a tool, not a cult.  I have a fantastic new power drill at home, but sometimes nails or glue are more suitable…

[The Register]

Not so fast.  Professors at St John’s College, Annapolis worry that e-readers will draw students' attention away from classroom discussions, and have voted “to discourage students from loading up Homer or Aristotle on their Kindles or iPads and bringing them to seminar”.

[The Chronicle]

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Broadband Use

Visualisation of the month award goes to OFCOM for an excellent graph depicting what we do all day.  The latest OFCOM survey reveals that, of the 15h45m we are typically awake each day, we spend 7h5m "engaging in media and communications activities" (phone, computer, radio or TV).  16-24 year-olds spend less time on this (6h35m) but achieve more (9h32m) through multitasking.  Mobile data volumes grew by 240% from 2007 to 2009 and 45% of all mobile web use in the UK is on Facebook, way ahead of second-placed Google (8%).  UK internet take-up is now at 73%, the majority of which is fixed broadband.

[BBC]

A survey by Pew Internet has found that 66% of Americans use a high-speed internet connection at home (rising to 80% for 18-29 year-olds), but that 21% don’t use the internet at all.  48% of these do not think online content is relevant to their lives and 90% declare themselves simply as ‘not interested’.

[TechCrunch]

Slightly more esoteric, but if you’re interested in what’s happening with the internet in Brazil, Russia, India, China and Indonesia, the Boston Consulting Group’s latest report could be just what you need.  Notably, PC penetration is low in these countries (Brazil and Russia at around 32%; China, 20%; Indonesia and India, 5%, compared with the US and Japan at 90%) so m-learning has a potentially bright future, either via phone or pad/tablet.

[Tony Bates]

Finally, Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff’s article in ‘Wired’, the web is dead: long live the internet, has attracted a lot of interest.  Chris and Michael put alternative perspectives on where we’ve come from, where we’re heading, who’s in the driving seat, and why.

[Clive Shepherd]

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Education at a Glance 2010: OECD Indicators

The latest update to Education at a Glance is packed full of data about the state of education across the OECD countries.  With international data, there’s always the danger of comparing apples with oranges but, subject to that health warning, we discover that 40% of the OECD adult population participates in some form of education in a given year; S Korea has the greatest proportion of 25-34 year olds in tertiary education (60%) and the US has the greatest non-completion rate (50%) but tops the league on spending (3% of GDP).

[Tony Bates]

Tony also brings news of an initiative from the Lumina Foundation for Education, aiming for a degree qualifications profile that defines what graduates should be able to know and do when they receive associate, bachelor's and master's degrees, no matter where they earn them.

[Tony Bates]

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Survey of UK eLearning Companies

The BCS reports on IT Training magazine’s second annual survey of UK e-learning companies.  Line dominates the bespoke developers, with a revenue of £7m (about one third that of LTS) followed by Kineo and Epic.  The LMS (VLE) rankings are also based on company revenue, putting Saba at the top, but it would be interesting to see how Moodle fared on a ranking determined by user base.

[BCS]

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3D Worlds in Higher Education

Stephen recommends Eero Palomäki’s recent MSc thesis on 3D virtual worlds in higher education.  He not only looks at the options (including the inevitable SecondLife) but also considers didactic approaches and proposes a process model for producing a course utilising 3D virtual worlds.

[Stephen Downes]

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Critical Past

Critical Past claims to offer nearly 60,000 historic videos and 7m photos, stretching back as far as 1894 and mostly from US government sources.  Viewing is free, but download and use incurs a fee.

[Stephen Downes]

JISC is now offering a single gateway into the various content collections it has been assembling or sponsoring since 2003. 

[ALT]

And NASA has placed 50+ years of copyright-free archive images onto Flickr.

[Stephen Downes]

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How Phoenix Preps Tutors

Interesting short interview in eLearn Magazine with Jessy Keiser, a former MBA instructor at the University of Phoenix, which gives some insight into how Phoenix prepares and supports its associate lecturers.

[eLearn Magazine]

Coincidentally, the South African Institute of Distance Education (SAIDE) has just developed a new online guide for its tutors.  Supporting Distance Learners is described as, “a set of course materials intended for tutors in blended learning or fully online programmes.  It takes readers reflectively through what it means to support learners in e-learning environments of a variety of kinds – both at a distance, and in conventional contact tuition environments that are web supported.”

[Tony Bates]

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Parents' £3,500 Bill for Student 'Essentials'

First year students need around £3,500 of ‘essential’ kit before embarking on their university career, according to new research.  The study, by eXpansys, refers to this generation of students as igrads because of the need for gadgets and reveals the top two pieces of equipment needed are a laptop computer and a smartphone, such as a BlackBerry, which together cost £900.  On top of that, internet access, a mobile phone contract and accessories such as cables and printers are also necessary.

[University World News]

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W3C Widgets

The Worldwide Web Consortium, perhaps best known for its W3C accessibility standards, has introduced a widget standard that is intended to support a non-proprietary approach to client side web apps.  This is based on web standards (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) rather than programming languages, giving much greater cross-platform potential, albeit at the expense of some rich functionality.

[ALT]

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World Social Science Report

“Never before have there been so many social scientists in the world”.  Gosh.  So many career-jeopardising comments come to mind, I don’t know where to start.  Perhaps I should just link you to UNESCO’s World Social Science Report 2010.

[University World News.]

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eBook Update

China's largest e-publisher, Shanda Literature Group, has launched the Bambook, a dedicated e-reader, as well as an e-bookstore featuring more than three million titles.  But at $150 for an e-ink device, I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

[Giles Clark]

A Wall Street Journal article, The ABCs of e-Reading, cites a Sony-funded survey of 1,200 e-reader owners, covering iPad, Kindle and the Sony Reader, revealing that:

  • 40% of e-book owners claimed they read more than they did with print books
  • People with e-readers read them in places they don’t normally read books
  • Nearly half of all Americans read no books for pleasure
  • Approx 11 million Americans will have an e-reader by the end of September
  • E-books are read more slowly than printed books (iPads: 6.2% slower; Kindle: 10.7% slower)

[Tony Bates]

The American Council of Learned Societies has just released a whitepaper, Handheld E-Book Readers and Scholarship, based on a survey of 142 users using various platforms including 3 variants of Kindle, 3 Sonys and iPhone-Touch-Pad.  Over 60% used these devices frequently or occasionally so, not surprisingly, there was general satisfaction; however, some problems were reported with searching, referencing and minor errors in texts.

[The Chronicle]

If all this has whetted your appetite, Hongkiat lists its 20 best websites to download free eBooks.

[Stephen Downes]

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Structure of Blogs

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox provides useful guidance on usability, although I add the caution that his advice is aimed mainly at commercial sites, where the drivers to attract and keep users on the site are (hopefully) slightly different to education.  A recent posting looked at the structure of blogs, with eye-tracking plots showing how users respond to different layouts.  He concludes that summaries are (initially) better than full articles and the use of images helps maintain attention.

[Jakob Nielsen]

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Free/Social Learning

NIXTY is a new provider of online educational content – some free, some subscription.  Now this is a laudable aim and it’s a nicely designed site, but what does it really offer?  I linked to a lesson on Circuits and Electronics and ended up at a page containing a 51 min MIT lecture on logic gates presented as an embedded YouTube clip.  There is a general discussion area, but nobody seems to be discussing anything.  A quote on the home page proclaims: “NIXTY is like a college in my living room.  I can access it anytime and learn anything I want.”  No.  You can watch/hear/read stuff and try to remember it, but that’s not college education, it’s watching/hearing/reading stuff.

[Giles Clark]

OpenStudy comes at the problem from the opposite direction, with the emphasis very much on peer support for learning.  CEO Phil Hill describes it as “the Match.com of study”, with users building their own personal study networks by following other students and joining groups.  When they have a question, the site pushes it out to their extended network and matches them with people available to work with them.  The site opened at the start of Sep and has 3,000 users so far, including a pilot project with MIT.

[The Chronicle]

As part of a joint UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning initiative - Taking OER beyond the OER Community: Policy and Capacity – three online discussion forums will each run for a week in Sep, Oct and Nov, addressing issues such as policy, technology, quality, licensing and funding.

[Tony Bates]

JASIG, a consortium that sponsors open source projects for HE, has initiated a “2-3-98” community of practice to help institutions understand how to exploit open source software; it will provide self-support for administrators, managers, and practitioners that want to use open initiatives in order to reduce costs and increase choice.  Participants will be part of a mailing list, access a wiki, contribute to white papers, and share best practices through events.

[Campus Technology]

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Students Prefer Google and YouTube for Library Searching

Researchers from Middlesex University told last week’s ALT Conference that students prefer to use Google and YouTube for information searches rather than expensive electronic resource library systems, which they find too complex, time-consuming and cumbersome.  According to the Middlesex report, “People expect library resources to work in the same way as those available on the internet, that is, simple and user friendly”.  UK universities spend more than £112m on electronic resources including e-books, full text databases and back copies of e-journals; nearly £80m was spent on licences for e-journals alone.

[University World News]

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Asteroids

No, of course it’s not a mindless game – it’s a rather impressive HTML5 demonstrator from Kevin Roast, built HTML5’s ‘canvas’ API and lashings of JavaScript.  Just don’t waste your time trying it in Internet Explorer.

[Chris Hough]

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Shorts

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And Finally…

In honour of the UK papal visit, we bring you … the Bible online.  No, not a luxuriant eBook; this is the multi-player online role-playing game we’ve all been waiting for.  In chapter 1, now available in beta, “Players can meet and play the real heroes of Genesis, Abraham and his descendants.  The game is designed for users to actually experience the Book of Genesis by fulfilling quests of Abraham, which is based on the true stories of the Genesis […] players are to lead their tribe, build buildings, maintain resources and engage in warfare with other tribes […] There are also quests for users to experience Genesis according to the history of the Bible.  For example, as it is written in Genesis 14:13~14, there is a quest for Abraham to lead 318 men to rescue his nephew Lot.” 

And if that’s not enough, Slashdot brings news of search engines designed for different religious groups, including SeekFind (provides “God-honoring, biblically-based, and theologically-sound Christian search engine results”), I’mHalal and Jewogle.

Words faileth me.

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