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    Archive for the 'Matt’s Musings' Category

    Reflections after UCL’s first Mooc

    By Matt Jenner, on 22 April 2016

    I wrote eight weeks ago, just before UCL’s first foray on FutureLearn went live, to share thoughts on the journey so far. By way of transparency, and [selfishly] having a justification to look back, I wanted to share some reflections after UCL’s first, and second, Moocs have finished.

    Why We Post: The Anthropology of Social Media

    After years of research Danny Miller and the team went Full Avalanche mode to ensure their research was moving into the hearts and minds of the world. After studying the Anthropology of Social Media across the globe, Danny’s idea was simple; he wanted for anyone interested to find out his team’s discoveries. About two years ago Danny explained his concept for how this would happen. What he wanted, in my mind anyway, was a pyramid of dissemination:

    Pyramid of Research Dissemination for Why We Post

    Pyramid of Research Dissemination for Why We Post

    Danny’s an ambitious researcher and he knows how to get his work out to a large and diverse audience. If you’re curious to see these outputs here are the web links to find out more:

    There’s a lot to get through and I hope that the effort spent on these outputs will be enjoyed by many as the months and years go by.

    Location of learners: A global audience

    Why We Post provided an interesting exercise to visualise the location of learners on a global map – they are a truly Earth-wide audience:

    Why We Post: Global Audience

    Why We Post: Global Audience – click the image for the live Zeemap – ~2000 entries as-of 21 April 2016

    Thanks to Zeemaps, who provide this service for free.

    It started with a very Brazilian focus due to some early publicity from a blogger in South America but then as the course started, the pins started appearing all over. It’s so exciting to see all these people, from all across the world, taking part in a simple exercise as ‘pin yourself on the map’. It should become a standard feature for all online courses, especially very international ones. Some people even put full names and addresses – if I had the budget – I’d like to send them all a postcard from Bloomsbury, London!

    Offering multiple languages // translating online courses is hard work

    Each team member in Why We Post, or the original ‘Social Media Impact Study’ research activity, was given a fieldsite where they will spend many months studying the use of social media, and the surrounding anthropological context. There was always the ambition to make the research outputs as multilingual as possible – so we ended up with the brief of making 9 courses as a part of the dissemination package. Making one online course is challenging enough but 9, in 7 languages you don’t know, is an interesting challenge.

    Turkish? Why We Post: Neden Paylaşıyoruz: Sosyal Medya Antropolojisi :)

    Turkish? Why We Post: Neden Paylaşıyoruz: Sosyal Medya Antropolojisi via UCLeXtend :)

    Firstly the plan was to build the course in FutureLearn – this would prove enough lessons-learned to equip us (disclaimer: Laura Haapio-Kirk far more than me) with a working model of the course. Once built (or mostly so) we then made a pathway of converting it into UCLeXtend – still English. Now FutureLearn and Moodle are different beasts – but we found ways through. With a little tinkering, and designing a style-guide, we converted one platform to the other (by hand, btw, and all credit to Perla Rembiszewski who worked super hard to get this done). Once the English UCLeXtend course was ready it became a template, Perla and Laura then converted it into 7 documents, all in English but with empty placeholders for the translation.

    If you imagine breaking a course down into chunks – each of these would be a row in a table. Then it gets tricky, translation is not a process, it’s an art. A translator is not an Input:Output engine, they’re a multilingual human. They have to read, interpret, learn, translate and then piece it back together. Being super organised helps a lot. The process creates mistakes and translation quality is, at best a variable, and at worst, somewhat arguable. Unless you’re paying full whack (which gets super-expensive) you’re also probably relying on good-faith and interest in the project to get to the end. Credit due to Laura who managed the whole process and barely complained about it; that’s the mark of a professional.

    Multi-language versions of Why We Post – now available

    The the course is now available in

    All via UCLeXtend and remain open for study at any time as self-paced courses / open learning resources. This makes me happy.

    Moodle is multilingual, quick reminder

    Lastly, it’s surprisingly easy to enable other languages in Moodle – people say negative things about it (shame, but I get it) but being able to just ‘turn on’ Spanish (or whichever) is quite powerful for a globally ambitious researcher who wants to share back to their hosts who gave them so much. And we’ve yet to have a support request in Spanish from a troubled user – I’m worried we’ll only be able to ask them dos cervezas, por favor if they do! But maybe a fair exchange for a password reset?

    Many Faces of Dementia – high levels of participation

    Step 2.2 from the Many Faces of Dementia - Tim Shakespeare's FutureLearn Mooc

    Step 2.2 from the Many Faces of Dementia – Tim Shakespeare’s FutureLearn Mooc

    Tim Shakespeare’s course, Many Faces of Dementia, covers rare forms of Dementia. It highlighted how powerful the FutureLearn platform can be at engaging learners. Tim has made a great course, covering Dementia in a human and scientific way. The learners must’ve appreciated this because it trumped many (many) FutureLearn courses in the level of engagement recorded. Courses usually achieve around a 20% fully participating learner statistic but the Dementia course had clocked in over 45%. This means of those who started the course 45% of them went on to completing 50%, or more, of all the steps in the course. If we can get in and see why, we’ll do what we can to share the secret – because this is really good.

    Selling certificates // income generation

    I won’t go into much detail – it’s not a large sum – but we’re planning on using the income generated for good causes. Originally I hoped to set up a fund for learners on lower incomes to apply for gifted certificates but this is actually quite tricky within university finances. Instead we’re exploring options of funding student research to enhance or report on our Mooc activity. I want to send any income generated in the right direction.

    Chatty learners & Why We Don’t Post?

    It turns out, people are not all that social on a social learning platform. Yes, there were lots of really valuable discussions and people who were commenting, replying, liking and following others were adding genuine, insightful and meaningful contributions – I have no desire to degrade or downplay this part. What’s so surprising is still how few people actually do this; a huge majority of people are not using the social functions. Many Faces of Dementia has 4 comments per learner and Why We Post had around 6. Some basic URL digging shows FutureLearn has just over 3m learners and 12m comments, so about 4 comments per learner across the site. I know some people don’t start after sign-up, but it seems that even those who do, they still don’t necessarily contribute conversationally throughout the course. Can you imagine weekly seminars where only a handful of people ever speak? (Oh, yeah – humm…)

    The numbers are not perfect and some people post a LOT (I see you ;)) but these averages seem worth scruitinising. I’d like to explore how to make a really social course, or better understand Why We Don’t Post? I don’t think Danny’s up for that one…

    Keeping courses short // Run parts if you like long ones

    Are shorter Moocs better? I don’t know the minimum or maximum length but 4 weeks, 1-2 hours per week seems good. If it’s actually 4 weeks but 3-4 hours per week, people may struggle to fit it in, and you might lose people. Better research is out there. UCL’s next course, Making Babies in the 21st Century, is six weeks – so I’m still mulling this rule over. Any longer than six weeks and I would be tempted to split the course into two parts, so people can space out the learning and fit it into their lives. Time will tell on this one, ha.

    We’re going for more

    The second round of Mooc proposals is open for anyone at UCL to submit an interest in. Initially the call is for expressions of interest in developing a MOOC to run on the FutureLearn platform at some point within the coming 12 months.

    • Briefing meeting at 1-2pm on 27 April in the Logan Hall, UCL Institute of Education.
    • Deadline for expressions of interest is 9 May.
    • Deadline for proposals is 23 May.

    The panel, chaired by the Pro Director for Teaching, Quality, and Learning Innovation will meet to decide which proposals receive central funding, with notification to teams by 6 June 2016. More information is available via the Teaching and Learning Portal.

     

    Reflections before UCL’s first Mooc

    By Matt Jenner, on 26 February 2016

    Why We Post: Anthropology of Social Media

    Why We Post: Anthropology of Social Media

    UCL’s first Mooc – Why We Post: The Anthropology of Social Media launches on Monday on FutureLearn. It’s not actually our first Mooc – it’s not even one Mooc, it’s 9! Eight other versions are simultaneously launching on UCLeXtend in the following languages: Chinese, English, Italian, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish, Tamil and Turkish. If that’s not enough  we seem to have quite a few under the banner of UCL:

    (quite a few of these deserve title of ‘first’ – but who’s counting…)

    Extended Learning Landscape - UCL 2015

    Extended Learning Landscape – UCL 2015

    UCL is quite unique for some of these – we have multiple platforms which form a part of our Extended Learning Landscape. This maps out areas of activity such as CPD, short courses, Moocs, Public Engagement, Summer Schools (and many more) and tries to understand how we can utilise digital education / e-learning with these (and what happens when we do).

     

    Justification for Moocs

    We’ve not launched our first Mooc (apparently) but we also need to develop a mid term plan too – so we can do more. Can we justify the ones we’ve done so far? Well a strong evaluation will certainly help but we also need an answer to the most pertinent pending question:

    How much did all this cost and was it worth it? 

    It’s a really good question, one we started asking a while ago, and still the answer feels no better than educated guesswork. Internally we’re working on merging a Costing and Pricing tool (not published, sorry) and the IoE / UCL Knowledge Lab Course Resource Appraisal Modeller (CRAM) tool. The goal is to have a tool which takes the design of a Mooc and outputs a realistic cost. It’s pretty close already – but we need to feed in some localisations from our internal Costing and Pricing tool such as Estates cost, staff wages, Full Economic Costings, digital infrastructure, support etc. The real cost of all this is important. But the value? Well…

    Evaluation

    We’ve had a lot of ideas and thoughts about evaluation; what is the value of running Moocs for the university? It feels right to mention public engagement, the spirit of giving back and developing really good resources that people can enjoy. There’s the golden carrot being dangled of student recruitment but I can’t see that balancing any Profit/Loss sheets. I do not think it’s about pedagogical innovation, let’s get real here: most Moocs are still a bulk of organised expert videos and text. I don’t think this does a disservice to our Moocs, or those of others, I’d wager that people really like organised expert videos and text (YouTube and Wikipedia being stable Top 10 Global Websites hints at this). But there are other reasons – building Moocs is an new way to engage a lot of people with your topic of interest. Dilution of the common corpus of subjects is a good thing; they are open to anyone who can access them. The next logical step is subjects of fascination, niche, specialist, bespoke – all apply to the future of Moocs.

    For evaluation, some obvious things to measure are:

    • Time from people spend on developing the Mooc – we’ve got a breakdown document which tries to list each part of making / running a Mooc so we can estimate time spent.
    • Money spent on media production – this one tends to be easy
    • Registration, survey, quiz, platform usage and associated learner data
    • Feedback from course teams on their experience
    • Outcomes from running a Mooc (book chapters, conference talks, awards won, research instigated)
    • Teaching and learning augmentation (i.e. using the Mooc in a course/module/programme)
    • Developing digital learning objects which can be shared / re-used
    • Student recruitment from the Mooc
    • Pathways to impact – for research-informed Moocs (and we’re working on refining what this means)
    • How much we enjoyed the process – this does matter!

    Developing a Mooc – lessons learned

    Communication

    Designing a course for FutureLearn involves a lot of communication; both internally and to external Partners, mostly our partner manager at FutureLearn but there are others too. This is mostly a serious number of emails – 1503 (so far) to be exact. How? If I knew I’d be rich or loaded with oodles of time. It’s another new years resolution: Stop: Think: Do you really need to send / read / keep that email? Likely not! I tried to get us on Trello early, as to avoid this but I didn’t do so well and as the number of people involved grew adding all these people to a humungous Trello board just seemed, well, unlikely. Email; I shall understand you one day, but for now, I surrender.

    Making videos

    From a bystander’s viewpoint I think the course teams all enjoyed making their videos (see final evaluation point). The Why We Post team had years to make their videos in-situ from their research across the world. This is a great opportunity to capture real people in the own context; I don’t think video gets much better than this. They had permission from the outset to use the video for educational purposes (good call) and wove them right into the fabric of the course – and you can tell. Making Babies in the 21st Century has captured some of the best minds in the field of reproduction; Dan Reisel (lead educator) knows the people he wants, he’s well connected and has captured and collated experts in the field – a unique and challenging achievement. Tim Shakespeare, The Many Faces of Dementia, was keener to capture three core groups for his course: people with Dementia, their carers / family and the experts who are working to improve the lives for people with Dementia. This triangle of people makes it a rounded experience for any learner, you’ll connect with at least one of these groups. Genius.

    Also:

    • Audio matters the most – bad audio = not watching
    • Explain and show concepts – use the visual element of video to show what you mean, not a chin waggling around
    • Keep it short – it’s not an attention span issue, it’s an ideal course structuring exercise.
    • Show your face – people still want to see who’s talking at some point
    • Do not record what can be read – it’s slower to listen than it is to read, if your video cam be replaced with an article, you may want to.
    • Captions and transcripts are important – do as many as you can. Bonus: videos can then be translated.

    Using third party works

    Remains as tricky as it ever has been. Moocs are murky (commercial? educational? for-profit?) but you’ll need to ask permission for every single third-party piece of work you want to use. Best advice: try not to or be prepared to have no response! Images are the worst, it’s a challenge to find lots of great images that you’re allowed to use, and a course without images isn’t very visually compelling. Set aside some time for this.

    Designing social courses that can also be skim-read

    FutureLearn, in particular, is a socially-oriented learning platform – you’ll need to design a course around peer-to-peer discussion. Some is breaking thresholds – you’re trying to teach them something important, enabling rich discussion will help. You’re also trying to keep them engaged – so you can’t ask for a deep, thoughtful, intervention every 2 minutes. Find the balance between asking important questions – raising provocative points – and enjoying the fruits of the discussion with the reality of ‘respond if you want’ type discussion prompts.

    Connect course teams together

    While they might not hold one another’s hair when things get rough – the course teams will benefit from sharing their experiences with one another. We’ve held monthly meetings since the beginning, encouraging each team to attend and share their updates, challenges, show content, see examples from other courses and generally make it a more social experience. Some did share their dropboxes with one another – which I hadn’t expected but am enjoying the level of transparency. I am guilty of thinking at scale at the moment, so while I was guiding and pseudo ‘project-managing’ the courses, I was keen to promote independence and agency within the course teams. It’s their course, they’ll be the ones working into the night on it, I can’t have them relying on me and my dreaded inbox. The outcome is they build their own ideas and shape them in their own style; maybe we’re lucky but this is important. We do intervene at critical stages, recommending approaches and methods as appropriate.

    Plan, design and then build

    Few online learning environments make good drafting tools. We encouraged a three-stage development process:

    1. Proposals, expanded into Excel-based documents. Outlines each week, the headline for each step/component and critical elements like discussion starters.
    2. Design in documents – Word/Google Docs (whatever) – expand each week; what’s in each step. Great for editorial and refinement.
    3. Build in the platform.

    The reason for this is the outlines are usually quick to fix when there’s a glaring structural omission or error. The document-based design then means content can be written, refined and steps planned out in a loose, familiar tool. Finally the platform needs to be played with, understood and then the documents translated into real courses. It’s not a solid process and some courses had an ABC (Arena Blended Connected) Curriculum Design stage, just to be sure a storyboard of the course made sense.

    Overall

    • It’s hard work – for the course teams – you can just see they’ll underestimate the amount of time needed.
    • The value shows once you go live and people start registering, sharing early comments on the Week 0 discussion areas.
    • These courses look good and work well as examples for others, Mooc or credit-bearing blended/online courses
    • Courses don’t need to be big – 1/2 hours a week, 2-4 weeks is enough. I’d like to see more smaller Moocs
    • Integrating your Moocs into taught programmes, modules, CPD courses makes a lot of sense

    As a final observation before we go live with the first course: Why We Post: The Anthropology of Social Media, on Monday there was one thing that caught my eye early:

    Every course team leader for our Moocs is primarily a researcher and their Moocs are produced, largely, from their research activity. UCL is research intensive, so this isn’t too crazy, but we’re also running an institutional initiative the Connected Curriculum which is designed to fully integrate research and teaching. The Digital Education team is keen to see how we build e-learning into research from the outset. This leads us to a new project in UCL entitled: Pathways to Impact: Research Outputs as Digital Education (ROADE) where we’re exploring research dissemination and e-learning objects and courses origins and value. More soon on that one – but our Mooc activity has really initiated this activity.

    Coming soon – I hope – Reflections after UCL’s first Mooc 🙂 

     

    How can you teach online if you’ve never experienced learning online?

    By Matt Jenner, on 20 January 2016

    Distance Learning doesn't need to be lonely. Image Credits; By loungerie on Flikr

    Distance Learning doesn’t need to be lonely.
    Image Credit: By loungerie on Flikr

    Teaching online requires different approaches to a traditional classroom environment (as does the learning). Teachers who are not prepared or do not know what is involved in the development and implementation of an online course will result in “negative outcomes for students and faculty” (Caullar, 2002).  As Open University expert Derek Rowntree (1992) explains, most newcomers to ODL [open and distance learning] need to develop new knowledge, new skills and very often new attitudes and dispositions.  Students and staff need to be oriented to the differences in learning online and the change in role and approach for both the teacher and the learner (Palloff and Pratt, 2002). It’s recommended to provide staff development opportunities in online teaching (ibid) and that should come at a later stage, but I think a crucial step precedes it:

    How can you teach online if you’ve never experienced learning online?

    You must try it. I’d also recommend absorbing what’s around you as well  – talk colleagues already active in this space, look for existing resources and participate in relevant networking events. But crucially; join an online course, or ten, and experience it yourself.

    Learn online: Take a free course

    There is a growing range of free online courses in which you can use to experience being an online learner. The huge selection of free open courses can be searched and filtered by using Mooc aggregators such as Course TalkClass-Central and Mooc-list. UCL has a partnership with a UK-based Mooc provider FutureLearn and has a growing selection of courses. But you should explore other courses too and you should feel free to sign up for any that interest you – even if you don’t complete them (it’s OK!). Closer to home there’s also a selection of courses on UCLeXtend – UCL’s public-facing e-learning platform – which you can discover from searching the Life Learning course finder and filtering (on the left) to Format > Online and Cost > Free.

    Notable courses

    Getting started with Moodle (via UCL Moodle) provides an introduction to UCL Moodle and e-learning and provides the basic skills required to set up a course in Moodle.

    A6postcard_digital (3) (1)Blended Learning Essentials (via FutureLearn) – created in partnership with UCL and University of Leeds, this is a free online course designed to help you understand the benefits of blended learning and how to make more effective use of technology to support your learners.

    UCL Arena Digital (via UCL Moodle) – three short courses with each lasting two weeks. Each fortnight will end with a live online webinar where you can share your experiences with your colleagues on the course. Topics: multimedia, communication & assessment and feedback.

    Teaching online open course (via Brookes.ac.uk) – offered as a free mooc from Oxford Brookes University (and offered as a 10 M-Level credit option, if desired) and is an intensive introduction to supporting student learning in online environments.

    (star) Your mooc mission: try to complete one mooc. Sounds easy? Tell us how you got on in the comments section below.

    Learning from colleagues

    Venturing into the world of distance learning is a bit different to that of face to face teaching and you may want to seek guidance from those who have already trodden the ground before you. Within your department you may know colleagues who are running their own distance learning courses, there should be someone within your wider faculty or school. If not, you could look at UCL’s Prospective Student’s course finder for PGT and filter by ‘Distance Learning’ – then try contacting a course team from there. We also run regularly ‘Forum’ events (sign up to the ‘Distance Learning and Life Learning Network’ below).

    Join local networks, forums and communities

    With representation from all schools the Distance Learning and Life Learning Forum is a community of practitioners from across UCL who are all active in the area of fully online courses and blended learning for taught programmes and CPD/short courses. Or, you may want to form your own departmental, faculty or school-based distance learning groups. These may grow from the ground up, out of teaching committees or via many other ways. Regardless, if you would like UCL Digital Education or CALT to sit on these groups, do get in touch and we can come along too.

    For more information we recommend you sign up to the Distance Learning and Life Learning Forum. Note: This can only be done on the UCL network or via remote desktop/VPN.

    Connect with support teams

    Teams such as Centre for Advancing Learning and Teaching (CALT) and UCL Digital Education have trodden this ground before, and are always happy to hear your ideas, share experiences and help you design, plan, promote, develop and evaluate your distance learning courses. They will listen to your ideas and suggest others to talk to, approaches to take, resources to work through and even courses you can take online to get you started with distance learning.

    Get in touch with them from their respective websites – CALT and UCL Digital Education

    Next step

    So – ready for your mission? If you have any questions you can always contact us, or leave a comment below.

    Note: this page is an excerpt from the UCL Distance Learning wiki which contains more pages on planning, designing, building and teaching on an online course. 

     

    References:

    Cuellar, N. (2002). The transition from classroom to online teaching. Nursing Forum,37(3), 5-13. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/195001677?accountid=14511

    Palloff, R.M., Pratt, K. (2002). Lessons from the Cyberspace Classroom. 17th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.uwex.edu/disted/conference/resource_library/proceedings/01_20.pdf

    Rowntree, D. (1992). Exploring Open and Distance Learning. Kogan Page.

    99p Virtual Reality and the implications for video in HE

    By Matt Jenner, on 16 November 2015

    Consumer-ready virtual reality is just around the corner

    Next year is touted as a potential for the ‘year of VR’ and as a wonderful precursor, people are already selling the hardware  required for only 99p. Some are even giving it away. This will ripple into higher education with video being a likely contender for early adopters. But what is VR and how does one get it for 99p (or free)? Well you need a smartphone and around 10-15 minutes of your life…

    What is VR?

    Virtual reality was resting firmly in the ‘cold’ part of the ‘what’s hot’ spectrum for about 20 years; but over the last 18-24 months it has leaped from the ice to the fire in a rapid way. It is now so cheap you can have it for 99p; which smacks the technology depreciation/throw-away market so hard in the face it may have to reinvent itself too (some people already talk of throwaway tablets). But what does it mean, and why does higher education care?

    If you want to find out about VR I’d point you back to a previous post, or you should search around the internet a little bit. It’s an emerging technology which places screens very close to your head, and sensors to know where you’re looking, to simulate you being in another environment. It also needs a computer to power the images you see, and the movements you make to look/move around it.

    Oculus Touch - Coming Q1 2016

    Oculus Touch – Coming Q1 2016

    Oculus Rift is a simple example of a complex tech landscape. Popularised when bought by Facebook for $lots the technology plugs into your computer and can provide you with an experience which some say is immersive, and others say is nauseating or induces cybersickness. But please remember, these are developer units; they’re not consumer friendly (yet – Q1 2016 isn’t far off). This sickness is as close as you may ever want to get to experiencing a software bug!

    Oculus, and many others, share a similar trait – they need a powerful computer to use them. I’ve tried it on my Macbook Air – I had forgot the machine had a fan; it became too hot to touch (near the back). The lagginess from the ultraportable didn’t help the sickness. All in all, eww & gross. Some other laptops are better, but it’s still a little off-putting when you’re new toy needs to be put away and you need to go lie down as recovery.

    Enter: the smartphone.

    Google Cardboard was a mini-revolution in the VR field. Being provocative, ‘not evil’ and generally idiosyncratic in their approach, Google released what seemed like the most basic VR product possible – Cardboard. This was a few years ago now but it enabled anyone with a smartphone to start playing/developing. Developers, techies and big children started buying these and exploring a new world.

    Smartphone + Video = one way to VR

    Your smartphone is insanely powerful for the size of it. It has a tiny display, a powerful CPU and GPU, motion sensors, location awareness, it is personalised and portable. Slotting it into a Google Cardboard now makes it a Virtual Reality device; as it can show content and sense your every movement. It’s also low-threshold, in some sense, because you are already comfortable with it. Video on smartphones is already mainstream. So what about 360, spherical or immersive video?

    Waves over Grace - vrse.works. Src: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-09/01/waves-of-grace-ebola-virtual-reality-film/viewgallery/539671

    Waves over Grace – vrse.works. Source

    One example is vrse.works who released two documentaries; Clouds Over Sidra and Waves of Grace. These two UN-backed ‘films’ were two, touching, compelling and utterly enthralling pieces of cinematic content. Watchers in a UN building, somewhere nice and safe, watched in Clouds Over Sidra how Sidra, a young girl in the Za’atari Refugee Camp and having fled from Syria, would offer a chance to explore her world. Chris Milk, Director at vrse.works commented in a TED talk how VR can be a bridge to empathy for the experiences of others.

    99p VR

    Google Cardboard wasn’t technically doing too much; it’s a complex puzzle the first time but you’re folding cardboard, adding lenses and sticking on a magnet. Children can do this; and many will this Christmas. The reason why? Cheap manufacturing has taken the cheap Google Cardboard and made it as cheap as the market can go; 99p! I have hunted on eBay and bought four of the rival offerings. I’ll report back with which is best, but from experience I am sure they’re all the same.

    Free VR

    NYT- Free VR Kit

    NYT- Free VR Kit

    Just to kick it to everyone – on Sunday 8th November 2015 the New York Times gave a free Cardboard VR kit to every reader.  Just to make a point? At this stage it doesn’t really matter; it got VR into another new audience, NYT readers (or their family/friends). You might even know someone with an unused voucher from their digital subscription, or willing to share theirs. NYT also released an App to share content and introduce their first documentary shot for the giveaway. Maybe, just maybe, they know it’s a part of the future landscape of journalism (like VICE News knows already) and want to break their readers in gently…

    Back to the content – video first

    Google Cardboard is also an app for Android and iOS. It has a video player which links to YouTube, which now supports 360 and VR video. If that doesn’t mean anything to you – STOP – and load this link (on your smartphone is best)

    Welcome back to 2015

    People are already making this content and there is a whole YouTube channel dedicated to it. There are also an increasing amount of apps for games, simulations, experiences, stories, social networking, explorable environments and more.

    So what about higher education?

    Video is the first logical step for changing HE. Who has not tried, or considered, lecture capture yet? Obiquity is likely but not so for VR, not yet anyway. To make 360/VR/spherical video you’ll need at least a 360 degree camera, which are also still quite expensive. But with this you’ll be able to capture any environment, action or event that is taking place. The trick isn’t necessarily in the editing, it’s in the experience you’re trying to capture. Imagine a researcher on a field trip; taking the watcher to a place they simply couldn’t go. Lab experiments can capture multiple synchronous events. How about an event that is so hard to replicate that you’ve only really got one shot – a rocket launching, blue moon Panda birth-type thing. The kind of event you want to capture but can’t even predict what should be in the frame, and what shouldn’t. VR video offers the playback of the whole environment, the viewer choses what to watch. It’s experimental now; but the power shifts towards the experience of viewing. Additionally; cameras can go when you can’t send a person; a volcano, to Mars or into the body – all quite tricky.

    Proper VR needs a powerful amount of hardware; 99p VR does not. Video is a way in.

    Limitation, there are still a few:

    • You need a smartphone. The cardboard on it’s own is only going to distort the back of a pice of cardboard – very real, not very virtual.
    • The official Google Cardboard app is for Android and iOS and it has a load of great content already (and more coming).
    • It’s 99p. It will not feel comfortable, it’ll break, get dirty easily and probably not hold all types of smartphone.
    • The really cheap ones don’t come with a strap for your head, so it’s hands-up to hold it.
    • They are not shaped to any head.
    • You’ve still got to put a thing on your head. Daftness points++

    Summary

    Throw it around, take it places and share it with people. It’s so cheap that 99p cardboard VR is worth the experiment if you have a smartphone. Also once used (or you’ve got bored of it) pass it on. Someone else can try it.

    Conclusions

    VR is nauseating but it also bring people right into an experience. Bugs will be fixed, hardware will improve, but this lack of gap between cheap and professional is similar to disposable cameras and SLRs. Say what you will about the smartphone requirement but it’s ever-more true that the world is connected via these devices. If they can also deliver a VR experience (and soon, capture them), imagine what’ll it be like when we’re all making the content too. It’s unlikely to become an immediate new must-have, but VR is coming and lodging itself in.

    Closing thought on distance learning and virtual reality

    I am learning, but the power of giving cheap VR to distance learners is certainly something to keep an eye on. This is one of my topics for exploration during 2016. I think it offers a unique and unchallenged method for connecting remote people to important things. We’ll see where it goes.

    Digital storytelling and inclusivity – my reaction to #ALTC

    By Matt Jenner, on 11 September 2015

    ALTC LogoALTC (Association for Learning Technology Conference) is a valuable and strange conference – an event for anyone active in learning technology to come together and share experiences, views and personalities. With 500 people attending this year, ‘there’s always so much to see’ is a statement from everybody. And yet within this wide selection, we all curate a path through and try to get as much as we can.

    My experience is likely similar to many others; I go with my profession in hand and choose topics based on my background and interests. I try to see sessions, and meet people, that align to these. I was happily surprised, however, to note that there was not much on distance learning, even less on ‘lifelong and continuing’ education and so therefore I was exploring outside my box – and seeing how I could fit it in.

    Digital storytelling

    Digital storytelling provides an approach and platform for people to share an experience to a group, via a digital medium. Storytelling predates writing and remains on many cave walls from millennia-past, sharing early experiences for others to see and learn about. Stories are integral to the development of civilization; creating and telling stories can be a highly authentic, personal and social experience, so one would hope they have value place in education. Except that the digitization of stories seems to remain a lesser-hero in higher education at the moment, although it is happening in some sectors – but I hope it’ll continue to grow in popularity. The value seems immense, even if the term ‘story’ is perhaps childish or too informal.

    Sarah Copeland shared with the ALTC group about what digital storytelling (DST) and community digital storytelling (CDST) is and how she’s using it at Leeds Beckett University and in community groups in rural Yorkshire. Dr. Copeland shared the five principles of DST/CDST and it seemed that even one of these phases can be an important and enriching experience for a learner:

    1. Preparation – collate and structure what’ll be in the story
    2. Storytelling – bring everything together and shape it into a story
    3. Story digitisation – digitise the story and build it in a platform or capture with a device
    4. Digital story sense-making – reflection on the story, self-evaluate and review
    5. Digital story sharing (tricky if containing highly personal info) – share with others, on platforms or in groups.

    In each of these phases a learner must go through a series of actions, reflections and sometimes quite social experiences that pave a strong way forward for a rich learning experience. It was important to highlight that digital storytelling is not a technology-based pedagogy, although it relies on the digital for some of the phases, the core activity could is not dominated by a certain tool. Digital storytelling in itself is an artifact and a transformative process – the idea is to couple narrative with a digital platform/environment. Community Digital Story Telling (CDST) adds an extra layer as it is also a social element; asking people to share their context, using a digital platform to provide a focus and helping to remove awkwardness for people to share their stories/views.

    While Dr. Copeland suggests CDST/DST has to be small scale and to retain the authentic capturing of people I felt perhaps it could be countered against the ongoing effort to scale up education. Within increasingly large cohorts an institution can slip into neglect for personalisation for each individual. DST could help to provide an approach, or platform, to return the locus of learning upon the person and perhaps this goes some way to leveling an expansive playing field.

    Inclusivity

    Laura Czerniewicz really highlighted how ALTC can have an impact by sharing her views on inequality as higher education goes online. While the world struggles to balance societal equality (and seemingly failing to achieve a positive trend), higher education remains firmly within this challenging balance. Everyone deserves to be educated and when they do, their lives, and peoples around them, tend to always improve. Society should make education increasingly available, to more people, as time goes on.

    While countries like the USA and many in Europe are investing increasing amounts in the EduTech boom it comes with a western-oriented emphasis on technology in society. Luckily, different cultures do not all work the same but this diversity is at risk of becoming lost, or overshadowed within technology. It seemed to me that while Silicon Valley is producing a lot of great innovation, that localization and local developments in other countries remain paramount as to harness the transformative power of the information, and digital age.

    Prof. Czerniewicz highlighted that universities and academics in Africa do not have the resources to work on ‘good things’ (like Moocs) they must focus on solving real problems. I suspect that projects such as Wikipedia Zero (free mobile access to Wikipedia on certain mobile networks and countries) sets a better direction than any MOOC platform has so far. Moocs use high-bandwidth media and inflated social interactions, well bandwidth is expensive and slower in many other countries, so only the privileged few can access them.

    Map of 3G & 2G coverage of Africa - speeds can reach approx. 1.5Mbps

    Map of 3G & 2G coverage of Africa – speeds can reach approx. 1.5Mbps

    Map of 4G coverage of Africa - speeds can reach approx. 10Mbps - much faster, but no one's has it!

    Map of 4G coverage of Africa – speeds can reach approx. 10Mbps – much faster, but no one’s has it!

    Map of 3G and 4G across Europe - speeds can reach 10Mbps - 20Mbps

    Map of 3G and 4G across Europe – speeds can reach 10Mbps – 20Mbps

    (all maps taken 11 Sept 2015 from Opensignal.com)

    The number of number of mobile subscriptions is rapid and far more numerous than that of broadband. Mobile connectivity is the future of globalised internet access. Yet in developing countries the State of Connectivity 2014 Report notes that only 20% of the population can afford a 500MB monthly data plan for their mobile device; 90% can afford 20MB monthly; which doesn’t equate to any other bulk download of media other than text. So that’s not fair and it must be resolved, but are we reliant on the mobile networks to resolve this inequality? Sure we could give people more money, but I know when I am roaming I switch off data due to the cost; the problem is systemic; you’re offline. My view is if we fix this technology problem, we might solve a societal issue. What power!

    Digital storytelling and inclusivity

    Linking data to stories – I can’t shake the idea that networking everyone and sharing stories would be a good thing. For too long digital networks have been centralised rather than personalised. Digital stories could be highly inclusive; by design their output is an opportunity for an individual to express and share. Mobile devices are an extension of our need, and desire, to be social. Let’s combine them.

    Imagine, as a closing thought, we introduced cheap data and storytelling into the global migrant crisis. Each person sharing their story, accessing the information they need, reporting back home and learning the new language so they can make home in new lands. In addition, as they travel, that they curate their story, their reason for leaving, the ongoing change, struggles and hopes for the future. It might not seem educational – perhaps it’s more basic & functional – but for everyone else it could be a chance to learn from perspectives of people who could soon become their neighbour.

    Further info / reading

    Sarah Copeland, DST and CDST – ALTC talk 

    Laura Czerniewicz, Inequality as higher education goes online (slides from ALTC keynote – video of ATLC keynote)

    What is the cost of developing e-learning? Try our calculator

    By Matt Jenner, on 22 July 2015

    Q: What is the cost of developing e-learning?

    A: It depends

    Arghthis answer is not good enough. 

    E-Learning is a big industry, so why does the cost of making ‘some’ feel so mysterious? Increasingly the question of ‘how much will this cost?’ is cropping up. This is a perfectly valid question and one that really demands a better answer than the one above. For too long the response of ‘it depends’ comes up, or something about a piece of string. This isn’t cutting it so after some research (there isn’t much out there) we created an E-Learning Costing Calculator so you can start putting in some numbers and start to see some cold, hard, financials. Hurray?

    Go – play with what we’ve created

    Access E-Learning Costing Calculator on Google Sheets 

    Warning: multiple users will obviously see one another’s calculations but I couldn’t find a better way of doing this while also retaining Alpha status for testing. Ideas welcome in the comments below…

    Images / captures (of the above sheet)

    Main tool, questions and numbers input:

    E-Learning Costing Calculator

    Cost and recovery

    E-Learning Costing Calculator - financials

    Charts for the boss

    Charts for the boss

     

    Breakdown by role

    Breakdown by role

    Approximations!

    If you spend any time in the sheet you’ll notice there are some approximations going on in there (quite a few). It doesn’t produce an exact answer (because it really does depend). I think we’ve been asking the wrong question. We still need to ask – what data do we have to suggest how much e-learning might cost? How can we generalise and remain detailed enough to find ballparks? How close can we get to accuracy? and finally, What are we missing to increase accuracy?

    Disclaimer: so far all the work on this comes from smaller, shorter courses (CPD, continuing education). Moocs and fully accredited courses are slightly different. The biggest problem is to add in some economy of scale (more on this in Maths).

    Seeking improvement

    Firstly – I want people to roadtest this spreadsheet. So please contact me and we can collaborate in Google Sheets (for now). I’m confident we could get a little closer to understanding why and it involves maths, early solutions and more questions.

    Maths

    Bryan Chapman, Chief Learning Strategist for Chapman Alliance asked in 2010 how long does it take to create e-learning:


    Bryan surveyed 4000 learning development professionals and obtained data (US-based) on CPD and short courses. He created a series of development hour timeframes based on teaching approaches of f2f and three-level e-learning (basic, intermediate and advanced). For each approach he discovered the number of development hours required to create one hour of ‘e-learning’ (vague as it depends on your teaching approach). These numbers were the primary driver to start calculating an idea of costing, and the questions to ask.

    This is the only data found. There’s corporations offering consultancy, and sure they have their ROI models (of course, it’s business). There’s bloggers and co. with their ideas and comments – but nothing with much evidence, especially when compared to Bryan’s work.

    Economy of scale / new vs old

    One problem with all this is that all costs tend to follow the rules of economies of scale. Producing one of anything tends to be proportionally more expensive than 10, then 100, and so on. Logically one hour of e-learning would cost a fair whack – say £15k. But the second should be cheaper, say £10k. Then from here you should see some sliding scales of efficiency. This isn’t so easy to build, so I omitted it in the sheet (for now). Idea welcome on this part.

    New content is probably not the same cost as reusing old. Converting old content vs producing new content both come with different costs. To try and not complicate things it’s best to avoid this question for now, but see a sliding scale could help here – but I don’t know how to calculate the cost of conversion and comparing it to the cost of creation – so it’s lumped in together (for now).

    Solutions

    Running a few generalisations – the data from the Chapman Alliance can be used to start calculating the cost of courses. By taking some known courses, and their approximate costs, we simulated with some UCL courses how much they cost. During a project (UCLeXtend) we had provided some seeding resource to prime the new platform and provide examples to the wider community of what’s possible. Due to the transparency of these courses we could also see how much they all cost, and whether any calculations made were accurate. Sometimes the numbers hurt (never making a profit in this corner…) they also looked kinda accurate.

    This motivated the creation of an E-Learning Costing Calculator – which we’re now crowdsourcing people’s opinions on to improve.

    Questions

    Armed with one data source (dangerous, I know) I looked to break it back down and discover if it could be reverse-engineered to build a calculator for everyday use. The idea was to ask broad questions within the calculation to then align with the data from the Chapman Alliance’s research. I think there are more questions to ask, but how to also generalise for calculating answers?

    See also

    UCL recently become friends with the IOE. A tool they have is the Course Resource Appraisal Modeller  -it’s much more detailed than this and I think it goes a long way to answering some of the questions I have posed. It also takes a fair amount of time and information to complete it. I can see the validity of both, or (better) one feeding into the other / merging. What do you think? Have you used CRAM? 

    An Example Module in the IOE CRAM tool

    http://web.lkldev.ioe.ac.uk/bernard/cram/launch.html

     

    What’s next?

    Please comment on this, in the sheet or in this post (or Twitter). I feel a bit stuck on this now, so feedback is essential to move forward.