31 July, 2008

China, Learning Objects and Sharing

We've had some people from Edge Hill University in China showing an onlne course, and this brought up an interesting question; Will the learning objects hosted outside the University (YouTube videos, etc.) be blocked in China?

With a move to running online courses that can be used internationally, this is one of the hidden localisation issues that will sometimes need to be considered.

Wikipedia has a list of websites blocked in China, which seems to be updated regularly and might be a useful resource.

Perhaps the best way to solve this and other issues, is for content producers to make their learning objects licenced in a way that would allow people to download and place the objects in a VLE when necessary. Creative Commons can help you licence your work in a way that would allow sharing while you hold on to the rights, and David Wiley's presentation "Openness, Localisation, and the Future of Learning Objects" is an eloquent argument for doing this.

25 July, 2008

iTunesU: Worlds of Wordcraft at Vanderbilt

I've been exploring iTunesU a bit more recently, since British Universities started appearing on there, to see what resources institutions are releasing.

The course that I've enjoyed looking at most has been Worlds of Wordcraft that ran at Vanderbilt. This is a first year English module exploring narrative and how it changes moving from novels, to movies or to games.

The technology used to support this course feels so well integrated into the course. Their video 'Narrative forms in the Digital Classroom' explains it well, but from the point of view of looking at these materials after the course has run through the class blog and the recordings available via iTunesU, the wide variety of technologies used, feel like they are being used as an important and relevant part of the course.

Looking at iTunesU, I was wondering what use it could be to us at Edge Hill University. Basically it's wouldn't supply us with anything that we don't already have, as it is just hosting videos and linking to your course blog or web site. I could see it being used for marketing (i.e. look we're using iTunesU), and if management saw that as a positive thing, it could bring the neccesary investment needed to record more teaching sessions.

09 July, 2008

Towards a Scalable and Sustainable Model for e-Learning Development


I can see two ‘models’ that are used when approaching the development of e-learning courses and resources at Edge Hill.

On one case we’ve got the courses that are simple to put together, perhaps containing a few documents, web links and VLE tools like Discussion. The time taken in running these courses falls almost totally on the teacher/facilitator. They spend time communicating with the students, perhaps being involved in online discussions and debates. I’d say that, providing it is acknowledged that staff require time to teach this way, this is a sustainable model.

On the other hand you’ve got the courses that contain lots of HTML based materials, video, animation and other learning objects that take a lot of work to produce/maintain – even to produce at a pretty low quality. The added work here usually falls on support staff, and I see in Learning Technology Development that we can spend a lot of time creating and maintaining resources for a small selection of courses. This can mean that we have no time to spend with other staff who are starting to use technology in teaching and learning.

In the early days of Learning Technology at Edge Hill, the idea of designing ‘prize’ courses which take a lot of work to create and maintain was seen as good because it would show people what was possible. However this way of working has never been replaced by something more scalable and sustainable. So what models are out there that work, and how could they fit in with Edge Hill?

The most useful article I’ve seen on the subject is ‘Building a Sustainable E-Learning Development Culture’ by Tracey Leacock, 2005.

The model covered in this article involves developing resources using flexible teams of developers, instructional designers and project managers. Other specialists can come and go from the team as required. The development works as a project, with time scales and most people working on the project as a full time focus.

Developers would have the technical skills, instructional designers and assessment experts would provide “leadership and guidance in innovations in e-learning pedagogy, e-learning tools, and related support services” and would also try and find resources that had already been produced elsewhere to cut down on development.

This set up is very different to Edge Hill, where development work has been done in Learning Services, or sometimes by IT Services or outsourced to external companies. I definitely like the idea of the split between development teams and e-learning guidance, as we’ve seen in our department that it’s tough to do both as well as we’d like.

So this article brings up lots of ideas that could be involved in sustainable e-learning development such as re-use of learning objects and ideas around what a development team/new academic team might look like.

Does anyone have any other thoughts around how we could get to a place where developments are scalable and sustainable?

SOLSTICE Conference 2008: One Minute Mix

This video contains photos and clips from interviews taken at this year's SOLSTICE Conference, entitled 'eLearning and Learning Environments for the Future'.

Below are links to blog posts about the conference:

Anywhere Learning by Stuart Smith
Yukiyama's Daily Life by Yukiyama
Web Services by Mike Nolan
E-flections by Paul Lowe
Blog by Lawrie Phipps

04 July, 2008

My Top 5 Learning Technolgy Blogs


I've never written a "top 5/top 10/top 100..." blog post. I guess I've always seen them as a cheep attention grabbing tactic - but nothing wrong with grabbing people's attention cheeply if you got something you think is worth saying. So in this post I'm going to share with you the 5 elearning related blogs that I never want to miss... in no particular order.

1. elearnspace by George Siemens
Elearnspace is a great collection of links covering a wide variety of educational/technological issues, always with insightful comment from George's perspective. You could just subscribe to this blog and keep a fairly good grasp of developments and thoughts in elearning.

2. e-portfolios for learning by Helen C. Barrett
If elearnspace covers everything, then this blog details an obsession with e-portfolios and the technologies which could be used to create them. Dr. Barrett has created and recreated her own e-portfolio using almost every imaginable tool. If you are thinking about using e-portfolios with your students this is a good place to start your exploration.

3. apophenia by Dana Boyd
Dana writes about a variety of issues, but her real area of specialisation is on "how American youth engage in networked publics like MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Xanga, etc". If social networking is an area that interests you then having a look at the Best of Apophenia page will be a good place to start. I'd say that we should be very careful about how we use social network sites in education, but understanding what engages our students in their personal lives can help us a lot.

4. Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
So much of what we do in education is presenting. Whether it be lectures, conferences, or training sessions. This blog gives plenty of ideas about how one can experiment with presentations, and it is always interesting and inspiring.

5. (No Longer) Alone in a Library by Kimberly McCollum
This blog is quite new but so far I've found it's enthusiasm and honesty engaging. If you are interested in using blogs with your students, have a look back at her experiences of undertaking the Comments Challenge and give something similar a go yourself.

These blogs speak to me where I am, and might not be relevant to everyone. But if you're wanting to subscribe to a comprehensive collection of learning technology feeds I'm sure you want most of these in your OPML file. Other blogs that are great and that you might want to subscribe to are:

Remote Access by Clarence Fisher
Eide Neurolearning Blog by Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide
Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold

Always remember that much of the value of blogs is in the interaction in the comments or between blogs, that can create communities. If you've got any recomendations, why not share them in our comments.