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e-Learning Digest No 87 - Nov 11

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
14 November 2011

UK Conferences & Workshops


UK Private Universities

[University World News; The Guardian; THE; Matthew Moran]

Glynne Stanfield, a partner in the education group at Eversheds, predicts that a private equity firm or private higher education provider will buy a UK university in whole or part “within the next six months” and thus gain its degree-awarding powers.  The prediction by, comes as government documents reveal that a US private equity firm, Warburg Pincus, has twice met with David Willetts, the universities and science minister.  Much more detail on this in a University World News article by Andrew McGettigan.

Coventry University College, an offshoot of Coventry University, is recruiting students for "no-frills" professional courses including accounting, law and marketing, at a maximum cost of £4,800.  The university college is located in Coventry city centre and will be open 42 weeks a year, offering teaching from 7am to 10pm on weekdays, and until 4pm at weekends.  However, students will not have access to the parent university's library, IT or sporting facilities.

BPP Law School is publicising January course starts, which it says has seen an overall increase in student numbers.  Flexibility of this and other institutions is covered in this Independent article, but no mention of the ever-so-flexible OU.

The London branch of Indian-owned TASMAC (Training and Advanced studies in Management and Communication) went into liquidation last month, leaving around 1000 London School of Business students from more than 20 countries out of pocket and with just 60 days under UK visa rules to find another course.  This has prompted calls by student bodies for a mandatory UK guarantee scheme for private colleges to prevent genuine students being left out of pocket when organisations fail or close for other reasons.

A new wave of university technical colleges will open in England next year with businesses helping to shape the curriculum.  The comprehensive schools for 14- to 19-year-olds will be backed by firms including Toshiba, Boeing and Rolls Royce.  Schools may have a specific professional focus, such as one in Liverpool, specialising in life sciences and backed by the pharmaceutical firm Novartis, and one in Plymouth backed by the Royal Navy and Babcock.  A school in Buckinghamshire will be jointly backed by Hewlett Packard, Research in Motion (Blackberry) and Cisco.


The 10 Best Schools To Get An Ed Tech Masters Online

Edudemic publishes a list of 10 Best Ed Tech Masters programmes.  However, they seem to have rather missed the point that one of the benefits of online learning is that it can transcend national boundaries; hence, there are no non-US providers listed.  C- Must try harder.


Planet Pearson

[The Journal; Hack Education; Wired Campus; Giles Clark; e-Learning Guild]

Pearson is teaming with Knewton to roll out the world’s first Adaptive Learning Platform, designed to customise learning materials to meet students' exact needs by assessing what they know and how they learn best before tailoring lessons and textbook material accordingly.  Pearson will integrate the technology into its digital offerings, beginning with the MyLab and Mastering series which receive more than 750,000 daily logins.  Knewton was founded by former Kaplan executive Jose Ferriera and the company secured $33 million in funding last month to grow its technology.  EdSurge examine the initiative in more detail, taking the view that personalisation and analytics will be at the heart of education in the future.

Pearson has announced OpenClass, a cloud-based LMS that senior vice president Adrian Sannier claims is “absolutely for free. No licensing costs, no costs for maintenance, and no costs for hosting. So this is a freer offer than Moodle is.”  Pearson heavily promotes the fact that OpenClass is distributed through Google’s App marketplace, and say that it was inspired by Google’s popular e-mail and Web services platform.  But Google’s Tim Drinan, when asked to clarify the nature of the relationship, noted, “There were some misleading headlines with the Pearson’s announcement.  What it’s not is it’s not a joint release, and it’s not a shared product.”

Pearson’s Q3 sales in US Education were up 1% and, in HE, more than eight million student registrations were generated for MyLabs subject-specific digital homework and assessment programmes (up 23%), and almost five million enrolments in online courses provided through Pearson's LearningStudio/eCollege (up 33%).  MyLab registrations outside North America were up more than 30% on the same period last year to more than 600,000.

Blackboard has ‘merged’ with Edline, another LMS/VLE supplier, mainly in the K-12 sector.  Edline is currently installed in over 20,000 US schools; the company will become a division of Blackboard.

Brighton-based Element-K has been bought a competitor in the generic e-learning field, Skillsoft, for $110m from former owners NIIT who bought Element-K in 2006 for $40m.


Ed Tech Surveys

[Anne Howells; Sloan-C; Campus Technology]

Educause has released its 2011 National Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, based on a survey of 3,000 students in over 1,200 US colleges and universities.  Findings include the fact that “students are drawn to hot technologies but rely on traditional devices”, raising the immediate problem of how suppliers can support all the different devices and formats required.  Just take a look at reported device ownership: Laptop (owned by 87% of those surveyed); iPod (62%); Smartphone (55%); Desktop PC (53%); MP3 player (29%); e-Reader (12%); Netbook (11%); and iPad (8%).

The ninth annual Babson/Sloan US online education survey, Going the Distance, has just been published.  Key findings are that: 31% of all HE students are taking at least one online course; the 10% growth rate for online enrolments exceeds the 2% for HE overall; academic leaders believe that student satisfaction is now equivalent for online and F2F courses; and 65% of HEIs say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.

The 2011 (US) campus computing survey has just been released, highlights of which include: an increase in the use of mobile apps (used by 55% of institutions compared with 33% a year ago); cloud computing being used for email but little else; Blackboard’s LMS share falling as Moodle and Sakai rise; and an increase in the anticipated educational importance of e-books in the next 5 years.


UK e-Learning

[Computeach; Donald Clark; Guardian]

According to Learning Light, Britain has the largest e-learning industry in the EU, with more than 400 companies specialising in e-learning for the corporate learning market alone.  Their report predicted that corporate e-learning expenditure is growing at over 6% each year while many developers of e-learning solutions have reported increase in sales of over 20% pa.  

Of course, nobody knows the UK e-learning industry quite like Donald Clark, and his assessment of the key players gets straight to the financial key points.

And now the Civil Service thinks it has discovered the benefits of e-learning and is predicting a £90m saving with more L&D activities moving from classrooms to computer screens, as evidenced by the 76% increase in online training days so far this year.         Hmm, there’s nothing more dangerous than a government minister extrapolating a few beans into a grand claim.  I’ve no doubt that e-learning can help, but sometimes the snake oil doesn’t cure grandma’s cough.


How Has Technology Affected Cheating and Plagiarism?


Recent research by found that online technology is blurring the boundaries of what people regard as cheating, with 71% of respondents believing that copying from the Web is NOT “serious cheating” and 53% considering that cheating is “no big deal”.  Some 82% of college/university alumni admitted to engaging in some form of cheating as undergraduates.


The Future of Education

[Non Scantlebury; Zite]

Steve Hargadon’s Future of Education site is very active at the moment, with a number of online interviews and discussions planned for the coming months.  Recording are also available for previous conversations.  Topics seem to include almost anything ending in a 2.0 – web… library… classroom… education… etc, etc.

And USC’s Lloyd Armstrong considers what the College of 2020 will look like, concluding that there will be greater use of online and blended learning, a 12 month academic calendar, fewer research universities and increased transfer opportunities – but student learning will be a key differentiating factor.


Mobile Learning

[Rhodri Thomas; Inge de Waard; TechCrunch; Liam Green-Hughes]

The GSMA's Mobile Education project has recently published a paper, The Mobile Proposition for Education, describing some key educational scenarios where the use of mobile-enabled handheld technologies can deliver significant benefits.  These include: vocational education and training, consistent connectivity for children, out-of-classroom education and collaboration, professional learning and development, literacy skills, and supporting students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

iJIM is an open access journal on m-learning and interactive mobile technologies.  Vol 5, No 4 includes papers on performance support in HE, semantic web for tourism and adaptive m-learning for English language learning.

Networked Society: On the Brink is an engaging 20 min film from Ericsson with contributions from industry notables on where we’ve come in the past 15 years in terms of connectivity, where we might be going and how difficult it is to speculate beyond the short term with any degree of certainty. 

Ericsson is also running a competition for people who have an idea for a mobile app in the areas of “social and economic development” and “energy and climate change”.  Good news – you don’t have to build the app, just film the problem and present a use case where your app could help.


Kindle Fire Ships

[Lara Mynors; Campus Technology]

Kindle Fire begins shipping in the US this week, but Wired reviewer Jon Phillips is underwhelmed.  He’s not impressed by the screen size, processing speed, lack of camera, lack of 3G, etc.  These may be valid points, but comparing a $200 Fire with a $500 iPad hardly seems fair.

Abilene Christian University has just published a report on their three years’ experience of using iPods, iPhone and iPads to support learning.  The findings are positive and, of the 149 faculty members surveyed, 89% bring mobile devices to class, 84% regularly use the devices in class and half of faculty report using the devices in every class.  Over 80% report that mobility device usage has improved collaboration, communication and control in their academic experience.  According to Director of Educational Innovation, Bill Rankin, “Education used to be seen as a class - it was something that took place at this time, from 8 to 8:50 am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in room 103.  What we've seen is that that will totally change.  Class is with me everywhere I go.  I'm always connected with my classmates, with my teacher, with my learning content.”


The Demise of Flash

[Pete Mitton; Mashable]

How do you admit the game is over for a piece of software without actually saying so?  You ‘halt further development’, just as Adobe has now done for Flash on mobile devices, stating that HTML 5 technology offers the best solution because it is “universally supported”.  The Apple position certainly hasn’t helped matters, but Flash is also hampered by increasing security concerns, accessibility shortcomings and the absence of right clicks and mouse-over on touch-screen devices.  The company has also announced cessation of future support for Flash on digital home devices such as HDTVs.


Why Aren’t Students Using E-Books?
[Mindshift; Stephen Downes; Chris Hough]

Library e-book provider eBrary has released some preliminary results from its 2011 Global Student e-Book Survey, suggesting that student e-book usage has not increased significantly in the past 3 years.  So why such a different picture to the rosy one painted by Amazon?  Reasons are many and varied, ranging from availability and cost of academic titles (plus no resale value) to functional limitations such as making and sharing annotations, highlights and notes and poor integration with other social tools.

It’s not uncommon for US students to pay $200 for a textbook but a new project, Open Course Library, co-funded by the State of Washington and the Gates Foundation has made materials available for 42 most common courses, with a further 39 planned for 2013.  Books can be bought for $30 or used online at no cost.  Materials are currently hosted on the Connexions OER site and are available in various formats including PDF, ePub, XML and IMS Common Cartridge.

The National Library of Medicine has digitised a number of notable antique books which can be examined in Flash turn-the-page format, often with audio descriptions and additional notes.  Examples include Hooke’s Micrographia (1665), al-Qazwini’s Wonders of Creation (~1250) and the Edwin Smith surgical papyrus, dating back to around the 17th century BC.



[Tony Bates; IconLogic; Matthew Moran]

The new UNESCO Open Educational Resources (OER) Platform will offer selected UNESCO publications as fully-licensed OERs.  The first of these is the UNESCO Model Curricula for Journalism Education, which has so far been successfully adapted by more than 60 university journalism schools in over 50 countries.  Also available is the new UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning (COL) Policy Guidelines for OERs in Higher Education.

The Freedom of Information Act may be bringing a whole new meaning to the term ‘open’.  David Johnson has filed a request using the act to receive “copies of all teaching materials” for the OU’s complete suite of Law modules, citing the Information Commissioner's judgment against the University of Central Lancashire in 2009 in support of his claim.


Design Comics


I’m not the world’s greatest clipart fan but I can see the attraction of this free offering from Design Comics.  They’ve created a series of background scenes and a suite of characters with an extensive range of different poses and expressions, all in StarOffice format which will also open in PowerPoint.  If you need to create some visual scenarios and don’t have ready access to a graphic artist, they may just save the day.


Word Dynamo

[Zite]'s new Word Dynamo is an online and mobile learning experience that enables users to grow their vocabulary and command of language at their own pace through interactive exercises, study guides and tests based on's analysis of 15 years of user patterns.




A reminder that ALT has 6 active Special Interest Groups, covering: Inclusive Learning; Learning Environment Review; Video in Education; Games and Learning; Politics and Critical Theory; and the White Rose Learning Technologists' Forum.


‘Talk to the Hand…’


Researchers at Carnegie-Mellon have ‘Omnitouch’ demonstrated technology to allow multitouch interfaces to be displayed on any surface, including notebooks, body parts and tables, using a picoprojector and a 3D scanner similar to the Kinect.  We’ve seen similar things before under the guise of augmented reality and the first video demonstrates it well, but what made this fascinating for me was a second video clip showing how the technology worked to identify fingers and gestures.

An offshoot of the Omintouch project sees the introduction of a microphone to increase the discrimination of the interface.  Early experiments with Tapsense show that the system can differentiate between a tip, pad, nail and knuckle, meaning that these could allow additional functions to be selected such as right-click, capitalisation or open/close object.


Moodle 2 Beginner's Guide
[Nick Freear]

The full title of Nick’s new book is Moodle 2 for Teaching 4-9 Year Olds Beginner's Guide and the examples he uses are certainly aimed at that age group but, from what I saw of the sample chapter on the Packt Publishing site, the book could take a relative Moodle novice step-by-step through the basics of setting up and administering a range of Moodle activities for almost any age group.




And Finally…

[Jonathan Fine; Matthew Moran]

Returning to the theme of digital natives, this 90 second video of a one-year-old child shows that Dad’s iPad has defined her ‘norm’ and she regards ordinary paper magazines simply as iPads that don’t work properly.

On a similar theme, here’s how a 12-year-old explained the information age’s facts of life to her mother.


Extra content

Embedded Content


Dora Lopid
9:41am 6 October 2015

One more thing: more than 80% of students use smartphones and tablets to get online, which means that we should also consider mobile e-learning. Harris Interactive Polled more than 1 thousand students of 2-4 college years. It appears that only 1% of them uses no digital technologies. Moreover, 65% of searches are being conducted through smartphones. Here you can read more :

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