eLearning Digest No 170 – October 2018

It’s almost time for the clocks to go back in preparation for what has been forecast to be a very cold winter, so it must also be time for the October edition of the eLearning Digest.  Other recent editions are listed here.

This digest contains:

  • UK conferences & workshops
  • Online learning and adult education MOOCs
  • UK HE and BrHExit news
  • MOOC news
  • Apprenticeship degrees
  • Digital accessibility
  • Commercial news
  • Industry news
  • Short news items

Professional Development

UK Conferences & Workshops

5-6 Nov London Wonkfest 18: two solid days of cutting edge debate and endlessly interesting discussion. [Wonkhe]
7 Nov London An Introduction to Agile Project Management for Publishing. [ALPSP]
8 Nov London The future for the legal education and training framework. [Westminster Forum]
15 Nov London Next steps for improving STEM delivery at university. [Westminster Forum]
22 Nov Online Action Learning Sets: what on earth are they? [CILIP]
23 Nov Loughborough Making Educational Escape Rooms. [CILIP]
29 Nov London Association of University Administrators (AUA) Autumn Conference 2018: Rising to the challenges of change. [Clayton Wright]
29 Nov London Higher Education Data Conference. [HESA]
4 Dec Huddersfield Physical and digital library spaces: the final frontier. [CILIP]
6 Dec London Introduction to Higher Education. [AUA]
11 Dec Online 2018 ALT Online Winter Conference. [ALT]
21-23 Jan Oxford 8th Academic International Conference on Multi-Disciplinary Studies and Education – AICMSE 2019. [CONAL]
30 Jan London 13th International Conference on Language, Education, and Innovation 2019. [CONAL]
30-31 Jan Birmingham STEM Conference 2019: Delivering Next Generation Teaching in STEM. [HEA]
2-4 Mar Cambridge IEEE–2019 8th International Conference on Educational and Information Technology (ICEIT 2019). [CONAL]
12 Mar London Next steps for widening participation in higher education. [Westminster Forum]
16-17 Mar London FEAST Conference on Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence & Technology (AIT-19). [CONAL]
27-29 Mar London 2019 2nd International Conference on Big Data and Education (ICBDE 2019). [CONAL]
28 Mar London Technology in HE: the future of learning environments, the use of AI and the impact of online courses. [Westminster Forum]
29-30 May Milton Keynes Change Agents’ Network (CAN) 2019. [Katharine Reedy]
10-11 Apr Galway OER19 Recentering open: critical and global perspectives. [ALT]
3-4 Jul Manchester CILIP Conference 2019. [CILIP]
24-26 Jul Belfast Twenty-Sixth International Conference on Learning. [CONAL]
25-26 Jul London Sixth International Conference on eBusiness, eCommerce, eManagement, eLearning and eGovernance (IC5E) 2019. [CONAL]

Online learning and adult education MOOCs

22 Oct (4 wks x 3 hrs) Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching, University of Southampton [FutureLearn]
22 Oct (5 wks) Basics of Inclusive Design for Online Education, University of Colorado Boulder [Coursera]
22 Oct (8 wks x 6 hrs) Instructional Design and Technology: Learning Theories, University of Maryland [edX]
22 Oct (8 wks x 8 hrs) Instructional Design: Digital Media, New Tools and Technology, University of Maryland [edX]
29 Oct (3 wks x 2 Hrs) Using Virtual Scenarios to create Effective Learning, St. George’s University of London [FutureLearn]
29 Oct (5 wks x 4 hrs) Foundations of virtual instruction, University of California, Irvine [Coursera]
29 Oct (4 wks) Learning, Knowledge, and Human Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [Coursera]
30 Oct (6 wks x 5 hrs) Digitizing Higher Education, University of Texas Arlington [edX]
5 Nov (2 wks x 2 hrs) Learning online: reflecting and sharing, University of Leeds [FutureLearn]
5 Nov (2 wks x 3 hrs) Digital Learning: Learning meets service design, Deakin University [FutureLearn]
3 Dec (3 wks x 4 hrs) Blended Learning Essentials: Embedding Practice, University of Leeds/UCL Institute of Education [FutureLearn]

Self-paced online learning and adult education MOOCs and BOCs

A selection of short courses can be found on the OU Learning Design self-paced learning webpage. These can be studied at your convenience to fit in with other commitments.

External News

UK HE and BrHExit

[The Times; THE]

Further to the news over the summer about the massive increase in unconditional offers made by universities for 2018 entry, the headteachers of leading independent schools have raised concerns about the impact on A level performance.  When pupils know they don’t need to pass, a reduction in effort results in poorer grades for students and, according to the umbrella group representing 285 private schools that include Eton, risks damaging schools’ reputations.

Following an announcement in the summer about The University of Glasgow signing a deal to open a European study centre in Germany, further UK—Europe collaborations are planned.  Imperial College London has signed a partnership with the Technical University of Munich to have staff jointly appointed by both institutions.  The aim is to prevent barriers in the European scientific area and to keep access to EU research funding.


M(O)OC News

[Audrey Watters; EdSurge]

Fifth largest MOOC-provider FutureLearn, owned by The Open University, is looking to raise £40M to invest in platform improvements that will provide better support for online degree students.  The platform has previously announced over 20 Masters degree and graduate certificates, and more recently a new Bachelor of Arts Undergraduate degree from the University of Newcastle that starts in February 2019.

In contrast, The University of Michigan is encouraging on-campus students to engage with MOOCs it has previously developed.  The purpose varies from personal enrichment to fulfilment of prerequisites, and it is expected that some professors may use parts of MOOCs as homework or as a background reading exercise to support learning technical subjects.


Commercial News

[Goldie Blumenstyk; Google; TechCrunch]

Four years after setting out to build software to save instructors time with marking, AI-assisted grading company Gradescope has joined the Turnitin family.  Both companies share a similar background story, founded by UC Berkeley graduate students who saw inefficiencies in student feedback.  The combined offering promises to make the lives of instructors and students ‘better and better’.

After seven years of operation, Google has announced that consumer Google+ will close.  The social networking platform was Google’s fourth attempt to break into the market after their earlier attempts with Orkut, Google Friend Connect and Google Buzz.  In the early days, growth looked promising but despite best efforts spam became such a major issue that even in 2017 users complained that the level of spam made the platform unusable.


Apprenticeship degrees

[Wonkhe; OfS]

The Office for Students (OfS) has carried out research to help with improving degree apprenticeship opportunities.  Looking at the profile of apprentices, using a sample of 1,750 enrolments in 2016/17, the OfS found the greatest density of degree apprenticeships in the North East and North West of England, a greater uptake by men than Women, and comprising a lower proportion of students from minority ethnic groups than similar HE courses.  The split of younger and mature entrants is roughly split, with under 21s more likely to opt for STEM-related apprenticeships.  The real advantage seems to come from the higher proportion of students coming from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, demonstrating the benefit of apprenticeships for social mobility.

If learners are to fully benefit from apprenticeships, a clearer strategy is required to offer a full range of opportunities from entry-level to degrees and higher levels.  In order to broaden the scope of apprenticeships and to enable progression, there is a need for credit transfers and a mix of work and study-based modules.  Although not a solution to the HE fees crisis, better designed apprenticeship degrees could play a part tackling the collapse in part-time and adult student numbers, but the quality of what is offered relies heavily on strong partnerships between apprenticeship providers and universities.


Digital accessibility

[ALT; Wonkhe; HEPI]

New UK legislation now requires universities to meet accessibility requirements and to publish an accessibility statement on their websites and apps.  While the Equality Act (2010) protects disabled students from discrimination, this new legislation specifically targets digital accessibility to ensure that content is designed to be compatible with assistive software.  This compatibility requirement is not just technical, but also covers the effectiveness of steps taken to ensure users are not hindered in their interaction with digital content.

Modern technology plays a massive part in supporting disabled students, and this may have contributed to increased participation of dyslexic students in HE over the past twenty years.  Between 1996-7 and 2016-17, the percentage of students with dyslexia increased from 1% of all students to 6%.  The recent Public Sector Bodies Websites and Mobile Applications Accessibility Regulations (2018) will ensure that more institutions support even more students with a range of different needs.


Student debt and mental health


World Mental Health Day may have passed but that doesn’t mean issues affecting mental health go away for another year.  For many, the reality of student debt is a source of ongoing distress—not just during their days of study, but well into their future.  Even with staggered repayments for current graduates in the UK, having a figure of up to £57,000 hanging over them is a huge burden.  In some cases, the problem doesn’t end there.  Increased social mobility often leads to the poorest students also turning to commercial finance, or worse, resulting in debt repayments that are not linked to income and cannot be deferred in the same way.  These pressures need to be taken into consideration with timetabling and when planning student workload.


The world’s first ‘blockchain university’


There have been whispers of using blockchain in education for a while, and the world’s first blockchain university is due to start teaching early next year.  A team of Oxford academics are working with the pioneers at Woolf University to provide a system that is more affordable for students while paying more for teachers.  However, touted as a ‘borderless university’, there are doubts over how the concept will fit with European data protection laws.  Only time will tell.


Face-to-face versus online

[University World News]

Amid disagreement over what disruptive innovation in education looks like, personalised online learning and meeting individual students’ needs is likened to Swiss cheese, where students are left with holes in their learning.  While it cannot be denied that online education reduces peer contact and the social benefit of campus-based learning, online courses offer something more.  The ability to use real-time revision tools gives students more control, enabling them to identify specific gaps in their learning.


Free tuition initiative at Cambridge

[University World News; THE]

Cambridge University plans to offer a year of free tuition to disadvantaged students who fail to meet the required A-level grades to meet their offer.  The ‘Transitional Year’ will be funded by philanthropists and aims to widen access to students who may otherwise be put off applying.  Participation will not guarantee the students an automatic place at Cambridge at the end of the programme, but Cambridge VC, Professor Troope, claims it will get them into a top university.  One Oxford College, Lady Margaret Hall, is set to offer a similar programme.


And Finally…

[Wonkhe; BBC]

If you’re considering studying for leisure, you may like to consider one of the niche courses on offer around the world, such as Puppetry and bagpiping, Bruce Springsteen’s theologies or a whole course about Lady Gaga—among others.

Elsewhere in the news, a woman was kicked of a flight in the US because her emotional support squirrel was considered outside the realms of what is considered ‘acceptable’ on an aircraft, unlike the emotional support turkey who had his own special chair, a kangaroo and a miniature horse.

And it’s not just us humans who need emotional support.  Paradise Wildlife Park’s snow leopard had a bit of a shock recently when she woke from her nap to discover a new camera.  Luckily the said captured her reaction—available for you to watch on the BBC news site.