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

e-Learning Digest No 124 - Dec 14

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
16 December 2014

UK Conferences & Workshops



[EdSurge; Campus Technology; Paul King; Educause; Stephen Downes; CIPD; CNET; BBC]

Coursera is partnering with the US government to offer, “one free Coursera Verified Certificate to every US Veteran to help improve employability skills in high-demand fields such as data science and entrepreneurship.”  They are also launching 20 Veteran-facilitated Learning Hubs across the country to promote interactive learning experiences for the US’s 21 million Veterans to increase online accessibility and support.

edX has signed on for ConnectED, the White House's program to connect “99 percent” of America's students to broadband and high-speed wireless in schools and libraries and improve the skills of teachers through the use of technology.  

US airline JetBlue has announced that users of its Fly-FI Hub can now study any of ten Coursera courses in-flight from institutions such as The Wharton School, University of Edinburgh and Berklee School of Music.

The IEEE is collaborating with edX to offer MOOCs and other continuing professional education courses, starting with that old favourite, SSCC Previews: Circuit and System Insights, which launched on 1 Dec.

Before getting angst-ridden over low completion rates, Harvard’s Justin Reich thought he’d establish what MOOC students’ intentions had been.  He surveyed nearly 80,000 people taking nine Harvard MOOCs, categorising them as ‘completers’, ‘auditors’, ‘browsers’ and ‘unsure’.  The overall completion rate was 13.3%, but this rose to 19.5% for those who had intended to complete, and fell to 5.4% for those who did not.

The Digital Business Academy – a joint venture by Cambridge University, UCL, Tech City and Founder Centric – is offering a business MOOC which aims to persuade those that have shunned formal education in favour of entrepreneurship to obtain some formal business training.  The teaching material, which ranges from how to develop an idea to marketing and financing a venture, is offered for free to registered users and each module is expected to take three to six weeks to finish.  Completion does not result in a formal qualification, but successful students are offered rewards, such as free office space and mentoring support, provided by more than 30 industry partners, including the BBC, Twitter, O2 and Microsoft.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) is launching its first MOOC - Working Digitally: social media and HR.  Learners will be invited to complete 4 modules over 6 weeks at about 3hrs per week, and the MOOC will present three times each year.

A new MOOC from Syracuse University, starting in Jan 15, will explore the history, evolution and cultural impact of Doctor Who.  The class will examine how it has evolved in the digital age, why it has managed to last more than 50 years, how it deals with changes in culture and technology, and how it has uses “futuristic and alien concepts to deliver social commentary on current affairs.”


Commercial News


The Pearson Charitable Foundation has contributed over $130 million to literacy projects globally since its foundation in 2003.  There has been some recent controversy over occasional blurry lines between for-profit company and non-profit foundation and so its activities will wind up by the end of this year.  However, Pearson has pledged to continue investing at least 1% of its profits into local community initiatives, but administered directly from the corporation.

Bosses at Apollo Education Ventures have twigged that the University of Phoenix may not generate enough profit to fund their pensions, so they have now announced that the group will make minority investments in “post-secondary education (including high school pathways), professional development and related human capital sectors.”



[University World News; The Independent; BBC]

A new report from the Higher Education Commission, Too Good to Fail: The financial sustainability of higher education in England, pulls no punches in its assessment of our current funding model: “Introducing market forces to a sector that does not operate as a market puts the financial sustainability of the sector at risk; the commission recommends retreating from this notion.”  According to the IFS, students will graduate with an average debt of £44k (which 73% will not repay in full), compared to around £25k (and 25%) under the former system.  The report examines six alternative models of funding but does not back any particular one.

George Osborne announced income-contingent postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 from 2016-17 in his Autumn Statement.  The number of UK-domiciled students enrolling on masters courses has plummeted in recent years, with UUK saying that 73% of the 140,000 entrants in 2012-13 were from outside the UK.

A report from HEFCE shows that 34% (16,500 entrants) of all international first-degree entrants in England transferred directly from UK transnational programmes delivered overseas in 2012-13.

Birmingham University’s Prof Sir David Eastwood, chairman of the Russell Group, has warned that university drop-out rates will rise as a result of government plans to lift the cap on student recruitment, leading to more university mergers as competition for places increases.  He claims, “We're getting close to a system which satisfies the needs of the qualified talent out there for a university place. I don't know how much really qualified talent is still out there.”  THE’s Chris Havergal also considers the arguments for and against uncapped student numbers.

IOE and UCL have merged, in a move they claim, “will deliver significant advances in the fields of social science and education, whilst further advancing the work both universities undertake to develop education across London.”

New Degree Apprenticeship qualifications will launch in England next Sep, starting in the digital and software field.  Some 150 places have already been guaranteed by the employers who include Accenture, BT, Ford, Fujitsu, GlaxoSmithKline, HP, IBM, John Lewis, Lloyds Bank and Network Rail.  The government will pay two-thirds of the costs and fees while employers pay trainees' wages and other costs.

A survey by Which? of 1000 UK undergrads found that a third thought their course was not good value for money and around half felt it was not demanding enough or that seminars were generally worth attending.  A fifth found an advertised module was no longer available or the content had significantly changed.  Only half of those dissatisfied actually complained and 58% were dissatisfied with the response.  Which? believes it should be easier to remove the degree-awarding powers of universities that fail to meet academic and consumer standards.

Prof Roger King attempts to explain the nuances of public/private/quasi-private/charitable status of England’s universities.


Innovating Pedagogy 2014

[Martin Weller]

IET’s 2014 Innovating Pedagogy report has just been released, the aim of which is to consider technology related innovations, but from a mostly teaching and learning perspective.  This year’s ones to watch are:

  • Massive open social learning
  • Learning design informed by analytics
  • Flipped classroom
  • Bring your own devices
  • Learning to learn
  • Dynamic assessment
  • Event-based learning
  • Learning through storytelling
  • Threshold concepts
  • Bricolage


Business Education Faces a Challenging and Disruptive Future

[Stephen Downes]

See the Future, a new report supported by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the European Foundation for Management Development, suggests that traditional business education models are being disrupted by technology, the introduction of MOOCs, market competition, university fees and increasingly demanding employer and employee needs.  90% of business school respondents agree that “business schools will develop flexible degrees that allow students to mix study and work”, 75% agree that business schools will develop new products to help younger and older workers who no or only limited experience of higher education, but only 50% of employers were aware of MOOCs.


US For-Profit Colleges Sue Over 'Irrational' New Govt Guidelines

[University World News; The Chronicle]

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities is suing the US Dept of Education over new “gainful employment” rules that penalise career training programmes for burdening students with massive debt while offering few job prospects.  When it announced the new rule, the department estimated that about 1,400 programmes serving 840,000 students – 99% of whom attend for-profit institutions – would not meet these standards and so would not have access to federal loans.


Internet of Things

[Campus Technology]

Gartner defines the Internet of Things (IoT) as, “the network of dedicated physical objects (things) that contain embedded technology to sense or interact with their internal state or external environment”.  The analyst predicts that the number of connected objects will grow by 30% from this year to next to 4.9 bn ($70bn) and hit 25 billion ($263bn) by 2020.


UK 4G is Twice as Fast as 3G


An Ofcom report into the speed of mobile networks in cities around the UK finds 4G is over twice as fast (average of 15.1Mbps) as 3G (6.1Mbps).  The report looked at five cities, finding that London had the fastest 4G web browsing speeds but the slowest 3G.  According to Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards, “Today's research shows 4G is providing a significantly enhanced mobile broadband experience to customers, which we expect to be available to 98% of the UK population by 2017 at the latest.” 

BT has begun talks with Spanish-based Telefonica about buying the O2 mobile network.


OER Corner

[Martin Weller; Audrey Watters; Inside Higher Ed; Stephen Downes]

The OER Research Hub has published its OER Evidence Report for 2013-14, which summarises targeted research “combining [20] surveys, interviews, focus groups and data analytics” to provide “an overview of the impact OER is having on a range of teaching and learning practices.”

Creative Commons has released its State of the Commons report, showing growth by licence type and location.  We learn that CC licence badges are accessed 27m times per day and the total number of Creative Commons–licensed works will exceed 1bn in 2015.

From 1 Jan, the Gates Foundation will require grant recipients to make their research publicly available online as part of a significant policy shift.  However, as part of a transition process, recipients will be allowed to embargo their work for 12 months but, by 2017, “All publications shall be available immediately upon their publication, without any embargo period.”

Two new documents recently released by the Commonwealth of Learning include are: Quality Assurance Guidelines for Open Educational Resources: TIPS Framework and Case Studies on OER-based eLearning.


Oculus Rift – Resistance is Futile

[Donald Clark; TechCrunch; Engadget]

I’ve been slightly lukewarm about desktop virtual reality in the past (dating back to Superscape in 1996), but Donald Clark has experienced Oculus Rift and is smitten or, as he puts it, “Once you flood their field of view with a screen that has a high refresh rate with rock solid tracking so that your head movements mimic what would happen in that world, along with great audio – you’re there.  That new world is your reality.”

TechCrunch is onboard too, and Kyle Russell considers some of the technology advances that mean we can deliver VR now in ways that simply weren’t possible/affordable just a few years ago.

But perhaps we don’t need the expense of Oculus Rift.  Could the future lie in your smartphone velcroed into Google Cardboard VR?


2014 Learning Insights Report


City & Guilds Kineo have published their latest Learning Insights Report: Adding Business Value Through Learning, based on interviews with 35 directors and managers responsible for

learning in 29 different organisations.  Not surprisingly, money was an issue, as was supporting (in many cases) a global 24/7 workforce, but the L&D focus has also shifted: “It’s not just about upskilling; it’s transforming the business through learning”.  Organisations are deploying more blended and technology-enhanced solutions, and social/peer learning and support are becoming more significant.


JISC Learning Analytics Report

[Niall Sclater]

Niall Sclater has researched and written a ‘state of the nation’ report, Learning analytics: The current state of play in UK higher and further education, based on interviews with 13 FEIs and HEIs, including the OU.  He notes that analytics is in its relative infancy in the UK, meaning there is an almost pioneering spirit based on some generally perceived benefits, a great deal of enthusiasm, but little yet in the way of robust, tangible outcomes and surprisingly little commonality in terms of institutional goals, approaches, tools and systems.

Also available from JISC is a new Code of practice for learning analytics: A literature review of the ethical and legal issues, which aims to provide, “the groundwork for a code of practice which is intended to help institutions solve the complex issues raised by learning analytics.”


Mapping Student-Led Peer Learning in the UK


A new HEA research report, Mapping student-led peer learning in the UK, highlights the benefits of peer-led learning.  Students who take part in peer-led learning sessions experience reduced anxiety associated with transition into higher education. They also have a greater sense of belonging and improved academic confidence.  For students who undertake the role of 'peer leader', benefits include the acquisition of higher level personal and professional skills. Their own subject learning is deepened too, inter-cultural awareness is enhanced and employability prospects are greater.


Moodle News

[Microsoft; Moodle News]

Microsoft is working with Moodle partner Remote-Learner to generate an open source plugin to allow Office 365 and Moodle to work more seamlessly together.  An initial beta program has just been launched to provide hands-on feedback to help refine the functionality and operation.

An updated Moodle Mobile app (Moodle Mobile 1.9) has just been released for Windows 8 and Windows Phone users.  The most notable change is an updated look and feel and is designed to be more touch-friendly.

Following the success of September’s Learn Moodle MOOC, Mary Cooch and Helen Foster are running #2, starting on 11 Jan.  The four week course will be run on Moodle 2.8 and will cover: Getting started; Getting involved; Making the Grade; and Taking it further.


Digital Einstein Papers

[The Chronicle]

Princeton has spent more than 20 years assembling what has now become the Digital Einstein Papers.  It presents the complete contents of the 26 volumes published to date of the press’s huge print edition of The Collected Papers – theoretical papers and correspondence, both in the original German and translated into English.  The publications so far cover the first 44 years of Einstein’s life, including the period of great acclaim following his winning the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics.




And Finally…

[TechCrunch; Eyewitness News]

Barack Obama became the first US president to write code when he attended a recent Hour of Code event to encourage students to try just one hour of programming to see if it piques their interest.  But that’s not the newsworthy part of the story – much more notable is his down-with-the-kids attempt at wearing a baseball cap with a suit and tie.  <sad>

But Robert Mugabe laughs in the face of presidents who cobble together a mere few lines of code.  The African Council for Distance Education has just named him scholar of the century.  Zimbabwe’s Higher Education Minister, Olivia Muchena, claims there’s no recorded leader in world history who’s scaled such academic heights.

Extra content

Embedded Content


Contribute to the discussion

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