May 30th, 2005
For all those of you who think that online learning is impersonal, mass-produced and boring, help is at hand. The people at Eurekalert (the news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) are publicising a study by Mark Shatz and Frank LoSchiavo from Ohio University: “Learning through laughter: New study supports use of humor in online courses“. I particularly like this quote from the article:
“Professors rarely have much to lose, since students already have low expectations of them going into a class, he argued. “They expect us to be boring and dull. We don’t have to be funny, but the attempt at being funny tells students that we’re trying to make the course more interesting. I think it’s just the effort alone that students truly appreciate,” he said.”
I’m dedicating this post to Kieran Maguire in the Business School for showing the way at MMU (and I’m sure there are many others who might like to make themselves known….) Maybe on request Kieran would share his multiple choice question secrets….make your requests via the comments field and I’ll pass them on.
May 29th, 2005
This “Free, digital book” from the Masie Center is a collection of contributions from educators on what keeps them up at night. I don’t think you’ll get any real surprises or insights from the listings (other than the fact that a lot of sleep is claimed to be lost over work-related issues!) but you might find that it strikes some chords to skim through some of the topics such as ‘Time and Resources’, or ‘Technical Requirements’.
A lot of them are surprisingly specific, but I expect that this anonymous contribution â€œThings I should have done, but have not yet gotten to – they could be work-related, family-related, or just some commitments in my life that I haven’t met.â€ will ring bells for most people!
May 27th, 2005
If you are interested in open source software (see this previous post to find out what it is) then you might want to attend this seminar – Bodington Buzz: Introduction to the Bodington VLE System at Oxford University on 4 July 2005.
“Talks will include:
Personal Development Planning, ePortfolios, Skills profiling and logbooks
Blogs and RSS feeds for dynamic data provision
Learning design sequences LAMS Open Source Software
Sophisticated assessment using TOIA free software
Federated searching tools to produce reading lists
ePortfolios and log books in Bodington
Granular authorisation through The Bodington Open Source VLE
The JISC E-learning Framework gluing things together
Shibboleth integration allowing cross-institutional collaboration
What’s new in current and imminent releases of Bodington
Longterm directions of VLEs “
May 26th, 2005
We’ve had MacDonalds University….now we have Trump University, run by the eponymous property developer. The organisation runs short online courses and dispenses advice on Advancing your Career, Building Wealth and Launching a Business. The learning is entirely self-directed, without tutors guiding discussion, or marking assignments – peer review will be the only form of assessment in the short term. It looks as though the courses are aimed at a very different market to the traditional Business School. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘ “This is supplemental to getting a great high-school and college education,” said Mr Trump, a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.”‘ There’s no bigger fan than me of education and universities.” ‘
NB: In the UK, it wouldn’t be legal for this organisation to call itself a university, but in the US it’s OK to use this name, as long as they don’t make claims about their accreditation.
May 24th, 2005
The JISC eLearning Focus site has an interesting article on using Open Source software for elearning . Open source software is software that is free and modifiable, as opposed to commercial software which is copyright protected and costs money! Most of the article is an interview with Stuart Yeates from the JISC OSS Watch which gives advice on adopting Open Source software.
You may wonder why we use expensive WebCT at MMU instead of free Moodle or Bodington. There are two simple reasons: 1) those systems don’t yet have the scaleability or features of WebCT, 2) we don’t have the staffing to implement or support them. The annual licence cost is easier to find than the staffing costs for such a system. But this may change as these systems mature and improve, so it’s worth keeping an eye on them.
May 24th, 2005
Thanks to a very lively discussion on our WebCT developers’ list (while the server was being lovingly restored to life, although some parts of its brain are suffering from a 3 day amnesia from which probably it will probably never recover) I know more than I did about using the Plagiarism Detection Service, and will update the advice and instructions shortly. I hope I wasn’t alone in finding Paul Duckett’s contribution to this discussion very thought-provoking “I sometimes fear that the academic’s response to plagiarism is a bit like the present government’s reaction to ‘hoodies’ or benefit fraud! Because a few people might purposefully plagiarise in order to gain unfair advantage, everyone is instantly put under suspicion of being up to no good. I worry about how our responses to plagiarism might engender a culture of mistrust and suspicion that might damage our teaching and learning environments.”
This weekend I came across two contrasting news items on plagiarism. In the first, a lecturer in Sydney complains that she is being pressurised, by not being paid, into signing off work which she believes to have been plagiarised (note – the details are too sketchy for us to be able to tell what processes have been implemented, if any, to check the allegations – the newspaper article implies plagiarism to be proven, but the university is quoted as saying that they are only waiting for her to give them information before paying her).
In the second, which I got via Ian Winship on the Jiscmail Plagiarism list, we are told that journal publishers are turning to software to “Root Out Scholarly Plagiarism”. We already know that ‘plagiarism by academic staff’ is a subject which is causing a lot of problems in the US, with some high profile disciplinary cases. Many of the cases seem to be brought when staff are causing other problems in their institutions, though (see the Churchill case which is the most high profile one to date, for an example of what can happen). It makes me wonder: do administrators see this as a surefire way to catch out people who are difficult to get rid of? If so, has everyone done it – presumably accidently in most cases, but as we know from our own regulations, intention is irrelevant?
May 24th, 2005
We are running two Getting Started with WebCT sessions, on 24th May and 22nd June. For further details and online booking, see our APD pages.
May 17th, 2005
For many years Media Services has run an excellent service whereby they record the evening’s TV programmes from all the main channels, enabling you to get a copy if you ask for it in the two weeks following the programme. So if you happen to be sitting in front of Coronation Street (heaven forbid) and the storyline illustrates a situation of educational benefit, or something in BBC3′s parenting series has relevance to a current study plan, or BBC2 history has some wonderful footage – you can get a copy to show in your classes later. This is all covered by our broadcast licence with the Educational Recording Association.
The BBC is about to test out iMP, a system which allows you to download BBC programmes to your computer and watch them any time in the next week. After a week the programmes are deleted from your computer. In itself I don’t think that this has any great educational implications (apart from letting you watch that worthy programme during the day because you were too tired to concentrate in the evening, or lost the battle of the remote control) but it will be interesting to see if the BBC opens the door to educational use of the system by offering more flexibility – or if their software gets offered free to UK educational institutions to distribute video, as it will have to be very easy to use.
May 16th, 2005
The Lisbon Agenda seeks to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010″. The eLearning Industry group is a consortium of IT companies which seeks to promote eLearning. In
this report they set out their agenda for developing eLearning across Europe as a means to achieve the Lisbon agenda. They focus on four themes:
- Directing more public investment into the broad-based deployment of eLearning and better coordination of existing (fragmented) funding programmes;
- Promoting the development of a strong and vibrant European eContent Industry;
- Committing to open standards for ICT and Content as a means to stimulate market growth and innovation;
- Increase the focus on educators as change agents and facilitators of the transformation.
This is an industry-led group, but all of these factors could impact on us in UK HE. This is worth keeping an eye on. There are funding opportunities if you are interested in developing content with European partners, primarily for work-based learning.
May 12th, 2005
The foundation degree forward organisation has announced its National Conference on 12/13 July 2005. Speakers will include a Government minister and Sir Howard Newby from HEFCE, and you can keep up to date at their website.