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e-Learning Digest No 108 - Aug 13

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
14 August 2013

UK Conferences & Workshops


Commercial News

[BBC; Audrey Watters; TechCrunch]

BPP College of Professional Studies, which offers courses in business, law, finance and tax accountancy, has been granted university status by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – the second such conferment after The College of Law became the University of Law at the end of last year.  Based in London, but with branches nationwide, BPP University currently charges tuition fees of around £5,000 per year for a three-year degree.

Kaplan has acquired the assets of Grockit, the education technology start-up that offers test-prep services via online social learning games.  As a result of the acquisition, Grockit will rebrand to become Learnist, shifting their attention to the company’s Pinterest-like, app-based approach to socialized learning using lessons created from curated content around the Web.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has bought the Washington Post for $250m, but the WP Company will retain its ownership of Kaplan as well as its investment in ed-tech community, Edsurge.

Pearson has made a $8.5m strategic investment in Voxy, the English language learning platform.  Voxy uses gaming mechanics to help users to learn English by generating personalised lessons from real world content and social media.  It currently has more than 2.5m users worldwide and Voxy has been rated the number one education iTunes app in 23 countries.

Twitter has acquired Marakana, an open-source technical training company and, in turn, Marakana will be the force behind a new effort called Twitter University which will aim to further develop the company’s in-house technical staff.



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

California Senator Darrell Steinberg’s bill aimed at getting state colleges to award credit for MOOCs and other offerings from non-university providers has been shelved for at least a year.  Faculty unions strongly opposed the bill and Sen Steinberg changed his mind after the three public systems in California, including California State University, moved to expand their online offerings.

However, San Jose State University is suspending five Udacity MOOCs it introduced in April after more than half of the students enrolled failed the final exams, although it will continue to offer online courses developed with edX.  The Udacity MOOCs were all basic and introductory courses in statistics, algebra, maths, programming and psychology and were seen as a way of helping to ease California’s education crisis, where currently only 16% of state university students graduate within four years.  Phil Hill gives an informative analysis of some of the available data and commentary.

Coursera has announced partnership deals with the University of New South Wales, University of Western Australia and the University of Alberta.  The latter will offer DINO 101, a MOOC on Dinosaur Paleobiology, in which: “Students will also get a chance to discover brand new interactive features on Coursera, including a 3D fossil file of actual scanned dino bones that can be manipulate on screen, a bone puzzle, and a ‘history of time’ tool that visualizes the species that roamed the Earth at various periods.”

SAP has just run its first pilot MOOC for IT professionals.  Out of 40,000 enrolments, nearly 16,000 learners actively participated, submitting 70,000 assignments and resulting in 9,400 records of achievement being awarded.  A further MOOC, “Mobile Solution Development for the Enterprise” will now start on 9 Sep, running for 6 weeks and requiring approx 6 hours of study time per week.

FutureLearn will unveil its beta course offerings in mid-Sep, with the first of these going live the following month.  Potential learners from over 150 countries have so far registered their interest on the FL site.

A four-week Moodle MOOC will run next month, facilitated by Mary Cooch and designed mainly for those new to Moodle.  Participation will help lead towards a Moodle Course Creator Certificate.

If you want to track the growth of MOOC providers, MOOC Map is an interactive map that shows the geographical spread of MOOCs from CanvasNet, Coursera, CourseSites, edX, FutureLearn and Open2Study since April 2012.

Campus Technology Magazine devotes its August issue to What Do Massive Open Online Courses Mean for the Future of Higher Education?


The Anti-MOOC Business Model

[The Chronicle of Higher Education]

Oplerno is an anti-MOOC, aiming to run 12-week courses that can start at any point during the year, but with small classes of 25 to 30, rather than one instructor teaching thousands.  “People have to learn from people,” says CEO Robert Skiff. “There has to be a relationship between the student and the teacher.”  Oplerno is seeking to attract experienced professionals as faculty members who will be expected to develop their own courses, for which they will own the intellectual-property rights.  An estimated 80-90% of the fees will go directly to the people teaching the courses because, at the moment, there are “phenomenal professors making poverty wages”, says Mr Skiff.  “That’s a misallocation of capital”.


MOOC Analysis

[Campus Technology]

A report from analysts Qualtrics finds that course topic is the biggest motivating factor for participants in MOOCs and the quality of the learning experience is the main reason they complete the courses or quit early.  Findings include:

  • 35% of respondents told researchers that course topic was their main motivator in taking a MOOC and 24% were motivated by personal or professional development
  • Of those who did not complete, 29% quit because the learning experience wasn't what they expected; a further 29% were too busy to finish and 10% cited a lack of incentive
  • Around two-thirds said they'd be more likely to complete if they would receive a certificate or transferable college credit for doing so
  • 60% said they expected at the beginning of a MOOC to participate in course discussions, but 72% actually did so; 24% of those who completed were ‘highly engaged’ in course discussions
  • 77% of those surveyed held a bachelor's degree or higher and 42% were educators


How Long Does it Take to Teach Online?

[Stephen Downes]

Recent research into the activities of 80 full-time teachers of online courses was conducted by Grand Canyon University.  Each teacher simultaneously supported four undergraduate courses but had no research obligations.  Their 40 hr week typically expanded to 44.2 hrs and was spent on the following main activities:

  • 36.9% grading papers and assignments
  • 17.7% facilitating online discussions
  • 15.0% answering phone calls and emails
  • 8.7% grading online discussions
  • 8.6% initiating 121 contact with students
  • 6.7% creating resources

And is it worth it?  A study from Ontario – How Online Learning Affects Productivity, Cost and Quality in Higher Education – suggests that, “for a range of students and learning outcomes, fully online instruction produces learning that is on par with face-to-face instruction.  The students most likely to benefit are those who are academically well prepared and highly motivated to learn independently.  Students who are not well prepared to learn at the postsecondary level or do not devote the necessary time to learning are less likely to benefit from online learning and may in fact do better in a face-to-face setting.”


UK Internet Connectivity Grows


Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that 83% of UK homes are now connected to the internet, up 3% on 2012.  Of the four million homes not connected to the internet, 59% of those surveyed said they simply had no need to be online, 20% said they lacked the necessary computer skills, while another 10% said they could not afford it.  Other highlights: three-quarters of the UK's adults access the web daily; mobile browsing is growing rapidly; and the most active age group online was the 25-34 bracket.


e-Books or Print for Study?

[Wired Campus; Elliott Masie; Audrey Watters; Campus Technology]

Research from CUNY into Student Reading Practices, based on detailed diary logs kept by 17 ‘interested’ undergraduate students, found that they almost always used e-book readers, mobile devices, and tablet computers for non-academic reading but relied on paper printouts for academic reading.  Some who had used e-books said they would not use them again because they found the embedded links distracting and because they could not interact with the content as they could with print texts (e.g. highlighting or taking notes in the margins). Also, because the students found themselves printing out digital texts, whatever money they had saved by buying e-books was largely lost to printing costs.

Interesting to compare this with Masie’s recent pulse survey into e-books for learning, based on responses from 445 professionals, mostly from the commercial sector.  Firstly definitions of e-books varied from iBook/Kindle/Nook (40%), though PDFs (33%) to various other formats and devices including micro websites.  Some 55% of responders were not using or not satisfied with the usage of e-books for learning in their organisation.  When asked why they might use e-books, the most prominent feature (71.6%) was the ability to link to other material – the very thing the CUNY students (above) found distracting.

Coursesmart’s annual survey of digital textbooks and devices suggests that 99% of US students own at least one digital device, with two-thirds using 3 or more devices every day, and 47% saying they check their devices every 10 minutes.  Regarding e-Textbooks:

  • 59% of students are likely to bring a laptop or tablet to class while only 41% prefer to bring a textbook
  • 84% have had a professor recommend the purchase of an e-Textbook
  • 66% of students use e-Textbooks frequently
  • 17% think only eTextbooks will be used in 10 years; 55% predicted that e-Texbook usage would outweigh print; only 7% expected print to remain dominant

Finally, an Educause study, Understanding What Higher Education Needs from E-Textbooks, is based on a pilot programme that delivered McGraw-Hill e-textbooks to over 5,000 students and faculty in 393 undergraduate and graduate courses.  Key findings include:

  • Faculty and students find traditional paper books too expensive and want a less costly alternative
  • They want a choice of platform for reading e-textbooks, including the ability to read textbooks on their smartphone or tablet
  • They need support to help them make the most effective use of the new textbook formats
  • They want the ability to access their e-textbooks offline when not connected to the Internet
  • They still want the option to use paper textbooks


Google Sells e-Textbooks Through Play Store

[Wired Campus]

Google is now offering e-textbooks from Pearson, Wiley, Macmillian, McGraw-Hill and others for rent or purchase in the US through its Google Play store.  Google claims that the e-textbooks could save students “up to 80 percent” off print prices, and could also provide readers with features not available from traditional books, such as search, bookmarking, annotations and highlights.  All purchases will be stored in the cloud, allowing readers to access the material on a variety of devices.


Publishers Challenge Apple e-Book Restrictions


Last month Apple was found guilty of conspiring with publishers to fix the price of e-books bought via iTunes.  Now, HarperCollins, Simon & Shuster and Penguin are among publishers who have filed a complaint against restrictions imposed on Apple by a US court.  The publishers complain that, “The provisions do not impose any limitation on Apple's pricing behaviour at all [...] Rather, under the guise of punishing Apple, they effectively punish [publishers that settled in the case].”


MOOCs Support Educational Opportunities in Rwanda

[University World News]

A project in Rwanda is using MOOCs to try and provide a top-tier education to young Rwandans who were born around the time of the 1994 genocide.  A pilot class began in March using Edinburgh’s ‘Critical Thinking in Global Challenges’, with a dozen students viewing video lectures and attending small seminars and coaching sessions in a Kigali classroom with an on-site teaching fellow.  The second round this autumn will offer 50 slots; there have been 2,696 applications, 600 of whom were invited to take an exam, with 200 making it to a final selection process.


Cetis Relaunch


Cetis relaunched on 1 Aug as the Centre for Educational Technology, Interoperability and Standards.  The ‘new’ Cetis will be working with public and private sector clients to provide expert advice on matters of technology strategy and innovation, and standards and interoperability.


Mobile Device Trends

[Campus Technology]

Another month, another hardware survey.  Latest Q2 figures from IDC show that Apple shipped 14.6 million tablets but saw its market share plummet from 60.3% in same period last year to 32.4%.  In contrast, Samsung increased tablet shipments by 277% to 8.1 million units, more than doubling its market share to 18%.  Moving to smartphones, IDC shows record worldwide shipments of 238m units for Q2 (one new smartphone for every 30 people in the world) – up by 52% from the same period in 2012.  Samsung shipments grew by 44% year-on-year, to 72.4m units, giving it a 30% market share.  Apple shipments also climbed, by 20% to 31m units, resulting in a 13% market share.


Paid Apps On The Decline


App analysts Flurry report a continuing trend towards free apps, with Apple App Store free downloads up from 84% (Apr 12) to 90% (Apr 13).  iPad owners are seen as the most affluent community, followed by iPhone owners.  Android users are seen as having least disposable income and are least likely to pay for their apps, averaging $0.06 per app dowloaded.




And Finally…


Hot on the heels of BPP College gaining university status, NewsBiscuit reports on the UK’s third for-profit university as David Willetts announces that the School of Hard Knocks is about to become the University of Life.


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