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e-Learning Digest No 92 - Apr 12

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
18 April 2012

UK Conferences & Workshops  


Commercial News

[Matthew Moran; Startup Smart]

After weeks of speculation, The College of Law has today confirmed the sale of the legal education and training business, which will continue to be known as The College of Law, to European private equity firm Montagu Private Equity.  The proceeds of the sale will contribute to a significant charitable fund (in excess of £200m) that will promote the advancement of legal education and the study of law for future generations of students through bursaries, scholarships and grants.

For-profit HE company Laureate Education, which has former U.S. President Bill Clinton as honorary chancellor, has chosen Morgan Stanley and Barclays to lead an initial public offering that could raise as much as £471m.  Laureate Education runs a network of 60 accredited campus-based and online universities offering undergraduate and graduate degrees to more than 675,000 students around the world, according to its website.

Blackboard has acquired two Moodle-related companies, Australian NetSpot and Baltimore-based Moodlerooms.  Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas understands that, “these three companies have some good plans and synergies.  Moodlerooms and NetSpot will remain Moodle Partners [and] have promised to continue providing Moodle services, participating in the community, and contributing financially to Moodle exactly as they always have.”


US Sues Apple and Publishers Over e-Book Prices


Apple and major book publishers are being sued by the US Department of Justice over the pricing of e-books.  The US accuses Apple and Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster and Penguin of colluding over the prices of e-books they sell.  This lawsuit is over the firms' move to the agency model where publishers rather than sellers set prices.  Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster have already settled, but the case will proceed against Apple, Macmillan and Penguin “for conspiring to end e-book retailers' freedom to compete on price”, the DOJ said.


CETLs Show Little Return on £315m Investment


HEFCE has evaluated its largest-ever single initiative to improve teaching and learning – the Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs) – and concludes that the £315m spent over five years to fund 69 centres has had minimal impact on student learning: “we do not believe the Cetl programme itself has led to material changes in non-participating higher education institutions and across the sector as a whole.”  THE describes it as, “a vague policy, undermined by self-interest and badly managed in its execution.  Must do better next time.”


OU iTunes U App Success

[The Guardian]

The OU’s 52 courses developed for the iTunes U app have generated more than 50m downloads globally through the app and attracted more than 1m active subscribers.  For example, The New Entrepreneurs course has more than 100,000 active subscribers through the iTunes U app, with six more courses having reached the 50,000 milestone.  “With more than 50 million downloads to date, we know that students value our high-quality learning materials, and that is really underlined by the speed with which we have reached one million iTunes U app course subscribers,” says Martin Bean.


How Education Apps Have Become a Priority for AT&T

[Pete Mitton]

AT&T plans to spur the development of educational apps and is planning an education-centric “hackathon” in June to find the smartest apps.  The idea is to bring the Internet, video, social media and the concept of "gamification" to the learning process.  The company plans to invest $250m over the next 5 years to improving education.


A Short Critique of the Khan Academy

[Tony Bates; Stephen Downes; Wired Campus; Edudemic; PR Web]

Tony refers to Eric Bean’s critique of the Khan Academy and also adds some of his own thoughts, concluding that the content is valuable but is let down by its organisation and support structure (or lack of).  David Andrade also has concerns, describing video lectures as being inherently, “boring and do not allow the student to interact with the lecturer”, plus the site provides no opportunities to apply newly acquired knowledge.  These comments may be accurate but, looking at the Khan site, I don’t think it promises to be something it isn’t – perhaps they should ask for their money back?

The new TED-Ed channel was announced a year ago, but videos are only now being added.  Each is about 5 mins long, aimed at high school level and TED’s curator, Chris Anderson envisions a teacher playing one in class at the start of a lesson “to ignite excitement” about the topic.  It is hoped that within 3 months, new videos will be added at a rate of one per day.  However, if you prefer the full length versions, Edudemic suggests 25 TED Talks Perfect For Classrooms.

Twig is a new site that offers more than 1,000 “outstanding short films on science”, some of which it makes freely available.  The company has recently done a deal with Carolina Biological – a supplier of science teaching materials to 50% of US secondary schools – which will make Twig materials available to 180,000 teachers from May.


The Higher Education Monopoly is Crumbling As We Speak

[Matthew Moran]

The Stanford AI project may seem like a distant memory now, but Wired’s Steven Leckart considers its implications in some detail, together with Sebastian Thrun’s assertion that, 50 years from now, there will be only 10 institutions in the whole world that deliver higher education.

Similar sentiments are expressed by Kevin Carey in The New Republic.  He sees initiatives such as Udacity, Khan and MITx as disruptive innovations that are much more responsive than traditional organisations.  He also notes the parallel with industrial companies and the rate at which they come and go from the Dow Jones index (General Electric is one notable original member).  He asks: Which colleges and universities will be the G.E. of the twenty-first century, and which will be as forgotten as U.S. Leather?


Tablet Ownership Triples Among US Students

[Wired Campus; Campus Technology]

An annual survey sponsored by the Pearson Foundation asked 1,206 college students and 204 college-bound high-school seniors about tablet ownership.  A quarter said they owned a tablet, compared with just 7% last year, and 63% believe tablets will replace textbooks in the next five years.  The survey also found that nearly 60% of students preferred digital books when reading for class, compared with about a third who said they preferred printed textbooks.

Despite the current boom in mobile devices and its effect on sales of other computers, forecaster IDC is predicting a resurgence for desktop and portable PCs in its latest industry survey.  Annual growth is expected to be positive each year through to 2016, with desktops seeing modest single-digit gains and laptops seeing between 8-14% growth in that period. Total PC shipments are expected to reach 518.3 million units in 2013, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.


Many Professors Use Interactive Tools Ineffectively in Online Courses

[Wired Campus]

A recent US study examined 26 high-enrolment online courses at two Virginia community colleges and found that most professors relied mainly on text-based assignments and materials.  When they did decide to use interactive tools like online video, many of those technologies were not connected to learning objectives and did little to motivate students or encourage them to interact with each other.

But Prof Alex Golub describes his two years of iPad use, declaring it to be an “indispensable” academic tool.  However, he also states that “it’s not a laptop, and it never will be ... As I and many other people have noted, the thing is for consumption, not production.”



[Tim Seal]

ALT has formed an OER SIG which opened last month.  Its aim is to, “support, develop, sustain and influence policy in open education” and Jonathan Darby and Tim Seal are at the helm.

The Oxford OER podcast site has made some additions to its growing number of podcasts, including material from its African Studies Centre, Institute of Japanese Studies and Department of Social Policy and Intervention.

And a recent white paper from the European Learning Industry Group (ELIG) suggests that the commercial learning industry has not yet fully engaged with OERs, in large part due to a perception that OE is a potential threat to existing learning business models.


Biomedical Online Research Network

[OU; Wired Campus]

The OU’s new Biomedical Online Research Network (BORN) offers a simple way of presenting questionnaires or experiments online, thus providing an effective, non-intrusive and cost-effective tool for collecting research data from human participants.  In addition, it houses a volunteer register aimed at encouraging OU students, staff and members of the public to participate in a range of online and ‘live’ biomedical research studies.

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council will, from July onwards, require the published results of all research it helps pay for be made publicly accessible in institutional repositories within 12 months of publication.


Turnitin Adds ProQuest Dissertation Checking

[Campus Technology; University World News]

Turnitin’s iThenticate service checks for plagiarism against a library of 20 billion current and archived Web pages, 200 million student papers, and 110 million articles from scholarly journals.  It will shortly be expanded to include 300,000 dissertations and theses published since 2008 from ProQuest’s Dissertations & Theses Database.

Over the past three years, more than 45,000 students at 80 UK HEIs have been hauled before college authorities and found guilty of ‘academic misconduct’ ranging from bringing crib-sheets or mobile phones into exams to paying private firms to write essays for them.  Greenwich University, with more than 900 cases, was the worst in the country.


What Books to Read in Learning and Development?

[Donald Taylor]

Donald Taylor has just passed his 5-year tweeting anniversary.  He describes What Books to Read in Learning and Development? as, “one of my more random Tweets but one that tweaked the interest of enough people to result in a sizeable and interesting list.”


50 Blog Postings on Learning Theorists

[Donald Clark]

As this digest is released, Donald Clark should be just over halfway through his marathon 50-blog-posts-on-learning-theorists-in-50-days, which began on 18 Mar with Socrates.  Donald’s style is readable and informative, and he dispels a few myths along the way - but his main problem is the number of people trying to extend his list through their enthusiastic comments and suggestions.


Einstein Archives Available Online

[University World News]

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is adding to the 900 Einstein manuscript images that have been available online since 2003.  Now, with a grant from the Polonsky Foundation UK, which previously helped digitise Isaac Newton's papers, all 80,000 items from the Einstein collection have been catalogued and enhanced with cross referencing technology.  Around 2,000 documents (7,000 pages) from Einstein's personal and public life are available online and archivists will upload the remainder in the coming years.




And Finally…


Does the last one of something seem better or more enjoyable than previous instances?  To test this hypothesis, researchers at the University of Michigan recruited participants to eat five different flavours of chocolates one by one.  They found that when the last chocolate was made salient, it was rated as more enjoyable and better-tasting than the other chocolates irrespective of flavour.

In that case, they’ll be delighted at news that the first chocolate printer will go into production later this month, allowing chocolate lovers to print their own custom-made sweets, layer by layer.  Dr Liang Hao, from the University of Exeter, founded the Choc Edge company to commercialise the device after interest from retailers.



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