The web-site is now in readonly mode. Login and registration are disabled. (28 June 2019)

e-Learning Digest No 102 - Feb 13

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
14 February 2013

UK Conferences & Workshops


Commercial News

[TechCrunch; Campus Technology; University World News; Wired Campus]

Elsevier is reported to be in advanced talks to buy Mendeley – a London/New York-based provider of a platform for academics to share research and collaborate with each other via a social network – in a deal likely to be in the region of $100 million. began life in 1995, offering video-based education packages and, unlike some of the more recent ‘free’ providers, it has managed to expand without commercial investment.  The site currently offers around 83,000 videos and generated $100m in revenue in 2012.  However, in a change of strategy, it has now recruited some blue chip senior execs and has just raised $103m in growth equity from Accel Partners and Spectrum Equity. 

Online tutoring company has been bought by IAC, the organization that owns,,, Newsweek and Vimeo.  The tutoring company was founded in 1998 and currently claims to have 2,500 “screened and qualified tutors” who deliver one-to-one sessions to students, mainly in US K-12 and colleges.

The World Bank has invested $150m in Laureate Education Inc.  The global higher education company currently educates more than 750,000 students in 29 countries through its network of more than 65 Laureate International Universities.  The World Bank investment will give it less than a 5% stake in the company.

McGraw-Hill has acquired a 20% in Denmark-based Area9, a company that supplies adaptive learning technology to several McGraw-Hill products, including LearnSmart – a program designed to help students study more effectively by testing their knowledge and pinpointing where they need additional help – and the recently launched adaptive e-book.

Desire2Learn has acquired Degree Compass and so now owns software which can use an algorithm based on each student’s transcript, combined with thousands of past grades and standardized-test scores, to generate individualized future course suggestions.




The Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC) was an alliance of states, districts, non-profits, foundations and companies that share the vision of “accelerating student achievement through personalized learning.”  However, backed by $100m from The Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation and others, plus support from News Corp and Governor Jeb Bush, SLC has now reinvented itself into inBloom, with the aim of transforming education through big data.  Twenty one education technology companies and nine US states (representing over 11m students) are already on board.


UK Overseas Students Drop From India but Rise from Romania

[University World News; THE]

The numbers of students registering with UK HEIs from India fell by 24% compared to 2010-11, according to figures from HESA.  Numbers from Pakistan were also down by 13%, whilst those from China rose by almost 17%.  From within Europe, registrations from Poland were down by 14% but those from Romania increased by 28%.

A joint initiative between DBIS and UKTI has established Education UK – a new agency tasked with supporting the expansion of education exports, including international student recruitment.  Ministers believe the UK’s education sector has the potential to make a significant contribution to growth; education exports are currently worth more than £14bn a year, potentially rising to £21.5bn by 2020, and to £27bn by 2025.

UK universities spent 22.4% more on marketing in 2011/12 – an average spend per institution of £455,461 – and yet suffered a 7.4% fall in applications.


OU is a “Game Changer in Online Learning”

[Anna Comas-Quinn]

Canada’s Contact North has identified the OU as a ‘game changer in online learning’, headlining us as “Massive. High Quality. Open. Affordable. Accredited.” in their ten-page overview PDF.


MOOC Updates

[Wired Campus; Greg Bayes-Brown; George Siemens; Donald Clark; Stephen Downes; TechCrunch; NY Times; Giles Clark; Matthew Moran; Lara Mynors]

With so much MOOC news around, here’s a more-breadth-than-depth summary…

Georgia State University is adopting a new policy that could allow students to receive credit for taking MOOCs.  They will be able to work the Admissions Office and academic departments and, if they can demonstrate ‘mastery of the material learned in the MOOC’, then credit will be granted at no additional cost.

Canvas Network is a new MOOC provider, offering materials running in the Cisco-backed Instructure LMS.  This allows universities and faculty members to run MOOCs without having to join an existing provider, thus giving them greater control over, or at least access to, data as well as helping to develop faculty competence with technology and distributed networked courses.  One other benefit is that, by using Instructure’s LMS, the provider already has a user base of 4.5m students and 300+ institutions to tap into.

MOOC dropout rates seem to be causing concern.  “I am personally troubled by the 90% dropout rate,” Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun said.  “The students signing up are highly motivated – and MOOCs will only succeed if they make normally motivated students successful.”  However, about half of these drop out at or before the beginning of the course.  But Donald Clark suggests that ‘dropout’ is a pejorative term and that we should consider “uptake, not dropout”.  He believes, “MOOCs encourage the ‘look see’ approach to learning … MOOCs are NOT school … MOOCs, like BOOKs, need to be seen as widely available opportunities, not compulsory attendance schooling.  They need to be encouraged, not disparaged.”

Stephen Downes considers what makes a MOOC massive?  He concludes that, subject to how the MOOC is structured, ‘massive’ all comes down to Dunbar’s Number, a suggested limit (of about 150) to the number of people that one person can maintain stable social relationships with.  He believes that, above this, a course will, “resist groupish properties (such as an emphasis on sameness rather than diversity)”.

Cal State University has announced a pilot for $150 lower-division online courses at its San Jose campus.  The remedial and introductory courses will involve students watching videos and taking interactive quizzes from Udacity.  Gov Jerry Brown is enthusiastic, but author and educator Gregory Ferenstein believes it will spell, “the end of higher education as we know it.”

You can’t beat a good old technological plane crash for cheering people up.  The web has been full of news about the demise of Coursera/Georgia Tech’s Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application MOOC, just one week into its run due to a number of technical difficulties, including wildly overambitious of Google Docs for collaborative working.  Its 40,000 students are angry, bloggers and the media have sniggered over the irony of the course title and Georgia Tech is probably a little embarrassed, even though they claim things will be up and running, “in a matter of days.” 

A group US public universities is launching MOOC2Degree – a programme that will allow students anywhere in the world to take an online course free.  Then, if a student enrols for a degree at the host university, it will count the credit hours earned in the MOOC without charging the student.  The win:win is that MOOC2Degree gives students a risk-free way to try out a course before committing to it and gives universities a risk-free way to try out students before admitting them.

According to the Observatory on Borderless Education, MOOCs will swiftly move from free online courses to fee-charging, credit-bearing programmes.  Their new report states that MOOCs have already become “inseparable from the questions of strategic positioning and money: investments, revenues, jobs”.  And finally, Andrew Spinner offers a SWOT analysis of MOOCs.


Turnitin SEER

[Campus Technology]

Turnitin’s new Source Educational Evaluation Rubric (SEER) is an evaluation tool designed to help writing students determine the academic quality of the Internet sources cited in their research papers.  The rubric identifies and provides ratings for more than 300 sources based on authority, educational value, intent, originality, and quality.



[Campus Technology; Stephen Downes]

Kno – best known for its catalogue of 200,000 e-Books from 80+ publishers – has debuted Kno Advance, a new platform that can convert PDFs and other flat document files into interactive electronic textbooks at no cost.  Advance will comprise three individual components: Kno Ingest allows for the high-volume conversion of flat files into interactive books; Kno Book Enhancer, provides tools (e.g. 3D objects, AV, simulations) for publishers both to enhance their books' existing functionality and to update materials when new information becomes available; and Kno Assessment allows publishers to make exercises, quizzes, and end-of-chapter review materials interactive.

Boundless, the company that builds on existing OERs to provide free alternatives to costly college textbooks, has released 18 open textbooks under a Creative Commons licence that allows users to share and remix content.  The 18 books cover subjects, such as accounting, biology, chemistry, sociology, and economics, and they include features such as smart notes, search, flashcards and quizzes.  Boundless reports that students at more than half of US colleges have already used its resources.

According to the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)’s ongoing study of Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education, only about 6% of US students are using a “core digital textbook” as their main course material, although more than 37% of students specified they had used a tablet to read digital textbooks (up from 26% in 2011) whilst those using laptops fell from 82% to 72%.  Students’ preference for print over digital dropped from 72% to 60% and preference for online homework systems rose from 9% to 14%.  However, only 26% declared themselves “very satisfied” with digital texts. 


NMC Horizon Report

[Campus Technology; Zite; eLearning Learning]

The 2013 NMC Horizon Report has just been released by the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative.  The most immediate trends identified in the report - those whose impact will be felt in a significant way within a year at most - were MOOCs and tablet computing.  According to the report, "The term 'massively open online course' was hardly a thought bubble during the discussions for the NMC Horizon Report 2012”.  Longer term, wearable gadgets, gamification, and learning analytics are three of six technologies that will have a major impact on strategic technology planning in higher education in the next five years.

Harvard Business Review reports on a recent conference forum where eight brilliant minds, including Bill Gates, Sebastian Thrun, Daphne Koller and Jimmy Wales, spoke the future of online education.  Eric Hellweg summarises the key points.

And Ryan Tracey presents an assessment of e-Learning in Australia, based on a combination of the Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index, the 2012 Yellow Social Media Report and NMC’s Technology Outlook for Australian Tertiary Education 2012-2017.


Quality Assessment for e-Learning: a Benchmarking Approach


Despite the growth in e-learning, it is often still not included in the quality assurance systems of many HEIs.  To address this need, the E-xcellence Next consortium, led by EADTU, has published an updated version of its manual, Quality assessment for e-learning: a benchmarking approach.


The Unwritten Rules of Facebook

[BPS; HubSpot]

Facebook now has over 1bn users, but what unwritten codes of netiquette do they follow?  Bryant and Marmo (2012) conducted 6 focus groups with 44 students (aged 19 to 24), from which 36 basic rules emerged.  These were then shown to 593 more participants (aged 18 to 52), whose endorsement (or otherwise) narrowed the list down to 13 rules of usage.  These included:

  • I should expect a response from this person if I post on his/her profile.
  • I should NOT say anything disrespectful about this person on Facebook.
  • I should consider how a post might negatively impact this person's relationships.
  • I should protect this person's image when I post on his/her profile.
  • I should present myself positively but honestly to this person.

And if you’re considering conducting some marketing via Facebook, HubSpot has compiled a free e-Book containing 47 stats, charts and graphs on Facebook to help you determine the best strategy.


59% of All Android Tablet Usage Comes From the US


According to new research from Localytics, 59% of all Android tablet usage comes from the US, and a third of that 59% are Kindle Fires.  Amazon is notoriously secretive about Kindle sales figures, but Localytics’ Daniel Ruby believes that 89% of Kindle Fires, “live in America, with most of the rest in Great Britain”.

And data from Strategy Analytics suggests that 152m Android smartphones were shipped globally in Q4 last year, nearly double the amount shipped a year previously – taking Android’s global smartphone share up from 51% to 70% at the end of 2012.  A total of 700m smartphones were shipped globally in 2012.

Gartner predicts that this year, mobile advertising will collectively bring in $11.4bn in revenues, a rise of 19% on 2012′s $9.7bn.  The analyst expects a further 400% growth between now and 2016, mostly funded by declines in other channels such as newspapers and magazines.  Another interesting snippet from Gartner is that an estimated one in every five smartphone owners never uses their device for anything other than basic voice and text.


PCs Sales Decline as Windows 8 Fails to Drive Demand

[Campus Technology; The Register]

According to the latest IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, PC shipments worldwide dropped 6.4% to 89.8m units in the fourth quarter of 2012 – worse than IDC’s previous forecast of -4.4%.  The steeper drop was due in part to the failure of Windows 8 to help bolster the market as desktops and laptops took take a back seat to tablets and smart phones.  HP led PC sales figures, followed by Lenovo and Dell.

The Register’s Neil McAllister offers 7 reasons why Windows RT was ‘dead on arrival’ – RT being the light version of Win 8 designed to work on tablets with ARM processors.  He believes the Surface tablet is good, and that the Intel based versions (running full Win 8) will be winners, but that RT was, “neither fish nor fowl, one that falls somewhere between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 – but with the advantages of neither.”

However, Microsoft is blaming PC makers for underwhelming Windows 8 sales over Christmas, accusing manufacturers of not building enough attractive Win 8-powered touchscreen tablets.


Open Educational Resources

[Stephen Downes; Tony Bates; Slashdot; Zite; The Guardian]

The Commonwealth of Learning’s new report, Open Educational Resources: An Asian Perspective, brings together ten country reports and ten case studies on OER in the Asian region that highlight typical situations in each context.  While interest in and the production, distribution and use of OER are still very much in the early stages of development in most parts of Asia, OER’s potential value to improve the quality of curriculum, content and instruction, facilitate academic collaboration and enhance access to resources is considerable.

The UNESCO OER project recently hosted an online discussion to consider the feasibility of a global 'map' on open educational resources, with OER projects ‘pinned’ on the map.  This report summarises that discussion.

Open Praxis is the journal of the International Council for Open and Distance Education.  Vol 5, No 1 is a special edition that aims to ‘contribute to the reflection and analysis on the concept of openness and its growth and use in higher education.’  In other words, which aspects of education does openness refer to, what are the main challenges in achieving it, what major changes can result and what evidence of success is there?

Mathematicians plan to launch a series of free open-access journals that will host their peer-reviewed articles.  The Episciences Project was announced by Cambridge mathematician, Tim Gowers, and hopes to show that researchers can organize the peer review and publication of their work at minimal cost, without involving commercial publishers.  “We want to offer an alternative to traditional mathematics journals,” says Jean-Pierre Demailly, a mathematician at the University of Grenoble who is a leader in the effort.  Backed by funding from the French government, the initiative may launch as early as April.

About 6,500 newly digitised objects from UCL and Reading’s museum collections are now openly accessible to students, teachers and the public at large, thanks to funding from JISC.  The objects include rare Ancient Egyptian artefacts brought to life in twenty-first-century 3D; digital images of zoological specimens in glass jars, strange and beautiful anatomical prints, sixteenth-century portraits, and intriguing nineteenth-century scientific gadgets.

Mike Taylor writes in The Guardian that hiding your research behind a paywall is immoral: “If you are a scientist, your job is to bring new knowledge into the world.  And if you bring new knowledge into the world, it's immoral to hide it.”  And what a lot of comments that generated.


MIT Game Lab Releases ‘A Slower Speed of Light’

[e-Learning Guild; Audrey Watters]

The MIT Game Lab has released A Slower Speed of Light, a game that illustrates some conceptually challenging physics and maths.  It is a first-person game in which players navigate a 3-D space while picking up orbs that reduce the speed of light in increments.  As the player’s walking speed approaches the speed of light, visual effects of special relativity (e.g. Doppler, Time dilation and Lorentz transformation) gradually become apparent to the player, increasing the challenge of gameplay.  Players can choose to share their mastery and experience of the game through Twitter.

MIT has also just released a Ver 2.0 beta of its popular Scratch drag-and-drop programming tool.




And Finally…

[Lara Mynors; The Telegraph]

A programmer in the US ‘outsourced’ his job to China at one fifth the cost of his six-figure salary and then spent his workdays surfing the web, watching cat videos on YouTube and browsing Reddit and eBay. 

Forgotten Valentine’s Day?  The National Trust has been investigating whether technology is killing romance (no, I don’t know either).  Of 2,558 people polled, 62% had never sent a love letter and only one in five had ever written a love poem – but 69% had texted “I love you”, or various abbreviations of that message.


Extra content

Embedded Content


Contribute to the discussion

Please log in to post a comment. Register here if you haven't signed up yet.