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e-Learning Digest No 120 - Aug 14

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
19 August 2014

UK Conferences & Workshops


Focus on … Video for learning

In my 2010 EdD research, e-learning participants (n=80) expected video material to be more appealing and effective than audio or text, but these expectations were not borne out by their test scores or opinions afterwards.  Video can be expensive, so why does it sometimes not deliver what we expect?  Whilst there are many differences between MOOCs and full-fat higher education, it seems reasonable to assume that student attitudes to video content will be similar in both.  The recent publication of an analysis of How Video Production Affects Student Engagement is based on data from over 6.9 million video watching sessions across four edX courses.  The researchers focused on just two genres: ‘tutorials’ (e.g. some form of problem-solving walkthrough) and ‘lectures’, and they defined engagement in terms of (a) time spent watching and also (b) “whether a student attempted the follow-up problem within 30 minutes after watching a video”.  Key findings and recommendations to emerge were as follows:


  • Duration.  Shorter clips are generally better.  Student levels of engagement are greatest for videos up to 3 mins duration and drop sharply after 6 mins.
  • Re-watching.  Students are likely to watch less (2-3 mins) of a tutorial video but are much more likely to re-watch and jump to relevant parts of longer clips, so signposting (hyperlinks or visual cues such as captions) is important.  Because lectures often tend to present more conceptual information, students are more likely to watch for longer but less likely to re-watch.
  • Personal.  Many F2F academics prefer to make classroom lecture videos but students prefer a more intimate head to camera format with eye contact, some personal stories and gentle humour.
  • Tutorial style.  Khan-style videos, with the instructor drawing on a tablet and narrating, were found to be more engaging than screencasts or narrated PowerPoints.  If these latter genres must be used, they can be enhanced by occasionally editing-in head shots of the speaker.
  • Speaking rate.  A speaking rate of around 160wpm is traditionally recommended for lecturing but, for clips up to 6 mins, students were equally engaged by faster rates (conveying academic enthusiasm) and slower ones (often due to writing on the board).  However, for longer clips, >180wpm was preferred, and 160wpm was actually found to be the least engaging.


It is interesting to compare this with a smaller EDUCAUSE study of What Makes an Online Instructional Video Compelling, which found that:

  • The average view duration was 4 mins
  • Videos were more likely to be watched if the topic related to an upcoming assessment
  • Conversational language was preferred, as was humour and drawing on past experiences
  • Content should exploit the medium of video, not just convey information students could read as text
  • Good quality production values (e.g. sound, lighting, framing and graphics) imply credible pedagogic content


Draus, Curran and Trempus (2014) examined the impact of instructor-generated video on student satisfaction (by survey), engagement (by forum posts) and performance (by scores and persistence) – having previously received feedback that bi-weekly narrated PowerPoints were "brief," "dry," and "not very helpful".  Their pattern of a video course introduction, weekly video lectures, video discussions, and video advice on assignments and specific topics collectively resulted in a high degree of perceived value from students, grades increased by 3.2% and increases in the number and length of student discussion postings.



[Stephen Downes; TechCrunch; Campus Technology; The Chronicle; Tony Bates]

Analysis by TechNavio, The Global Massive Open Online Courses Market 2014-2018 forecasts the global MOOC market will grow at a CAGR of 56.6% over the next five years.  The report discusses the market segmentation based on student demographics and course preferences, as well as the market landscape and its growth prospects in the coming years.  It also discusses key vendors and unpicks the revenue generation models they have adopted.

Google is offering a free course on Udacity – Developing Android Apps: Android Fundamentals.  It aims to provide those with some basic programming knowledge with everything they need to learn how to make an Android app step-by-step, through a mixture of course materials, videos, quizzes and forums.  The basics are available for free, whereas those subscribing at $150/month get additional support, projects and certification.

Saudi Arabia is expected to launch an edX Arab portal next month that should, “bridge the gap between education and employment” across the region by providing women, youth, disabled people and those in rural communities with access to, “courses licensed from edX university members and translated into Arabic, as well as original courses developed exclusively for Arabic-speaking students”.  The multi-year collaboration will also provide support to Saudi instructors and include “a research component focused on learning through innovative technologies and R&D,” according to edX.

Speaking at last month’s CT Conference, edX CEO, Anant Agarwal, said it was “pathetic” that classrooms today still look like they did decades ago.  Despite oft-discussed issues such as retention rates, he firmly believed in the success and future potential of MOOCs, stating that edX offers, “a federated, decentralized approach to spread education around the world”.  He also noted that the 155,000 students who participated in the first edX course on circuits and electronics exceeded the total number of alumni of MIT in history, and that the 7,200 who passed the course are more than the total number of students he will ever teach in his career at MIT.

The Chronicle reports on how a Coursera MOOC, “Foundations of Teaching and Learning”, has achieved success in teaching refugees near the Kenya-Somalia border.  Some adaptations were required – such as downloading lecture videos and quizzes to a USB drive – and the 2 students were closely supported by the University of Geneva’s Prof Barbara Moser-Mercer’s.  Meeting Coursera’s requirements for a certificate made things harder, with the students taking quizzes that were monitored via webcam – a “hugely complicated” undertaking under the circumstances.  There were cultural and linguistic challenges too, especially when it came to peer grading.  Ms. Moser-Mercer texted back and forth with the students, but she said she was careful not to provide more help than she was allowed to under Coursera’s honour code.


The Aug 14 edition of the Australian-based journal, Distance Education (Vol 35, No 2), is devoted to new research on MOOCs.  The six articles cover aspects such as using MOOCs to supplement conventional courses, ethics, collocated study groups and video tutorials.


Commercial News

[nprEd; EdSurge]

Last month the US Dept of Education announced a review of how federal student aid is administered for University of Phoenix’s 200,000+ students.  In June, the department halted funding to another big for-profit, Corinthian, leading it to announce plans to sell or close all of its campuses.  Enrolment at US for-profit colleges quadrupled between 2000 and 2010, peaking at 1.7 million (about 1 in 10 college students) but the sector has been plagued by repeated allegations of financial mismanagement, fraud and abuse.

Pearson will be cutting about 4,000 jobs over two years (around 10% of its workforce) after first-half revenue dropped to £2.05bn from £2.19bn a year earlier, in line with the average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg, as the strength of the pound reduced revenue converted from US dollars and other currencies.  The cuts will be partly offset by the creation of 1,800 jobs in the two-year period as the company expands digital and emerging-market operations.

Canadian e-learning giant Desire2Learn has raised $85m in funding after what the company calls “a year of record growth in the higher education, K-12 and corporate markets.”  CEO John Baker says the company currently serves 1,100 institutions and 15 million learners – up from 850 and 10 million, respectively, at this time last year.  The company also recently opened offices in Latin America, Asia Pacific and Europe.


Focusing on Specific Dropouts Can Help Raise Completion Rates

[The Chronicle]

College dropouts who came close to graduating but didn’t quite finish could be a key target for HEIs, according to a report by the US National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.  Instead of focusing only on helping new students succeed, colleges should also be targeting those who intended to earn degrees and finished at least two years of study before falling off track, it says.  Chasing down former students can be expensive and time-consuming, but some may be relatively close to their final degree.


Duke Offers e- and Audio-books

[Campus Technology]

Duke University Libraries has launched a new service, Duke OverDrive, which lets students, faculty and staff download e-books and audiobooks to their personal mobile devices.  The service currently offers 158 e-books and 132 audiobooks, all of which are searchable through the general Duke Libraries catalogue.  Users can borrow up to five of the books at a time and these automatically expire after 21 days; they can also recommend additional titles to add to the library’s wish list for future purchases.


Next Big Thing – Cognizant Computing?

[Campus Technology]

According to Gartner, “Cognizant computing is transforming personal clouds into highly intelligent collections of mobile apps and services” meaning that it could have, “an immense impact across a range of industries, including mobile devices, mobile apps, wearables, networking, services and cloud providers.”  Research director Jessica Ekholm predicts, “Over the next two to five years, the Internet of Things and big data will converge with analytics.”  This will enable systems and services such as alarms, payments, health and fitness monitoring/management, learning provision and advertising to be much smarter and more personalised.


Visualising the Internet

[Go-Gulf; Social Times; TechCrunch; Campus Technology; Penny Stocks]

So, who’s doing what on the internet, and how much are they doing it?

Firstly, Go-Gulf shows us what people share on social networks.  Most popular is photo sharing (by 43% of us), with videos someway behind (17%).  Americans mostly share news video clips, Indians share movie trailers and Brits share travel, news and education clips.  On Facebook alone, 4.75bn items are shared per day, with Turkey being the most sharing nation (93%), 25-34 the most sharing age group and men sharing more than women.

Digital Insights cut the data cake differently, informing us that:

  • 84% of women and 50% of men stay active on Pinterest
  • 75% of the engagement on a Facebook post happens within the first 5 hrs
  • 44% of Twitter users have never sent a tweet
  • 40% of YouTube traffic comes from mobile
  • 23% of internet time is spent on blogs and social networks
  • 400m snaps per day are sent on SnapChat
  • There are 39m students and recent graduates on LinkedIn

According to comScore, Snapchat is now the third most popular social app among millennials, with a 32.9% penetration on the mobile phones of those aged 18–34.  This puts it behind Instagram (43.1%) and Facebook (75.6%), but ahead of Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, Google+ and Tumblr.

Of course, not everyone gets the same internet service.  A free Netradar app allows all of us to report our connectivity measurements, which are then displayed in terms of quality of download/upload speed, latency, and signal strength via an overlaid Google map.  The app has already been installed more than 130,000 times, and the database contains about 3 million anonymised measurements.

And two excellent web pages from Pennystocks show how quickly internet data is generated and how quickly those tech companies are generating revenue and profit (about 50% of which goes to Apple).      



[Andrew Law]

Bibblio offers, “a whole new type of learning experience that starts with your curiosity instead of a pre-defined curriculum and uses all the best tools from the web to help guide you.”  The OU has 700+ videos on the channel which, according to Andrew Law, “means our material is now more universally accessible, searchable and embeddable.  It is in keeping with the OU’s mission to be open and accessible to all.”


OER and Copyright


Copyright law is complicated and OERs may not be as ‘open’ as we think.  Worse still is the different interpretation/application of the rules across Europe; for example 63% of EU/EEA nations allow academics to translate literary works for use in a teaching compilation, but 46% do not.  OER and Copyright: mapping exempted uses in Europe is a working paper that investigates and tries to define the fragmented European landscape of copyright exceptions and limitations for educational purposes, across 49 European states.


Kenyatta Launches Digital ‘Anywhere School’

[University World News; Paul Hoffman]

Kenya’s Kenyatta University has become the first in East Africa with a digital school, offering a range of vocational certificates and degree courses through virtual and open learning.  Each student will be issued with a free tablet, uploaded with all the course units registered for.  Live tutorials will also be offered from the institution’s 10 campuses across the country when the programmes commence in Sep.  The “Anywhere School” is targeting adult learners and people unable to commit themselves to attending classes either as full-time or part-time students.  Programmes will run on a trimester cycle which will enable students to complete an undergraduate course in three calendar years.

The African Virtual University, in partnership with the African Development Bank, is launching 29 new open, distance and e-learning centres in 21 African countries at a cost of approx $200,000.  The first centre opened in Sudan on 11 Aug and all should all be installed in the next six to eight months.  Despite steadily increasing admissions, Sub-Saharan Africa still has only around 6% of its population aged 25-34 in tertiary education, compared to around 60-70% in the UK and US.


Distance Between IT and Campus Users

[Campus Technology]

IT is a disjointed effort on most US campuses, according to a recent survey of 150+ HE IT staff.  For example, in more than four out of five colleges and universities, IT professionals report that they do not regularly develop joint plans with academic departments for IT initiatives.  Nearly 60% don't survey academic or research staff on IT needs; and over 60% lack a catalogue of IT services – which might explain why 57% of end users view IT as the “fix it” folks and just 22% consider IT a “trusted ally.”


Hardware Update

[BBC; Campus Technology; TechCrunch]

China's Xiaomi has sold 57.4m smartphones since going into business three years ago and the company’s new Mi 4 smartphone matches or beats the spec of the iPhone 5 or Samsung S5.  However, the Mi 4 costs just £190 (16GB) or £235 (64GB) and is paired with a £7.50 wristband that can unlock the phone via Bluetooth, track activity and sleep, and act as an alarm clock.

The global tablet market grew by 11% in 2014 Q2 compared to the same period last year, according to new data from IDC.  However, that represents a drop of 1.5% over Q1 which the analysts attribute to the “the rise of large-screen smartphones and longer than anticipated ownership cycles”.  Apple continued to lead the market with 26.9% market share (13.3 million shipments), followed by Samsung with 17.2%.

A new report from Strategy Analytics shows Android accounting for 85% of the 295.2 million smartphones shipped in 2014 Q2, with Apple, Windows Phone and BlackBerry all losing market share.  Meanwhile, IDC predicts that smartphone shipments in Q3 will top 300 million units.

Chromebook sales are likely to reach 5.2 million shipments this year, according to a new report from Gartner.  That represents a 79% increase over 2013, and the analysts predict continued growth to 14.4 million shipments in 2017.  Education is the clear driving force behind these figures, accounting for 85% of shipments in 2013.


Greatest Documentaries of All Time


The BFI polled 340 critics, programmers and filmmakers to collate a list of their top 56 documentaries of all time.  The top three were: ‘Man with a movie camera’ (Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1929); ‘Shoah’ (Claude Lanzmann, France, 1985); and ‘Sans soleil’ (Chris Marker, France, 1982).  Michael Apted’s ‘...Up’ series came in at a creditable 15th.


Google Rolls Out Free LMS for Apps for Education


Google's free learning management system, Google Classroom, is now in full release for all Apps for Education customers, having been previewed/trialled since May by “tens of thousands” of educators.  The Classroom LMS integrates with Apps for Education to allow teachers to create assignments within Google's apps, which students can then complete in Google Docs and submit them in a one-click process.


Blended Synchronous Learning Handbook

[Stephen Downes]

Australia’s Blended Synchronous Learning Project has published a freely downloadable Blended Synchronous Learning Handbook.  The 190pp book describes a Blended Synchronous Learning Design Framework which offers pedagogical, technological and practical recommendations for educators who wish to design and implement blended synchronous learning.  There is also a Rich-Media Synchronous Technology Capabilities Framework (in Chap 4) to support the selection of technologies for different types of learning activities, a literature review, seven case studies and more.


BBC Research & Education Space


The BBC is inviting proposals for innovative prototypes which can inspire teachers and learners.  The Research & Education Space (RES) is a partnership between JISC, the BUFVC and the BBC Connected Studio which aims is to bring as much as possible of the UK’s publicly-held archives, and beyond, to learners and teachers across the UK.  Developers are invited to create online experiences that will inspire learners, teachers and researchers in using applications built on the RES platform.  The first stage of the process is a briefing event in London on 4 Sep.


Hans Rosling Awarded RGS Patron’s Medal

[Ross Mackenzie]

Congratulations to Hans Rosling who has been presented with the Royal Geographic Society’s Patron’s Medal for, “the encouragement and development of the public understanding of geographical data and influencing decision makers across the world”. 

Never heard of Hans Rosling?  Take a look at this 2012 TED Talk on religions and babies if you want to see evidence that large scale lectures can be engaging.  Not only that, but you too can use his Gapminder software and all that international data free of charge.




And Finally…

[BBC; TechCrunch]

Engineers at Harvard have built a swarm of 1024 small (3cm) robots that can shuffle into specific formations on command.  The process can take up to 12 hours and involve multiple moves, but the timelapse video on the BBC site shows the process in action.  The researchers claim to have been influenced by natural examples, such as army ants, which self-assemble into their own temporary dwellings, called bivouacs.  Also from Harvard comes a flat sheet that self-folds into a robot.

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