This post contains links to 14 tablet initiatives in countries around the world (and another three in which the governments are taking them back). The article is generally sceptical in tone: "the evidence base when it comes to tablet use in schools and to support student learning is rather weak, and can be used in support of or against pretty much whatever scheme is being considered." Well, true. Because it's hard to have an evidence base for national tablet initiatives in developing nations based on "research to date (which) comes from schools in 'highly developed' (OECD) countries, relies on projects with small sample sizes, are of short duration and/or rely heavily on self-reported and/or qualitative data." The only way to know is to try, and to their credit, these nations are trying. Goodness knows, the developed world isn't stepping forth to meet the need. And it wasn't very long ago that the World Bank's answer was high-end videoconferencing facilities for business and small mobile phones for everyone else.
"Here are three takeaways," writes Tiffany Kraft. "1) Students cannot afford the price we pay for higher education. 2) The debt-for-diploma exchange is gutting our Millennials. 3) The antidote for corporate academe is student activism." These have been true since I was a student in the 1980s (and hence, a student activist). Student activism was probably necessary, but certainly not sufficient. I'm not sure, after these 35 years, what would be sufficient.
A brilliant tribute to a fallen teacher. I especially liked Megan Brown's comment: "I think what it is, at least from my perspective, is that haka requires the performer to cast aside any societal bonds that prevent men from expressing emotion, especially grief, as these boys would have been experiencing. Haka therefore permits and actively encourages men to be emotional. Whether that's angry, proud, respectful, or affected by sadness, it doesn't really matter. It allows men (and women, there are haka for women and women often back up men performing haka as well) to reach right down into their guts and voice what's in there with no fear of being shamed by others. There's something primal about it, it's visceral, and it's incredibly powerful. Very seldom do any of us, especially those of us living in predominantly Western societies, allow ourselves the chance to express emotion in this way. That is why it connects. Because it is raw and we don't let ourselves be raw."
This is a reprint of an Audrey Watters article that appeared in a paywall site back in April. She writes: "Learning is not a counting noun," says Dave Cormier, "so what should we count?" I first want to say that 'learning' is a verb :) but that the question is nonetheless valid: with walking we count steps or distance, with writing we count words or arguments, but what of learning? What is counted? What counts? Even if we do away with the language that leads us toward quantification, writes Watters, "how do we identify what matters?" My own answer to this question is at once simple and complex. What counts? Stillness. Balance. Harmony. Resilience. To me, the answer is a lot more about what we become, rather than what we acquire, which is why measurement is a challenge, if not impossible. It is, nonetheless, something we can recognize when we see it.
Interesting article not only because it describes how Reddit's community of volunteers manages to filter the discussion forums, but also because it makes it clear the impact of unmoderated speech. "There are Chicago newspaper websites that have comment sections that are full of hate speech, and we wanted the Reddit community to be something different. We banned them. We silenced them. We removed their comments. We told them to go away... They can wreak havoc on our threads and really mess with people's heads. I don't think most people realize what little it takes to seriously damage someone" (I've combined a couple of quotes here). If you do not have 20,000 volunteers in a massive course, you have limited options: do without forums (the xMOOC approach), pay a lot of money for moderators, allow nasty and vile comments, or break into a network of multiple communities (the cMOOC approach).
Ambient Insight has released a report describing a huge increase in investments in ed tech. "In the six month period between January and June 2015, $2.51 billion was invested in learning technology companies across the globe. This is astonishing considering that the total global investments made to learning technology companies for the entire year of 2014 was $2.42 billion, which set a record in the industry." 19 page PDF. See also Inside Higher Ed.
What does elite education provide, and why do the rich do whatever it takes to gain entrance into top tier institutions? If we don't understand this, we don't understand what we need to provide for everyone else. Here's the full study.
Here's a key point: it's not content knowledge. It's not even academic skills nor critical thinking. If we focus only on these, the elite institutions offer no advantage. Why then are they elite? Kevin Carey suggests that the elites "select the best and the brightest", but this isn't true either. They select the richest. They then turn these very average intelligences into social and economic successes.
The focus on quality, as I argue, is a distraction. We need to provide people not only with learning, but with the social network, tools and empowerment that a proper education produces. As Cathy Davidson says, "What if the issue isn't what Harvard can and does do brilliantly but what, for the students who do not go to elite schools, they must do for themselves: ensure their own success.
It has been quite a while (years, really) since we've seen such an outburst of fresh writing in the edublogosphere. The current deluge is courtesy of the #blimage (blog image) challenge issued by Amy Burvall, which she explains in a video: one person sends the other an image, the other writes a blog post about education related to the image. HJ.DeWaard explains more. Here's the list of just some of the items posted by Steve Wheeler in this item:
We are happy to announce that Dr. Ing. Diana Andone and Ebba Ossiannilsson, PhD, have been elected by the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Barcelona to serve as new members of the Executive Committee of EDEN from June 2015.
In June 2015, the collaboration agreement has been signed between the Ontario's Distance Education and Training Network - Contact North and EDEN. The aim of the collaboration is the development of strategic co-operation between the two organisations.
The first Senior Fellow and Fellow Awards, launched on the initiative of Professor Alan Tait, former EDEN President, were presented at the 2007 Annual Conference in Naples. In 2015, this tradition was continued in Barcelona, at the Welcome Reception of the 2015 Annual Conference - #EDEN15. The 2015 Awards were announced to the Senior Fellows and Fellow present at the event, while those who couldn't join the Conference Reception were mentioned with applause.
The EDEN Senior Fellow Award is given in 2015, based on the decision of the EDEN Executive Committee to:
In this podcast, Sarah Fahmy talks about our open access (OA) good practice pathfinder projects including the latest developments in other OA services and projects highlighted at this year's Digifest event. Read the original blog post.
Inspired by Jisc’s change agents' network, a number of universities have come together to form the London Digital Student Meet-Up, an event that brings together students and staff to work together across institutions. Moira Wright, digital literacy officer at University College London, and one of the meet-up founders, discusses the learnings from the first event and what’s in store for the future.
Our final 'connect more with Jisc' event took place in London on 15 July, giving people from the south east the opportunity to hear from experts and try out innovative technologies, with plenty of time for networking. In this podcast we hear from delegates and Jisc colleagues about their experiences.
FutureLearn is the UK's platform for online courses, with more than 50 partner universities and institutions, from the British Museum to University College London.
It recently claimed the record for the course with the most students - 370,000 learners enrolled for a British Council course preparing for an English language test. What's the secret behind its success and what does the future hold for massive open online courses (MOOCS) providers like FutureLearn?
It's been nearly two years now since FutureLearn launched – how's it going?
Simon Nelson interview
We're delighted with progress. Around a year we hit our first million people signed up for courses and those numbers are accelerating [now nearly two million]. People who are doing our courses seem to love them and the volume we have who are getting through the courses – our own metric is "fully participating in them" – is very healthy. We think that the quality of the courses coming from the universities is getting better and better and we have a very strong relationship with our partners where we mutually support each other to keep quality high and raise standards by learning from each other. Our first business models are performing far better than predictions so I can definitely see a clear path of sustainability for the business.
These are business models based around people paying for the statements of participation?
Yes, that's pretty much the only business model we've got at the moment; we also offer exams at the end of some of our courses at physical test centres and that's been slower to get off the ground but our statements of participation are selling in many multiples of what we predicted they would at this stage.
What about the numbers of people who have completed courses?
Our metric is full participation so you need to have done more than half the steps of the course and all the assessments. Our figure is that 23% of people who start on our courses fully participate in them. If you look at other platforms, everyone measures themselves slightly differently so some people benchmark against people who sign up for the course (although a lot of people who sign up for a course don't actually start it) and if you take our figures against that metric, which is only fair to do, then it's 12% of people who start up who fully participate, which we're pretty pleased with at the moment. The first metric is the more interesting one for us.
And how does that compare with other platforms?
Everyone measures slightly differently and they may measure completion or people who are eligible for their statements of completion. With that caveat, I think the published figures that they put out are around 4-6% on average. We have some courses that have had over 50% full participation and others that have had well under 10%. We think we may start getting more sophisticated in the way in which we report that as there are different durations of courses, different types of courses. But in very crude benchmarking against what's happening elsewhere in the market, we're very pleased with progress.
What do you know about your learners? Who are they and do you know why do some fully participate and others do not?
There's a wide range of backgrounds and motivation driving our learners. Demographically, we have a broad spread from age 13 to 93 and we have a wide range of courses targeted at school leavers, university leavers, professionals in business, healthcare, teaching, international learners who want to develop their English skills and then general interest learners who want to capitalise on this free learning revolution and get back to studying. So there's a huge diversity but the enthusiasm you see among all ages and all demographics is really the key yardstick for us that tells us we're on the right track.
I always tell people to go and have a look at the courses and what people are doing and saying because we put great emphasis on what we call our social learning functionality - we very much encourage debate and discussion within the courses and you'll see it's very passionate, erudite, informed discussion that goes on in there.
How important is that social element in keeping people going, keeping them participating, helping with those full participation rates?
Critical. The two elements that distinguish these types of courses from the type of open courseware that has gone before is the fact that the courses have a start date – a beginning, middle and end – which is a powerful motivator in an on-demand world, and then the social element that means that they go through the courses with a cohort, encouraging and motivating each other to continue, making it feel like it's not a lonely experience but a shared one. Increasingly, we're trying to bring interesting approaches to how people learn from each other and collaborate in their learning. We're early days in this but we've built the foundations effectively for a social network for learning. I hasten to add that we've only built the foundations so far! But we think it's going to be a really interesting area for where learning goes over the next few years.
And the use of mobile technology?
Again, it's very, very important. So we make sure that we've built a product that is responsively designed so it recognises the device you're on and optimises for it – our platform works beautifully whether you're on a mobile or a desktop. We don't have an app but that's definitely something we'll be looking at in future.
Which have been your most successful courses and why? Are you discovering what doesn't work?
There's no course that we point at and say "that doesn't work" though there may be elements that need improving. One of the beauties of this market is that because it's such a dynamic medium you have the opportunity to be driven by a wealth of data that is almost unparalleled in a learning context. But there are courses that have stood out for us.
Our biggest course is one called Exploring English Language and Culture with the British Council, which 120,000 people signed up to its first run. This area of social language learning is a very interesting journey for us. We also have a course on building your first mobile game, from the university of Reading, and that's been big, and we're on the second run of an introduction to forensic science from Strathclyde. We've had three very good forensic science courses, all very popular and all with great participation rates. We've had fantastic courses in Irish history and ancient history, based around archaeology and Hadrian's Wall, and they get very high levels of engagement. Personal health and wellbeing feels like a very strong category – there's a focus on mental health, for example. We've got quite a healthcare portfolio, aimed at professionals as well as more general interest and sufferers. So we have courses on medicines adherence – how do you get patients to take their medicines – and courses on falls among aging patients. We have courses running soon on dysphasia and obesity. Then, of course, business and entrepreneurship is a very hot area for us.
In terms of the portfolio of courses we cover quite a broad waterfront quite thinly and my priority is to try to add depth into those categories because we know that people get to the end of the courses and they've had a fantastic experience and they say so, where next? We want to have somewhere for them to go next, either on Futurelearn or, potentially, into the core business of our university partners either online or on undergraduate or postgraduate courses.
For that to happen would there have to be a way for these courses to give points or credentials so that people can go on to those university courses?
That's something for the universities to deal with themselves, really; it's not an area we particularly focus on – we don't see ourselves as a university, we don't want to be a university and, for many of our learners, credit is not the kind of thing they are looking for. They are looking for different types of recognition, they are looking for things that are valued by their employers, or things that help them develop new skills, things that will help them gain professional qualifications or just personal mementoes so they can say "yes, I did that". We're doing a lot of work and a lot of thinking on understanding those different motivations at different life stages but credit and the complexities of credit, that's core university business so we leave it to them whether they want to offer credit but, if they do, we want to make sure that our platform is a robust solution for them to do that.
Have any courses been a surprise success for you?
There's a course running on ebola at the moment that's been very successful but that doesn't surprise me. Forensic science did, actually, I didn't see that coming though a couple of people in my team did. All the forensic science courses have stood out. We've had a few courses on Shakespeare that have been extremely popular and with great engagement levels.
What have you learned and changed since launching?
In terms of the development of the platform I guess it's still amazing how much you can get done in a launch phase. I still can't quite believe we hit what felt like insane deadlines! The complexities of running a live service is a constant challenge as well and trying to balance innovation in content and pedagogy against the need to grow and drive audience, and the commercial business. It's the first commercial business that I've run - my background is the BBC. Just how to balance an appropriate development of business models without overly skewing the rest of the business, which is driving our take-up and awareness. We're a team of 50 now and so as you grow – and we've had to grow very fast – you identify roles you hadn't thought you'd need and roles you thought you needed you no longer need and areas where you put a whole load of focus turn out to be a blind alley.
We put a lot of effort at the beginning into understanding how to work with other content providers and other cultural organisations etc. We've been on a bit of a journey on that one and we've got to a very good place. We've got courses coming out from the British Library, the British Council has turned out to be one of our most powerful; partners, the BBC – it took a while to reel them in but we got them in and we've got real commitment from them in a whole range of areas which has been thrilling. But there were a number of other grander visions, for example around opening up and unlocking the archives of some of these great institutions but we just need to focus on the core business while trying to move forward the conditions for that bigger, grander vision.
Another thing we've changed is that at the beginning, because we were a brand new start up which had to persuade universities to join us – universities who frankly didn't know if we could do what we said we were going to do and were taking a leap of faith – the relationship with those universities has developed just about every month we've been in existence. In the beginning I think they were quite nervous about whether we'd be able to deliver on what we said and every month that's gone by that bond has got stronger and stronger. The dynamic of the overall partnership has changed as well. Whereas at the beginning it was quite competitive between the different universities, now they are starting to increasingly explore collaboration.
Is that just within the UK institutions?
No, internationally as well.
With your partnerships with the British Library, British Museum, British Council and British Film Institute, to name just a few, there's a very British flavour to FutureLearn but you also partner with international universities – Australia, Shanghai, Oslo – what does that bring and are there any challenges with this kind of transnational education?
The web is a global platform and rewards global networks. We're interested in working with the top universities all over the world and showcasing their expertise to the rest of the world using the platform and approach that we've developed. They give us credibility in different markets so by having one of the top Australian universities and top Chinese universities it raises awareness of FutureLearn in those countries and helps us to attract learners. It's really interesting but relatively untapped potential at this stage in how those universities work together. My philosophy has always been that the web is a very big competitive landscape and one that favours scale so to act in partnership with others and create something that's bigger than the sum of your individual parts is a very powerful strategy.
Have Moocs been over-hyped?
Unquestionably there were excessive claims made about the potential of Moocs in the early days – not by us, I hasten to add. But it's typical of any industry I've worked in when the internet hits it. It's what happened when I was in radio, it's what happened when I was in TV, at the BBC, it's what happened in publishing - evangelists overclaiming the potential benefits and also predicting the death or demise of the key institutions in the industry; sceptics moving to the other end of the spectrum and getting further entrenched in a view what dismisses what's going on as a fad and starts to question any of the benefits that may be coming. This spectrum of debate is often quite unhealthy and the real answer lies somewhere in the middle and that's what I think is happening with Moocs. In some ways Moocs are just one part of a much more exciting and fundamental transformation that's happening in higher education, which is the arrival of the internet and the possibilities that that offers to the existing incumbents, to new entrants, to transform the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning is something that we prefer to focus on and try to be a catalyst for and a partner for our universities in helping to exploit that.
Lisa Featherstone is a Jisc subject specialist advising on accessibility and inclusion. In this podcast, she offers her tips on using technology to create more flexible resources that can meet the needs of students with disabilities and learning impairments. Read the original blog post.
In the recent article “Simulating Learning Networks in a Higher Education Blogosphere – At Scale“, Fridolin Wild and Steinn Sigurdarson introduce into a simulation model built from the iCamp trial data and educational model assumption: they wanted to see what would happen, if trials are scaled up an order of magnitude. The simulation results are [...]
One year after we succesfully went through iCamp project’s last official review, we are wirting down a new post for wellcoming a new version of our Handbook. This is the time for its Spanish version, issued by Win-Win Consultores, with the financial support of the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Turism under its “avanza2” [...]
The iCamp partner AGH – the University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland, has published recently a Polish version of the iCamp handbook on how to use social software in education. Please click here to get the electronic version.
Since the iCamp experience was very successful in making use of new media for cross-cultural collaboration iCamp competes for the MEDEA Awards, respecively in the European Collaboration Award.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed!
We now received the final review report where our external reviewers commend us on our excellent work and our valuable contribution to European research in Technology Enhanced Learning.
Here are some quotes from the report, which can also be downloaded:
… In the opinion of the reviewers the products and outcomes of the project are of considerable [...]