Archive for August, 2013

A MOOC artlicle worth having a look at

Friday, August 30th, 2013

As with most reported MOOC experiences there is nothing in particular here that isn’t covered in decade old research.  What it provides is  a brief  and well articulated summary of their experience, which I think would be of value to anyone new to online learning.

Lessons Learned from Vanderbilt’s First MOOCs

“As faculty, staff, and students worked over the last year to launch Vanderbilt’s first three MOOCs, we grappled with the following question: How do you create effective learning environments online for thousands and thousands of students? We haven’t fully answered that question, but we have learned much about the design and implementation of MOOCs.”

I found this via Stephen Downes blog

Moodle 2.5 and 2.4 Videos

Friday, August 30th, 2013

2.5 should be coming to Monash later this year, most of the features are useful, but mainly cosmetic.

One I particularly like is the ability to drag and drop images into your site.  There are also new Folder settings that make viewing the files easier.

The thing in 2.5 that has people in a bit of a froth is ‘badges’, which I’m a bit indifferent about.  They might be useful to encourage engagement particularly in the K-12 sector, but I’m not sure there is enough pay off for the average academic (see more info here) but I’m happy to be proven wrong.

This video has more about 2.5

For us the the big over due feature (which is actually in 2.4) is the Group submission for assignments, which means you can now (at last) automatically give one mark and provide one feedback to the entire group.

This video 2.4 is quite good

More than just free eTexts from

Monday, August 26th, 2013

My previous post on free eTexts linked to an article about 11 providers,  one of those was the Saylor Foundation.    Well they have have gone one step further and opened their media library, so it’s not just eTexts now.


“Its online Media Library, built on the open source DSpace repository platform, provides a growing list of about 6,000 total resources, including 3,000 open educational resources, 1,300 videos, 124 full-length textbooks, and 2,500 articles.”

Weekend Funny – Cheating

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Anti-Cheating Devices: From the Ridiculous to the High-Tech

There’s more on the Neatorama site.

Here’s a link from the article comments (not related to the above image).

“China grapples with attacks on teachers after cheating halted on college exam”

“The attack happened on Saturday afternoon outside a school in Hubei’s Zhongxiang city. After the exam, students besieged teachers who had reportedly imposed strict measures and stopped students from cheating.”

Maybe your MOOC and Flipped videos could look like this

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Rather than make your already, slightly dull, lecture more dull by recording it, perhaps you should use the media to create something more appropriate (and interesting).

You don’t have to do it like the mob at Minute Physics , but at least have a think about your audience and what you are trying to achieve.


These people are explaining Wave Particle Duality and the Big Bang, so you can’t use subject difficulty as a cop out.

More free eTexts than you can poke a stick at

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

The Price is Right: 11 Excellent Sites for Free Digital Textbooks

In the past I’ve mentioned a few sources for free eTexts including Bookboon and OpenStax, well here is a list that contains them and many more.

I may re-post this link before the beginning of each semester because it’s about time we started taking this more seriously.  Text books cost a fortune and according to this report this why most students don’t buy them.

“In the United States, over 75% of students decide not to buy the textbooks their classes require, in large part because students find textbooks too expensive and are discouraged by the simple fact that quite often, only a few chapters from the books are needed for study.”

I know it’s easier to just fall in line with the major publishers, but how about we get the ball rolling by using eTexts as the secondary resources or just specific chapters from eTexts, it’s not like there’s a cost attached.

Id still like to see a curated review site that breaks down all free offerings by subject, so if you know of one, drop me a line.

Social Media platforms are not set in stone.

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

“Are college-bound students leaving social media?

A new survey has found sharp decreases in the number of college-bound high school juniors and seniors who use social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Google Plus.”

This not surprising, things change,  but I’m not sure what to make of this report.  What are people using instead?  Is there a new secret platform that the kids don’t want us to mess up with our old fogey ways, or could this be a historical shift as people get a bit more discerning about how they use the technology to communicate.

This article “Where Teens Go Instead of Facebook (and Why You Should Too)” indicates that micro blogging sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Path are where young people are going.

This article “9 New Social Networking Sites That Could Change the Game” suggests these are the trends in new social media.

  1. Specific niche audiences. Many new social networking sites no longer try to appeal to everybody. Instead they narrow their focus down to a specific niche and serve the needs of the people in that niche exceedingly well.
  2. Privacy is the name of the game. This isn’t 2006; we’re not so collectively giddy with the idea of social networking that we’re willing to share our lives with the entire world anymore. People don’t want 500 fake friends, they want 100 real contacts to connect with. They also don’t want to be tracked or spied on everywhere they go on the web. The online privacy revolution is here.
  3. Sleek, user-friendly design is a must. We’re in the future; we expect our technology not only to get the job done, but to look great doing it and to have an intuitive, user-friendly design. Web 3.0 users don’t have time to learn the ins and out of another social network’s complicated interface – they want to plug n’ play.
  4. Mobile mobile mobile. Every new social networking site is going mobile, and the widespread use of geolocation services poses some intriguing questions about online privacy and personal safety.

I think what this indicates is that organizations need a dual approach to communication.  One part could be a flexible flying squad who deal with light weight communications and can chop and change with tech current, and the other would be more traditional, i.e a permanent location that you can control that deals with denser material, and elements that have higher overheads (i.e. websites).

You could have a Facebook and a MySpace (it’s making come back apparently)  and a Twitter presence, but this would be very light – you don’t commit significant time or resources to any one platform.  The idea would be to refer people back the location where the really useful (and more enduring) stuff is.  I think most organisations do something like this, but I think a few have been sucked in to thinking that platforms like Facebook matter more than they do (and some still think they don’t matter at all).

The other thing I think we need to remember is that these social media sites are play grounds, and we don’t want to be that old guy on the seesaw with his cap on backwards trying to be ‘hip with the kids’.

Digital Badges – a bit of an introduction.

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

I’m still a bit uncertain about the value of digital badges.  As a communication device I think they’re quite good and perhaps for some groups there is a motivational aspect,  but I think a few people are bit over excited by them.   Still, if the process of considering badges makes us rethink what programs we deliver and how we deliver them then they’re worth a look. They may slot into our Graduates Attributes program and I can see them being used by professional groups as a clear simple way to indicate professional development progression.

Here are a couple of articles to get you started.

7 Things you should know about badges

“Badges are digital tokens that appear as icons or logos on a web page or other online venue. Awarded by institutions, organizations, groups, or individuals, badges signify accomplishments such as completion of a project, mastery of a skill, or marks of experience.  Proponents suggest that these credentials herald a fundamental change in the way society recognizes learning and achievement—shifting from a traditional books-and-lecture pedagogy to a model with multiple knowledge streams, including new media,  collaboration, interest-based learning, and project-based learning. As records of achievement, badges can recognize the completion of projects within a traditional college program or acknowledge experience gained through community efforts, online learning venues, or work-related projects.

Digital Badges for Professional Development

“Across the United States, higher education institutions and other organizations are experimenting with the use of digital badges to guide, motivate, document, and validate formal and informal learning. Badges are currently in use or in development at institutions such as MIT, Carnegie Mellon, the University of California–Davis, Purdue University, Seton Hall, and Yale University. Organizations outside of higher education interested in supporting learning are issuing badges too, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. departments of Veterans Affairs and Education, the Young Adult Library Services Association, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Smithsonian, EDUCAUSE, and the movie studio Disney-Pixar.”

Competency Based Transcripts in Higher Ed

Monday, August 12th, 2013

“Northern Arizona’s first crack at a transcript grounded in competencies gives an early glimpse of how credentialing in higher education might be shifting, experts said. And while the competency reports could be improved, some said, the university also deserves credit (no pun intended) for attempting to better-define what students do to earn their degrees.”

Here’s an example.

Don’t panic, it’s still woolie higher ed style competencies (e.g “Describe ethical theories; Use a social theorist to describe “ethics” and “morality” in multiple applications and analyze moral conflicts”)  rather than competencies as understood in industry (i.e. based on specific, detailed, performance criteria).

But it is interesting, particularly if can be framed around the sort of characteristics employers will value.

Get the rubbish off your system

Monday, August 12th, 2013

I have mentioned in the past that Any Video Converter ( a program I quite like) asks to install extra software during the installation process.  Nothing nasty, but it’s annoying to get an extra toolbar you didn’t want just because you didn’t pay attention.

Other programs can be sneakier.  So if you find an odd browser toolbar or a strange new icon on your desktop it might be worth downloading and running Should I remove it

If you have teenage children I would definitely give this a spin.

It won’t pick malware, so make sure your your security software is up to date.  If you are a Windows user get the free Microsoft Security Essentials.