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    Archive for the 'Distance Learning' Category

    Two and a half days into the future

    By Clive Young, on 6 November 2015

    Can you see the UCL logo in this video?

    Like it or not, many of the trends, technologies and issues in learning technology often drift eastwards across the Atlantic, so it is useful to attend a US conference occasionally to hear the emerging debates.

    EDUCAUSE is by far the biggest US conference of IT in education, last week attracting seven thousand IT, library and learning tech professionals to a very rainy Indianapolis. Popular topics were cybersecurity, the cloud, digital libraries, organisational change and generally managing an ever more disintegrated IT environment. Learning technologies were also well represented.

    It is certainly not true that US universities are universally “ahead” of UK and European counterparts in educational IT. Many of the issues arising were depressingly/comfortingly familiar but in a few areas there were interesting differences, reminding me of the famous William Gibson quote, “the future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed“.

    A striking example was learning analytics, the monitoring of student performance, attendance and so on. In the UK collection of such data, the focus of a large Jisc project, is generally seen as benign. Some US universities however are much further down this path, trying to link performance to lecture attendance, library use, time spent in the VLE and so on. This data can be used to trigger interventions from tutors, but some questions had already arisen as to reductionism and even ethics of “profiling” students in this way. The fundamental question raised was who is this monitoring actually for; the student to improve study practices or the institution to reduce dropout statistics?

    Not surprisingly several sessions attempted to identify key future trends. Number one was growing US student debt, commonly described as a “crisis”. One response may be a refocusing on competency-based education, short vocational for-credit courses from both new and traditional providers. Promoted as more affordable and career-friendly, credit accumulation enables flexible study paths (often online) and timeframes. The traditional three/four year residential degree was described as “over-engineered”, i.e. too long, too expensive, too unfocused, for increasing numbers of cost-sensitive, more consumer-minded students. The growth of “sub-degree education” and alternative HE-level providers is becoming more noticeable in the UK, too.

    Whether this leads to the long-predicted decoupling of study paths and accreditation remains to be seen. In this new diverse environment universities, while still maintaining their elite status for the moment, were now “not the only game in town” and maybe not the automatic choice for a future generation of aspirational students.

    Meanwhile on traditional US campuses the student demographic was subtly remixing. Students were on average older, more culturally diverse and ever more demanding of student services. Wellbeing and psychological support were becoming critical components of learning. Universities, we were told,  should take adult non-traditional learners far more seriously. I heard a frequent critique of the US trend of over-investing in glossy, expensive residential campuses at the expense of building a more agile, future-proofed and hybrid infrastructures. Distance education, it was claimed, would soon become the delivery norm in US higher education.

    As mentioned above the pervasive connectivity of modern student life presents a major challenge to conventional IT services and roles as well as to academic colleagues who often struggle to accommodate the impact of technical changes, and often associated changes in discipline practices, into traditional programmes.

    Maker culture” inspired by consumer-level 3D printers, coding schools and the “internet of things” should continue to impact across the curriculum, with libraries possibly playing a major role in providing maker spaces and opportunities for self-publishing. Optimists felt all this may produce the “next-generation workforce” ready for high-tech and distributed advanced manufacturing enterprises, where creativity and design will be as important as traditional attributes

    It may be a bumpy ride, though. One EDUCAUSE keynote was MIT futurologist Andrew McAfee who predicted a rapid growth in machine intelligence as the effect of Moore’s law kicked in to mainstream computing. His thesis was that in many areas machines would soon be able to make better predictions and decisions than experts, and the market are already demanding that they do.

    Postscript: If this futurology seems  a bit far-fetched back here in London, note a Guardian article this week; Robot doctors and lawyers? It’s a change we should embrace. But don’t worry, a recent BBC Tech article Will a robot take your job? reassured us that we Higher Education teaching professionals have only a 3% likelihood of automation!

    ABC Curriculum Design Workshops

    By Natasa Perovic, on 30 September 2015

    (For latest news about ABC LD, visit ABC LD blog)

    Arena Blended Connected Curriculum Design – Workshop resources and participants’ feedback

    few-teams

    • A 90 minute hands-on workshop to help module teams design engaging learning activities.
    • Teams work together to create a visual ‘storyboard’ showing the type and sequence learning activities required to meet the module’s learning outcomes and how these will be assessed.
    • ABC is particularly useful for new programmes or those changing to an online or more blended format.

    Between March and September we had 11 workshops with 37 teams from SLMS and BEAMS.

    The feedback from participants:

    • “This process was really useful. It helps us think about the modules in their entirety. It is really good how everything maps out in a clear framework like this.“
    •  “We haven’t had such level of detailed discussion as a team. I think the structure and the materials are facilitated well. “
      “It is a good way of focusing on creating the balance within a course.“
    • “It makes you think about: OK , we are going to use this technique, but where, how, for what and how does it fit with everything else? And this is the way into that, I think.“
    • “It helped us formulate in our own mind the course structure. Yes, very useful.“
    • “Made me more conscious of a formative assessment, which really did not occur to me before. “
    • “This has been extremely useful. Not only that we start to think about individual modules and how we can use electronic resources, but it makes us think about the degree together, rather than as separate modules. “
    • “It reminds you of all different formats that you can use, rather than sticking to the same old same old.“
    • “I think it was good to take a step back from the content and look at the varied type of activity. “
    • “We are not trying to be very innovative, but it is a question of being open to new ideas“

    To organise ABC workshop for your programme contact Clive Young and Nataša Perović.

    ABC Curriculum Design workshop resources:

    The resources are also adapted for ABC CPD and Life learning courses.

     

    To organise ABC workshop for your programme contact Clive Young and Nataša Perović.

    few_graphs

     

     

    abc_logo

    More:

    References:

    *Viewpoints project JISC

    **UCL IoE: Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. New York and London: Routledge.

    Connected Curriculum

    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.

     

    Online courses as digital services; taxes and teachers

    By Matt Jenner, on 24 April 2015

    Fully online courses, with non-matriculated learners, are classified as ‘digital services’ and their income is subject to VAT (currently 20%). This levy applies to the fees charged. You don’t have to add tax if you add teachers instead; but does it all add up?

    Types of learners and courses

    Let’s make the first point crystal clear – we’re talking about non-matriculated learners here.  These kind of courses are generally branded as CPD and Short Courses; anything offered which you learn online but do not become a registered student of that institution or provider.

    The rules affect only fully online courses. If your course is face to face or blended / hybrid / mixed mode delivery, i.e. it has a face to face component, then tax does not apply. Your fully online course might also be known as distance learning – but it means there’s no physical fixed environment in which learners attend and they do not get awarded university credits or a degree.

    Credit bearing degree or Face to face teaching = not taxed. 

    E-services and Digital Services

    There is a UK Gov definition of what constitutes as an ‘e-service’ or ‘digital service’. These are the terms the UK Government use when defining a broad catalogue of things ‘electronically supplied’. The definition of ‘electronically supplied’ “covers e-services which are automatically delivered over the internet, or an electronic network, where there is minimal or no human intervention” (Gov.uk). The definition is not comprehensive, and judgement is required from the provider. And I must add if you’re unsure please consult HMRC on Vat2015.contact@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk or your tax/financial/legal advisors.

    Included on the Gov.uk site is a list of examples to help clarify what might be classified as an e-service, or digital service:

    Service e-service Electronically supplied? Covered by the new rules
    Pdf document manually emailed by seller Yes No No
    Pdf document automatically emailed by seller’s system Yes Yes Yes
    Pdf document automatically downloaded from site Yes Yes Yes
    Stock photographs available for automatic download Yes Yes Yes
    Live webinar No No No
    Online course consisting of pre-recorded videos and downloadable pdfs Yes Yes Yes
    Online course consisting of pre-recorded videos and downloadable pdfs plus support from a live tutor Yes No No
    Individually commissioned content sent in digital form eg, photographs, reports, medical results Yes No No
    Link to online content or download sent by manual email Yes Yes Yes

     

    I think what’s important to note are the two above which are highlighted (and that apparently they are not classified electronically supplied – this bit is important).

    The European Commission provides further clarification on the definition of a digital service in their ‘Explanatory notes on the EU VAT changes to the place of supply of telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services that enter into force in 2015’ publication (EC – pg. 85).

    Explanatory notes on the EU VAT changes to the place of supply of telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services that enter into force in 2015- nighttime reading for good teachers :-)

    Explanatory notes – nighttime reading
    for good teachers =*)

    There’s a lot to digest here, but their overview is:

    ‘Electronically supplied services’ as referred to in Directive 2006/112/EC shall include services which are delivered over the Internet or an electronic network and the nature of which renders their supply essentially automated and involving minimal human intervention, and impossible to ensure in the absence of information technology.

    Emphasis added – but it helps make my point; if you’re running online courses just be cautious around full automation. This would be defined as a self-paced, self-assessed (or automatically assessed) course with no critical teacher-based human input (i.e. it’s not automated). The EC are pretty clear that their “explanatory notes are not legally binding and only contain practical and informal guidance about how EU law should be applied on the basis of the views of the Commission’s Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Union” (EC report – P1). Pretty reasonable; we need to interpret and not jump to incorrect conclusions.

    My interpretation of digital services is there’s been a digital transformation to business this millennium and it is right that a TAX is applied to businesses profiting from this. I see it as if you’re selling  something, we want a slice of the profits to prop up the economy – and this is totally fair. For digital services I imagine it’s to do with scale; Apple iTunes can sell a [nearly] unlimited number of MP3 files, no problem. Professor Famous can’t teach an unlimited number of people, at some stage they’re going to crack, the quality will drop, the interactions fail, and something needs to change.

    As the rules are interpretative it seems from the new guidance that if you provide human-based interaction between learners and teachers (or facilitators) then you’re less likely to be classified as a digital service. Surely it’s therefore better to not say ‘avoiding tax’ but instead ‘adding value’ by adding teachers?

    Well, let’s try some simple calculations:

    Income = course fees – expenses (I=C-E)

    I run a course which teaches 20 people, they each pay £1000 (it’s pretty good)

    Example A – Fully online course

    • Fees = £20,000 (20 x £1,000)
    • Expenses = £4,000 (Tax on income of £20,000)
    • Income = £16,000 (£20,000 – £4,000)

    Example B – Facilitated online course

    • Fees = £20,000 (20 x £1,000)
    • Expenses = £4,000 (paying a teacher)
    • Income = £16,000 (£20,000 – £4,000)
    • Bonus – someone just got paid £4,000 to teach 20 people something

    Relax: There’s always tax

    Tax is inevitable, and perfectly acceptable – we need it. The point is you could’ve weighed up paying a teacher instead and likely boosted the learning experience. In Example B less (or more) than £4,000 could’ve been paid to a teacher; so the net income is still reduced – but it’s gone somewhere else. The teacher will still pay some level of income tax, so let’s not get too far into an anti-tax agenda.

    Also the fees could’ve also been much lower, but even at £100 each, the £400 spent on a teacher still seems like a solid investment. It does make checking your numbers a good idea; i.e. what’s a sustainable income required to keep this going / scale accordingly for projected fee:learner levels.

    It’s not avoiding, or saving, it’s enhancing learning with teachers!

    Learning online is lonely

    Learning online is lonely

    Learning with peers, and a teacher is a good thing. There is a vast array of data, research-informed evidence and general ‘feeling’ that teachers are needed. Quite frankly if teachers were not needed, they’d probably have been replaced by computers as quickly as possible. Obviously there is a place for self-directed and peer-to-peer learning; but that’s not the point I’m making – all that good stuff can still exist. This post is merely indicating the situation regarding tax and teaching. Take away the teacher, add the tax. It’s illogical, to a large extent.

     

    Closing thoughts

    If you’re offer online courses as a digital service, and paying VAT, you might just want to reflect on this. If you consider adding in a teacher; it’ll likely improve the dynamic, enhance the learning and maybe even save you some money. But also remember one other thing; this article is written by an expert in education and technology, not a tax advisor. If you take this as tax advice, you need to re-evaluate your sources of knowledge. You should then browse HMRC.org and GOV.UK and speak to experts! Also this post is not the view of UCL – and if it gets me in trouble it might disappear pretty quickly… 

    I wrote this because I was genuinely surprised that tax is a variable factor for online courses. Tax is important, as is good education. I trust being slightly more informed you’ll make the right choices. I’d also welcome a debate on my interpretation of all this.

    This time it’s personal

    By Clive Young, on 16 March 2015

    globe

    There is no doubt that blended and online learning developments, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), are beginning to have an impact on how some universities think about their business model. The Online and Blended Learning Solutions seminar last week was a timely guide through this post-MOOC space.

    Rajay Naik, from the Open University reminded us that the MOOC hype is unlikely to dent the ever-growing demand for on-campus study. What it does though is broaden our horizons and encourage thinking beyond traditional student markets and teaching methods. Some – and one could set the OU is an example – see MOOCs partly as a marketing tool to ‘funnel’ students to fee-paying courses. Others scent a lucrative market in offering targeted MOOC-influenced CPD courses to companies and professionals. A few consider the MOOC format as a way – maybe the only way – of addressing the world’s mass-scale education needs in areas such as health and primary teaching.

    One challenge is to bring the best of the on-campus experience to these remote audiences. He felt this was about how to provide tutor time, as he put it “access to minds”. We should therefore imagine “not distance learning but personal learning”. The OU has one approach to this, the army of Associate Lecturers (of which I am one) providing those academic “touch points”. Another speaker, described how academic contact could work even in a MOOC environment, by weekly feedback videos and forum intervention but it required strong commitment and motivation.

    UCL’s Prof. Diana Laurillard unpacked the implications of these disruptions for university cultures. It was hard for academics just to keep up with rapid developments in their own research areas, not surprisingly time was limited to explore new learning designs. Her message was that we should “treat academics as if they know what they are doing” but they need models, tools and support to help them navigate and contribute to these initiatives. Teachers urgently require environments that will help both skills updating but also sharing and developing ideas in collaboration – indeed not unlike the process of research scholarship!

    An interesting debate then arose from this about how universities should organise themselves to meet these disruptive changes. Should we set up specialist units or attempt mainstream cultural transformation? Neither model was considered ideal, but the feeling was that integration should be the priority; any innovations needed to be diffused into mainstream teaching (maybe via a funded process) “pull-through” from mainstream teaching should also enrich innovation. My own feeling is that while pioneers will always require additional support, developing a two-tier model may delay important mainstream transitions, for example technical upgrading, and risk student (and maybe staff) dissatisfaction by privileging a small group of off-campus participants.

    Prof. Helen O’Suillvan described how online medical programme had been successfully developed at the University of Liverpool with partners Laureate who provide student, marketing and outreach support. Another potentially disruptive aspect in the post-MOOC world therefore is clearly the arrival of new players and potential partners. MOOCs themselves were enabled (and driven) by partnership with external platform providers such as Coursera. For much the same reasons of global impact mentioned above, commercial companies, accrediting bodies, professional organisations, government initiatives, broadcasters, charities, NGOs and publishers are all likely to begin to crowd into this area, either working with or competing against traditional universities.

    The challenge of embodying and replicating (at least partly) the “traditional strengths” of the campus-based student experience was seen as a huge challenge as this very experience – although sometimes hazily defined- was integral to the student, staff and institutional identity.

    However we also discussed how online learning could progress well beyond “replicating” the campus experience and encourage a move from “content-based learning to process-involved learning”. We were reminded that our traditional campus-based students already operated in the electronic world. Online environments can support encourage deeper and reflective “double loop learning”, socially constructed knowledge creation and digital fluency for our campus-based learners, too.

    Image: via www.haikudeck.com

    Make videos for teaching on an iPad…How quick was that!

    By Eileen Kennedy, on 14 February 2015

    Switch on video captions to read instructionssubtitles

    They say that technology moves so fast it is hard to keep up. I discovered the iPad app Adobe Voice at the beginning of the year, after a friend showed me a totally appealing Christmas video her 8 year old nephew had made in minutes.  I immediately thought that the ease with which Adobe Voice enables you to add a voice-over to pictures and text would make it an ideal stress-free way to make teaching videos – an introduction to a course, an announcement at the beginning of the week, a prompt for the class debate, an assignment guide …endless possibilities in a blink of an eye.

    Add screenshots saved to your camera roll

    Adobe Voice allows you to add images from your camera roll. Take a few screen shots of your course on your laptop, or snap something interesting in the street, and save your pictures somewhere you can access on your iPad. That could be a dropbox, a shared drive, or on cloud based photo storage like iCloud or Amazon Cloud Drive. You could even save your PowerPoint slides as images, but that would probably work best if they didn’t contain much text. You can combine words with your own images in Adobe Voice, add icons or access a stock of Creative Commons images from Flickr or Pixabay.com within the app.

    Just talk (but not for too long)

    Recording audio over each slide is as simple as pressing the microphone icon beneath the image and talking. The best thing about the app is that it encourages you not to say too much. Because it breaks your audio into chunks, it comes out more naturally, with fewer stumbles and less need to re-record. If you do re-record, however, that’s easy too. You can add music or not, and select from various themes that put different animation effects into your video, so the end product looks interesting and professional.

    YouTube Capture app for sharing

    In January, it seemed to me that the only drawback was the need to upload the video to Adobe Creative Cloud before you could embed it in your course for your students to see. The video didn’t seem to play all on devices. Yet, thanks to the speed of those technological developments, you can now save your video to your camera roll and use the marvellous YouTube Capture app to upload your video to YouTube in a blink of an eye. You can even do a few more edits like adding subtitles and annotations. How easy is that? Very. So I made this video to show you how I made this video.

    Want more? UCL Arena Digital starts Monday 2nd March..

    If you want to find out more about apps like these and ways of using them in your teaching, enrol on our free online course UCL Arena Digital. The first unit on Multimedia starts on Monday 2nd March 2015 and you can enrol here with your UCL username and password:

    https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=29477

    Spread the word!