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e-Learning Digest No 79 - Mar 11

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
14 March 2011

UK Conferences & Workshops


The US e-Market

[Stephen Downes; Paul Hollins; Keren Mills]

Ambient Insight has just released its forecast of The US Market for Self-paced eLearning Products and Services: 2010-2015, predicting a compound annual growth rate of 5.9%, to $24.2bn by 2015.  Chief Research Officer, Sam Adkins, notes that, “One interesting new trend is the strong demand for industry-centric Web-based learning management portals preloaded with vertical content, particularly certification and licensure content.  Best-of-breed suppliers that specialize in specific verticals also offer managed services with these portals and they are now generating significant revenues.”

Comscore has just released its annual US Digital Year in Review report, highlights of which are: e-commerce continues to grow, as does couponing (e.g. Groupon); three of every 10 internet sessions now includes a Facebook visit; web mail dropped by 9% but web searching grew by 12%, online advertising by 23% and the online video audience by 32%; more mobile phones are smart phones and the Android v iPhone battle is hotting up.

Comscore has also published separately its inaugural Mobile Year in Review report, looking at devices, user activities/preferences, plus geographic differences – having examined the US, Japan and EU5 (UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy) marketplace.


Who Has Pearson Bought This Month?

[Giles Clark; Wired Campus; Matthew Moran]

Pearson is acquiring Education Development International (EDI plc), a provider of educational and training qualifications and online assessment services.  The move will “complement Pearson's existing work-based learning business and will create an enlarged qualifications group offering a comprehensive range of vocational and academic services to the UK and international markets”.

Moving across to Blackboard, Inside Higher Ed’s Steve Kolowich wonders what an LMS/VLE company should do once it realises that most institutions now have an LMS/VLE.  Not surprisingly, the company appears to have a cunning plan.

In this 6 min podcast, Felice Nudelman, executive director of education for the New York Times, explains how NYT has developed its own digital-learning platform and is beginning to collaborate with colleges.  Students get a long-term collaborative experience, she says, involving faculty members and reporters from the New York Times newsroom.


Are VLEs Still Relevant?

[Matthew Moran]

JISC’s Transformation Curriculum Delivery through Technology programme has now concluded, having looked at 15 projects (7 using Moodle) involving over 60 different technologies.  Christina Smart looks at how VLEs are being used to support curriculum innovation in four of those projects, and discusses why, despite all their shortcomings, VLEs are still are the heart of curriculum development.


Working Smarter Daily

[Jay Cross; Stephen Downes]

Imagine a band containing all your favourite musicians, or a team with all your favourite players.  Jay Cross has done the same for news.  Now I know we can all use aggregators to do this for ourselves, but Jay and his colleagues at the Internet Time Alliance have come up with a nicely designed solution to save us the bother.  Working Smarter Daily brings topical stories relating to learning, teaching, performance and technology from a selection of key figures in these fields, and it comes in three attractive colours – web, email or RSS.

However, if you prefer RSS feeds but hate the fact that stories are often truncated, forcing you to click-through to read them, Full Text RSS Feed Builder allows you to enter the URL of a feed and receive a full-text feed URL you can use anywhere.


What Makes a Good e-Learning Game?

[eLearn Magazine; Jeff Cobb; Pete Mitton]

Educational games still seem to generate quite mixed reactions, particularly from some managers in the adult learning arena.  Perhaps the secret is to call them ‘simulations’?  Assuming you do choose to press ahead, Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen, writing in eLearn Magazine, considers firstly what educational games are all about, and secondly what makes the good ones good.

A good current example of a serious game is Spent, developed for US charity Urban Ministries.  You’ve just lost your job, you’re down to your last $1,000 and you have to make it through the month, coping with problems and balancing income/outgoing decisions.  Jeff Cobb describes it as “not a terribly complex game, but it is very effective”.

Tina Barseghian reports in the Huffington Post on a recent presentation by Arizona State’s Prof James Gee on whether video gaming is good for kids’ brains.  He cites ten research-validated reasons why video games are good for learning, mostly relating to motivators such as challenge, risk-taking and problem-solving.


Free Learning Materials

[Matthew Moran; Chris Hough; Wired Campus; Tony Bates; Stephen Downes]

I have a confession to make.  Once I went to the BBC Academy’s College of Production website, I couldn’t get away.  It’s full of advice and guidance from professionals in the art of media production – and being BBC, it’s engaging and well produced.  So, if you want tips on filming, interviewing, editing, devising a game show, producing Chris Evans on radio or Graham Norton on TV, dive on in.

O2 Learn is a free collection of video lessons from teachers that can help students of all levels from kids tussling with the Key Stages to GCSE and A-Level students.  Examples include analysing text, big bang theory, musical cadence, the Romeo and Juliet weather forecast and that all-time classic: a snake eating a mouse.

Struggling to understand the concept of transverse wave motion?  This video of Alom Shaha’s sticky tape, BBQ skewer and jelly baby wave machine should sort you out.

Does the world need another free university lecture site listing material from the usual suspects such as Berkeley, MIT, Oxford and Yale?  The folks at Lecturefox obviously think so. 

TED also thinks it may be missing a trick, hence the soon-to-be-launched TED-Ed, featuring some re-edited and recategorised existing TED talks, plus some new (and probably shorter) material aimed specifically at education.

The Open Educational Quality Initiative (OPAL) – an international network of 7 organisations (including the OU) to promote innovation and better quality in education and training through the use of OERs – has published Beyond OER.  This latest report notes that, “the current focus in OER is mainly put on building more access to digital content.  There is little consideration of whether this will support educational practices, promote quality and innovation in teaching and learning”.

And the OER for Assessment and Credit Project will provide opportunities for OER learners who are interested in earning formal academic credit for their learning.  The project will also contribute to the design and development of the recently announced OER university.


Can Self-Study Be Social?

[Clive Shepherd]

Clive wonders, can self-study be social?  He refers not to group interaction but to the learner’s relationship with the author.  “When you read a book, one that has an author with a name written on the cover, the book acts as a useful mediator between the author and you.”  He believes the same could be true for e-learning, so you would know who wrote/designed it and it would be written using a conversational tone, with the author's personality shining through.  “Web 2.0 content - blog and forum postings, YouTube videos, etc - is consumed with gusto because it has personality.  Policy manuals, corporate brochures and self-study compliance courses are not, because they don't.  With most e-learning, you feel like you're interacting with a corporation.”



[Stephen Downes]

CoursePark is a social learning environment that supports an online course marketplace offering packages for employee training and client training.  Course selection is a lot like iTunes, with genres, new arrivals and popular courses highlighted.  However, the courses themselves are mostly page-turning with animations and quizzes built in.  The company claims to have 25,000 registered users.


The Amaze Generation

[Matthew Moran; T3; Beccy Dresden; CNET]

This looked promising.  The Amaze Generation is a five-year longitudinal study into the habits and preferences of young technology users, and the initial report is certainly thorough.  Then you get to the sample details and discover they’re tracking just 20 kids, currently spanning a relatively enormous age range of 10-15.  Never mind, the quotes are good: Google is “a piece of software you can find everything on” and Twitter is “for old people”.

If only the Amaze generation can talk mum into parting with around £500 (or a £40 monthly contract), they can soon get their hands on the new Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, dubbed the Playstation Phone.  Six games come pre-installed, including The Sims and FIFA 10, with the UK launch on 31 Mar.

Or perhaps they’d prefer an iPad2.  Netted even suggests some educational apps.  J P Morgan Research estimates that a total of 81m tablets will be built this year, but that only 48m will actually ship.  This will leave a sizeable glut on warehouse shelves, although JPM predict these will mostly be in the non-Apple warehouses.


Mobile Content Is Twice as Difficult

[Jakob Nielsen]

Nielsen reports on research from the University of Alberta, showing that learners using an iPhone-sized screen scored less than half in comprehension tests than an equivalent PC-based group.  He attributes this not just to screen/text size, but to a host of compounding factors including slower download speeds, no keyboard and no mouse rollover or right-click.


I'm a Celebrity, Let Me Fix Your Education System

[Donald Clark]

Hell hath no fury like a ranting Donald Clark.  This month he offers a critical appraisal of that well known head teacher, Jamie Oliver and his motivational chums, including David “you are all here because you failed” Starkey.



[Wired Campus; Matthew Moran; Tony Bates]

Cengage Learning has announced a new e-textbook publishing platform, MindTap, which allows professors to customise material by adding their own slides, video lectures, articles, or plug in apps and free online content from elsewhere.  The offering comes bundled with Cengage’s Aplia electronic test-bank system, videos and other materials that the company owns the rights to, including the archives of Newsweek.  Students read material via a standard Web browser displaying two side-by-side windows: one containing a page of a textbook and the other allowing users to open another app within the system, such as a notebook page to type and share notes, or any of the other apps that a professor enabled for his or her course.

Many libraries are scratching their collective heads about how to deal with e-Books.  Now, 150 public and academic US libraries are responding through a new collaborative venture which will allow users to access e-books owned and stored at libraries other than their home libraries.  The initiative will use Open Library, an existing e-book lending service, as a means to curate the more than 80,000 e-books that partner institutions have offered up as part of the initial push.  Open Library allows users to check out an e-book that can be read through a Web browser or downloaded as a PDF or ePub file.  After an allotted checkout period, the e-book self-destructs.

However, despite their fondness for social networking and cell phones, most students prefer physical books to e-Books.  Nearly 75% of students to recently respond to a major new research survey from the Book Industry Study Group said they prefer printed texts, citing a fondness for print's look and feel, as well as its permanence and ability to be resold.  Only around 12% of students - mostly males, and often MBA-seeking or distance learners - prefer e-Books because of their lower cost, convenience and portability; these students also like online supplemental materials such as quizzes.

Tony Bates reports on a presentation by 11 University of Cincinnati psychology seniors at a recent Educause event.  They had compared the content of traditional college texts, one of which costs $168, to content they found for free on the Web, finding the online material to be as good as the material in the textbook.


Web O’ Wonder

[Stephen Downes; CNET]

Mozilla’s Web O’ Wonder exhibits creative ways to interact with the Web using modern Web technologies.  This includes, for example, a preview of the features and effects that are available in HTML5 and CSS3.  In addition to the interactive demos, with Web O’ Wonder you can learn more about how each demo works, what technologies have been used and watch behind the scenes video interviews with the creators.  However, the standard health warning applies: to view any demos tagged with WebGL, you’ll need a suitable browser such as newer versions of Firefox or Chrome.

Talking of Browsers, Mozilla has updated the Firefox 4 beta to release candidate status, offering a series of stability, compatibility and performance tweaks over earlier versions.  Google has just released Chrome 10, with faster JavaScript, password synchronisation, and a revamped preferences system, but no support for H264 video.  Finally, Microsoft should be launching IE9 today (14th), allowing sites to be pinned to the Windows task bar, with pages able to act more like desktop applications with things like notifications; there is also improved security and performance, faster start times a new JavaScript engine.


One Day on Earth


The One Day on Earth initiative last year invited participants to contribute video clips to build a collective worldwide picture of our lives on 10.10.10.  The project will culminate in the release of a feature-length documentary but, for now, the results are available via a geotagged video map, featuring all content  and searchable by topic, popularity and location.



[Matthew Moran]

Storify offers the functionality to “turn what people post on social media into compelling stories.  Collect the best photos, video, tweets and more to publish them as simple, beautiful stories that can be embedded anywhere.”  If I’d looked at this on a slow news day I might have been underwhelmed, but I first visited the site last Friday and was able to track news from the Japan earthquake from a variety of sources (YouTube clips, tweets, ABC, CNN, the UN, etc) as they had unfolded that morning.



  • Women In Science, released last week to mark International Women’s Day, is currently the #1 iTunesU download.  [Catherine Chambers]
  • SlideShare’s new Zipcast service provides a free, 1-click, public or private online video meeting facility.  [Jane Hart]
  • Photograph a book’s barcode and the QuickCite mobile app will email you a bibliography-ready citation.  [Wired Campus]
  • Virginia Tech is launching a new International Journal of ePortfolio, first issue this summer.  [Tony Bates]
  • There is a new JISCmail list for people interested in using/developing/hacking Wordpress.  [Chris Pegler]
  • ALT has published a detailed survey of UK Learning Technology Manager Salaries.  [ALT]
  • Mashable brings a useful list of eight educational iPhone apps to support business skills.  [JE]
  • WhatsApp provides messaging between iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Nokia phones with no SMS charges.  [Jane Hart]
  • PhoneGap Build takes JavaScript/HTML/CSS and builds cloud-based apps for 5 platforms.  [Liam Green-Hughes]
  • Some enterprising but anonymous Australians have set up UniLeaks, an HE version of wikileaks.  [Wired Campus]


And Finally…

[JE; Lara Mynors; Roger Moore]

It must be respectable, it’s peer-reviewed.  Susan Landay writes in eLearn Magazine about learning for chocolate.

And if there’s chocolate, that must mean a birthday.  Sinclair’s ZX81 is 30 years old this month.  With 1k of RAM, you’d now need more than 50,000 of them to run iTunes.

Finally, I still can’t work out if HP’s 3D printer is a scam.  The video of ‘printing’ an adjustable spanner looks real enough, but how does it get the twisty bit in the slotty bit?


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