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

e-Learning Digest No 117 - May 14

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
12 May 2014

UK Conferences & Workshops  


 MOOC News

[Wired Campus; Campus Technology; GEDB; Stephen Downes; Audrey Watters; Taylor & Francis; ALT]

 Udacity will no longer give learners the opportunity to earn free, ‘non-identity-verified’ certificates, although access to course materials will remain free.  “Discontinuing the ‘free’ certificates has been one of the most difficult decisions we’ve made,” wrote Sebastian Thrun. “We know that many of our hardworking students can’t afford to pay for classes.  At the same time, we cannot hope that our certificates will ever carry great value if we don’t make this change.”  Udacity is developing premium courses costing $150 per month which include contact with human coaches, project-based assignments, and job-placement services.

 Not only have 26,000 learners signed-up for Michigan Prof Chuck Severance’s Programming for Everybody Coursera MOOC but he’s also made all of the learning materials available to participants who may want to turn around and teach the subject themselves.  These are provided under a Creative Commons license via the Open Michigan site and include syllabus, lecture videos, software and the course textbook, Python for Informatics, authored by Severance himself.

 A study of around 400 MOOC students by Glasgow Caledonian University found that many took a passive approach to learning, avoiding collaboration with others, seeking only passing grades, and therefore not retaining new knowledge.  “Learners focused on activities such as watching videos and taking tests, with little evidence of learners’ relating new knowledge into practice, or connecting to their peers through the discussion board,” said research fellow, Colin Milligan.

 And, given his belief that written words, “will create forgetfulness in learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves”, Slate considers what Socrates would make of MOOCs.

 The EU has launched EMMA, a European MOOC aggregator, that will provide a system for the delivery of free, open, online courses in multiple languages from different European universities, “to help preserve Europe’s rich cultural, educational and linguistic heritage and to promote real cross-cultural and multi-lingual learning.”  The service will aggregate and host courses provided by EU universities and allow users create their own learning paths by bringing together various units from different MOOCs.

 Coursera is establishing a Global Translator Community, “to make great educational content accessible across geographic and linguistic boundaries”.  The company currently offers courses with subtitle translations in 13 foreign languages, with Chinese, French, and Spanish among the most popular.  Only 40% of Coursera learners live in English-speaking countries.

 edX has selected the VitalSource Bookshelf to distribute publisher content for its MOOCs, allowing learners and educators to interact with content and share notes and highlights with online peers.

 edX is also teaming with CourseTalk to provide a platform for course reviews.  A sidebar will contain mini-reviews on each course description page but users can click-through to to read more detailed comments and ratings of course quality, difficulty, workload and general thoughts about the course.

 Routledge is offering the Library community free access to a collection of articles highlighting MOOCs and librarianship.

Vol 10, No 1 of MERLOT’s Journal of Online Learning and Teaching is a special issue devoted to MOOCs.


 Commercial News

[edSurge; THE; Audrey Watters; TechCrunch]

 French-owned CrossKnowledge has been acquired by John Wiley & Sons for $175 million.  The company offers subscription-based online learning solutions for enterprise and postsecondary schools, which include over 17,000 courses and course management tools for instructors and students.

 The UK’s first for-profit university, the University of Law, appears to have had its accounts loaded with the £177m debt that a private equity firm took on to buy it, in much the same way as often happens with Premier League football clubs.  It is now owned by a parent company registered in Guernsey.

 Pearson has won a contract to develop and administer Common Core tests for potential US college entrants.  Those states in PARCC partnership who will use the service collectively educate about 15 million students.  That’s a lot of $24 per test fees.

 Online skills-based learning supplier, Udemy, has raised $32 million in a funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners.


 Education Post-2015

[University World News; Towards Maturity; EdSurge;

 A UNESCO Position Paper on Education Post-2015 suggests that unequal access to HE is likely to persist in most countries globally despite concerted attempts to expand opportunities by 2030.  It also warns that the problem will not be limited to scarcity of places but that there is also likely to be a knowledge divide caused by lack of chances to acquire skills in technology.  The authors note that the quality of schooling in many countries continues to suffer from limited learning resources, teacher shortages, teacher absenteeism, and distance and safety travelling to and from school – leading to high drop-out rates, especially among girls.

 Towards Maturity does a good job investigating and supporting those using learning technologies in the workplace.  Their latest benchmark report, The Learner Voice, provides evidence from over 2,000 UK private sector e-learners.  Although directed at workplace learning, it’s a fairly compact and readable report that does also have some relevance for the potential design of OU material for adult learners.  Some highlights: 88% of learners like to proceed at their own pace; 86% believe collaborative learning is essential or very useful; and 64% would recommend online learning as a result of their own experience.

 In a similar vein, the Gates Foundation has just released the results of a survey into what those in the K-12 sector want and need from digital instructional tools.  A total of 3100 teachers and 1250 students were questioned, revealing that only 54% of teachers believe that the digital tools their students use are effective.  For example, according to Chicago teacher Arelys Villeda, “I realize that I haven’t found a single edtech tool that helps my students communicate with each other and develop communications skills”.


 How Long Should Web Content Be?


 Kevan Lee provides advice on the optimum length for different forms of web content, from tweets, through blog posts to videos.  Whilst he doesn’t look specifically at content for learning, his findings and some of his sources of evidence may provide some useful rules of thumb.


The Learning Designer

[Stephen Downes]

The Learning Designer, from the London Knowledge Lab (Diana Laurillard and others), is a suite of tools that, “enables teachers to share their good teaching ideas.  It is intended to help a subject teacher see how a particular pedagogic approach can be migrated successfully across different topics.  There are sample patterns to browse and edit, or you can design your own from scratch.”


Educational Technology Action Group Consultation

[ALT; Education Technology]

Would you like to help shape policy for learning technology in education in 2025?  The Education Technology Action Group (ETAG) would like your input (by 23 Jun) to help, “evolve policies that are heading in the right direction, are affordable, achievable and realistic, but at the same time brave and ambitious (our remit), and that might get English education to a likely 2025 but by perhaps 2020.  Disruptive and radical thoughts are welcome.  We also need your input on specific past policies which have stood in the way of that progress towards 2025.”

And Sir Richard Branson is inviting children in 20,000 UK schools to share how technology is supporting their learning.  Generation Tech – launched this month by Virgin Media Business – is calling for submissions from pupils and teachers across the country to answer ‘the Big Digital Question’: how schools today are embracing the 21st century classroom and how it can continue to enhance learning tomorrow.


Funding for Technology-Based Learning Studies


The Technology Strategy Board and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills are to invest up to £1.1m in exploratory studies into the design of technology-based products and services that will improve learning outcomes.  Proposals are invited for projects up to £80k/6 months to deliver high-quality commercially viable products and services that can be delivered at scale and aimed at formal or non-formal learning from KS1 through to HE.


What Enhanced eBooks can do for Scholarly Authors

[The Chronicle]

Jacob Wright doesn’t beat around the bush.  “For scholars in the humanities, the “enhanced” e-book format is a game changer.  A fully enhanced e-book can do the work of two or more traditional print volumes: Authors can address the general reading public and lower-level students in the main body of the text, while treating technical matters for advanced readers in more detail by providing electronic links to extensive pullout or pop-up windows.”


Universities Failing to Exploit Social Media

[edSurge; University World News]

Out of the ½ billion tweets posted every day, 4.2 million are related to education, according to Twitter’s Brett Baker.

However, none of the UK’s 10 top-ranked universities “is sending out more than four tweets a day, let alone directly engaging with their followers”, despite having a combined total of more than 400,000 followers on Twitter, according to a study conducted by Brandwatch between 31 Jan–31 Mar to ascertain what leading universities are using their primary Twitter handle for and how successfully they engage their followers


Google Classroom

[Chris Douce; TNW; edSurge]

Classroom is a new component in the Google Apps for Education suite.  It aims to help educators create and organise assignments, provide feedback to students and communicate with classes.  And, “Like the rest of our Apps for Education services, Classroom contains no ads, never uses your content or student data for advertising purposes, and is free for schools.”

By coincidence(?), Microsoft now offers Bing in the Classroom, with “ad-free, safer, more private search.”


Office Mix & Adobe Voice

[Campus Technology]

Microsoft is releasing Office Mix as part of Office 365 ProPlus.  This enhances PowerPoint to allow users to create rich media presentations and interactive lessons, share them online and view analytics.  A plugin gives educators the ability to record lecture materials directly within PowerPoint and embed these, together with tests and quizzes (with customisable instant feedback), onscreen annotations, polls and user controls for pausing and rewinding a presentation or skimming it at 2x speed.

Office Mix doesn’t yet work on iOS, but Adobe Voice is a free iPad app that lets users create presentations, combining voice, video, motion graphics, still images and music.  It comes with a bunch of templates, images, sounds and built-in visual effects.


iPad Infants Lack Dexterity and Social Skills

[Audrey Watters]

There is concern from the British Association of Teachers and Lecturers that 3 and 4 year-old children don't have dexterity in their fingers because they're too addicted to swiping tablet screens.  “I have spoken to a number of nursery teachers who have concerns over the increasing numbers of young pupils who can swipe a screen but have little or no manipulative skills to play with building blocks or the like, or the pupils who cannot socialise with other pupils but whose parents talk proudly of their ability to use a tablet or smartphone,” said Colin Kinney at the association's annual conference.


Public Domain Media

[British Pathé; GEDB; Campus Technology; Larry Ferlazzo; Audrey Watters]

Pathé has uploaded its entire collection of 85,000 historic films, in high resolution, to YouTube in a drive to make the archive more accessible to viewers all over the world.  “This archive is a treasure trove unrivalled in historical and cultural significance that should never be forgotten.  Uploading the films to YouTube seemed like the best way to make sure of that” says General Manager, Alastair White.  The collection includes footage from 1896 to 1976 from Britain and around the globe, and is particularly strong in its coverage of the First and Second World Wars.

The (US) National Gallery of Art has released an interactive e-book of Arthur Wheelock Jr’s Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century.  This is the first release in a planned series of NGA Online Editions that will provide open access to the Gallery’s permanent collection catalogues and will eventually document more than 5,000 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.

The University of Michigan Online Repository of Fossils will make hundreds of 3D images of prehistoric bones available to students and the general public, with thousands more expected to be added.  A “BonePicker” tool can be used to pull individual bones from a skeleton for close up examination in photorealistic 3D.

The Getty Museum has added 77,000 more public domain images to the 5,000 it released last Aug.

Do we really need yet another OER repository?  Probably not, but welcome to panOpen, bringing you, “Up-to-date and peer-reviewed educational materials from scholars and teachers around the world.”


The Shirt on Your Back

[Chris Hough]

This interactive from The Guardian is not only very well put together but it also tells a compelling inside story of the working conditions in the Bangladeshi garment trade that serves the West’s insatiable desire for cheap clothing.


Time to Retire From Online Learning?

[Tony Bates]

Tony Bates, long-time academic, e-learning consultant and founding member of IET, has announced (aged 75) his retirement from “(nearly) all professional activities”.  His blog post explains the reasons, which include:

“I can’t express adequately just how p***** off I am about MOOCs – not the concept, but all the hubris and nonsense that’s been talked and written about them. At a personal level, it was as if 45 years of work was for nothing. All the research and study I and many others had done on what makes for successful learning online were totally ignored, with truly disastrous consequences in terms of effective learning for the vast majority of participants who took MOOCs from the Ivy League universities. Having ignored online learning for nearly 20 years, Stanford, MIT and Harvard had to re-invent online learning in their own image to maintain their perceived superiority in all things higher educational. And the media fell for it, hook, line and sinker.”

“I am concerned that the computer scientists seem to be taking over online education. Ivy League MOOCs are being driven mainly by computer scientists, not educators. Politicians are looking to computer science to automate learning in order to save money […] This is a battle that has always existed in educational technology, but it’s one I fear the educators are losing.”




And Finally…

[BBC; Mashable]

The WinSun company in China has used giant 3D printers to make 10 full-sized, detached single-storey houses in a day.  The printer measures 32m long by 10m wide and 6.6m high; it sprays a mixture of cement and construction waste to build the walls, layer by layer, and the lack of manual intervention means that each house can be printed for under $5,000.  “We can print buildings to any digital design our customers bring us.  It's fast and cheap”, says WinSun chief executive Ma Yihe, whose own offices were constructed by 3D printer.  He hopes to eventually produce skyscrapers but, at the moment, Chinese construction regulations do not allow multi-storey 3D-printed houses.

Fancy having lunch with Apple CEO Tim Cook?  He is donating a one-hour lunch meeting at Apple HQ in an online auction as a part of the 8th Annual Robert F Kennedy Center Spring Auction for Human Rights.  Warning: last year’s 30-minute coffee date sold for $610,000.

Extra content

Embedded Content


Contribute to the discussion

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