e-Learning Digest No 76 - Dec 10
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14 December 2010
UK Conferences & Workshops
- 6-7 Jan, Durham, Blackboard Users' Conference. [ALT]
- 9-11 Jan, London, Handheld learning festival and conference. [e.learning age]
- 14 Jan, Online (Oxford Brookes), Online identity. [ALT]
- 12-15 Jan, Olympia, BETT 2011. [ALT]
- 18-19 Jan, Walton Hall, IET Mobile Learning Winter Festival. [Agnes Kukulska-Hulme]
- 19 Jan-18 Feb, Online (Oxford Brookes), Teaching online courses 2011. [ALT]
- 26-27 Jan, Olympia, Learning Technologies conference and exhibition. [e.learning age]
- 27-28 Jan, Southampton, 6th Annual e-Learning Symposium. [JE]
- 8 Feb, London, Further Education, Training and Apprenticeships: What Can the New Skills Strategy Deliver? [ALT]
- 15 Feb, London, Widening Participation: Unleashing Aspiration and Fulfilling Potential in HE. [ALT]
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.
UK eLearning Market
The Sheffield-based eLearning Centre has just published its report on the UK and European eLearning Market. The full version is yours for £499 but there is a free summary which tells us the UK market grew by 8% last year, to about £470m, and will potentially rise by a further 4.8% in the coming year. France and Germany show higher growth, but from a lower base. Growth in eastern Europe is also strong, often due to government and EU-funded projects.
Paula Humfrey discusses opportunities and issues with online education, asking if it threatens the ‘old order’ as did the introduction of contract lecturers in 1968. She picks up on recent government initiatives, the Oxford Study of UK Online Learning (last month’s digest) and looks at some specific UK examples including the OU, which she briefly compares with the Essex/Kaplan approach.
UK HE Fee Increases
University World News brings a detailed commentary from around the world on government plans to raise university fees by 40%, with Hong Kong policy adviser John Spinks concluding that UK universities are at a critical tipping point. Will UK students look overseas for their higher education? Not according to the Telegraph’s Graeme Paton, who reports that many - particularly from working class backgrounds - suffer from innate xenophobia. Meanwhile, Scotland fears an influx of fee refugees from south of the border.
[University World News]
Donald Clark has a refreshing take on fees – it’s all the fault the Russell Group, Vice Chancellors and academics in general. The only exceptions to his global hit list are, “Martin Bean of the OU, who has fought hard for an alternative model in HE; more support for part-time students, private capital, new teaching methods etc. and Peter Scott of Kingston”.
Tony Bates also comments on UK fees, including his perspective on the OU situation, which he sees as difficult as we start to seek market share by “competing with 142 other universities all in the same boat”.
Online Education in the US
The Sloan Consortium reports on the state of online learning in the United States. Highlights include: 63% of all (2,600) institutions said that online learning was a critical part of their long term strategy and 66% of college administrators believe online education is the same or better than face-to-face classes - a slight decline from last year. Nearly half of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programmes, but three-quarters report increased demand for online courses and programs; over 5.6m students were taking at least one online course during the autumn 2009 term, with a 21% annual increase in enrolments for online courses (compared to just 2% for campus-based).
[Stephen Downes, Wired Campus, Tony Bates]
According to the 2010 WCET-Campus Computing Project Survey, 44% of US colleges and universities surveyed have restructured their online education programs in the last two years and a further 59% will restructure them in the coming two years. Even amongst organisations that have already restructured, 30% expected to do so again within the next two years. 183 institutions were surveyed and 59% cited budget issues as driving change while 38% also cited better coordination of instructional resources as factors.
A report from The Education Trust questions the efficacy of the for-profit sector in US HE, with only 20% of students achieving a bachelors degree inside 6 years. Taking the University of Phoenix as an example (the nation’s largest for-profit provider, receiving $1bn in federal Grants last year), its 2008 six-year graduation rate ranged from 33% (at the New Mexico campus) to just 4% (Cleveland and Wichita) with an average of just 9%. The median debt associated with a bachelor’s degree from a for-profit college is $31,190 – nearly twice as much as from a private, nonprofit and almost four times greater than a public university.
US universities are trying to tempt adults into degree programmes by giving credit for career experience, with 100 institutions in 30 states so far joining a new scheme. However, Leah Schedin, a recently unemployed marketing executive described the process as “ridiculously hard”, having prepared a 250-page portfolio to receive the maximum 45 credits towards the 180 she needed for a bachelor's degree.
Students Lack Basic Research Skills
According to the University of Washington’s Project Information Literacy, 84% of 8,353 US students polled struggled to get started with course-based research. The three sources cited most often by students were course readings, search engines like Google, and scholarly research databases. Few used Web 2.0 collaborative tools and only 30% asked a librarian for research help. Encouragingly, whilst students were naturally concerned about passing the course (99%) and getting a good grade (97%), they also rated as important carrying out comprehensive research of a topic (78%) and learning something new (78%).
Who Has Pearson Bought This Month?
Pearson has bought a 75% stake in South African private higher education institution CTI Education Group for £31m. CTI offers courses to more than nine thousand students on 12 campuses and about 15% of its first-year students already come from countries other than South Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
And Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is spending $360 million to acquire 90% of Wireless Generation, a start-up that provides education technology to teachers. Murdoch believes the $500bn US education sector is “waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”
University of the People Launches in Haiti
University of the People started its first courses in Haiti last month, with 250 students signed up for its first class. UoP's methods marry peer-based in-person courses with online curriculum, overseen by a board of high-profile academics in partnership with Yale, the Clinton Global Initiative and others. Students and faculty also have access to subscriptions via Library and Information Resources Network (LIRN), a rich and powerful collection of over 60 million proprietary resources. UoP offers degrees in both Computer Science and Business Administration, currently to over 700 students in 100 countries.
Tom Kuhlmann posts a list of over 75 free e-learning development resources. This includes the usual suspects (Audacity, Screenr, Dropbox, etc) plus some less common examples such as Dipity (create interactive timelines) Zoomerang (survey tool) and Zoomit (zoom, pan and annotate screencasts).
Jane Hart’s Learning Tools Directory is THE place to look for suitable gizmos. Apart from a comprehensive listing of over 2000 tools (including the newly added a new category of Social Learning Tools for the School Classroom), she has just published her annual Top 100 List, based on recommendations from over 500 e-learning practitioners.
Aviary’s excellent set of free online media creation/editing tools were mentioned here a couple of months ago – but they are Flash tools which limits their use on many current devices. The company has now launched a simple HTML5 photo editor which can be used from the Aviary site or embedded in third party sites.
More useful tools from globfx.com, including Swiff Player (display unembedded Flash (SWF) files), Show Room (rich media add-ins for PowerPoint) and Chart Generator (dynamically serve animated charts with ASP.NET, PHP and JSP).
FreeVideoLectures offers exactly what it says on the tin. The site contains nearly 20,000 videos from 30+ universities, principally in India and the US.
…and there’s my old favourite, TED talks. This one may be oozing with motherhood and apple pie, but it’s difficult not to be impressed with 11-year-old Birke Baehr’s 5-minute talk on what’s wrong with our food production system.
Jeff Cobb has updated his free online book, Learning 2.0 For Associations, which first appeared a couple of years ago, resulting in a readable but not too heavy mix of social/collaborative/mobile context, technology, pedagogy and examples.
The Google Chrome team has put together 20 Things I Learned About Browsers & The Web, an interactive HTML5web app designed to look like a children’s book. It’s slick, informative and readable.
Free MBA Content
The London School of Business and Finance is offering ‘try before you buy’ by making all its MBA materials available via Facebook. Unlike their standard online MBA (at £14,500), students pay if they wish to move on and take exams but, according to the NY Times, a condition of free access is agreement to allow LSBF access to their Facebook personal information (including friends). According to LSBF, more than 30,000 users signed up in the first week.
David Wiley points out the distinction between ‘free’ and ‘open’. He also blogs about Steve Carson’s (MIT) comments on the benefits of openness, including some useful survey data.
Tony Hirst explores subscription models for lifelong students and also notes Adrian Hon’s piece in The Telegraph: Why free online lectures will destroy universities – unless they get their act together fast. However, George Siemens observes, “Until we have an elected president or prime minister who was self-taught on TEDTalks or YouTube, universities will continue to play an important role.”
Sir John Daniel described a 'dichotomy' challenging governments and a 'paradox' confusing higher education, with the growth of open and distance learning and the use of open educational resources, speaking at a policy forum on 'Taking Open Educational Resources Beyond the OER Community', held by Unesco and the Commonwealth of Learning.
[University World News]
Barnes and Noble still thinks the eReader market is alive and kicking, and ready for the $249 Colour Nook, summed up here by one commenter as, “about half an iPad for about half the price”.
Google eBooks (formerly touted as Google Editions) has launched, offering 3 million titles to all except Kindle users. Sales are currently restricted to the US but there are thousands of free titles available. I think the search function may need some attention as “e-learning” found 150 free items ranging from a vaguely relevant 2008 Congressional subcommittee paper, back to Richard and Judy’s 1570 book of the year, The Scholemaster, “or plaine and perfite way of teachyng children, to vnderstand, write, and speake”.
The Wall St Journal unpicks The ABCs of E-Reading, referring to various previously reported studies and data, including evidence that eReader owners read more books (Amazon thinks 3.3 times as many) and the fact that about half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure (supported by recent evidence from my house which shows that figure rising to 100% for 17-year-old males).
OnCampus Research things the educational eBook market is not as buoyant as some have suggested, with eBooks making up just 2.8% of textbook sales. The survey also found only 13% of students had purchased an electronic book of any kind during the during the busiest first semester of the academic year. There is also evidence that students’ reducing attention spans (and budgets) are making the market for chapters much more lucrative, with companies such as Reference Tree suggesting that savings of 20% are possible compared to buying entire eBooks, or 40% over print.
[University World News]
ChangeWave Research finds that the eReader market is a two-horse race between Kindle (47%) and iPad (32%) with Sony and Nook trailing in single digits. The Apple device scores most highly on user satisfaction (75%).
And this video from IDEO gives and intriguing glimpse at what the eBook future could look like. I suspect the software isn’t too far away, but some of those data transfer rates probably are. The same applies to this video prediction from TAT of Sweden on the future of touch-screen technology and information sharing.
[Tony Bates, Mat Schencks]
A survey of 1,800 iPad owners showed that 35% have never used their iPad to read eBooks, but book publishers have started to realise that there’s money in apps, although responses by individual companies are mixed – and does it count as an app if it’s essentially e-book content in a different format?
HarperCollins have launched a set of four GCSE maths revision apps - Number, Statistics, Algebra and Geometry - produced by Epic and available through iTunes. Each app includes revision cards, practice questions and supporting video clips that provide explanation through ‘visual hooks’ and offer learning on the move, allowing users to revise any time and anywhere.
A recent Nielsen survey revealed which electronic devices 6-12 year-olds most wanted (iPad, 31%) and compared this with the slightly different picture from 13+ (computer, 20%) although, as Sean Hollister notes, the data collection method was a bit kid-in-a-sweet-shop. Google has also been analysing changes in how people shop for portable computing devices.
Dell’s Inspiron Duo is a 10” touch screen Windows 7 tablet that clips into a netbook body. The $550 device should be available this week. And Acer has previewed a suite of 5”, 7” and 10” Android tablets, due for release next April.
The University of Nebraska has developed an impressive suite of Flash astronomy and science simulations and animations, with topics including seasons, moon phases, coordinate systems, motions and light.
The elearningexamples site contains a wealth of high quality material and links, all categorised by topic and genre. Featured site on the day I looked was the Worldwide Fund for Nature, which has freely available some interactive data representations from their recent Living Planet Report.
In a similar visualisation-of-data vein, mappingworlds offers a Flash interactive world map on which the countries resize according to the social dataset selected by the user.
Zerbra Imaging has demonstrated Zscape, a 3D holographic map, nicely illustrated by this video example of central Seattle.
A joint team from the University of North Carolina and ETH-Zurich has invented a technique that automatically creates 3D models of geographical locations using 2D pictures from photo sharing sites such as Flickr. The researchers used the 3 million images of Rome available online to reconstruct all of the city’s major landmarks in less than 24 hours on a single PC. “Our technique would be the equivalent of processing a stack of photos as high as the 828-meter Dubai Towers,” said Dr Jan-Michael Frahm. Yes, yes, but for those of us who haven’t gone metric, what’s that in Nelson’s Columns?
East Sussex County Council has spent £5,000 developing a budget simulator which allows the public to try different ways of cutting its current £337m annual expenditure by the required 30%.
If you consider £337m to be mere loose change, step up and try balancing the US federal budget - currently facing a $418bn deficit - for which the New York Times budget puzzle allows users to simulate the rescue measures they’d like to see.
Endangered Languages Database
The University of Cambridge has launched an endangered languages database which includes records for 3,524 world languages, from those deemed “vulnerable”, to those that, like Latin, remain well understood but are effectively moribund or extinct. Users can search by the number of speakers, level of endangerment, region or country. The site lists 21 disappearing UK languages including that firm favourite, Old Kentish Sign Language.
Big Ideas in Education
The Phoenix blog lists its top 10 ‘big ideas’ in education including, at number 10, encouraging creativity – with a link to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk on the subject. I note that George Siemens is not impressed by Sir Ken’s “emotional-feel-good message” so I wonder how he’d feel about some similar sentiments expressed by Stephen Heppell in his video, empowering young learners, on the Pearson-sponsored 21st Century Education site.
Twitter in HE
College students are far more likely to use Twitter than are other segments of the US population – 18% versus just 8% of American adults, according to a Pew Internet survey of 2,257 people over 18 years old. A separate study, published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, suggests that students who tweeted scored an average half a grade point higher than a non-tweeting group over one semester.
- Twenty five billion tweets were sent during 2010, with the gulf oil spill coming out as top subject. [TechCrunch]
- Oneforty offers a list of 100 Most Popular Twitter apps. [Jane Hart]
- Path is a Twitter-like photo sharing application that limits your contacts to just 50 close friends. [Stephen Downes]
- Is Facebook too corporate for you? Try open source (and “privacy aware”) Diaspora. [BBC]
- Many US universities fail to meet ADA accessibility requirements and there is confusion over responsibilities. [Wired Campus]
- BSI has just released BS8879:2010 – web accessibility code of practice. [Martyn Cooper]
- 55 social media infographics are interesting in their own right, but so also is how each one has been visualised. [Stephen Downes]
- A study finds that 56% of software engineers suffer from insomnia, more than twice that of the general population. [Roger Moore]
- Ben Marsh’s postcode-based Twitter snowfall map amply demonstrates the power and speed of the crowd. [TechCrunch]
- If you like maps, here’s two whole blogfuls of examples, from Jonathan Crowe and Frank Jacobs. [Stephen Downes]
- Sony has launched Qriocity (pronounced 'curiosity'), its new movie streaming service. [The Register]
- Google’s Cloud Connect is a free plugin for Microsoft Office which links files to/from Google Docs. [TechCrunch]
- Steve Yelvington suggests four Drupal tools that solve 90% of your site building challenges. [Stephen Downes]
- Amy-Mae Elliott brings a handy list of 12 tips/sites for getting more out of YouTube. [Jane Hart]
- Anianet aims to ‘match-make’ Chinese academics with appropriate international counterparts. [Wired Campus]
Kids not interested in a train set this Christmas? If you really loved them, you’d buy them a Shweeb.
Or perhaps you know some grown-ups who are struggling to find that ideal ePortfolio tool for their high profile project? This interactive, 3D, energy-efficient, cross-platform solution could be just the thing.