The web-site is now in readonly mode. Login and registration are disabled. (28 June 2019)

e-Learning Digest No 77 - Jan 11

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
17 January 2011

Don't Lecture Me


Donald Clark's ALT-C keynote speech caused controversy at the time, and has been viewed over 3,000 times on ALT's YouTube channel.  As a result, Donald will be running a free lunchtime webinar focusing on 'evidence' that unrecorded lectures, rather than being a proven pedagogic method, fail the learner.  The webinar will be run using Elluminate, starting at 12 noon on Tue 18 Jan and followed by a facilitated open discussion, with the whole session lasting approximately 1 hour.


UK Conferences & Workshops


2010 State of the (US) Industry Report


ASTD’s 2010 state of the learning and development industry report has been released and, whilst the full version will cost you $500, there is a free synopsis.  ASTD reports continued growth despite the recession, with annual spend per head rising slightly from $1,068 (2008) to $1,081 (2009).  Average cost per learning and development hour rose from $52 to $63 because the US workforce has shrunk while investment remained fairly static.  36.5% of learning is delivered/facilitated electronically and about three quarters of this happens online.  ‘Reuse’ has improved with, on average, each hour of learning content being used 59.5 times (versus 44.8 in pre-recession 2007).


2010 (UK) Learning Technology Benchmark

[Towards Maturity]

Towards Maturity has published its fourth Learning Technology Benchmark survey which, this year, features input from 400 organisations (35% public sector).  The survey examines what successful organisations are doing to deliver business results with learning technologies and what others can learn from them.  It finds that, amongst the top quartile, 76% of staff are using e-learning and, compared with conventional methods, e-learning is saving these organisations 21% in costs, 27% in study time and moving from idea/need to delivery 32% faster.


Pearson to Offer Degrees?

[Stephen Downes]

Pearson, which already owns exam board Edexcel, hopes to be given degree-awarding powers.  Universities Minister David Willetts has made no secret of his intentions to open up the university sector to more private providers, and Pearson plans to offer degree courses in business, engineering, IT and health and social care to begin with, at “very competitive” prices; it is also considering offering degrees in nursing, education and hospitality and tourism.


How Does Phoenix Measure Up?

[Tony Bates]

Tony Bates unpicks Phoenix’s 2010 annual report and, whilst he can’t fault their profitability ($1.04bn pre-tax in 2009) or the opportunities provided for disadvantaged minorities, he is less impressed by some pedagogic aspects.  He contends that “prejudices against the University of Phoenix are misplaced” but concludes, “Overall, I would give the University of Phoenix a C+.  It meets a real need, and sets and achieves realistic academic goals for the students it attracts, as far as it goes.  However, it does not succeed in giving the majority of students who enrol what they are seeking, a degree in a reasonable amount of time.”


PwC Open University Unveils Free Learning Material

[Stephen Downes]

Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) has unveiled its own free online university covering topics related to business, finance, healthcare and technology.  The site is in its infancy and some topics contain only a single ‘course’ with limited supporting material, but Stephen speculates that the UK HE funding situation may mean a PwC-branded MBA is not too far fetched.


Social Tools

[Stephen Downes; James Davies; eLearn Magazine; TechCrunch]

Richard Byrne has compiled a free 83-page online book of tools for educators, with descriptions of each and suggestions on how to use them.  It has quite a schools bias but there are still plenty of useful lessons and links.

I mentioned the latest Pew Internet report on online activity last month, but Mashable presents a useful infographic showing how activity varies with age group.  Virtual worlds sit firmly in last place, with less than 9% of any age group participating, followed by blog publishing. 

However, the University of Minnesota’s Michelle Everson thinks all educators should consider blogging - partly to record what worked and what didn’t and also to form new professional relationships through the comments.

Whilst there is still no official Facebook app for the iPad, the Facepad app has just been released which includes some useful Twitter-like functionality.


Shy Students Using Facebook Have Better Quality Friendships

[BPS; OU Life]

There is speculation about the effectiveness of collaborative activities for shy students.  To test this, Marquette University’s Levi Baker and Debra Oswald surveyed 207 undergrads about their shyness, Facebook usage and the quality of their friendships.  They found that, among more shy students, greater use of Facebook was associated with feeling closer to and more satisfied with friends and feelings of a greater sense of social support.  “Our findings refute warnings that computer-mediated communication use might cause shy individuals to become even more socially withdrawn and isolated,” the researchers said.

The OU ranks third in an evaluation of nearly 2,000 European universities employing social media recently published by ScienceGuide, a Dutch news portal for research and HE.  According to ScienceGuide, the OU has 8,700 Twitter followers and 35,000 Facebook members; more than 60% of all university Twitter followers are connected to UK institutions. They also account for 42.4 per cent of all Facebook members.


Students’ Web Use

[Jakob Nielsen]

The Nielsen Norman Group conducted observational research with 43 students in 4 countries (Australia, Germany, UK and USA) to investigate web site preferences and behaviour.  He found that students are multi-taskers who move through websites rapidly, often missing the item they come to find.  They're enraptured by social media but reserve it for private conversations rather than studying or seeking corporate information.  He also comments on two myths: firstly, students are comfortable with technology but that does not mean they are technical experts; and they do appreciate multimedia but they don't want to be blasted with motion and audio at all times.


Tablets and Digital Textbooks

[Stephen Downes; NetworkWorld; JE]

This quite long post on the Xplana blog covers a lot of ground, including predictions of an explosion in tablet use by students (and a forecast graphic from Forrester Research), design issues and implications of the open source and rental e-textbook market.

Tablets were also hot news at last week’s CES in Las Vegas, with around 80 announcements of new devices – featuring a range of operating systems (including the latest Android 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’), screen sizes, resolutions and features such as hi-res cameras, slide out keyboards and docking methods.  In contrast, the world of netbooks, notebooks and desktops was notable by the thin layer of dust and occasional tumbleweed.

“If a book is worth reading, it’s worth discussing.  Copia is the place to do both.”  Copia allows users to browse and buy eBooks, then discuss them online with others.  Creating a free account gives access to 7 eBooks, plus downloadable readers for PC, Mac and iPad.


I Think, Therefore iPod

[Stephen Downes]

John Searle is well known in philosophy circles, having been teaching the subject since 1959.  Now, those nice folks at Berkeley have recorded three of Searle’s courses – the philosophies of language, mind and society – and made them available online.  They join a host of other materials, including over 250 free online courses on the Open Culture site.


Detailed Space Shuttle Launch Video


NASA has released detailed slow-motion footage of space shuttle launches with commentary from space programme experts.  If you fancy seeing 45 mins worth of 1,000 gallons of fuel per second being burned from a gazillion different camera angles, this could be your lucky day.

The NASA site also contains an excellent multimedia library which includes videos, 3D models, podcasts and an image-of-the-day.


iPhone App Translates Text in Images


Word Lens is an iPhone app that can translate text in images from English to Spanish and vice versa.  The $4.99 app uses OCR and, whilst not perfect, it performs reasonable word-for-word translation of signage, menus, etc.


Harder-to-Read Fonts Boost Learning


Cutting across many investigations into the most readable fonts for onscreen learning comes research from Connor Diemand-Yauman and colleagues which suggests that awkward to read fonts encourage deeper processing of material.  28 participants (aged 18 to 40) studied material in Arial, Comic and Bodoni, with the latter fonts yielding recall test scores around 15 percentage points higher than Arial.  A second study with 220 Ohio high school pupils used fonts such as Comic, Haettenschweiler and Monotype Corsiva (plus handwritten notes that had been blurred by shaking in a photocopier) and these again yielded higher scores than plain fonts.


Learning and Forgetting

[Stephen Downes]

Will Thalheimer has tried to unpick some of the myths surrounding remembering and forgetting.  He examined 14 previous studies dating back to 1917 and found the outcomes to be inconclusive in terms of defining any form of X% rule.  However, there was strong evidence to suggest that methods of teaching and learning (structure, relevance, pace, clarity, reinforcement, etc) do have a positive effect on longer-term remembering.


How Long Does it Take to Create eLearning?

[Clive Shepherd]

Right up there with ‘how quickly do people forget?’ comes ‘how long does it take to develop e-learning?’.  Bryan Chapman wanted answers so he asked 249 organisations with in-house development capability (6% H.E.) and gathered a surprising amount of detail.  An average 1hr unit comprising simple content and questions typically took 79hrs to design, develop and test at an in-house cost of around $10,000.  Greater interactivity and multimedia took this to 184hrs ($18k) whilst simulation and gaming was close to 500hrs ($50k).


Crafting e-Curriculum That Inspires


Education Week has published the third in a series of reports on e-learning.  Crafting e-Curriculum That Inspires examines how US K-12 schools are working to create digital curricula and online courses, looking particularly at common-core academic standards, teaching social skills to virtual school students, blended learning and the evolving role of e-assessment.



[Chris Pegler; Stephen Downes]

CETIS are establishing an OER Technical Interest Group to provide a forum to explore a wide range of technical issues relating to the creation, description, dissemination, aggregation, discovery, use and tracking of open educational resources.  In addition, the group will help to surface and identify current and best practice in these areas.  The new group is planning a number of events and initiatives, including an OER hackday, run in collaboration with UKOLN’s DevCSI initiative on the 31 Mar/1 Apr at Manchester Conference Centre.

The Jan edition of University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s online Contact magazine is devoted to Open Courses.  And eFront’s Christopher Pappas lists his Top 10 Open Source e-Learning Projects to Watch for 2011.


Nature Launches Open-Access Journal


The Nature Publishing Group is launching Scientific Reports, an online open access journal covering biology, chemistry, physics and earth sciences.  Like the Public Library of Science's PLoS ONE journal, Scientific Reports will be entirely open access and will publish every submission deemed by a rapid peer-review process to be technologically sound - including those reporting useful negative results.  The importance of articles will be left to readers to judge via comments and metrics such as how often papers are downloaded, emailed and blogged about.  Review, production and hosting costs are recovered via an article-processing charge (APC), currently set at £890 but rising to £1100 next year.


Who Owns Your Digital Downloads? (Hint: It’s Not You)

[Non Scantlebury]

Ed Bott compares ownership rights of physical CDs and books versus digital downloads from iTunes and Amazon.  Buried within those online terms and conditions that we all accept are clauses such as this from Amazon: “You do not acquire any ownership rights in the Software or Digital Content as a result of downloading Software or Digital Content”.


Body Browser

[Stephen Downes; eLearn Magazine]

Google Labs has come up with a human body version of Google Earth, although it requires an HTML5-capable browser with WebGL (e.g. Chrome or Firefox 4) to run.

The Aarhus Social and Health Care College in Denmark is piloting a project called BODYexplorer, a dynamic, interactive, branching program aimed particularly at disadvantaged learners who may be more prone to suffer from lifestyle diseases such as obesity.  Learners engage in an exploratory journey in the human body, travelling along the animated body's natural lines of the blood, lymph system, and nervous system, solving problems and challenges – such as imbalances, symptoms and other variables – along the way.




Extra content

Embedded Content


Rebecca Galley
9:23am 18 January 2011

For interest I attended Donald Clarke's keynote last year and set up a Cloud with links to a video of the keynote and to some of the blogs and commentary that  followed.

Contribute to the discussion

Please log in to post a comment. Register here if you haven't signed up yet.