Archive for May, 2013

More MOOCs in the Media (I think I’ll stop now)

Friday, May 31st, 2013

The unseemly clamour around xMOOCs in the media continues.

On my various Higher Ed eLearning feeds I have counted 23 articles in the last 2 weeks.

Rather than list them here is a very rough summary

  • Surprise, surprise, MOOCs actually cost much more money and take much much more time that academics expected.
  • Universities continue to sign on to commercial MOOC platforms (in preference to just running them off their own institutional platforms)
  • As expected, more universities are considering xMOOC related course accreditation (this is the only way for universities to currently make money from xMOOCs).
  • More universities are considering the use of commercial platforms  for the online delivery of courses to traditionally enrolled students (this is not a MOOC – some journalists are getting confused).   The materials are also being made freely available to any who want to come and play (this is the MOOC bit).
  • edX (not for profit and open source) is starting to gain a little, ground recruiting 15 more US universities.  (Here’s how they will cover their costs.  Again, why not run it off your own platform with out the extra cost).
  • Some smaller groups and indivdiuals are offering their own MOOCs off a range of platforms/sites (actually this is not new, it has been going on for years we just didn’t call them MOOCs).
  • The experience of developing MOOCs makes academic reflect on their teaching practice and either convinces them that the traditional way (i. e. banging on in lectures) is still best, or a bit more commonly, that there things they can improve on.  (Personally, I think this may be one of the best reasons to get involved in MOOCs)
  • There are a range of other concerns which are really about Computer Based Training and distance education (all of which were researched and answered in the 80’s and 90’s)

As a last offereing it might be a good time to relfect on Gartners technology hype cycle.


Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories—often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.

Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.

I’d suggest we’re not yet at the time where I’d recommended spending any of your own cash.

Problems transcoding a skipping VOB file

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

I know this is not going to apply to many people, but for those it does, this is gold (or at least it was for me).

I have a VOB file from a presentation I gave on presentation skills, unfortunately the file I received was in the wrong resolution (4:3 instead of 16:9) and it that had frequent small jumps in it.  Nothing major just a 1/4 second blip.    I could live with the skips but the resolution needed fixing.

When I tried to convert it with Format Factory to a AVI or MP4 the audio remained clear, in fact the skip was removed, but the video got worse.   After every ‘skip’  I got a period of about 10 seconds of stilted video (maybe about 0.5 fps).

I messed around with bitrates and frame rates and resolutions – nothing worked.

The answer ended up being quite simple, I went to my back converter ‘Any Video Converter’ and it converted without a problem.   The slight skip is there which doesn’t worry me. and the resolution is fine.

So I suppose the lesson is not all converters are created equal.

You have to be a bit careful loading free video converters.  The three I use, Format Factory, Any Video Converter and Freemake all attempt to load extra toolbars and software.  Always untick options and choose the custom installation.  It might also be worth checking your programs in the Control Panel.


Weekend funny – Don’t use that ‘voiced alveolar stop and breathy-voiced low back unrounded vowel’ with me young man.

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

As a parent of two teenage boys I occasionally take great pleasure in taking something very dear to their aspirationally cool hearts and ‘dadifying’ it.

For example the ‘running man’ dance move was always ridiculous, but it’s not until a teen sees a group of parents doing it does the true nature of that ridiculousness hit home, and the ‘running man’ vanishes (until they turn 40, when they will resurrect it to embarrass their own children at some public event).

With that in mind I give you   A linguistic dissection of 7 annoying teenage sounds


Weekend reflection – A different graduation speech – This is water

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

In 2005 author David Foster Wallace gave a speech to the graduating class of Kenyon College.

The speech is titled “This is Water” and in it Wallace talked about the mundane realities of the working life, and the value of choosing how you react to the world around you.

This is shortened version of that speech (there are links to the full version on the page)


If you want the really short version, these 2 Buddhist quotes probably cover most of it.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.

MOOCs in the Media Update.

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

More xMOOC excitement.  Here is the reportage from just the past twenty one days.   We’re starting to see more reasoned information as the “me too” hype is begining to be replaced by reports of  actual experiences.

Link to the Universal site
Universal Studios 1985

The Dawning Light

Students prefer to take ‘important’ courses face to face

Exploring the dark side of MOOCs

Professors’ open letter: MOOCs a ‘compromise of quality education’

The MOOC wars

The pedagogical foundations of massive open online courses

Coursera to offer students free online textbooks, with conditions

The thorny issue of MOOCs and OER

The Professors Who Make the MOOCs

Reins on Moonlighting

The Pedagogy of MOOCs (Note: Good overview of the waht how and when of MOOCS)

MOOCs and Community Colleges

Colleges Adapt Online Courses to Ease Burden

As MOOC Debate Simmers at San Jose State, American U. Calls a Halt

Edx Rejected

MOOC Skeptics at the Top

News from the cheer squad

How Online Education Saves Everyone Money


Maximise and manage your free online storage

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Three years ago this article would have made no sense, but with the expansion of free online storage services it’s quite possible to have access to 6 GB of storage and not even know it.

cloud storage

The first thing to do is decide if you need all these accounts.  I primarily use Dropbox because when I started looking at cloud storage there weren’t many options and this suited to my purposes (I also invited a truckload of people which pushed my free storage limit up to 13GB), but there are other options that might suit you better.  With a little ferreting about you could quite easily cobble together 100GB of free storage.  The risk is you end up with orphan data strewn across net, just like the files on those 500MB thumb drives rattling your bottom draw.

The problem for me occurs when people want to share data.  My brother uses Dropbox, some people at work use Google Drive and a few external work contacts use Sky Drive.   So I have to manage at least three accounts, which is a pain.   But it appears I’m not alone and there are free solutions to my free storage problem.

I have had a hunt around and found this article.

Five tools to help sync more than one cloud storage service

I haven’t tried any yet but when I do I’ll let you know.

MOOC Pushback.

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

It continues to be the case that most of the actual eLearning/Edtech experts (i.e. people with education qualifications and an established  track record in the edtech field) are on the cautious side of the MOOC debate.

Mike Caulfield (one of these experts) gives a overview of some of the concerns in a recent post, Creating the Education Death Star.

The damage that Coursera, EdX, Udacity and others have done to a decade of open education progress becomes more apparent by the day. In today’s installment, the kettle at SJSU comes to a full boil, with the faculty association there joining the Philosophy department in expressing opposition, not to open education, but to the badly deformed version of it that CourdacityX has produced.

If you are interested in delivering MOOCs I strongly suggest you read the whole post.

Sanctioned cheating – a new model for tests?

Monday, May 13th, 2013

I would really like to see something like this in most units.   Perhaps an in-tute revision test of some kind.

Cheating cc Hariadhi
cc by Hariadhi

“Tests are really just measures of how the Education Game is proceeding. Professors test to measure their success at teaching, and students take tests in order to get a good grade. Might these goals be maximized simultaneously? What if I let the students write their own rules for the test-taking game? Allow them to do everything we would normally call cheating?”

“Morally, of course, games can be tricky. Theory predicts that outcomes are often not to the betterment of the group or society. Nevertheless, this case had an interesting result. When the students got carte blanche to set the rules, altruism and cooperation won the day. How unlike a “normal” test where all students are solitary competitors, and teachers guard against any cheating! What my class showed was a very “human” trait: the ability to align what is “good for me” with what is “good for all” within the evolutionary games of our choosing.”

In some ways this is an exercise in semantics.    By changing the rules, the assessment is no longer a test.  In the end it was more a crowd sourced 1 hour assignment, but a different cohort may have behaved differently.

The questions it raises about student expectations, motivations and engagement are fascinating.

Read the full article for the twist he adds at the end.  Much to ponder.

Proof that essay writing cheat companies don’t use proforma documents.

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

I found this via GalleyCat

“Term paper writing companies flourish online, but few people ever get to read their handiwork.

South Park, Louie, and The Chris Rock Show writer Vernon Chatman sent surreal homework assignments to writers working in the cheating industry. He republished his homework assignments and the actual essays he received in the new book, Mindsploitation: Asinine Assignments for the Online Homework Cheating Industry. Here’s a sample request:

My midterm thesis essay paper is an exploration of Alternate Endings To Great Works of Literature. All I need from you is to come up with some Alternate endings to some Great works of literature … Provide a new ending to Catcher In The Rye where Holden Caulfield turns into a crawfish and goes into some kind of retail business”

Go to the Amazon page and click on the book cover to have a look at the first couple of pages

Weekend funny – Looking for a conversation icebreaker?

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

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