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e-Learning Digest No 93 - May 12

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
17 May 2012

UK Conferences & Workshops  

The HEA runs various workshops around the country that are too numerous to list here.  A full events calendar is available on the HEA site.


edX, Coursera … and others

[Pete Mitton; Lara Mynors; Wired Campus; Paul Hollins; Stephen Downes; BBC; Tony Bates]

MIT and Harvard have announced edX, a joint venture that will build on MITx and Harvard distance learning to develop an open-source technology platform to deliver online courses.  The partners claim this will benefit campus-based and remote learners as well as providing research data for teaching and learning online.

Purdue is launching HUB-U, which will serve up modular online courses with video lectures, interactive visualizations, and tools for students to interact with their peers and the professor.  The initiative builds on earlier work on Purdue’s nanoHUB, a collaborative platform for nanotechnology research.  A course on the fundamentals of nanoelectronics attracted 900 students from 27 countries, most of whom paid $30 for the class and a certificate of completion.  Students also had the option to turn their certificates into continuing-education credits for an additional $195.

Previous digests have reported on Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity.  Now comes Coursera from fellow Stanford tutors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller.  The company has raised $16m in venture capital and secured partnerships with four major universities.  Their site will offer free access to HE content from Princeton, Stanford, Berkeley, Penn and others, together with assessment and peer/expert support and discussion.  Students can also opt-in to pay for premium content and services. 

Joining the ever-expanding marketplace, a group of UK academics concerned that higher education has become “highly commercialised and profit-oriented” are setting up a university where students can learn for free.  Calling themselves the Social Science Centre, the 40 academics will teach students at evenings and weekends to the equivalent of BA, MA and PhD levels, but the centre will not be awarding official degrees.

And then there’s ALISON.  Having just celebrated its 5th birthday, this Irish site claims to be, “the world’s leading free online learning resource for basic and essential workplace skills.  ALISON provides …. interactive multimedia courseware for certification and standards-based learning.”  The site has one million registered learners spread across nearly 200 countries worldwide, using a mix of advertising and sponsored programs from partners and publishers to enable students to take the courses free of charge.  It graduated over 50,000 people in Certificate and Diploma courses in 2011.


Dual-Mode Universities in Higher Education

[Stephen Downes]

John Daniel writes about an OERu model (dual-mode universities), based on the fact that, “…higher education generally will no longer be able to use the function of presenting content, whether through lectures or learning materials, as justification for the major element of its costs.”  Stephen Downes concludes that, since institutions will need to generate income somehow, “…it follows that the model must include pay-as-you-go assessment as the value proposition.”


Warwick-Monash Alliance

[University World News]

The University of Warwick has signed up to a new alliance with Australia’s Monash University that will establish them as ‘globally connected universities’, offering a seamless international experience to students and allowing employers to take their pick of globally educated graduates.  The two institutions will also collaborate on global research, aiming to be one of the world’s 50 ‘globally networked research-heavy university systems’.


Could Universities be Sold Off?

[Matthew Moran]

Following the sale of The College of Law to Montagu Private Equity, The Guardian speculates over what future deals might be afoot, noting that the college was able to retain its charitable status and Royal Charter.  Robin Middlehurst, co-author of two recent reports on private involvement in higher education, says: “I'm sure that, as public funding goes down, publicly funded institutions will … look to issue bonds and have some kind of different private financing.”  And Glynne Stanfield, a partner at the law firm Eversheds, says it could be used by all UK universities, not just as the basis of an outright sale, which he thinks will be rare, but to allow investors to buy some kind of stake in an institution, with the valuation depending on the profitability of that institution and its brand.


Six-fold Return for Investment in Innovation in UK Universities

[University World News]

According to a HEFCE report, Strengthening the Contribution of English Higher Education Institutions to the Innovation System: Knowledge exchange and HEIF funding, every pound invested in higher education innovation funding adds at least £6 (US$9.70) in knowledge exchange income to the economy.  HEIs have submitted institutional strategies to HEFCE that set out how they are using £600 million in HEI funding.


Microsoft Invests in Barnes and Noble

[Stephen Downes]

Microsoft has announced an investment of $300 million for a 17.6% share in a new Barnes and Noble subsidiary that will include the Nook and B&N College divisions. Microsoft’s investment ensures that Windows 8 will launch with the Nook digital bookstore in tow.  e-Literate’s Rob Reynolds suggest it will also provide competition for Amazon, resulting in greater numbers of digital titles and a gradual decline in prices.


TED Launches Revamped Education Platform


The TED-Ed YouTube channel launched in March with twelve 3-10 minute videos that extend beyond the lecture format for which TED is known, and these have now exceeded 2.5 million views.  TED has now announced a dynamic TED-Ed site with new teacher tools for customising learning experiences through the use of follow-up questions and assignments.  TED-Ed’s Logan Smalley explains, “The goal of TED-Ed is for each great lesson to reach and motivate as many learners as possible. The new website goes a step further, allowing any teacher to tailor video content, create unique lesson plans, and monitor students’ progress.”


Are Online Learners Frustrated with Collaborative Learning?


A paper in the latest issue of IRRDOL considers, “feelings of frustration as a negative emotion among online learners engaged in online computer-supported collaborative learning  experiences and, moreover, to identify the sources to which the learners attribute their frustration.”  The findings are not surprising, although it is interesting to consider whether the negatives relate to online collaboration or to team projects in general.


iPad Drives Tablet Growth

[Campus Technology]

According to IDC, worldwide tablet shipments increased significantly (from 7.9m to 17.4m) in the first quarter of 2012, driven by strong iPad sales which accounted for about 68% of that figure; however, IDC reports a steep drop-off of Android sales.  Meanwhile, on the smart phone front, Apple fell to second place as Samsung more than tripled its unit shipments to land in the top slot.


Learning Directions "Pulse" Survey

[Elliott Masie]

The Masie Center recently conducted a Learning Directions “Pulse” Survey, receiving responses from over 520 organisations worldwide.  Some of the more notable findings include:

  • Greatest planned growth in learning activity mode is in the use of Webinars
  • Strongest interest in change and updates was in Leadership Development
  • 40% show a strong interest in Social Learning but only 20% plan a growing utilisation with a strong piloting base
  • Mobile and Tablet Device use for Learning is being piloted by 30%
  • 33% of organisations are reducing the use of face-to-face classrooms


STELLAR Project Survey

[Tom Welch]

As part of the JISC-funded STELLAR project (Semantic Technologies Enhancing the Lifecycle of Learning Resources), Library Services is investigating the value of non-current learning materials to help the University and the HE sector as a whole to understand how academics and other stakeholders view older study materials.  The first stage is a survey of key stakeholders – open until Fri 8 Jun – which aims to gather opinions on areas as such as: what should happen to OU learning materials when they are withdrawn from presentation?  Is it important that they are kept and, if so, for how long?  How can we best ensure that they are accessible over time?


ROLE Project

[Alexander Mikroyannidis]

The ROLE project is centred around the concept of Self-Regulated Learning (SRL), supporting learners in planning their learning process, searching for the resources independently, learning and then reflecting on the whole learning process and progress.  In order to raise awareness about SRL and ROLE technologies, the project team has prepared an introductory course in LabSpace.  You are invited to complete this and then provide feedback on your perception of SRL in a 10 minute survey.


Harvard Says it Can't Afford Journal Publishers' Prices

[Paul Hoffman; Wired Campus]

Exasperated by rising subscription costs charged by academic publishers, Harvard University has encouraged its 2,100 teaching and research staff to make their research freely available through open access journals and to resign from publications that keep articles behind paywalls.  The university’s library, which pays around $3.5m each year in subscriptions, warned it could no longer afford the price hikes imposed by many large journal publishers.  Prices for online journal access from two major publishers have increased 145% over the past six years, with some journals costing as much as $40,000.  Research Libraries UK negotiated new contracts with Elsevier and Wiley last year after the group threatened to cancel large subscriptions to the publishers.  The new deal, organised on behalf of 30 member libraries, is expected to save UK institutions more than £20m.

David Willetts has declared he wants to make all research paid for with public money freely available online.  “Giving people the right to roam freely over publicly funded research will usher in a new era of academic discovery and collaboration, and will put the UK at the forefront of open research,” he wrote.  “The challenge is how we get there without ruining the value added by academic publishers.”


Why Publishers Don't Like Apps

[Tony Bates]

Jason Pontin, writing in MIT’s Technology Review believes the future of media on mobile devices isn't with applications but with the Web.  This is partly because publishers remain wedded to the concept of the ‘magazine’ but mainly because Apple, with their market domination of the iPad, charge a markup of 30% on apps which eats into most if not all of a publisher’s profit margin.  Pontin is frank about his own experiences at Technology Review: “We sold 353 subscriptions through the iPad.  We never discovered how to avoid the necessity of designing both landscape and portrait versions of the magazine for the app.  We wasted $124,000 on outsourced software development.  We fought amongst ourselves, and people left the company.”


eBooks vs pBooks

[Lara Mynors; eLearn Magazine; Zite; Wired]

Time’s Maia Szalavitz noticed that some eBook content seemed harder to remember on her new Kindle compared to the paper equivalent.  Research suggests that this may be the case when the subject matter is complex or students are under pressure.  One theory is that physical books have more spatial landmarks which help readers remember information through its position on the page spread.

Joan Vinall-Cox, writing in eLearn Magazine, is having similar concerns, but thinks the issues may lie with a combination of how we scan the page and our ability (or not) to add annotations.

Boris writes on The Next Web about his enthusiasm for e-books and some of the technical and commercial limitations he thinks may be holding the medium back.  He also questions the complete demise of paper, because many people, “like the smell of paper and the fact that books are tangible, real, and even, romantic.”  The number of subsequent comments suggest he’s touched a nerve.

And Wired’s Damon Lavrinc investigates our love of the animated curled-edge page-flip, noting that the latest upgrade to Instapaper now includes a flip.  The expert view is that the page-flip animation is “too long and complex”, but they don’t deny its appeal to users.


Bodleian and Vatican to Digitise Ancient Texts


The Bodleian Library and the Vatican's Biblioteca Apostolica have received a £2m award from the Polonsky Foundation to digitise 1.5 million Greek manuscripts, 15th Century printed books and Hebrew early printed books and make them available online.


Game Changers: Education and Information Technologies

[Stephen Downes; Tony Bates]

Educause has just published a useful new e-book, Game Changers: Education and Information Technologies.  Edited by Diana Oblinger, the book is, “a collection of chapters and case studies contributed by college and university presidents, provosts, faculty, and other stakeholders”, although it does have a distinctly North American flavour.

Diana Laurillard has also just released her new book, Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology.  Her premise is that teaching should be more highly regarded as a ‘design profession’ and that, “Every day, teachers design and test new ways of teaching, using learning technology to help their students.  Sadly, their discoveries often remain local.  By representing and communicating their best ideas as structured pedagogical patterns, teachers could develop this vital professional knowledge collectively.”


Afterschool 'Code Clubs' to Teach Kids Programming

[Ian Blackham]

A new project called Code Club has been established to teach young kids how to code through a network of after-school clubs.  Co-founder Clare Sutcliffe explains, “Each club is run by a volunteer who teaches from lesson plans devised by Code Club.  We help the lovely volunteer approach their local school and pitch the idea to the head-teacher.  They then run the club and teach for an hour after school each week.”  Clubs will run for 12 weeks and will be based on MIT’s drag-and-drop Scratch tool (as used on the OU’s TU100 module).  The project aims to have a code club in a quarter of the UK's primary schools by 2014.


Olympic Ban on Ticket Holders Sharing Video


Welcome to London 2012: “Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a Ticket Holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes and a Ticket Holder may not license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet more generally, and may not exploit images, video and/or sound recordings for commercial purposes under any circumstances, whether on the internet or otherwise, or make them available to third parties for commercial purposes.”  Bah.




And Finally…

[BPS; Lara Mynors]

If the cap fits…  Researchers writing in Behavioral Ecology found that women regarded men with beards to be higher status, more aggressive, but less attractive.

They also clearly have a handle on emerging technologies.  Witness this Dad who seems to be delighted with his new iPad.

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