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e-Learning Digest No 96 - Aug 12

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
15 August 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.


Pearson Bid for World Domination Continues

[BBC; Tony Hirst; The Telegraph; Audrey Watters]

Pearson is opening the Pearson College and will initially offer a business and enterprise degree course, costing £6500 per year and validated by the University of London.  The course will be taught in London and Manchester and will have about 40 places this year and a further 100 in 2013.  Entry requirements are ABB, plus successful completion of an assessment day.  Pearson wants to provide a degree which teaches practical, hands-on business skills.  “We have a network of blue-chip industry relationships, many of whom are working with us on the design and delivery of our degree programmes,” said the college's managing director Roxanne Stockwell.  An accelerated two-year option will also be available.

The Guardian asks how great an influence over education policymaking can and should a private organisation have?  In addition to running Penguin and the FT, Pearson is the world's largest education firm, with core education publishing through brands of such as Heinemann, Longman and BBC Active, as well as ownership of the Edexcel exam board (purchased in 2003), the largest in the UK by volume of sales.  Apart from secondary school exams, Edexcel has, since 2009, administered the marking of SATS tests for England's 11-year-olds (3.8m tests in 2011).  Pearson also has a major presence in the US, particularly through testing.  Hundreds of parents recently protested outside the firm's NY offices, unhappy at the company's $35m contract to provide controversial high-stakes tests for the city's schools.  The company also reportedly has a five-year contract worth nearly $500m to provide tests for schools in Texas, and sets tests across other states including Florida, Kentucky, Arizona, Virginia and Maryland.  Pearson has also announced plans to invest £10m on running private schools in the developing world.

Some 211,000 books were self-published in 2011, either in print or digital form, and Pearson wants a piece of this action, having just bought Author Solutions from Bertram Capital for $116m.  Formed in 2007, ASI has enabled 150,000 authors to publish, market and distribute more than 190,000 books in print and electronic formats, Pearson said.

Audrey Watters notes that Edmodo has raised $47.5m in three recent rounds of funding.  She thinks that’s a lot for a company offering a free social learning platform but, with 8m registered users, she speculates that they might be ripe for a takeover bid from Pearson.


Coursera and edX Both Expand Memberships

[Adrian Bickers; BBC; Audrey Watters; Tony Hirst, Seb Schmoller]

Twelve more universities, including Johns Hopkins and the University of California, plus Edinburgh in the UK, have joined Coursera to offer free higher education courses online.  Mike Boxall, of PA Consulting, compared the development to the changes that have swept the media and music industry.  “The interesting thing is that it effectively marks the provision of knowledge as a free good, which accords with young people's expectations.  Now you've got the industry saying, we have to protect our offer – that offer is not the key to the library door – they have to provide something around that, the ability to use and interact with that knowledge.”

Meanwhile, MIT and Harvard’s edX has seen the University of California, Berkeley join its ranks.  Berkeley will present two courses this autumn in software and artificial intelligence.  MIT will offer courses in chemistry and computer science and Harvard will run courses in health statistics and computer science.

Audrey Watters considers where this is all going, and the implications for universities that are trying to justify campus and MOOC existences.  Coursera’s Daphne Koller noted that there is a, “growing amount of content out there on the Web ...  the value proposition for the university isn’t getting the content out there but rather the personal interaction between faculty and students and students and students.”  University of Michigan (and Coursera) professor Scott Page says, “There’s talk about how online education’s going to wipe out universities, but a lot of what we do on campus is help people transition from 18 to 22, and that is a complicated thing.”  He suggests MOOCs would be most helpful to “people 22 to 102, international students and smart retired people.”

The Atlantic’s Jordan Weissmann also looks under the bonnet, citing a recent US poll that showed that 58% of professors were more afraid of online learning than excited by it, with two thirds claiming that learning outcomes on the web were inferior to in-person instruction.  He notes that Coursera does not consider itself an alternative to a traditional university. Rather, it's more of a market for learning. Schools that design classes for Coursera retain the rights to their work, meaning it's a risk-free way for them to dip into online education without building the technology infrastructure from scratch.

There’s been no end of coverage and discussion on MOOCs in the past month.  Rather than try and capture it all here, I’ll direct you to OUNL’s Peter B. Sloep’s page which is oozing with MOOC-flavoured news and information.


BBC Worldwide Annual Review


BBC Worldwide’s annual review shows headline sales of £1,085 million, with digital now making up 12.8% of revenue (up from 8.1% last year).  The boost in digital appears to be due to two main growth areas: the growth of apps and video-on-demand.  BBC Worldwide says that it saw 12.5 million app downloads in the last year, including 1m for global iPlayer, whilst cumulative VOD downloads now stand at 31 million.


The Rise of the Multinational University

[University World News; THE]

More than 200 degree-granting international branch campuses of universities are now located in foreign countries.  However, a new report from the University of Sydney Business School says universities are considering transforming the branch campus model into fully fledged multinational universities, with a focus on China because of its scale and rapid development, and Singapore because of its aggressive government policy and high level of development.  Although Australia has only 12 such offshore campuses, it educates more students on them than any other country – almost 28,000 – nearly as many as the UK (about 18,000) and the US (slightly more than 13,000) combined.  The report predicts that, by 2020, the world’s four largest countries in terms of population – China, India, Indonesia and the US – will account for more than half the global population of university-aged young people.

In the UK, there are concerns over the willingness of EU students to repay student loans.  Undergraduates from EU countries outside the UK have access to fee loans but, while UK graduates have repayments automatically deducted from their payslips, the system relies on their EU counterparts providing earnings data upon their return home.  David Willetts has stated that “2,800 or 9 per cent of EU borrowers liable to repay were considered to be in arrears”.  However, Student Loans Company data show another 33% as “not currently repaying - further information being sought”.


Is the US HE Bubble About to Burst?

[Matthew Moran; University World News]

Long-term debt at not-for-profit universities in the US has been growing at 12% a year, according to a new report which examined the finances of 1,692 universities and colleges between 2006 and 2010, finding that one-third were significantly weaker.  The report found that the average cost of college per student has risen by three times the rate of inflation since 1983 – an increase that cannot continue.

In a separate report, senator Tom Harkin questions the value for money offered by the US for-profit sector.  The US feeds $32 bn of taxpayer dollars into an industry that often provides misleading sales pitches, poor quality programs and high dropout rates.  Harkin notes that 30 large companies that own for-profit colleges employed more than 35,000 recruiters, yet had only about 3,500 employees working in career services and 12,400 working in student support.  In 2009, they spent $4.2 bn on marketing but only $3.2 bn on instruction.


Microsoft Gives Office a 2013 Touch-up


Microsoft’s Office 2013 will be designed with mobile devices, cloud computing and social networking in mind.  For the first time, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook are all responsive to taps, swipes, and pinch-and-zoom; files can also be marked up on mobile screens, drawn on, highlighted or annotated with a digital pen, stylus or even a finger.  Links to Skype (recently bought by MS), Facebook, Linkedin and Microsoft’s Skydrive cloud-based storage service are built in.  This news could make the new Surface tablet – at the right price – commercially very attractive as it launches in the run-up to Christmas.


eLearning Surveys

[Pew Internet; Tony Bates; eLearning!]

Pew Internet has just released its 2012 Future of the Internet survey, with report number eight (of eight) looking at the future impact of the Internet on higher education and finding that the “experts” questioned expect more efficient collaborative environments and new grading schemes; they worry about massive online courses and the shift away from on-campus life.  I found the absence of any index/contents made it frustrating read, but Tony Bates obviously persevered and has generated a good analysis of the content.

Ambient Insight’s latest examination of the North American eLearning market predicts a “modest growth rate of 4.4%” from $21.9 bn last year to $27.2 bn by 2016.  The fastest growing products (9% pa) will be cloud-based authoring tools and learning platforms.  North America accounts for 62% of the world market and, according to Chief Research Officer, Sam Adkins, “While the growth rate may seem low compared to the other regions in the world, the revenues are very high.  Additionally, growth rates are much higher in specific buying segments.  For example, the growth rates in the Canadian and US healthcare segments are 16.8% and 12.8%, respectively.” 

A survey of more than 600 US organisations by eLearning! magazine found that enterprise learning and workplace technologies are growing across public and private sectors.  Spending for e-learning is predicted to “soar” in 2012, boosted by an increase in mobile learning, e-learning development and social learning networks.


Is the Academic Publishing Industry on the Verge of Disruption?

[Stephen Downes; University World News]

There have been items in previous digests about universities in the UK and US fighting against increasing subscription fees charged by academic journal publishers.  A detailed article in US News follows up on the letter published by Harvard in April which revealed it was paying $3.75m annually in subscriptions, with a few journals costing upward of $40,000 a year each, noting, “Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years.”  There is now more of a move to self-publishing and open-access (fuelled by the rise of Kindle/iPad) by academics, but about 80% of a journal publisher's subscription revenue still comes from university libraries.  With some commercial publishers generating profit margins of >30%, many have questioned whether taxpayers are simply shelling out money to prop up an extremely profitable industry.

The UK government’s announcement last month that it would require much of the country’s taxpayer-funded research to be open-access from next April has been followed by a similar move from the EU.  This new proposal will open up all the work funded by its Horizon 2020 research programme that will run, at a cost of €80bn, from 2014 to 2020.  The EU is aiming for 60% of all European publicly funded research articles to be open access by 2016.


JISC e-Learning Publications


The JISC e-Learning Programme team has released five new publications on the themes of:

Three of them are supported by additional online resources including videos, podcasts and full length case studies.


Pedagogical Approaches to Using a VLE


As part of her MSc in Learning Technologies, Agnieszka Jankowska, would welcome your participation in a short survey for a project on pedagogical approaches to using a VLE.  Your participation would help assess whether more could be done to incentivise a change of teaching culture in HE to promote quality of teaching in general, and also to endorse the use of technologies to enhance the teaching and learning experience.


Innovating Pedagogy 2012

[Martin Weller]

IET has released the first in a series of reports on new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation.  Innovating Pedagogy 2012 investigates ten innovations in teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world (analytics, badges, MOOCs, etc).  Martin advises, “Think of it as like a Horizon's report with more focus on pedagogy.”


UNESCO Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning

[Tim Seal]

UNESCO has published a series of working papers that seek to better understand how mobile technologies can be used to improve educational access, equity and quality around the world.  The Series is divided into two broad subsets: six papers examine mobile learning initiatives and their policy implications, and six papers examine how mobile technologies can support teachers and improve their practice; each subset also contains a ‘Global Themes’ paper that synthesizes central findings from the five regional papers.


Ofcom: Texting Overtakes Talking in UK

[BBC; TechCrunch]

According to Ofcom’s annual UK communications market report, 58% of people (and 96% of 16 to 24-year-olds) communicated via texts on a daily basis in 2011, whereas only 47% made a daily mobile call.  For the first time, over half (52%) of all call volumes were made from mobile phones.  The report finds that 39% of adults now own a smartphone, 11% own a tablet (which Ofcom describes as a “snacking version” of the home PC) and over half of all UK households now have three or more internet-enabled devices.  Household internet access rose to 80% in Q1 2012 and broadband access stood at 76%.  This may now be approaching a natural ceiling, as one in seven UK adults do not intend to get the internet in the next year; this rises to 33% of people aged 65-74 and two thirds of those aged 75 or over.

Akamai’s Q1 2012 State of the Internet report finds that global average broadband speeds up by around 25%, with the US now averaging 6.7 Mbps.  Germany takes the crown for fastest mobile broadband at 6Mbps.


Smartphone Market Survey

[Campus Technology]

Although iOS may is the dominant operating system in the tablet market, Android reigns supreme amongst smart phones – and its lead is growing.  According to IDC's latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report, shipments of Android-based handsets in Q2 2012 totalled about 104.8 million units, an increase of 107% over Q2 2011, bringing Android's overall market share to 68%.  Samsung was the dominant smart phone manufacturer in Q2 2012, selling 50.2m smart phones, up from 18.4 million in Q2 2011.

Android and iOS combined account for 85% of the smart phone marketplace, making it a clear two-horse race, with Blackberry, Symbian and Windows trailing badly at 4.8%, 4.4% and 3.5% market share respectively.


$88 Netbook Takes-on Tablets


Google’s Nexus tablet is now available, but why pay all that money when they don’t even throw in a keyboard?  Instead, for just $88 (including shipping), you can buy a brand new, shiny, Chinese NowKin 901 – a 7” netbook with an ARM processor, 128MB RAM, 2GB Flash ‘disk’, Windows CE, Wi-Fi, a 2hr battery life and 12 month warranty.  Probably not the best choice playing “Assassin’s Creed”, but if you just want to do some web surfing and emailing on the move, it could be just what you need.




And Finally…

[UserFocus; BBC; ReadWriteWeb; Mashable]

Can you cope with any more Olympics material? 

On the BBC internet blog site, Nick Haley gives a fascinating insight into how the Beeb’s desktop, tablet, mobile and connected TV sites were designed in terms of their features, layout, usability and testing.  The Corporation reports 2m downloads of its Olympic app and 55m worldwide online visits to its sports coverage during the games (and video is apparently remaining live on its Olympic site until January); however, according to ReadWriteWeb’s assessment of Olympic sites, it only gets a bronze, having been pipped at the post by the New York Times and the Guardian.  There are also several good interactive examples on the ElearningExamples site, including an excellent unpicking of a gymnastic vault (NY Times), an analysis of an Olympian’s diet (Telegraph) and an HTML5 ‘could you be a medallist?’ game (Guardian).

Mashable reports that the games generated around 150 million tweets, including one which reunited a man with his lost Olympic ticket, and an infographic from EDF Energy tracked the UK’s twitter mood during each day of the games.


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