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e-Learning Digest No 88 - Dec 11

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
13 December 2011

UK Conferences & Workshops


Commercial News

[Matthew Moran; The Australian; Campus Technology; Marketing Week; Kineo]

Pearson has agreed to pay $155m for Global Education and Technology Group, a provider of test preparation services for students in China who are learning English.  Global Education has a network of approximately 450 test preparation and training centres across 60 cities in China, plus an online course delivery platform for students and professionals.  The acquisition expands Pearson’s reach in China from eight cities to 60 and provides a platform to develop beyond English language teaching.

Pearson is also collaborating with Australia’s University of New England to pursue growth in an expanded online market.  VC, Prof Jim Barber, said Pearson's role would cover marketing, recruitment, courseware upgrades, online support and delivery of some UNE courses via its Pearson LearningStudio LMS.  The courses could include in-demand professional programs, such as teaching and law, and will be pitched at working adults.  “Importantly, UNE staff will continue to write all course material, teach all courses and retain all academic control,” said Barber.   

Blackboard has acquired CerBibo, a provider of higher education and K-12 online learning software and services in China.  CerBibo was created in 2003 as a joint venture between Blackboard and the China Education and Research Network and it currently supports more than 270 Chinese academic organisations.

US HE software giant Datatel plans to buy SunGard Higher Education for $1.8bn, for which it is seeking a $1.2-billion loan.

O2 is preparing to move into the e-learning market as part of diversification plans, but it has discounted talk of using its existing student e-learning portal ‘O2 Learn’ as a launchpad for new products or services, claiming that would be “cynical”.

Kineo seems to be cementing its position as a leading e-learning supplier.  The company came out strongly in Donald Clark’s recent financial assessment, it picked up 4 accolades at last month’s e-Learning Age awards, interest in its Totara (Moodle with frills) LMS is healthy and they have just opened a Chinese office.  And now they’re giving stuff away, such as a range of free e-learning guides and reports and an iOS app on health and safety essentials.


UK HE News

[University World News]

In a letter to the Telegraph, more than 500 academics claim that giving profit-making companies access to state funding will create a system in which institutions pursue short-term financial gains at the expense of a decent education.

24 new universities and former polytechnics and one FE College have lowered their tuition fees to below £7,500 a year, no doubt reacting to a 13% drop in applications so far this year.

Birkbeck’s Prof Claire Callender believes government reforms will decrease social mobility, through a combination of factors such as fee increases, the AAB policy, a shift in emphasis from ‘disadvantage’ to ‘fairness’ and the devolution of some responsibilities from the state to institutions.

The EU has set 2020 as the target date by which an EU average of at least 20% of HE graduates should have had a “period of higher education-related study or training (including work placement) abroad”, representing a minimum of 15 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits “or lasting a minimum of three months”.


Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa

[University World News]

The Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA) has completed one of the most comprehensive studies of African universities ever undertaken.  For the past four years, the initiative has conducted research into tertiary systems and premier universities in eight African countries, focusing on the roles of HE in economic development and democracy, as well as a comparative study of three OECD countries.  There’s too much to summarise here, but a special edition of University World News contains all the details.

UWN also presents a detailed article on the OU-led Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) project, a consortium of 18 universities across Africa focused on improving the training of elementary school teachers.  The scheme has so far reached an estimated 400,000 teachers in 12 countries, and won an award at last month’s World Innovation Summit for Education in Qatar.


LORO Project Highly Commended in OPAL Awards

[Anna Comas-Quinn]

The OPAL Awards for quality and innovation through open educational practices recognise outstanding achievements in the fields of OER policy, promotion and use.  Information on the 2011 winners can be found on the OPAL site, as can specific information on the LORO commendation.  The jury found that the LORO project was “anchored in a clear vision and strategy and aims fundamentally to change the practice of both the academics and the student teachers to include processes of sharing, showcasing, adapting and re-using resources” and has resulted “in a highly focused intervention with clearly defined OER and OEP objectives, giving us evidence of its capacity to transform learning.”


One in Four New Courses Attracts no Students


A research project financed by HEFCE has analysed UCAS data from 2005 to 2008, finding that 23% of new undergraduate courses in that period did not recruit any students.  The project estimates that the start-up costs of face-to-face courses average around £20,000, even before they are marketed to students.  London Metropolitan University is already cutting its portfolio by 70% and its VC, Malcolm Gillies, said, “courses are often determined by what staff wish to supply rather than what students wish to study.”  His view was echoed by Portsmouth’s Peter Reader, who has previously accused academics of creating “vanity courses” that are of interest to them but not to students 


The Net Generation and Digital Natives

 [ORO; Donald Clark; Yishay Mor; Matthew Moran]

I may have mentioned this earlier in the year but it’s now freely available in the ORO repository.  The net generation and digital natives: implications for higher education by Chris Jones and Binhui Shao looks across national boundaries and unpicks some of the mythology surrounding student Ed Tech preferences and habits.  For example: students persistently report that they prefer moderate use of ICT in their courses; there is no demand for changes to pedagogy, such as the introduction of group working; nor is there a natural demand for Blogs, Wikis and 3D Worlds that teaching staff and universities should feel obliged to satisfy.  Finally, they could find no evidence of a demand for highly individualised or personal university services.

Donald Clark takes a different perspective on recent and emerging technologies, suggesting that there has been more pedagogic change in 10 years than the last 1000 years – and it’s all driven by 10 technology innovations.

Mary Meeker's annual presentation on internet trends is available via Scribd.  If you can’t face all 66 slides, highlights include 

  • 85% of the world population is covered by mobile signal, but only 80% by power grid
  • Mobile internet shows exponential growth despite recession
  • 55% of Twitter traffic and 33% of Facebook comes from mobile devices
  • Click-and-buy on mobile devices is transforming mobile commerce

Audrey Watters considers the future of the Ed Tech business model, using Rosetta Stone – a company that has traditionally sold boxes of software to learners – as an example.


Mobile Learners

[Stephen Downes; Educause; eLearn Magazine]

The University of Wisconsin’s Suzanne Porath has conducted a literature review into text messaging by those aged 11-21, focusing on the motivation, means, and methods of text messaging.  In addition, she considers how adults have successfully engaged text messaging to access and inform youth about health-related issues.

Educause’s 2011 report into Mobile IT in Higher Education gathered data from 209 HEIs.  Findings include: 90% of respondents expect spending on mobile-enablement to rise over the next 3 years, although 35% report zero current spending on mobile; and predicted heaviest demand will be for general communications (35%), followed by instruction (20%). 

But Allison Rossett asks, If Mobile Learning and Support are Wonderful, Why aren't They Everywhere?


Eurozone Debt Web


This fascinating interactive graphic from the BBC nicely illustrates the Euro debt situation.  Most scary is the thickness of the debt lines from the UK, but the commentary suggests we shouldn’t worry too much because those nice bankers will see us right.


Best Practice Guide on Technology Enhanced Learning


The UCISA Academic Support Group has now put together a Best Practice Guide on engaging academics in the use of Technology Enhanced Learning. The guide contains ten case studies which look at a variety of methods for engaging academics, including: setting up communities of practice; developing intensive training and support programmes; and encouraging academics to publish their research in TEL.

Can anything of academic value ever be said in just 140 characters?  LSE has published a new Twitter Guide for Academics, which seeks to show academics and researchers how to get the most out of the micro-blogging site.  The Guide leads the novice through the basics of Twitter but also provide tips on how it can aid the teaching and research of the more experienced academic tweeter.


Top Tools 2011

[Jane Hart; JE]

Jane Hart’s e-learning tool listings are the place to look if you need a gizmo to solve a particular need or problem.  She’s just compiled the 2011 top tool list, based on input from over 500 learning professionals.  The top 10 is no great surprise (Twitter, YouTube, et al), but scroll downwards and you’re bound to discover a few gems you didn’t know about.

If you specifically want content authoring tools, Craig Weiss suggests a top ten on his e-learning 24/7 blog.


Digital Copyright

[Non Scantlebury]

In this transcript of a relatively short speech - Who feeds the artist? - from last month’s Forum d'Avignon, Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda makes a plea to revisit and change the business and creative modelling for copyright law in the digital age.  She believes a new approach is required, but not necessarily one devised by EU bureaucrats: “it's not the kind of model that should be developed from the centre”.


Learning 2011 Conference Videos

[Elliott Masie; ALT]

The Learning 2011 Conference may be over but Elliott has made over 12 hours of video from keynote speeches and interviews available.  These include contributions from Educause’s Diana Oblinger, plus speakers from Walmart, Starbucks, Amazon and Deloitte.

More videos have also now been added to the ALT YouTube channel from this year’s Leeds conference, with speakers including John Naughton and Gilly Salmon.

Also on YouTube, new videos have been added to the Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme collection.  These include Power Tools for Teachers, which looks at the ‘Learning Designer’ environment for teachers developed by Prof Diana Laurillard and colleagues.


Learning Styles … or not?

[Stephen Downes]

The answer to the perennial learning styles debate is almost certainly, “it depends”.  Guy Wallace discusses the matter at length in last month’s eLearn Magazine and his general thrust is that, whilst there is no clear evidence against the existence of ‘learning styles’, nor is there any strong evidence to support the efficacy of differentiating instruction by learning styles.



[Codrops; EnBeeOne3; Smashing magazine; Pakzilla; Tripwire]

Patrick Cox explores 10 reasons why he thinks we should be using HTML5 right now, including support for mobile devices, accessibility, better interactivity and audio and video support.

EnBeeOne3 offers 10 inspiring HTML5 sites it considers worth checking out (but not in IE8), plus some free HTML5/CSS3 framework generators & templates, HTML5 eBooks for Web Designers and HTML5 tutorials, tools and frameworks.

Smashing magazine offers a detailed article on HTML5 semantics and Pakzilla brings developers the ultimate HTML5 cheat sheet.  But if you need more than one, tripwire has 60 developer cheat sheets, covering a wide range of languages, tools and technologies.


Stanford Offers 10 More Free Distance Learning Courses

[Seb Schmoller; Pete Mitton; Matthew Moran]

Stanford’s offering of free places on an Artificial Intelligence course has been widely reported.  Seb Schmoller is one of those and he reports that around 23,000 students passed the midterm exam last month, with 85% currently falling into the B+ range.  Following this success, the university will now be offering 10 new titles next Jan/Feb:

  • Computer Science 101
  • Software Engineering for SaaS
  • Human Computer Interfaces
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Game Theory
  • Probabilistic Graphical Models
  • Machine Learning
  • The Lean Launchpad
  • Technology Entrepreneurship
  • Cryptography

 Stanford is also offering the iOS 5 edition of its well-regarded iPhone and iPad application development course free on iTunes U.  Users get the same course lectures and slides as Stanford students, but without credit or access to instructors.


World War 2 as it Happened

[Matthew Moran]

An Oxford history student recently began a six-year project to tweet WWII as it happened. He’s currently in autumn 1939 and tweets include links to audio/video footage on YouTube, maps, documents, posters and archive photography.




And Finally…

[Jane Hart; TechCrunch]

The Carlson School of Management received a surprise visit from a saxophonist and nearly 300 singers from the University of Minnesota’s School of Music.  The halls were well and truly decked.

Of course, any bah-humbugs at the Carlson School of Management who objected to being invaded by 300 happy-clappies could have used their iPhones to control some retaliatory action by festive helicopters or rocket launchers.



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