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

e-Learning Digest No 116 - Apr 14

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
14 April 2014

UK Conferences & Workshops



[Campus Technology; ALT; Stephen Downes; Tony Bates]

The UK Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is to sponsor Futurelearn’s Discovering Business in Society MOOC, developed by the University of Exeter.  The course launches on 8 Sep and successful participants will receive professional accreditation from ACCA, granting exemption from paper F1 (Accountant in Business) of the ACCA Qualification.

EdX has announced the appointment of Wendy Cebula as its new president and CEO, joining from printers Vistaprint.  Meanwhile Coursera has named Rick Levin as its new CEO, after his 20-year tenure as president of Yale University.

Researchers from Glasgow Caledonian and Harvard have found that MOOCs, “encourage passive learning among professionals” and recommends that “MOOC designers focus on capitalising on the diversity of MOOC participants and professionals are encouraged to link MOOC learning with their everyday work practice”.

The EU has launched Startup Europe in order to help boost web skills throughout the European workforce by increasing the use of MOOCs.

Educause and the University of Central Florida are to collaborate on a five-week MOOC, starting on 21 Apr.  BlendKit2014 - Becoming a Blended Learning Designer will cover the merits and methods of blended learning, providing an introduction to key issues and step-by-step guidance in producing materials for a blended course.

edX is partnering with US schools chain GEMS Education to offer MOOCs to the K–12 market.

ALT’s successful ocTEL MOOC will re-run for 7 weeks, commencing on Mon 28 Apr.


Commercial News

[edSurge; Audrey Watters; eTrainingPedia]

Skillsoft has been acquired for $2bn by London-based private equity group, Charterhouse Capital Partners.  Skillsoft provides commercial off-the-shelf e-learning for ICT and management skills and claims to have over 6,000 customers and more than 19,000,000 learners around the world.

Learning Technologies Group, which acquired Brighton-based Epic for £16m last Nov, has now acquired LINE Communications for £9m, making the combined group the largest UK commercial supplier of bespoke e-learning.

Meducation, a UK online education network for medical students and practitioners, has raised $1m in seed funding, partly from the UK Technology Strategy Board with the remainder coming from private investors.  Meducation provides members with access to 30,000+ community resources, including tutorials, videos, images, slideshows and podcasts to help them develop and maintain their knowledge and skills.

Instructure has launched its Canvas VLE in the UK, based on servers in Ireland.  Henley Business School and The University of Birmingham are already on board, with Birmingham reporting that more than 30% of their students are using smartphones or tablets to interact with VLE course content.

Following a successful beta trial, Skillshare offers a “Spotify-like membership model for online education” which sees students paying a $10 a month subscription to access courses rather than paying for each class separately.

The London School of Marketing has announced a formal partnership with the Ireland-based European College of Management (ECM) to deliver blended learning.

Booktrack adds soundtracks to e-books and has raised $3m to launch an education-focused version of its platform, Booktrack Classroom.  CEO Paul Cameron argues that the combination of music and ambient sound effects can make the reading experience much more immersive.  For example, it’s one thing to read that a character is standing on a noisy street, and another to actually hear the sounds of traffic.  Really?


Fees and Tough Visa Rules Blamed For Foreign Students Dip

[University World News]

International student recruitment to English HEIs has fallen for the first time in 29 years, according to a report from HEFCE, Global Demand for English Higher Education: An analysis of international student entry to English higher education courses.  HEFCE notes that, “This is in stark contrast to previous years, when international entry to postgraduate taught programmes enjoyed double digit growth.”  As an example, “Entrants to English higher education institutions from India and Pakistan have halved since 2010, at the same time as their numbers are growing in other countries.”

And a House of Lords report, International Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Students, has raised similar concerns over drops in international STEM students, citing tighter immigration rules as creating an “unwelcoming” impression.  International students on STEM courses fell by more than 10% 2010-11 to 2012-13 and the decline is particularly acute among postgrads.


Harvard Business School Launching First Online Courses on HBX

[Campus Technology]

Harvard Business School is about to begin enrolment in the first set of online courses to be offered on its new e-learning platform, HBX, which it describes as a “digital learning initiative aimed at broadening the reach and deepening the impact of HBS's research and teaching”.  HBX has been designed specifically to accommodate the business school's instructional approach and it will shortly include a virtual classroom (HBX Live) that will allow up to 60 remote participants to interact directly with one another.


Open Access Requirement For UK Research Funding

[JISC; Stephen Downes]

HEFCE, together with the Scottish and Welsh funding councils and the Department for Employment and Learning have announced that, from 2016, they will expect all articles submitted to the REF to be available by open access.  JISC believes the move is, “potentially great news for universities and researchers keen to raise their profile and their impact.  However, as with any benefit, it will require some investment on the part of the sector.”

And OER Research Hub’s Rob Farrow has been considering what ‘open’ really means and the role of ethics in all this.


The Digital Future for Further Education


ALT’s Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) has published a new report that looks at paths forward to a digital future for Further Education and Skills. Recommendations in the report are based on the work of the FELTAG group and an open conversation amongst the wider community.


Durable Technology Enhanced Learning

[Stephen Downes; TechCrunch]

Inge de Waard summarises the Beyond Prototypes report, which looks at, “the processes of innovation in technology-enhanced learning (TEL) with a special emphasis on building online learning solutions that are durable”.  Key findings include, “Sustainable change is not a simple matter of product development, testing and roll-out […] it is necessary to look beyond product development and pay close attention to the entire process of implementation.”

But if you do need to prototype, Marvel has just released a powerful free app which allows iOS7 users to take photos of sketches, pictures, diagrams, whiteboards, etc, then designate hotspots and create links between the various images – thus allowing an interactive prototype to be quickly mocked-up.  The app can sync with Dropbox and prototypes can be shared using email, SMS or Twitter.


Former British Colonies Achieve Higher Research Output

[University World News]

According to a recent study of data from 47 African countries – 18 former British colonies, 20 former French and nine others – between 1994 and 2009, different research and education policies that were strongly influenced by former colonial powers have impacted on scientific research output.  “On average, former British colonies achieve higher numbers of scientific article publications than former French or other colonies in Africa including Portuguese, Belgian, Italian and Spanish,” said the report’s author.  “Former British colonies may enjoy comparative language advantages, a relatively efficient, open and dynamic scientific research model, increased demand for collaboration with advanced universities and research centres, as well as better political and economic institutions that support higher education”.


Video for Learning

[Education Technology; Stephen Downes]

A study by Kaltura finds that 90% of respondents believe video improves the learning experience, with even basic video tools having a significant impact; 81% also agree that online learning will grow in prominence and will underpin the award of a large number of degrees going forward.  Not surprisingly, Kaltura hosts an online platform for learning videos.

Derek Muller’s PhD thesis examined the effectiveness of videos (such as from Khan) for teaching physics.  His premise was that (1) learners often start with some subject knowledge, (2) their understanding can often be wrong or contain misconceptions, but (3) because they think they know the content, they don’t pay full attention and so never remedy the situation.  His 8-min video illustrates his findings in a clear and thought-provoking manner (tip: start around 1:18 if you want to skip the general intro about Khan Academy).


Scotland Fears Influx of ‘Free’ English students

[The Scotsman]

Universities Scotland is calling on the Scottish government to provide “legally-defensible certainty” that institutions will be able to deal with an influx of English students following independence, at which time they will become standard EU citizens and thus entitled to the same free tuition as Scots.


Taking Notes by Hand Benefits Recall

[Wired Campus]

US research compared students who took lecture notes longhand with those using (offline) laptops, with the former group performing better in a subsequent post test.  Within the computerised group, those who made briefer notes performed better than those who made verbatim transcription.  “While more notes are beneficial, at least to a point, if the notes are taken indiscriminately or by mindlessly transcribing content, as is more likely the case on a laptop, the benefit disappears,” claim the researchers.  “Verbatim note-taking, as opposed to more selective strategies, signals less encoding of content”.


Change the Homework, Improve Student Achievement

[Campus Technology]

A new US study, Integrating Cognitive Science and Technology Improves Learning in a STEM Classroom, has shown the beneficial effects of taking a cognitive science approach to undergraduate homework tasks, by providing students with: 

  1. Immediate feedback on homework, which they were required to read
  2. Problems spaced over three weeks rather than all in a single week
  3. Follow-up problems assigned in subsequent homework (“repeated retrieval practice”)

Comparing groups who received this approach with those who did ‘traditional’ homework showed a 7% improvement on short answer questions on the final exam and 5% on multiple choice questions.


Ethnicity Has Greatest Impact on UK Degree Grades

[University World News]

A study of 130,000 recent graduates by HEFCE suggests that ethnicity is the most significant factor in students' performance at university, although other factors such as gender, disadvantage and school type also affected students’ chances of success.  Some 72% of white students who entered HE with three B grade A-levels graduated with a first or upper-second class degree, but only 56% of Asian students and 53% of black students did so.

Separate data published by HESA shows that the proportion of students at English universities from disadvantaged backgrounds rose during the first year of higher tuition fees – up from 10.2% in 2011-12 to 10.9% in 2012-13.


Google Maps Gallery

[Pete Mitton]

The Google Maps API allows developers to create custom maps populated with their chosen data set (as in this example of UK dementia prevalence from K235).  Google now has a gallery of map examples (best viewed in a HTML5-firendly browser) that might provoke creative ideas for your next module design.



Extra content

Embedded Content


Contribute to the discussion

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