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e-Learning Digest No 89 - Jan 12

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
16 January 2012

UK Conferences & Workshops  


College of Law Ownership

[Matthew Moran]

The College of Law is conducting a strategic review and there are suggestions that the registered charity may change hands for between £100m and £200m.  Pearson is believed to have received the information memorandum on the College of Law and to be considering participating in the second round of the auction of the legal training company, said banking sources.  Pearson took over BPP, another legal training company, last year.


With Increased Fees, How Open Will the OU be?

[Matthew Moran]

OUSA’s Marianne Cantieri writes in The Guardian about OU fee increases and their potential impact on student numbers, particularly those from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.  She is also not convinced that student loans will solve the problem.  The majority of the 100+ comments on the article are positive and supportive of the OU’s position.  You are reminded that the e-petition remains open for signature.

University World News contains a special report with articles addressing global issues facing HE, including the funding situation, international student mobility, the performance of branch campuses and private funding.


MIT to Offer Certificates to External Online Students

[Paul Hollins]

Millions of learners have enjoyed free learning materials from MIT’s OpenCourseWare project.  Now the Institute is planning MITx, “a virtual community of millions of learners around the world”.  MITx will, from this Spring, give anyone free access to an online-course platform. From where they can watch videos, answer questions, practice exercises, visit online labs, and take quizzes and tests.  Whilst access is free, MIT plans to charge a “modest” fee for certificates that indicate a learner has mastered the content.  It's unclear exactly how the assessment will work.


What's the Right Price for Great Educational Content?

[Audrey Watters; Pew Internet; Zite; Stephen Downes]

Audrey Watters considers the thorny question of what an organisation could/should charge for educational content, using US maths company Mathalicious’s new pricing plan as an example.  Not surprisingly, her conclusions are along the lines of ‘it depends’. 

Pew Internet looked into the value of digital content a year ago and came up with some figures for what percentage of users were paying for material.  Music and software came out top, with 33% of users having paid for it, 18% paid for newspapers/journals and 10% paid for e-books, although e-learning was not considered as a specific category.

Suzanne Kavanagh considered the position back in 2010 in respect of academic books and her posting includes an interesting 24 min video by Bloomsbury Academic’s Frances Pinter on ‘rethinking the role and funding of academic book publishing.’

More current is Mike Taylor’s blog posting last week about the obscene profits of commercial scholarly publishers.  He notes that Elsevier, Springer, Wiley and Informa all announced profits of 30%+ over the past year or so.

Finally, the Fordham Institute has just released a paper on the costs of online learning, although Stephen Downes has some lingering doubts about the robustness of the data and some of the assumptions made.


Aakash Tablet Ships

[TechCrunch; Tony Bates; Yishay Mor; Mark Gaved]

India’s Aakash tablet is a reality.  The first 30,000 devices shipped in Dec and the waiting list now sits at 1.4m.  Devices are priced at around £30, with an additional government subsidy bringing this down to £22 for students.  Manufacturer Datawind is struggling to keep up with demand; it is also pushing an alternative £40 tablet with a much better processor (700MHz Arm Cortex A8 vs the Aakash’s 366Mhz Arm11), a bigger battery, a newer version of Android, and GPRS mobile data.

Another competitor for Indian students has emerged in the form of Classpad, available in three versions priced between £95-£180.  Whereas Aakash is general purpose, Classpad aims specifically at education and, according to CEO Rohit Pande, "the software installed in Classpad tests students' problem solving, creativity and application of language skills.  It provides them with personalized teaching as per their learning capabilities.”

Finally, launched last week at CES, comes one-laptop-per-child’s new $100 XO3 tablet, featuring an 8” LCD display, 1GHz chip, Wi-Fi, wind-up power and optional solar cell.  OLPC’s Nicholas Negroponte hopes to follow Professor Sugata Mitra’s Hole-in-the-Wall principle of people teaching themselves: “…we'll take tablets and drop them out of helicopters into villages that have no electricity and school, then go back a year later and see if the kids can read.”  Apart from Hole-in-the-Wall, there is further evidence that this approach can work because, according to Negroponte, there are now around 500,000 children in Peru who are teaching their parents to read using OLPC.


Worldwide Internet Usage

[Next Big Future]

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates that at the end of 2011 there were 2.42 billion internet users in the world and a shade under 6 billion active mobile subscribers.  The top 3 internet users are China (485m), USA (245m) and India (100m).  The UK is 8th with 51.4m.


Project Management for Instructional Designers

[Stephen Downes]

Students from Brigham Young University, led by David Wiley, are putting the finishing touches on their new online textbook, Project Management for Instructional Designers.  The book is an adaptation of Darnall & Preston’s Project Management from Simple to Complex,  but the BYU students have replaced examples with those appropriate to instructional design, added video interviews and created interactive, mastery-check assessments.


Learning Design Webinar


To what extent should learning design be supported computationally?  The eLearning Network presents a 90 minute webinar-based discussion between Diana Laurillard and Stephen Downes, taking place online between 17.00 and 18.30 (GMT) on Wed 22 Feb.


Instructional Designers: To Degree or Not Degree?

[Cammy Bean]

Cammy Bean has been surveying what academic qualifications are possessed by instructional designers.  Of the 506 responses he received (65% US, 10% India, 8% Canada, 6% UK; 58% corporate training, 22% HE), 63% did not have an ID-related degree, 2% did and 35% had an advanced degree.  Of those without, 22% were studying for an ID qualification.

MacLean & Scott conducted similar research in 2007 with a smaller sample of 307 (35% UK, 28% US, 8% Canada).  Looking at the UK picture, 21% had no specific training or qualifications in learning design, 4% had a Bachelor’s degree, 33% had a Master’s degree and 5% had a Doctorate.


2012: A Time For Highly Connected Learning Specialists

[Clive Shepherd]

Clive Shepherd suggests, in his first posting of 2012, that the age of the generalist L&D professional is over: “You will not be sufficiently marketable if you do a bit of everything in much the same way as everyone else.  True we need some managers to pull everything together, but working for these people will be specialists, whether that's in highly-technical subject areas or in new, more scalable approaches to learning […] To keep up-to-date and search out opportunities, L&D professionals need to be more connected than ever before.  To some degree that can happen in traditional ways, but more than likely it will mean networking online.”


Meta EdTech Journal

[Martin Weller; ALT]

Martin has used Wordpress Annotum to create a Meta EdTech Journal which he intends to publish three times a year, collating some of the articles from other open access ed tech journals.  He acknowledges that this can be easily done already using a number of tools including the humble blog, but he believes by looking and behaving “roughly journalish”, it begins to feel like a journal.  He also thinks that authors might find it appealing that their articles no longer sit in just one journal, but may appear in dozens of different 'mashup' or meta journals.  He’s also looking for editors…

ALT has made its association journal Research in Learning Technology open access with effect from 1 Jan.  Articles dating back to 1993 are now freely available, including an early gem: Academics' use of courseware materials: a survey by Laurillard, Swift & Darby (1993) in which they find that 35mm slides were the most popular alternative format to textbooks, having been used by 46% of academics, followed videocassettes (35%).  Only around a quarter of academics had used any form of computer based learning and less than half had ever seen any CBL programs in their field.


EURODL Special Issue

[Anne Howells]

The European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning (EURODL) has launched a special issue on Creativity and Open Educational Resources.  This includes papers on information literacy, student-produced material, quality, collaborative environments and learning via MOOCs.


e-Textbook Costs and Effectiveness

[Wired Campus; Tony Bates; Stephen Downes; Zite]

The Chronicle reports on a study, conducted over four semesters by Daytona State College, which compared the use of traditional print purchase, print rental, e-textbook rental, and e-textbook rental with an e-reader device.  It found that e-textbooks still face several hurdles to adoption and, in the worst case, one course’s students saved only $1 during three of the four semesters due to “publisher pricing decisions.”

However, Alan Levine (via Stephen Downes) laments the bias shown in the article.  They refer to the actual Educause report and note that its findings were broader and more constructive: “Institutions seeking to implement campus-wide e-text adoption should be prepared to address specific concerns, including faculty choice, infrastructure needs, student technological skills, cost savings, and instructional adaptation.”

Of passing interest is a small study involving 24 families with young children aged 3-6.  Given the choice between reading e-books or print books, the children preferred e-books and

comprehension between the two formats was found to be the same.  However, when using enhanced e-books – those that have more bells, whistles and interactivity than regular e-books – children recalled fewer of the details in the content of the richer e-books.  “Kids were more focused on tapping things and that took away from their comprehension as well as the interaction between the parent and the child,” said researcher Carly Shuler.


Microsoft Launches as a Social Network for Students

[Matthew Moran]

Microsoft is officially re-launching, which it has repositioned as an ‘experimental’ social-networking service for students, initially at the University of Washington, Syracuse University and New York University.


Open Library         
[Matthew Moran]

OpenLibrary (an Internet Archive initiative) is home to more than 1 million e-books, available in various formats including plain text, PDF, ePub, DAISY, DjVu and MOBi (Kindle).  Clicking the ‘read online’ option will open a book in the user’s native web browser using OL’s BookReader software (which includes a synthetic-voiced read-aloud function).  iPad owners can read ePubs via the free Bluefire reader app.


App World

[TechCrunch; Apps in Education]

TechCrunch reports that around 7 million new phones were activated on Christmas Day and that 1.2bn mobile apps were downloaded worldwide during Christmas week.  The US accounted for nearly half of these (509m), followed by China (99m) and then the UK (81m).  Whilst Apple’s App Store remains the clear market leader, the Android marketplace is growing rapidly, with 400,000 apps reportedly now available.

Fancy building your own app?  You might like to try AppsBar, Appmakr, Conduit, iBuildApp or iGenapps (Android only, iOS coming soon).  They all seem to follow similar templated, drag-and-drop, ‘no-programming-required’ models.


CES Announcements

[Stuff; TechRadar; CNET]

The annual consumer electronics show took place last week in Las Vegas, featuring a host of new device announcements and launches.  Device of the moment seems to be the Ultrabook (thin laptop, longer battery life, instant-on), but other gizmos included:

  • The $200 Tamaggo 360-imager uses ‘panomorph’ technology to compile a single 14MP panoramic shot rather than stitching together lots of smaller photos.
  • The Lenovo IdeaPad S2 is a 10” Android tablet with a ‘netbook’ keyboard dock which extends the 10hr battery life to 20hrs.
  • Microsoft’s (Xbox) Kinect is coming to Windows from 1 Feb, opening up the potential for 3D gesture functionality.
  • Polaroid’s new SC1630 looks a bit like an iPod or phone, but it is an Android camera with a 3x zoom lens and Wi-Fi.
  • Israel's Snapkeys plans to kill of the QWERTY keyboard, using just 4 keys and predictive text which, it claims, is about 99% accurate.
  • The Switch domestic light bulb contains liquid-cooled LEDs and offers an “average lifespan of 25,000 hours.”

I’m not going to waste your time with yet more iPad 3 and iPhone 5 rumours, but a new variation on a theme is that Apple may be launching an iTextbook at an education-themed event in New York on 19 Jan.




And Finally…

[BBC; The Guardian]

“If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?”  This was a question asked during a recruitment interview at Hewlett Packard.  BBC Technology offers a selection of these thinking-on-your-feet interview questions from Amazon, Google, Deloitte and others, including Steve Jobs’ infamous, “Are you a virgin?”.

If you’re easily affronted by difficult interview questions and other aspects of life’s unfairness, you might score rather well on The Guardian’s match the placard to the protest quiz.

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