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

e-Learning Digest No 113 - Jan 14

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
15 January 2014

UK Conferences & Workshops

If you wish to set your sights further afield, Clayton Wright has recently updated his comprehensive listing of worldwide e-learning conferences.



[RFI; ST Louis Today; Forbes; ALT]

France is investing €20m to develop a MOOC programme: France Université Numérique (FUN).  The first eight courses start this week and around 90,000 people have so far signed up for the 25 courses that are due to start this year.  According to France’s Minister for Higher Education, Geneviève Fioraso, FUN will particularly target Africa because of the, “…very large countries with not very many campuses.  So it is very well adapted to the African culture.  We want to be more connected to the African development via MOOCs."

LaunchCode is a St Louis-based volunteer initiative that provides a way for people of any background to get a job in software development and help fill the current US skills gap.  LaunchCode is taking advantage of an edX MOOC (CS50x, “Introduction to Computer Science”) plus free mentorship and partnerships with over 100 local companies who have agreed to take on inexperienced programmers traditionally screened out by HR recruitment processes. These novice programmers then are given “pair programming” apprenticeships at companies.

ALT’s first MOOC, the Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) attracted 1,200 participants during its 8-week run last year and registration is now open for those interested in the 2014 re-run, likely to start around 1 Apr.

The OpenCulture site lists around 800 MOOCs, although many of these have now come and gone; however, the list starts with 50 or so that are starting in February.  TeachThought improves on this with a longer list of 98, helpfully organised by topic area, and Class Central suggests 150+.

Forbes profiles Simon Nelson, FutureLearn and their relationship with the OU.



[EdSurge; Duke; New Republic; Gill Marshall; Michel Wermelinger]

EdSurge’s Dhawal Shah presents some 2013 MOOC stats, based on data from his Class Central aggregator site.  He shows growth, “from about 100 MOOCs in 2012 to almost 700 starting in 2013…  More than 1200 [2014] courses have been announced so far.”  Coursera is by far the major provider (47%), with FutureLearn coming in alongside Udacity on 2.8%.  Humanities (20%) and computing (16%) top the subject rankings, with engineering (5.1%) bringing up the rear.

Duke was one of the earliest MOOC providers to publish stats a year ago, based on its first two courses.  Kim Manturuk now reflects on life a year down the track and she suggests that the growth has been “nothing short of amazing”.  Duke offered 16 MOOCs during 2013 which attracted over 876,000 enrolments, 595k of whom visited the course website at least once, 443k watched at least one video and 108k attempted the first assessment.  Of these, nearly 30k attempted the final assessment and were therefore deemed to have ‘completed’.  Motivation for enrolment is perhaps surprising, with ‘enjoyment’ being considerably more important than ‘credentials’.

New Republic also considers who’s doing what with MOOCs, based on a U Penn survey of 35,000 MOOCers.  The results are presented as an infographic, highlights of which are:

  • Most MOOC students come from the US (34%) followed by India (5.8%) and Brazil (4%), with the UK in fifth place (3.6%).
  • Around 80% worldwide already have a degree
  • Business, economics and social sciences courses have the highest enrolments (42%) and highest completion rates (7.2%)
  • 54% would not have been willing to pay for their MOOC and a similar number enrolled for ‘fun’ or ‘curiosity’

Aimee Hosler suggests that MOOCs, and they types of people who are often attracted to MOOCs, may open up possibilities for Massive Open Online Research (MOORs) which she describes as, “essentially a MOOC, but with a major emphasis on research”.  She explains some of the thinking behind UCSD’s recent Bioinformatics MOOR which ran during last Oct/Nov which, in addition to standard coursework, also allowed students to work on research projects under the guidance of UCSD’s “prominent bioinformatics scientists” from all across the globe.

MCT’s Michel Wermelinger blogged last year on his early MOOC experiences and he now reflects on a further four MOOCs, ranging from Data Analysis to Write Like Mozart.  He believes there are, “four common core mechanisms (video lectures, discussion forums, mix of short and longer assessment pieces and of automatic and peer marking)” but that, “clear, well-paced lectures are of course key, as they’re the main teaching vehicle.”  Assignments that help turn theory into practice are good motivators, automatically graded quizzes can be too simplistic and peer-assessed larger projects are engaging but can introduce workload peaks.  Differentiated activities good for keener students who want to be challenged and dive deeper, and model solutions are very helpful where tutor support is unavailable.


Commercial News

[Audrey Watters; Campus Technology; edSurge; Pete Mitton]

Apollo Education Group (University of Phoenix, etc) has agreed to buy 70% of Open Colleges Australia, with an option to acquire the remaining 30% in the future.  Open Colleges is one of Australia's oldest and largest providers of distance learning, delivering more than 130 courses to over 700,000 students.

Adaptive learning platform Knewton has generated around $50 million in a funding round led by London venture firm, Atomico.  This will fund international expansion and extend Knewton’s current publishing partners which include Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan and Cambridge University Press.  First up in 2014 is a deal with Cengage Learning that should, “provide personalized learning pathways for students and predictive analytics for instructors”.

Elsevier and University College London are establishing the UCL Big Data Institute, the goal of which is “to explore innovative ways to better serve needs of researchers through the exploration of new technologies and analytics as applied to scholarly content and data.”  The partnership will give UCL access to Elsevier's research data and enterprise-level technology, with the company also funding research and PhD students through the new institute.

InstaEDU – backed by $5.1 million of recent VC funding – provides access to 3,000 virtual tutors on-demand at any hour.  Students can sign in and ask for a specific kind of tutor, which the company delivers via video chat and whiteboard sharing, within minutes.  Students are charged by the minute for their tutoring session at a rate that ranges from $24 to $45 per hour.  80% of current uptake is in STEM subjects.

Off-the-shelf e-learning giant Skillsoft is rumoured to be looking for a buyer with deep pockets.  Estimated price is in the region of $2bn.


Online Completion Rates Close to On-Campus Courses

[Campus Technology]

Completion rates for F2F HE courses are only slightly higher than those for online courses, according to a new report from WCET.  Managing Online Education 2013: Practices in Ensuring Quality found that, when comparing completion rates from respondents representing institutions offering both on-campus and online courses, rates for on-campus courses were just 5% higher.  Among four completely online HEIs surveyed, completion rates averaged 89%, compared to 81% for on-campus courses.


Managing Online Education 2013

[Audrey Watters]

WCET’s latest survey, Managing Online Education 2013: Practices in Ensuring Quality, was most notable in my opinion for the have-nots rather than the haves.  For example:

  • 8% of institutions have no review process for new online courses (p21)
  • 15% of responding institutions did not have any organisational quality standards for curriculum design and teaching of online courses (p9)
  • 16% of institutions had ‘no policy’ on whether their online courses met the needs of students with disabilities (p30).
  • 55% of institutions were not able to provide completion rates for online courses (p17)



[Campus Technology]

Developers at Carnegie Mellon have released two new versions of their Alice drag-and-drop 3D programming environment which allows newbies to create object-oriented animations and simple video games.  Alice 2.4 is intended for students in lower grades (aged 6+) whereas Alice 3.1, is aimed at learners in higher grades and universities.


UNESCO Open Access Repository

[Audrey Watters]

UNESCO has launched an Open Access Repository, making more than 300 on-line books, reports, and articles freely available.  The OAR will operate under a new open licensing system developed by the Creative Commons organization specifically for intergovernmental agencies.


2013 e-Learning Winners and Blaggers

[Audrey Watters; The Ed Techie]

Martin Weller gives a ‘bah humbug’ but entirely accurate perspective on many of 2013’s ed-tech innovations and discoveries.

One of Audrey Watters’ end of year blog postings looked at the whole notion of ‘open’.  Apart from references to Morozov, Aaron Swartz and Martin Weller, she presents a long list of open wins as well as some announcements that she thinks are more akin to ‘openwashing’.


Educated Prisoners 'Less Likely to Reoffend'


A Ministry of Justice study of 3,000 English and Welsh prisoners with access to education showed 19% had reoffended within a year of release, compared with 26% of 3,000 similar inmates without.  Participation in distance learning was found to be the best reduction method.  The sample group included people studying a range of courses from Open University degrees to vocational qualifications.  According to Prisoners' Education Trust chief executive, Rod Clark, “Courses we fund typically cost £250 a piece, which is a minor cost when set against the £37,648 annual cost of a prison place.”


Market Surveys

[TechCrunch; TNW]

Mixpanel analysed US online traffic on Christmas day, reporting that overall activity was up 66% on last year.  Of the 1.2 billion ‘actions’, 90% came from mobile devices and 25% of these were from tablets; 58% of all traffic came from gaming apps.  One interesting pattern to leap out from the data traffic graph was that the US appears to collectively pause for breakfast around 10:00 on Christmas morning.

The latest Pew research report shows that 73% of US adults use some form of social networking.  Facebook is the clear leader, used by 71%, followed by LinkedIn (22%) and Pinterest (21%).  Twitter drops from 3rd to 4th spot this year (18%) followed closely by Instagram (17%).  Frequency of use shows Facebook topping the ‘used daily’ category (63%), whereas the ‘used weekly’ figures show LinkedIn ahead (34%), presumably reflecting the less immediate nature of that site’s content.

The release of Windows 8.1 also brought with it IE11 and this boosted Microsoft’s browser share, with all versions capturing 58% of the worldwide market.  IE11 rose from 3.3% in Nov to 10.4% in Dec, largely at the expense of IE10.  Interestingly, good old IE6 is still hanging in there with a 4.4% user base.  Firefox (all versions) has 18.4% with Chrome slightly behind on 16.2%.

And Gartner predicts that shipments of Android devices will grow by about 26% this year to surpass one billion units in 2014, making it the clear market leader, way ahead of Windows and iOS.


Peeragogy Handbook

[Audrey Watters]

Version 2 of the Peeragogy Handbook, edited by Howard Rheingold, was released as public domain on 1 Jan.  Peeragogy is described as, “a collection of techniques for collaborative learning and collaborative work”, and more than 30 contributors have produced this comprehensive and practical 323-page guide.


Learning 2013 Conference Videos

[Elliott Masie]

Elliott Masie has posted numerous video extracts from last year’s Learning 2013 conference online.  So, if you want to tune in to Martin Bean’s view of life, the OU and FutureLearn, eight short clips are available.

Or you might prefer George Takei on social media and Star Trek…


How Does the UK Population Feel About Degrees?

[Pete Mitton]

The Guardian’s Extreme Learning section includes the interactive results of a Guardian/OU survey of 2,000 adults regarding their experiences of higher education and their attitudes to online study.  The site also offers a range of information, tips and links relating to online learning.


The First Global Portrait of Instructional Designers & Educational Technologists


What does a good Instructional Designer or Educational Technologist look like?  Dr Claude Martel invites you to complete a 15 min survey that will help him describe and define these two roles.



[ICT in Education]

Interesting infographic from Turnitin on the (2011) state of plagiarism in US education.  Some 55% of college presidents believe the problem is on the increase and the most common sources of HE materials are social and content sharing sites such as Yahoo Answers and Scribd (26%), homework and academic sites such as Course Hero and eNotes (22%) and cheat sites and paper mills such as OPPapers and All Free Essays (20%).




And Finally…

[Audrey Watters; TNW]

A poster on Craigslist in Pittsburgh is looking to pay someone $40k for someone to attend Harvard in his place.

“You must have either a 4.0 GPA in high school, or a 3.5 or higher GPA from a university to get hired for this.

Your age does not matter, but you must be a male since I have a male name.

I am looking for someone to attend Harvard University pretending to be me for four years, starting August 2014. I will pay for your tuition, books, housing, transportation, and living expenses and pay $40,000 a year with a $10,000 bonus after graduation. All you have to do is attend all classes, pass all tests, and finish all assigned work, while pretending you are me.

You do not need to worry about being accepted, I have already taken care of that.”

But if that all sounds a bit too much for you, perhaps you’d like an app that can show you what you’d look like with a different hair style?


Extra content

Embedded Content


Contribute to the discussion

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