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e-Learning Digest No 101 - Jan 13

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
15 January 2013

UK Conferences & Workshops 


Pearson Invests $89m in NOOK Media

[Education Week; ASTD; Audrey Watters]

Pearson has announced that it will invest $89 million in NOOK Media, Barnes & Noble's e-reader subsidiary.  The transaction will effectively give Pearson control of 5% of NOOK Media, with the option of purchasing an additional 5% at a later date.  Microsoft already owns about 17% of NOOK from an earlier deal.

Deloitte has acquired Bersin & Associates, a US provider of research and advisory services in the HR, talent, education and e-learning market.

And Apollo’s (University of Phoenix) first-quarter earnings fell to $133.5m (-11%) as new enrolments declined for a third straight quarter.


MOOCs … Show Me the Money

[Giles Clark; Stephen Downes; TechCrunch; Wired Campus; Campus Technology]

The New York Times discusses MOOCs and wonders if and when contributing institutions will see a return on their investment.  “We’ll make money when Coursera makes money,” said Peter Lange, provost of Duke University.  “I don’t think it will be too long down the road.  We don’t want to make the mistake the newspaper industry did, of giving our product away free online for too long.”  The University of Pennsylvania has so far produced 16 Coursera courses and law professor, Edward Rock, said each one costs about $50k to create, the biggest expenses being the videography and paying the teaching assistants who monitor the discussion forum.  Under Coursera’s contracts, the company gets most of the revenue, with universities keeping around 6-15% of the revenue, and 20% of gross profits.  The contracts describe several monetizing possibilities, including charging for extras like manual grading or tutoring.

Tucker Balch has just finished teaching a Coursera MOOC entitled Computational Investing, Part I.  He discusses how it went, and why, but the headline figures are as follows:

  • Signed up: 53,205
  • Watched a video: 53% of those who enrolled
  • Took a quiz: 26% of those who enrolled
  • Submitted first homework: 12% of those who enrolled
  • Completed the course:
  • 4.8% of those who enrolled
  • 18% of those who took a quiz.
  • 39% of those who submitted the first project.

He draws the obvious conclusion that the more effort students invest, the higher the completion rate, also noting, “A click through rate of 5% for a Google ad is considered a strong success. Convincing 5% to engage intellectually for 8 weeks is, I think, a big deal.”

Coursera’s latest inroad into filthy capitalism is called Signature Track and it involves the introduction of ‘verified certificates’.  For a fee of around $30, Coursera will analyse each user’s pattern and rhythm of typing, creating ‘keystroke biometrics’ that will help to prove it really was you that took that course.

e-Cornell is offering a MOOC on Marketing the Hospitality Brand as part of its hospitality program that starts this week, but the initiative is designed to steer students toward a $1,200 certified course.  Students who finish the self-paced course, which is expected to take most of them about one month, will receive letters of completion and can enrol in the second part of the course, which will take about three months.  Successful completion will earn them a Cornell certificate at a lower cost than the ‘traditional’ $3,300 version.

edX has opened registrations for its Spring intake.  New offerings range from Global Poverty to Quantum Mechanics, and Harvard will be piloting a new course on copyright, but with an intake capped at 500 places.  “EdX is both revolutionizing and democratizing education,” said its President, Anant Agarwal, without a hint of bias.


Part-Time Student Numbers Fall at UK Universities


The number of part-time undergraduates enrolled at UK universities in 2011-12 dropped by 8% compared to the year before.  The decrease in postgraduate students was greater, at 14%.  However, data from HESA showed overall student numbers at UK universities remained stable at just under two and a half million.  This is because of a bulge in the number of full-time students applying for undergraduate degree courses before the raising of fees to up to £9,000 in 2012-13.


How Do Millennials Like to Read the News?

[Stephen Downes]

Some interesting new research from Pew Internet reveals that, in terms of online news consumption, there is very little differences between the wrinklies and the young guns.  Some 58% of those under 50, and 60% of Millennials, prefer a “print-like experience” over tech features like audio, video, and complex graphics.  That preference toward plain text “tends to hold up across age, gender and other groups [...] Those under 40 prefer the print-like experience to the same degree as those 40 and over.”  Stephen Downes thinks it’s all a matter of controllability: “You can't really skim a video. You can't watch a video backwards the way you can read an article bottom-up.  The only way to browse a video is to use text-based chapter headings.  It's not that readers are traditionalists.  It's that they like control.”

A recent paper in the Canadian Journal of Learning & Technology considers the major principles of the digital native theory of technological adaptation.  An analysis of literature reveals that the matter is more subtle than simply considering, “monolithic characterizations of native and immigrant generations”.  The author suggests a more useful alternative might be that suggested by Kennedy, Judd, Dalgarno & Waycott (2010), based on four distinct types of technology users: “power users (14% of sample), ordinary users (27%), irregular users (14%) and basic users (45%)”.


Open Source Options for Education

[Will Woods; University World News; The Guardian]

OSS Watch has produced an interesting (draft) document in response to UK Cabinet Office briefing paper on open source options for higher education.  Solutions are listed by category, together with comments and examples of actual usage.  Contributors are invited to contact OSS Watch with any suggested amendments or additions.

The Australian Research Council introduced a new, open access policy from 1 Jan that means the results of all the research it backs must be deposited in an ‘open access institutional repository’ within 12 months of the date of publication in a journal.

And the Guardian asks, where are UK university websites hiding all their research?


Open Learning Recognition

[Stephen Downes]

A substantial new report from EFQUEL, Open Learning Recognition: Taking Open Educational Resources a Step Further, is based on work conducted by a consortium of European universities to develop, “a set of supporting tools and guidelines for assessment, recognition and portability of credit based on OER.  In particular, [the] team of researchers developed a proposal for a ‘learning passport’.”  The report addresses four key topics: assessment methods; requirements and standards of resources; credentialisation, certification and recognition and inter-institutional collaboration.


Towards Maturity Benchmark 2012 Report

[Laura Overton]

Towards Maturity’s latest benchmark report, Bridging the gap: integrating learning and work, was launched before Christmas.  Based on responses from 466 organisations representing well over 2m UK employees, the study examines the impact of learning technologies on organisational learning and development, and reports a number of claimed benefits.


KPCB Internet Trends Year-End Update

[Pete Mitton; Tony Bates]

Mary Meeker has once again assembled her annual internet trends year-end update, based on a collation of data from various sources.  Her presentation comprises 88 slides and there’s so much information there that it’s difficult to give a succinct summary here – but I’d strongly encourage you to skim through.

Looking forward to the coming year, I’m not always a big fan of annual predictions by pundits, but Tony Bates has been around for a while and he makes many apposite comments.  For example, he sees 2013 as the year when MOOCs slide from Gartner’s peak of inflated expectations down into the trough of disillusionment.  Although he doesn’t mention the OU or Futurelearn, he does refer in general to institutions/departments, “…many of whom for survival have relied on income from fees for their mainly non-credit courses. MOOCs will not destroy that market but will cause a lot of financial problems for these departments, especially where they have been offering non-credit online courses at a high fee.  The response I think will be for many universities to charge a small fee for participation, and a larger fee for assessment, which will have a dramatic downward impact on numbers enrolling for MOOCs.”


Smartphone, Tablet and Broadband Penetration Grow


Four European counties now have smartphone penetration in excess of 50% of devices, according to comScore’s MobiLens research.  The UK is in second place at 62.3%, just behind Spain and, while Apple has continued to hold its lead in the UK (28%), Samsung has grown more strongly and now sits at 24%.  However, all Android platforms combined makes that the dominant OS at 47%; Blackberry and Symbian continue to fall and Windows manages just a 3% share, as of Oct 12.

Research from the Eurostat shows that 72% of EU homes now have broadband connectivity (up from 30% in 2006).  Sweden tops the board of the EU27 nations at 91%, the UK is at 80%, but based on figures that are a year older, and Romania brings up the rear on 50%.  When it comes to online activities, the range is broader; for example 91% of Norwegians use online banking compared with only 7% of Bulgarians.  The most popular European online activity is reading the news (62%).

According to Pew’s ongoing Internet & American Life survey, 25% of respondents now owns a tablet; while e-reader ownership is at 19% (Nov 12).  One in every three Americans owns one or both of these devices – a more than twofold rise in the past 12 months – although the percentage that said they read printed books is still a fairly healthy 67%, down from 72% a year ago.

Forrester Research reports a healthy market for Apple, with forecast desktop/tablet sales of around $40bn during 2013 and 2014.  However, the most curious aspect of their report is why Forrester has chosen to combine Linux PCs and Android tablets into a single category.


CES Roundup

[TechCrunch; BBC; Audrey Watters]

This year’s CES was held last week in Las Vegas.  Latest gizmos you can’t possibly live without include…


US Education Dept Offers Tools for Evaluating Ed Tech

The US Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology has released a draft report, Expanding Evidence Approaches for Learning in a Digital World, designed to offer the education community some guidance for navigating the crowded tech landscape.  It includes a ‘framework’ to help educators and others evaluate the uses of education technology.


Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States

[Tony Bates]

The Babson Research Group is celebrating its 10th annual survey of online education in the US.  This latest report finds that 6.7m US students are now taking at least one course online, up by 570,000 from last year.  Some 77% of academic leaders now rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face, although 45% believe it takes more faculty time and effort to teach an online course than a face-to-face course.  As for MOOCs, only 2.6% of HEIs currently have one, with a further 9.4% making plans.


McGraw-Hill's Adaptive eBooks

[Matthew Moran; Campus Technology]

McGraw-Hill has unveiled the SmartBook, an adaptive eBook that adjusts the reading experience to each student’s pace and mastery level.  Instead of asking students to read the book thoroughly from start to finish, it coaches them on how to read the material and quizzes them on various concepts as they move through each section.  Depending on their responses, they’re guided along to different highlighted passages.  The program is built on the 12 billion data points on student learning collected from McGraw-Hill’s ‘LearnSmart’ adaptive learning platform.  SmartBooks will run on computers and tablets and they should be available, starting at $19.99, for about 90 courses later this Spring.

Similar but different, Kno has launched Kno Me - a personal study dashboard that helps students monitor their progress as they read.  The dashboard allows students to view real time stats on their study behaviour, time management, interaction levels and progress. Users can then share these results with peers or follow the engagement levels of their peers.


200 Utah Teachers Attend Gun Training

[Digital Journal]

For those of you who thought the solution to the recent US school shootings might be to curb gun ownership … shame on you for your naïve and liberal views.  Gun rights advocates in Utah have now provided six hours of gun training for 200 state educators, saying the only way to protect children from a school shooter is to make sure teachers can shoot back.  The National Rifle Association agrees: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”, claims Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president.




And Finally…

[Pete Mitton; BBC]

Still got some Christmas spending money left?  Be sure to invest in Bretford Manufacturing’s new Motiv High Back Sofa, “designed for comfort, privacy, and power support in casual learning environments.”

And while you’re there, you can contemplate whether the values of the letters in Scrabble should be changed to reflect modern language usage.  The original values were assigned according to the front page of a US newspaper in the 1930s.  But should a Z really be reduced from 10 points to 6?  Sacrilege.

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