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e-Learning Digest No 75 - Nov 10

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
15 November 2010

UK Conferences & Workshops  

If you fancy setting your sights further afield, you may wish to consult Clayton Wright’s 40+ page listing of e-learning conferences over the next 18 months.

[ALT]

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iPad Changes the Educational Portable Computing Landscape

Interesting record of an Educause conference discussion led by Rob Abel.  About 15% of the 100+ audience believed that the iPad “changes everything” – seeing great potential for the device in improving education. 

[Ross MacKenzie]

I’m going to reserve judgement on the grounds that, in their time, radio, TV, 12” laserdiscs, virtual reality and even Second Life were also going to change education beyond recognition.  I think iPad is a design triumph, but it’s a middle class device because that’s how Apple has priced it (do you know any PC manufacturers who are making 52% profit per box?) and it doesn’t really offer much that’s new, just different ways of doing things we could already do.  iPad 2 will plug some feature gaps, but what may really ‘change everything’ is the first decent iPad clone – because there are millions of people out there who want that functionality and convenience, but also want to pay £100-£200 less on the understanding that they may not be quite as cool.  According to yesterday’s Sunday Times, the Dixons/Currys Advent Vega (£250, due soon) may be a good bet.

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Seven-year Costs of an Online Masters Programme

Tony Bates has been investigating the costs of offering a fully online master's degree programme from a ‘major research university’ over seven years using open content.  Of the $2.85m whole life costs, he estimates that 24% was planning and development, 9% maintenance, 36% delivery and 31% admin and overheads.  These costs excluded technology, software and infrastructure.  There were an average of 67 students per year and, whilst the programme broke even in year 3, it took until year 7 to recover the early-years’ deficit.

For those currently pursuing OERs, empty boxes and wrap-arounds, Tony notes that, “Open content is not going to lead to major cost savings in online learning.  Even without creating new content, someone will have to select, assess and modify open content, or provide some kind of curriculum framework or guide for students studying a subject or topic.”  Furthermore, “If we want to bring the costs of online teaching down without sacrificing quality, we need to focus on administration and overheads.”

[Tony Bates]

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OU eBooks Available on iTunes

The Telegraph reports that the OU has made 100 eBooks available via iTunes, with a further 200 to follow by the end of the year.  For some reason, the newspaper thinks this will be of particular appeal to the expat community who, according to the photograph, are easily distinguished by their inability to fit headphones properly.

[Nick Watson]

Oxford has also made Shakespeare's First Folio - 36 texts, including their original spelling -available in ePub format on iTunes.  The university has also made available six plays by contemporaries of Shakespeare, including The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster. 

[Campus Technology]

Librarians were urged at a conference at the British Library last month that they must “change the behaviour of academics to ‘stop them craving books’ as libraries shift their focus to digital resources”.  However, concerns were also expressed about the value of the virtual library: Cambridge’s Prof Mary Beard described libraries as social places where she had been known not only to eat, but also to have sex and get drunk.  Now I understand what those giant bean bags are for…

[THE]

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Colour e-Paper

E Ink has launched a new Triton e-paper which displays 'thousands' of colours and 16 levels of grey scale, plus refresh speeds that are 20% faster than previous monochrome displays (thus rocketing it up from glacial to slow).

[CNET]

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eLearning Reports

ALT and TLRP have jointly published a response to questions posed by the Dept of Business Innovation and Skills concerning whether, how and in what circumstances eLearning is effective; and the evidence base for the comments.  The result is this 24 page document, Technology in Learning, by John Cook and Richard Noss.  Also from ALT comes a nine-page response to the review of JISC for the funding bodies by Sir Alan Wilson.

[ALT]

Student perspectives on technology – demand, perceptions and training needs has been produced for HEFCE by the NUS.  It provides an overview of the level of demand from new and potential students for online learning in UK HEIs, plus students’ perceptions of that learning.  Highlights include: 90.1% (N=213) agreed that the internet has benefited their studies, although 43.3% preferred to use a combination of both printed and electronic resources for their work.  Opinion was divided over whether mobile phones or PDAs should be used to assist learning – 37.3% agree, 35.4% disagree and 27.4% remain neutral.  There was dissatisfaction over what/how ICT is used: 42.9% would like academics and teachers to use ICT more; VLE content should be updated more frequently and PowerPoint and Smartboards were viewed as ‘outdated’.

[Ross MacKenzie]

A related report (both with the Online Learning Task Force hovering in the background) is Oxford’s Study of UK Online Learning which concludes that the majority of ODL offered by UK HEIs is at Masters level.  The report includes a number of case studies, including the OU, and qualitative findings include the view that “technology was described as vital but not central”, “The inherent advantages of ODL as a mode of delivery for students in full-time work was identified” and “In many cases, ODL offerings have evolved from a ‘cottage industry’ style approach with developments led wholly at departmental level.  While this approach was seen to have many benefits, not least ensuring academic quality and promoting innovation, it was also seen as a challenge and a potential barrier to expanding provision.”

[Ross MacKenzie]

If you can’t afford £2,700 for all 700 pages of eLearning: A Global Strategic Business Report, highlights are as follows.  The eLearning market is among the most rapidly growing sectors in the worldwide education and training industry; the US and Europe dominate the global eLearning market with more than 70% share of the revenues; Asia-Pacific represents the fastest growing market for eLearning, with revenues projected to grow at a compounded annual rate of more than 20% over the analysis period; the global eLearning market is projected to reach $107.3 billion by 2015.

[JE]

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Sustainability of Open Educational Resources

The Free Technology Academy (FTA) has published an article about models for sustainability of Open Educational Resources, based on consideration of existing business models for production, maintenance and distribution of Free Software.

[Non Scantlebury]

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Video Primers for e-Teaching & Learning

Indiana University’s instructional consulting site contains a series of useful videos on various e-Teaching & Learning topics, presented by Curtis Bonk.  Each video runs approximately 10 minutes and serves as an introduction to key ideas in planning and delivery technology enhanced learning.

[George Siemens]

Video is increasingly being incorporated into e-learning courses to engage learners and improve learning effectiveness, according to a new survey by commercial supplier Video Arts.  Of 535 learning professionals surveyed, 83% use video in classroom-based training courses. Video is also used in their organisations for short pieces of bite-sized learning (52%); for informal learning (34%); to support one-to-one coaching (25%); in self-authored e-learning courses (22%) and for mobile learning (7%).  79% of learning professionals source their video content by buying it off the shelf; 39% shoot their own video clips and 19% use external providers to custom-create their video content.

[JE]

And some useful data on how UK HE is making use of YouTube, although it does need careful interpretation.  For example, Coventry appears to have a massive number of uploads, but these include student-generated files.  Some institutions such as the OU also use more than one channel.  Cambridge is strong but the OU also comes out very respectably in terms of numbers.

[Stephen Downes]

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Homegrown Podcasts

There’s much more to podcasting than clicking ‘record’.  LTS recently ran some training and then invited academics to pitch their ideas and write a treatment before being teamed up with professional audio producers.  The results are on iTunesU including Mark Fenton-O’Creevy’s Money and Emotions, Dave McGarvie’s Fire and Ice, and Liz Tilley’s Secret History of Sterilisation.

[Catherine Chambers]

Experienced podcaster Rick Nielsen gave his take on podcasting at the recent DevLearn conference, with advice on planning, quality and tools.

[eLearn Magazine]

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Humanities Resources

JISC has recently launched Humbox, a collection of open educational teaching resources for humanities subjects.  Lecturers and developers can publish, share, use or adapt materials.  [JISC]

The OAPEN Library was launched at last month’s Frankfurt Book Fair, offering a collection of freely available academic books in the Humanities and Social Sciences from across Europe.

[Stephen Downes]

King’s College’s Prof Peter Adamson is hosting a series of podcasts on the history of philosophy.  So far just 5 are available, but Jeff and Stephen Downes both like them.  However, if nobody plays them, do those podcasts contain any sound?  Discuss.

[Jeff Cobb]

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Teachers’ TV Folds

The Teachers’ TV digital channel has folded, having been sent into permanent detention by the government.  Donald Clark isn’t shedding any tears and he suggests several reasons for its demise.  Some interesting comments follow below Donald’s blog post and also (at some length) over on the Guardian site.

[Donald Clark]

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Joint University Team to Lay Out Vision of New Internet

Four decades after it hosted the first message to be sent out over the Internet in 1969, UCLA will be managing a joint institutional research project to lay out the framework for a new Internet.  This time, however, the computer scientists and networking experts will be joined by theatre arts and film specialists.  The project is being funded through a $7.9 million research grant issued from the US National Science Foundation.

[Campus Technology]

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Changing Educational Paradigms

I mentioned the compelling RSA Animate series of illustrated expert talks a few months ago and I’ve also plugged Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on creativity in education.  Changing Education Paradigms combines both into a clip that’s well worth 11 minutes of your time.

[Paul Smith]

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Life on Earth

Wired magazine reports that the $5bn-per-year college textbook industry remains 99 percent paper-based, but a new 59-chapter digital biology textbook, Life on Earth, aims to change all that by including rich media (such as animations and video interviews with Nobel laureates), interactivity and Web 2.0 services.  Production costs are estimated at around $10m, although the project currently has funding for just 10% of that.  K-12 distribution will be free of charge, partially offset by a small fee (estimated at about 10% the cost of a comparable printed book) for university use.  Chapter 1 – cell division – should be available within a few weeks.

[Tony Bates]

However, a survey of 627 US campus students found that 76% would pick a printed book over an e-textbook if the choice was left entirely up to them (no change on last year).  About 13% of the students said they had purchased an e-book in the past three months, but most did so because a digital edition was required by their professor.  The survey found that only 8% own an e-reader device such as a Kindle or Sony Reader.  The most popular device listed for electronic reading was the iPhone.

[Wired Campus]

Kno is now accepting orders for its education-focussed tablet, at $599 for a single 14” screen and $899 for the original twin screen version, with some shipments planned before Christmas.  The devices support open and proprietary web standards including Flash, JavaScript, and HTML5.

[Campus Technology]

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Publish Your Own eBook

David Carnoy reports on how to publish your own eBook.  Apart from general advice on content, he also describes some of the publishing routes and options, including financial details.  For example, self publishing a $2.99 eBook via Smashwords:

  • On Apple's iBookstore, the author earns 60% ($1.79) and Smashwords gets $0.30.
  • At Kobo (Borders eBookstore), an author earns 46.7% ($1.39) and Smashwords gets $0.25.
  • On Barnes & Noble's eBookstore, the  author earns 42.5% ($1.27) and Smashwords gets $0.22.

[CNET]

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The Future According to Moodle and Blackboard

Interesting 7 min video from Jeff Young featuring interviews with Moodle’s Martin Dougiamas and Blackboard’s Ray Henderson on how they each see the future of their LMS.  Conclusion?  Future learning is destined to be even more collaborative, instant and mobile.

[Wired Campus]

This longer (38 min) interview with Martin explores in greater detail the background to how he and Moodle became what they are, their current organisation and development methods, plus a look into Moodle 2 (much less code, better security, more flexible) and forward to Moodle 3 (“redesigning from the ground up”).

[Stephen Downes]

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Totara LMS

Right up there with coals to Newcastle and sand to Arabs is Totara LMS.  Kineo has formed a joint venture company with Catalyst IT and Flexible Learning network to distribute and support this variant of Moodle.  Aimed at the corporate sector, for just $19,750 a year, the company will support up to 20,000 users.  Ross MacKenzie was last seen reaching for his calculator…

[eLearning Guild]

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Sophia Search

How much would you pay for a smarter search?  $30k buys you access to Sophia, a contextual search developed by universities in Ulster and St Petersburg.  The product discovers themes and intrinsic relationships behind information without relying on pre-existing taxonomies or ontologies to uncover and extract relevant results.  It identifies duplicates and near duplicates to minimize the amount of information that needs to be stored or managed, and it provides contextual data that helps users optimize information for more accurate search, analytics, and compliance.

[Campus Technology]

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Shorts

  • Congratulations to OpenLearn on winning a e.learning age award for best use of social media.
  • Cisco-sponsored getideas.org is an online community for education leaders to share and discuss ideas and research.  [JE]
  • CanvasMol is an interactive spinny, zoomy, molecular model thingy.  [Chris Hough]
  • Facebook is rumoured to be launching a rival to Google’s Gmail  service.  [BBC]
  • Google Earth now includes a photo layer which can include 3D panoramas and 2D photos.  [TechCrunch]
  • The BBC has revised its editorial guidelines, which now include advice on User-Generated and Mobile Content.  [JE]
  • Join.me is a free Flash gizmo that allows you to share your Windows or Mac desktop with others.  [Stephen Downes]
  • Creative Commons now offers a CC search engine.  [Pete Howard]
  • Stuck with the ‘graveyard slot’ at a conference?  Be like Martin and take your daughter along to get the audience on side.  [Martin Weller]
  • Microsoft’s TechNet site offers a useful series of Windows 7 video tutorials aimed at IT managers.  [JE]

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And Finally…

Research by Dr Indu Singh at RMIT University in Melbourne suggests that eating dark chocolate has the potential to reduce heart disease by decreasing the adverse effect of free radicals in the blood. 

But wait, it gets even better - the study also showed that chocolate has a more significant beneficial effect on those who do not take much exercise.
[University World News]

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