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e-Learning Digest No 107 - Jul 13

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
16 July 2013

UK Conferences & Workshops


Commercial News

[Wired Campus; Stephen Downes; Audrey Watters; Wall St Journal]

UK learning technology companies Epic and Redware have announced a partnership which will see the integration of their two mobile learning products – Redsource and GoMo.  Using the GoMo authoring tool, organisations can create multi-device and mobile learning content and then provide distribution and Single Sign-On (SSO) to large, complex networks using Redsource.

McGraw-Hill Education is about to acquire the ALEKS Corporation, a developer of adaptive-learning technology which allows the creation of online textbooks that can analyse students’ reading habits, answers to quizzes and other details, thus allowing the customisation of content presented to each student.

Pearson is launching OpenClass, a K-12-to-HE OER repository which includes a catalogue of over 680,000 items, including YouTube EDU, Khan Academy and TED Ed videos.  The service will also include a collection of complete OER college courses from the Open Course Library. 

Publishers Penguin and Random House have officially merged into one entity known as Penguin Random House, creating “the world's largest publisher of consumer books”, according to The Associated Press.

Cengage Learning has filed for bankruptcy.  The private equity-backed education company, formerly Thomson Learning, owns the college publishing division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Apollo Group Inc (University of Phoenix) has seen third-quarter earnings fall by 40% as fewer students enrolled.  UoP's enrolments fell by 17% to 287,500 students, and new student sign-ups dropped almost 25% to 38,900.

Coursera has just announced receipt of $43m of new funding from various sources including Laureate Education (i.e. the World Bank), bringing total investment to around $65m since last April.  And Schoo – a Tokyo-based MOOC provider – has raised $1.5m in start-up funding.



[Stephen Downes; Campus Technology; Audrey Watters; Wired Campus]

The International Monetary Fund is set to run two courses in financial policy in partnership with the edX.  The courses are aimed initially at government officials, but with plans to make them open to the public next year.

The latest university to report in detail on its MOOC experience is MIT, with this analysis of its March 2012 Circuits and Electronics MOOC - the first offered by MITx/edX.  Almost 155,000 people registered for the course, generating more than 230 million server interactions and 110GB of data as they progressed through lecture videos, tutorials, 12,000 discussion threads and almost 100,000 individual posts.  And if that sounds like a large number, bear in mind that only 3% of all students took part in these discussion threads, although those who earned certificates were much more active: 28% asked a question, 41% answered a question and 36% posted a comment.

In a US survey of 1,042 people interviewed online in May, the majority of respondents said they were familiar with online education, but only 22% said they were familiar with MOOCs and only 4% described themselves as ‘very familiar’.  Not surprisingly, college students were the most likely to have heard of MOOCs, although only 26% said they were a good idea; however, this figure rose to 41% amongst alumni.

Australia’s Deakin University has launched its first MOOC which it will use as a test-bed for redeveloping its full learning environment and to act as a taster designed to promote fee-paying courses.  The 12-week course, Humanitarian Responses to 21st-Century Disasters, is free but students can pay a fee of $495 to be assessed and earn partial credit for acceptance into Deakin’s graduate certificate and master’s programs in international and community development.

Last autumn, Colorado State University announced that it would grant credit to students who passed its Udacity MOOC.  They would pay $89 to take a proctored exam, compared with the $1,050 that CSU charges for its standard course.  But, after almost a year has elapsed, not one student has taken the university up on its offer.

On June 18, Tiffin University, Ohio, and Altius Education (“part university, part technology company”) announced a partnership to deliver Foundations of Success, a $50 credit-bearing course.  On Jun 19, the two organizations announced that the deal was off “due to concerns over accreditation.”

In the best capitalist spirit of openness, News Corp’s education wing, Amplify, is offering MOOC Local: “A complete curriculum, syllabus and all course materials developed and taught by a master high school teacher”.  There's currently a free trial of its Java-based computer science course for the 13/14 school year, after which the M(O)OC will cost $200 per student per year.

HarvardX will offer 11 new courses this autumn, including two that are not quite as open as you might hope.  Courses on “The Architectural Imaginary” and “Copyright” are being designated as SPOCs (small, private online courses).

If you think there’s not much MOOC action happening in Europe, think again.  This PowerPoint from last month’s European MOOC Stakeholders meeting is not the prettiest slide deck you’ll ever see, but it gives a country-by-country view of what’s happening.


Student use of Recorded Lectures

[eLearning Learning]

Recorded lectures: valuable resource for students or the work of the devil?  A meta-study from LSE collates recent research into lecture capture technology in HE and its impact on teaching methods and attendance.  The majority of research papers concluded that, “students liked having access to recorded lectures, and mainly used them to make up for missed lectures, and to review lectures in order to prepare for assessments … Students in most studies also preferred access to live lectures, with most preferring a blended format incorporating lecture recordings, live lectures, course materials and additional classes.”


Advances in Technology Enhanced Learning

[Fridolin Wild]

A new open eBook from staff in KMi, Advances in Technology Enhanced Learning, provides readers with the essence of 10 research projects in Technology Enhanced Learning, ranging from: environments for responsive open learning, work-based reflection, work-based social creativity, serious games and many more.  This interactive and experimental resource discusses innovations which pave the way to open collaboration at scale.  It introduces methodological and technological breakthroughs via twelve chapters for learners, instructors, and decision-makers in schools, universities, and workplaces.


University Applications Rise Despite Drop in Mature Students

[The Guardian]

Figures from UCAS show that 637,500 students applied for a university place this year, compared with 618,250 last year (+3%).  There was a rise in applications from 18-year-olds despite a national decline in that population, but a fall in applicants aged 24 and above, and most notably over-30s.  The highest demand has been for courses in computer sciences (+10%) and biology (+7%).  One in 10 applicants live outside the UK.  The EU supplied 43,000 while 65,000 came from the rest of the world (+6%) despite the imposition of tighter visa restrictions.


Undergraduate Final-Year Projects and Dissertations

[Chris Pegler; THE]

An HEA project has been examining the value and effectiveness undergraduate final year projects and dissertations.  The researchers considered over 70 exemplars from across the world and concluded that there was great value in the traditional dissertation but they felt that, “it does not provide all students with a suitable or beneficial experience.”  They suggest there may be merit in using other methods of assessment such as undergraduate conferences, end-of-year shows, presentations to colleagues, academics and professionals, and preparation of consultancy reports, as well as, or in some cases instead of, a written thesis.

And Tara Brabazon offers 10 dos and don’ts to bear in mind when choosing someone to oversee your doctoral thesis.


Academics Fear Some Universities May Close


A report by PA Consulting has surfaced fears by 60 senior university leaders (around a third of the sector total) that some UK universities may close as a result of political and financial change in the sector.  Some 58% said they were worried by falling demand for undergraduate courses; 90% expressed concerns over declining numbers of postgrad students from the UK and EU, with more than 80% worried by falling international numbers.  “Several” respondents predicted that between 20-30 HEIs could become unviable.


European e-Learning Market to Continue Growth


A report from UK technology company Edxus Group and IBIS Capital reveals strong growth in European consumer-facing e-learning, with nearly threefold investment in this sector year-on-year since 2010; social learning investment has also grown by 224% in this period.  Growth in m-learning is much slower (approx 19%), but with education apps dominating both free and paid for downloads.  Games and simulation-based tools are expected to grow at around 37% pa through to 2020.


North American Mobile Learning Market


The revenues for mobile learning products in North America reached $1.4bn in 2012 according to an Ambient Insight report, The 2012-2017 North America Mobile Learning Market.  With an annual growth rate of 7.6%, this should reach $2.1bn by 2017, giving North America the second-largest revenues for mobile learning after Asia.


OECD Education at a Glance Report

[University World News]

The latest OECD Education at a Glance Report highlights the relationship between educational attainment and employment.  On average across the OECD member countries, the proportion of postsecondary degree holders who were unemployed increased by 1.5 percentage points from 2008 to 2011, to 4.8%, while it increased by 3.8 percentage points for individuals without a secondary degree, to 12.6%.  A 25- to 34-year-old with a tertiary education earns around 40% more than one who has only a secondary education, while a 55- to 64-year-old earns 73% more.  And the top five destinations for international students are the US (17%), followed by the UK (13%) and then Australia, Germany and France (all on 6%).


Device Shipments Up, PC Sales Decline, and Much More Mobile Data


Figures from Gartner show how numbers of IT devices (from PCs to mobile phones) will continue to climb.  In 2013, total shipments will rise by 5.9% to 2.35bn (approx one third Android), and up to 2.5bn (almost half Android) in 2014.  Shipments of traditional PCs are like to be 305m units in 2013, dropping to around 289m in 2014.

Strategy Analytics believe the proliferation of mobile devices is going to translate to a huge increase in wireless data traffic – which is set to rise by some 300% by 2017 to a peak of 21 Exabytes, from just 5 Exabytes in 2012.  Streaming video will be the major contributor to this increase.


Young Texters More Likely To Read Books than Oldies

[Campus Technology]

We tend to assume that our younger generations will be wedded to online reading, but research from Pew Internet presents a different picture – 75% of Americans aged 16 to 29 (and 85% in the 16 to 17 age bracket) reported reading a book in print within the last year versus just 64% of older adults.  Some 65% of young adults have library cards and 58% visited a library in person in the last year; 28% accessed a library web site in the last year and 18% did this using a mobile device.


Microsoft Discounts Surface RT Tablets for Education

[Campus Technologies; ReadWrite]

Microsoft is giving away 10,000 Surface RT tablets for free, and is cutting more than half the price off sales to US schools, colleges and universities until 31 Aug.  Institutions can purchase unlimited quantities of the Surface RT 32 GB model for $199.  MS has also just slashed 30% off standard retail prices in the US.  Altruism, or a warehouse full of unsold stock...? 



  • Heard is an iPad app that (through the use of a buffer) lets you record what you heard 5 mins ago.  [TechCrunch]
  • The Guardian has published UNESCO data showing changes in girls’ access to education.  [Audrey Watters]
  • Google’s 3D Body Browser came and went, but it appears to have been reborn as Zygote Body, offering a fully-explorable 3D body.  [Zite]
  • An international team has completed a ten-year project to create a 1-trillion-byte 3D atlas of cerebral anatomy.  [BPS]
  • Those of you who don’t have enough mobile screen space for a QWERTY keyboard might like to try SnapKeys’ invisible keyboard.  [TechCrunch]
  • Blackboard has announced a new MOOC platform, free to existing customers, based on its CourseSites service.  [Wired Campus]
  • ProExam Vault is an online platform that will issue and store digital badges conforming to Mozilla’s Open Badges Infrastructure.  [Audrey Watters]
  • A federal judge has ruled that Apple is guilty of fixing e-book prices with its so-called agency pricing model.  [TechCrunch]


And Finally…


So here’s the pitch.  The game comprises a scene looking out through a bus windscreen as it proceeds along a dead straight desert road.  There is no other traffic, the bus pulls slightly to the right and the user has to pilot it at 45mph in real time for the eight hour journey from Las Vegas to Phoenix.  Crash and you start again.  Co-created by illusionists Penn and Teller, Desert Bus is yours to own right now for just 69p.


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