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e-Learning Digest No 133 - Sep 15

Cloud created by:

Jim Ellis
17 September 2015

UK Conferences & Workshops


e-Learning MOOCs



[The Chronicle; Inside Higher Ed; Audrey Watters; eCampus News; NYT; eLearning Industry]

Coursera has announced a further $60m of venture capital investment that it proposes to use to expand further outside the US and to experiment with new offerings such as its mini-degrees that have good “product-market fit” and thus generate revenue.  However, it’s not all about professional development: “About half our content is career oriented and half isn’t,” said CEO Richard Levin. “One of the things we’re thinking about would be premium content on top of [the free materials] in liberal-arts courses.”

Predating this announcement was news that Coursera is launching 30+ new Specializations this month in business, computer science, and data science. Each Specialization culminates in a hands-on Capstone Project which learners can add to their professional portfolios and CV.  Industry partners include market leaders like Google, Qualcomm, Yahoo, IBM and Amazon.

The Texas State University System has announced a Freshman Year for Free programme which allows students to earn a full year of credit via edX MOOCs.  The only costs to students would be to take and pass either Advanced Placement or College Level Examination Program tests after completing the various MOOCs.  

The New York Times reports on the growing numbers of high school students taking MOOCs (although the examples they cite are highly driven individuals), both to enhance subject knowledge and differentiate them from other college applicants.  Admissions officers agree that more MOOCs are being included on applications, but that they tend to regard them as ‘extracurricular’ because there remains low confidence of their content and quality.

Researchers from Harvard and MIT have analysed 115 MOOCs and discovered a new form of cheating, involving the creation of multiple accounts to allow correct-answer-harvesting, that they claim poses a “serious threat to the trustworthiness of MOOC certification.”

The Commonwealth of Learning has launched a MOOC Development portal, powered by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur’s mooKIT.  Interested partner institutions can use the portal to create and offer their own MOOC which is mobile phone-, Twitter- and Facebook-friendly, with up to 10,000 registrations per course.

It’s a while since we’ve had a new MOOC acronym so, courtesy of McGill University and edX, we bring you the world's first GROOC (MOOC for groups).  Social Learning for Social Impact is co-created by management guru Henry Mintzberg and it aims to “inspire social change through global collaboration of like-minded people”.  So, a c-MOOC then.



[University World News; BBC; Channel 4; The Guardian; Donald Clark]

A CIPD report, Over-Qualification and Skills Mismatch in the Graduate Labour Market, finds that the increasing number of graduates in the UK labour market has significantly outstripped the creation of high-skilled jobs and is leading to negative consequences, with 58.8% of graduates currently in non-graduate jobs.  However, Universities UK responded saying the skills provided by HE, such as the ability to think critically, are lifelong and increasingly in demand.  The Association of Graduate Recruiters predicted an 11.9% rise in vacancies this year, following an increase of 4.3% last year.

According to the Student Loans Company, in the three years from 2010, loans and grants given to foreign students at alternative providers, which receive no direct state funding, increased from £50m to £675m.  Payments were suspended by DBIS in 2013 as it was feared the system was being abused and, when 11,000 applications were reviewed, it was found that 992 people had been given money before stricter checks were put in place.  A total of £5.4m was wrongly paid and, of £2.45m in the hands of individual students from 23 countries, including a large number from Romania, the SLC said it had been able to recover £278,427 so far.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond writes: “From a foreign policy point of view, Britain's role as a world class destination for international students is a highly significant element of our soft power offer.  It's an issue that's consistently raised with me by our foreign counterparts.”  He joins the Chancellor and the Business Secretary in calling for student figures to be stripped out of the target to reduce net migration from its current 330,000 to less than 100,000 by the next general election.  The latest data shows that in the year to the end of March the number of overseas students coming to the UK for more than a year rose from 176,000 to 188,000, with around three quarters from outside the EU.

Jo Johnson believes teaching has been neglected in the pursuit of brand reputation via international rankings in parts of the UK’s HE system, and the patchiness of teaching quality is damaging the reputation of UK universities.

The Guardian’s Nick Hillman does not agree with George Osborne’s claim that £9,000 fees are “a triumph of progressive reform” and is calling for greater lobbying against the collapse in part-time student numbers.  He refers to an unpublished DBIS survey carried out earlier this year in which university staff admitted part-time students were seen as a lower priority than “full-time and international students who brought in more revenue”.

Donald Clark looks at ten Corbyn education policies which he believes make good sense.


Commercial News

[Tony Hirst; Audrey Watters; Inside Higher Ed; EdSurge]

Keypath Education appointed Rajay Naik as CEO (Europe) in June following his five years at The Open University and the company has now launched its European operation.  Keypath researches, designs, launches, markets and delivers online degree programmes for its university partners in the UK, United States and Australia.  Naik believes, “The global ambition of our universities continues to expand, and they appreciate the constraints of conventional campuses.  Higher quality online degree programmes allow universities to innovate, students to have more choice and our sector and economy to prosper.”  Keypath has stated that its sole focus until 2017 will be the launching of online degrees and the company expects their investment in British education will rise to many millions of pounds by 2016/2017.

Having sold the FT and its stake in The Economist, Pearson is sitting on around $2bn of loose change.  Anya Kamenetz considers how it might spend this nest egg, and also what it needs to do to turnaround some of the negative perceptions of its brand, particularly in the US where its presence (monopoly?) in the standardised testing marketplace has led to almost monthly bad news stories.  She wonders whether a lack of significant competition lies at the heart of the problem.

…Not to worry, strong competition may soon be coming from McGraw-Hill Education if plans for a $6bn initial public offering come to fruition.

Graham Holdings has sold its Kaplan Higher Education campuses to Education Corporation of America.  For-profit chain ECA has purchased all 38 Kaplan campuses and related assets, although Kaplan will continue to operate Kaplan University and eight professional schools.

Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Cengage have filed a lawsuit in the US against textbook importer Information Recyclers which accuses its three owners of importing and selling pirated counterfeit copies of textbooks whose copyrights belong to the three publishers.

TES, one of Britain's largest education resource companies, boasts more than 800,000 resources and 7.3m registered teacher-users in Britain, Australia and other countries in Europe and Asia.  Now the company aims to offer up materials from educators around the globe on their new marketplace for resources,, the US version of which opened last month.  Whereas materials used to be free, teachers can now offer their resources for sale and, in the UK, these now account for about 50% of downloads, with TES taking a 20% fee from sellers.

After seven years and $105 million in venture funding, Knewton has finally opened up its adaptive learning platform to teachers, students and parents. It claims the free platform has over 100,000 pieces of content and multiple-choice questions for K-12 maths, English, science and history.  Adaptive learning algorithms can deliver different sequences of learning materials and assessments based on how students progress.

Now pay attention.  News Corp is trying to sell its Amplify education business.  Amplify had a computer science MOOC arm (AmplifyMOOC) which has now evolved into edhesive (“online learning that sticks”)(groan) and that has been sold to an undisclosed buyer for an undisclosed amount.


Who Are Your Online Students?

[Tony Bates]

Online college students 2015: Comprehensive data on demands and preferences reports on a survey of 1,500 US students who were recently enrolled, currently enrolled or planning to enrol in the next 12 months in either a fully online undergraduate or graduate degree program or a fully online certificate or licensure program.  Key findings from its 53 pages are:

  • Competition for online students is increasing and they expect policies and processes tailored to their needs

  • Online students have a wide range of needs and backgrounds.  About half would attend a hybrid or low-residency option if their program was not available fully online, but 30% would look elsewhere

  • The main motivation for online students is to improve their work prospects and so courses must prepare them for and connect them to the world of work

  • Half of online students live within 50 miles of their campus, so a strong local brand is critical

  • Cost matters, with 45% of respondents selecting the most inexpensive institution.  Among 23 potential marketing messages, the most appealing were found to be “Affordable tuition” and “Free textbooks”


Use of Different Media in e-Learning

[Donald Clark]

A bit like Tony Bates, Donald Clark seems to have become a more prolific writer, blogger, tweeter, etc, since he stopped having a regular day job.  In separate posts, here are his design thoughts on the use of the following media in e-learning: text (and how best to write it); graphics; animation; audio; and talking-head video.


QA and Internationalisation Top Priorities for European Universities

[The Chronicle]

A new report from the European University Association (EUA), Trends 2015: Learning and teaching in European universities, is the result of responses from 451 universities from 46 countries.  Compared to the previous report five years ago, it shows how institutions in different countries have faced up to the economic crisis, changing demographic trends and other major political and social challenges – with quality assurance and internationalisation emerging as the top priorities across Europe.  The EU is the geographical target for 73% of European universities, with Asia (48%) gaining in importance whilst non-EU Eastern Europe and North America are losing ground.  Interest in the EU is the lowest in Ireland (29%) and Great Britain (33%).


Expect Learning to Become More Digital

[Fox; SchoolGuide; THE]

Two classic examples of publishers asking the right questions to the right people and getting the right answers…

According to McGraw-Hill Education, not only is the learning environment of today very different compared to two or three decades ago (gasp), but it’s going to get more digital.  The company sold more software-based text in HE last year than physical textbooks, and both educators (75% of 171 surveyed) and students (55% of 1000 surveyed) want and expect more of it.

Meanwhile, VitalSource found that 61% (of 500) students want more digitally-interactive homework.  Between 2011 and 2015, the number of students who use digital technology to read course materials rose from 63% to 87% and 74% feel they could get even better grades if their professors used even more tech in the classroom.

But what they don’t report is that 87% of US parents are concerned about student data security.


Martin Dougiamas and Changes to the Moodle Community


Phil Hill recently interviewed Moodle founder, Martin Dougiamas.  There was quite a focus on Moodle’s relationship with the commercial sector so it may be reassuring to many that MD does not regard Blackboard’s recent acquisitions as having a huge impact.  “Moodle’s mission is not changing at all, we are just expanding and improving how we do things in response to a shifting ed-tech world.”  He notes that around 40% of the thousands of clients using Moodle Partners are using Moodle for company training but adds, “we see our mission as being servants to the community of teachers and learners who need Moodle and quality open source free software.  Our core duty is to give away the software we develop.”


Exploring Engaged Student Learning on an OU Module


Richard Jones (an OU lecturer in English Literature) writes on the HEA site about his involvement in a project looking at Engaged Student Learning.  It involved the coordination of several practitioner inquiries into the experience of students studying a first-year undergraduate module.  The project ended with a conference in which participants were able to share their findings alongside statistical data gathered from students’ use of the module website.


The Educator’s Guide to Social Media


The Educator’s Guide to Social Media covers the sort of ground you might expect: digital literacy, available tools, pedagogy, working and sharing online, privacy, inappropriate content/comments, etc.  It seems to be aimed more at the high school age group but there’s some useful content and links, particularly if you’re relatively new to this field.

And Hootsuite provides a very useful list of 10 essential tools for social media managers to plan and track their social media presence and effects.


Deceptive Publishing

[Stephen Downes]

Rick Anderson is concerned about commercial publishers who provide ‘Gold’ open access journals that may scam authors or institutions into paying publication fees.  He suggests a blacklist might be used to flag four types of predatory journals: phony journals, such as promotional sock-puppets; pseudo-scholarly journals, which don't do proper peer review and editing; false flag journals, which fool people into thinking they are submitting to legitimate journals; and Masqueraders, which pretend to have an association with a prestigious institution.


Top Tools for Learning

[Jane Hart]

Jane Hart is busy compiling her annual Top 100 Tools for Learning survey but, as a taster, she presents the thoughts of 15 Bloggers and their individual top 10 tools for learning.  There are some old favourites such as Twitter, Yammer and Wordpress but plenty of more niche choices such as PowToon, Mentimeter, Ominigraffe and Overcast.  Notable is the fact that there is no overall leader – each person’s preferences differ, reflecting both the diversity of tools available and the differing interests and needs of the users.


New Apple Products


New office buildings don’t come cheap, so it would be really helpful for Apple if you could see your way clear to buying a new iPhone or two to help keep the wolf from the door.  Pre-orders are open (and breaking all previous records) and here are the UK products and prices.


Google Street View Improvements

[BBC; Wired]

Google Street View now allows you to observe a group of Galapagos tortoises and take a virtual safari in Kenya's Samburu National Park. 

Of course, you might want to create your own – in which case you can arm yourself with its Photosphere app and Ricoh’s new Theta S digital camera.  It captures 360˚ footage at the touch of a button and can store about an hour’s worth (at 1080p) on its 8GB of internal storage.




And Finally…


Hershey has released the CocoJet 3D printer to allow confectionery connoisseurs to print the design of their choice in chocolate.  Consumers can choose from a library of 3D graphics on an iPad to get the machine to form a number of chocolate designs or, because the patterns are opensource, bespoke designs can also be uploaded to the CocoJet.  It all looks a bit prototypish at the moment but, if you simply can’t wait, you could own Choc Edge’s £2,000 Choc Creator 2.0 right now.

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