Lecture capture for teachers

June 16, 2015 at 10:20 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The University of Southampton has invested in Panopto, an institutional lecture capture system that is hosted on a cluster of high-performance servers and integrated with our media servers. This level of investment is clearly unrealistic for schools and colleges, but there are all kinds of low-cost alternatives.

Lecture capture services
If a college intends to make widespread and frequent use of lecture capture, then systems like Panopto are available as hosted services – so there is no need to buy or manage any servers. A key issue to consider will be the upload bandwidth of the college’s internet connection, which must have the capacity to handle the video data being sent to the service. On the other hand, when learners access those lectures from outside the college, it will not use any of its bandwidth.

Video hosting
This issue of where the recorded lectures are hosted is a key consideration. Although they could be hosted on the college’s web servers this is not ideal as they are not designed to deliver lots of streaming video content, and the college’s internet connection will also probably be a bottleneck. It makes much more sense to host the videos using a commercial service such as YouTube or Vimeo, and many of the alternative below can publish videos directly to YouTube. The videos can be published as ‘private’, so that only people who know the URL can access them, but teachers should always be aware that social media means that any video is potentially public!

If a computer presentation (PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi etc.) is central to the lecture, then a simple option is to record the PC screen and the teacher’s voice. The software needs to be installed on the PC and this often means using your laptop rather than the PC installed in the teaching room. Costs range from zero for the free open-source CamStudio to around £120 for an educational licence for Camtasia Studio.  Alternatively, there are low-cost online screen recorders such as Screencast-O-Matic that can be used on any computer. Google screen cam software to see similar software and services.

Good audio quality is essential, and the microphones built into laptops may not be adequate. A USB boundary mic will allow you to move around the classroom but will also pick up audience and environment noise. Wired tie-clip mics on long leads (4m) are cheap and work reasonably well. In your office or at home, a USB headset (£25) works really well.

Screencam software will also enable you to record the image from a webcam – as an alternative to the screen, as a picture-in-picture, or switching between the screen/webcam in the editor, depending on the capabilities of the software. You will of course have to position the webcam and ensure the lighting is good. Some webcams have really good microphones and can be used instead of a boundary mic, even if you choose not to record the video.

Flipped learning
It is probably more educationally effective for you to record short (up to 10 minute) videos that target specific learning outcomes and use these as self-study resources to support your face-to-face teaching activities. These recordings can be made at your desk, or more likely at home where it is quieter and you won’t be interrupted. You may want to script what you say to ensure you can record in one take (after a couple of practice run-throughs) and minimise any editing required. [More on flipped learning]

Both iPads and Android tablets have a wealth of apps that can be used to make educational videos, such as Explain Everything. [More alternatives]. These are best suited to recording videos for flipped learning rather than capturing live lectures. Alternatively, you can attach the tablet to a tripod and use it like a video camera if all you need to record is the teacher rather than a presentation.

Poll Everywhere – review

February 6, 2015 at 10:23 am | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment

Poll Everywhere http://www.polleverywhere.com/ is a commercial web service that enables live audience voting. There is a ‘try it free’ option for educators which allows up to 40 responses per poll, an annual ‘per-instructor’ option at $349 (up to 400 responses per poll) and an annual institutional site licence for around $3 per student (1000+ responses per poll). The terms and conditions are really clearly explained in plain English – a welcome touch and done with humour! A key strength of this service is the range of options available to voters who can respond via the web, via SMS txt message or via Twitter.

Poll Everywhere tutor's screen showing timer and presentation controls.

Poll Everywhere tutor’s screen showing timer and presentation controls.

Creating a Poll

The tutor logs in to their Poll Everwhere account, clicks the Create Poll button and types the question stem. They can choose whether audience response is open-ended (i.e. free text response), multiple choice (one answer) or clickable image.

The next step is to configure the poll:

  • how people can respond (website/SMS txt message/Twitter);
  • how many times each person can respond (default is once) and whether their response is anonymous (this option applies where registered  participants are responding);
  • auto start-times and stop-times if required, so polls can be scheduled.

The tutor should then test the poll by making it active and voting using the on-screen simulated ‘mobile phone display’ and/or real phones/tablets/etc. to check that the question works as intended. The test results are cleared and the question can then be presented, in fullscreen mode if required.

Multiple-choice questions: the question stem can only be text; there is no image option. The answer options can be text, an image URL or an uploaded image file. The images are resized, but some care still needs to be taken to ensure they work at the small size displayed in the poll. The text can be maths equations expressed using Latex ; just use the prefix “latex:” e.g. latex: V = \frac {4} {3} \pi  r^3

Update: the Visual Settings for the question allow you to upload a logo (JPG, PNG, GIF) that appears above the question stem – and of course this could be part of the question (“what does this photo show” or “name the feature labelled A”). The image cannot be too large, as the poll options also have to fit on the screen and are resized so that they do… so big image = tiny text. So this is a work-around that may meet some needs, but questions about detailed images will need to appear on a separate screen. For example, the tutor could display the image (in PowerPoint? SlideShare?), switch to the browser to show the question and options in Poll Everywhere, then switch back to the image while the students ponder which answer to choose on their devices.

Open-ended questions: display as text wall, word cloud, cluster or ticker. Default is ‘respond as many times as they like’. A profanity filter is available to censor or block responses that include profanity – the default is ‘anything goes!’ – but it is easy to defeat the filter by using accented vowels – Oh cräp! Moderating responses before they appear on-screen is only possible for paid accounts, but can be done by the tutor or an assistant on a separate mobile device to avoid any risk of inappropriate messages being shown to an audience. The word cloud treats every word in a response as separate (e.g. “Chromium Dioxide” appears as “Chromium” and “Dioxide”) but filters out common words like “the”.

Clickable image questions: the tutor uploads a JPG or PNG image which is automatically resized. To track the number of clicks on selected areas, multiple rectangular areas can be defined. These have a minimum size so do not allow precise selections, and of course the areas cannot overlap. The areas (and their number of votes) can be shown/hidden on the tutor’s screen during the poll, but are never visible on the students’ screens. The tutor can also choose to display the precise location of each click.

Groups of polls: multiple polls can be selected and added to named Groups. Polls can be added and re-ordered using drag-and-drop. The tutor can then step through the polls in that group in order, activating each poll to make it visible and starting/stopping voting as required.

Control during polling

The default is to show the polling results live as the responses come in, so the chart updates in real time. However, a control makes it easy for the tutor to hide the mutiple-choice chart and just show the question and its answer options during the vote.

A countdown timer is available on the polling screen – the tutor just types in the number of seconds and clicks to start the timer. Students will not be able to vote after it has reached zero, but it can be paused. The tutor can also manually stop the poll, restart it and clear the results if required.

Poll Everywhere tutor's display showing answer options instead of live voting chart.

Poll Everywhere tutor’s display showing answer options instead of live voting chart.

Remote voting on polls

The tutor’s presentation screen for a poll has a Share control panel with three options:

  1. share via a web page which displays the poll currently activated. This would enable students at remote locations (possibly watching a streamed lecture) to vote online and see exactly what the on-campus students would see.
  2. share via a web page which only displays that specific poll, but allows people to answer that question at any time (for example like a mini-survey). They cannot see the results.
  3. share via a web page which only displays the live results for that specific poll. So if people have voted via method 2 above, this link would allow them to review the results.

Options 2 and 3 have buttons that make it easy to share those links via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Integration with PowerPoint and Keynote

The tutor needs to download the free PollEv Presenter App, available for Windows and Mac running Office 2007 or newer or Keynote 5.3 or 6.5. While this initially means that tutors would need to use their own laptops to present, if an instutional licence was bought there is an Enterprise Deployment option available so that all centrally-configured PCs in offices and lecture rooms could have the app by default.

The PollEv Presenter App adds a Poll Everywhere ribbon to PowerPoint that makes it easy to insert a poll. The tutor clicks a button on the ribbon to log in to their Poll Everywhere account and then chooses the poll(s) that they wish to insert among their conventional slides.

Note that the only way to tell which poll question you have inserted at a particular place in your presentation is to look at the notes for that slide – the placeholders all look the same.

Bonus feature: the PollEv Presenter App also makes it possible to insert any web page into a PowerPoint presentation. Just activate that option from the ribbon’s About button.

Bonus feature: if you use PowerPoint for Windows, the free Presentation Remote app for iOS or Android mobile devices enables you to remotely control presentations.

Visual design of polls

The system offers a great deal of control over the visual appearance of slides; colour schemes, fonts, background images, bars/columns, axis lables, response counts/percentage etc. etc. The Settings menu allows you to use any poll as a template for new polls, or to apply that poll’s visual settings to all your polls.


Reports can be created for individual polls or groups of polls. List reports show the response to each poll by each participant, so that voting patterns can be explored. Summary shows the results for each poll – ie. the number and percentage of votes for each option. There are also Survey reports, Grading reports (if questions have scores), Team reports (if segmentation is used) and a Sign-In Sheet (time of first and last selected poll). The data can be downloaded for further analysis if desired.

Premium features not available in the free trial account

The key feature is the ability to restrict access to a poll to registered participants. Tutors can send an email invite which requires recipients to create an account (email address and password). Alternatively it is possible to integrate with Blackboard (and Canvas), so that only students in a specific module can access a group of polls.

Of course once you know who is voting and how they are voting, then the next premium feature is of course grading responses and ranking participants. Tutors gain the ability to mark a multiple-choice response or clickable area as correct, show/hide the correct answer on screen, track participants and rank them according to their overall score on a group of polls. Naturally there are reports that can be viewed or downloaded that detail student performance.

Some licence plans allow multiple users to share the same account – so members of a teaching team could easily share the creation and delivery of polls.

As previously mentioned, premium accounts are also able to moderate free-text responses before they are on-screen and hide any that don’t meet the tutor’s academic standards ;-)

Other interesting features

  • Send people a link to a group of polls which form a single-page online survey.
  • Segmentation, which enables you to correlate the results from a poll with a previous poll. For example you might ask people whether they are male or female and then compare how each group answered a poll about their drinking habits. It can also be used to enable team competitions.


Overall, I’m really impressed with Poll Everywhere. It has an attractive user interface that is fairly easy to use – although there are also a lot of powerful features a mouse-click away for those that want them. The range of voting options is impressive, and the visual appearance of polls on mobile devices is great – without any need to download a special app either. The integration with PowerPoint and Keynote is reasonably good, although tutors will need to be careful about which poll appears where. My next step is to runs some tests with a cohort of students to see the reporting in more detail and then ideally to use a paid account to see how registration works.

Comparing it with Turning Point, multiple-response questions do not seem to be possible and it wasn’t clear if a correct answer to a poll is always worth 1 mark or if the score for each poll can be set. So Turning Point offers more sophisticated multiple-choice question types and scoring, but Poll Everywhere provides live feedback, which is especially useful for the open-ended questions – and the clickable image feature has great educational potential.

I’ll add a follow-up post once I’ve explored its reporting features in more detail.

Using mobile devices to record one-to-one meetings

January 23, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Posted in hands-on | Leave a comment

I was asked recently to provide some advice to some students who need to video dyslexia assessment and tutorial sessions in order to provide evidence for their professional practice qualifications. However the following advice also applies to any one-to-one sessions. The objective is for them to use the devices they own (laptops, tablets or smartphones) to create digital video files which can be securely shared with their tutor.

Basics: make sure that the room is well illuminated and that the camera is positioned to get a good view of the participant’s face, hands and any materials that you are using for the assessment.  Try to make sure that the participant is not back-lit against a window as this will typically make them difficult to see clearly. You (the assessor) will also need to be in shot.

Audio: recording good quality audio is essential, and although the microphone built into the device used may be adequate, you may need to use an external microphone. This is one of the key reasons that you need to practice making a recording well in advance of the real thing.

Laptops: many laptops have webcams built-in, but positioning the laptop in the room may be difficult. You may need to buy a low-cost USB webcam that can be fixed to a tripod so that it is at the right height and angle.

Tablets/smartphones: remember to make sure they are on their sides (landscape mode) as video shot in portrait will appear sideways on your tutor’s PC screen.

Tripods: you can use a camera tripod or bodge something using elastic bands, masking tape and a music stand. For example very few USB webcams have a tripod screw-mount, so you’ll have to tape it to a tripod/stand. You can buy special cases or grips that make it easy to attach a tablet or smartphone to a tripod/stand – it is worth investing in one of these if you need to make more than one or two videos.

File format: ideally MP4, a highly compressed format that can be readily viewed using free software. You should also record at a medium resolution (such as 720p) as the extra visual detail provided by high resolution files (1080p) is not necessary and just leads to much larger files to upload/download.

Finally, it is essential that you make at least a couple of short (5 minute+) practice recordings well in advance of the session you wish to record so that you are confident with the equipment and its setup, the recording options (audio and video quality/filetype) and any post-production needed. For example, how do you export the video from your phone/tablet in the correct format to a PC so you can upload it securely to the person assessing the session? You may need to search the web for advice on how to do that for your particular device/software. Or just ask a teenager ;-)

Note that although it is probably easy to upload video directly from a phone/tablet to an unlisted YouTube video (so you could simply send your tutor the link) you must not do this as it is insufficiently secure to meet professional requirements for confidentiality. At Southampton we have our internal Dropoff service which does meet those requirements.

Zappers zapped.

December 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment

SRS handet being struck by lightningAfter seven years of use, I’ve decided it is time to zap the zapper – no one else uses that term and it really doesn’t describe what they do at all. So all hail the clicker.

Now to update a pile of documentation and web pages…

Stumbling into some pitfalls with ResponseWare

December 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment
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I’ve just run a session introducing the online ResponseWare Student Response System to some academic colleagues, and have identified some pitfalls… by stumbling straight into them. I should start by saying that I think online SRS are the way to go, especially now most students have a smartphone, and all of our lecture spaces have excellent Wi-Fi following an ambitious upgrade project. ResponseWare has the advantage that it integrates perfectly with the Turning Point clickers that are already in widespread use across the university, and that it therefore minimises the learning curve for tutors and does not require them to recreate their resources and quizzes for a new system.

So, the gotchas were:

  • If possible, iOS and (especially) Android users should install and use the ResponseWare app rather than using web-browser access; it gave a reliable and superior user experience. Of course the app needs to be up to date (v2) and will need updating again before the end of the year following another upgrade to the ResponseWare service.
  • If not, iOS and (especially) Android users should use an up-to-date version of Chrome rather than the default browser. I had one user with an iPad v1 (iOS 5) and another with a Samsung tablet using the default Android browser (Internet) – neither  of which worked.

There was also an embarrassing gotcha in my presentation:

  • The response grids for my short-answer questions used an unreadably pale grey from the slideshow’s colour scheme; I should have tested the presentation first before delivering it. Mea maxima culpa…

One of the attractions of ResponseWare is that students without suitable mobile devices (or have run out of battery charge) can be given a clicker so they can still take part in the voting. The tutor just needs to bring a small number of clickers (enough for 10% of the cohort perhaps) as well as a USB receiver. This will work fine for multiple choice questions, but will not work for short-answer questions – and this may become an issue as tutors start to take advantage of the short-answer questions enabled by ResponseWare.

One of the participants asked whether requiring students to use their phones/tablets/laptops in sessions will simply encourage them to become distracted by Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat etc. etc. etc. My answer was that there are plenty of legitimate uses for such devices (such as notetaking or looking up references) and that we need students to develop the self-control to pay attention to their own learning as well as our teaching – especially if it has been made more engaging through the use of SRS and the pedagogic techniques they facilitate.

Nevertheless, this seems like a good place to repeat that link to to a post by Clay Shirkey which includes strong evidence against the use of laptops, tablets and phones in class, except when specifically requested by the tutor. He argues that they are a constant (and highly effective) form of distraction, and that multi-tasking interferes with learning: “Multi-taskers often think they are like gym rats, bulking up their ability to juggle tasks, when in fact they are like alcoholics, degrading their abilities through over-consumption.”

Perhaps academics need to devise educational approaches that require students to make effective use of their mobile devices, which scaffold and help model good practice while discouraging off-topic uses. I suspect that social (collaborative) learning will be at the heart of this since it is the lone (isolated) student who has the greatest motivation to get distracted by communicating with friends or browsing around something that seems more interesting than a didactic lecture.

Bridging the Gap – supporting new distance learners

December 2, 2014 at 5:55 pm | Posted in distance, educational | Leave a comment

Mark Brown slide showing digital campfires quote

An interesting presentation at the ELESIG event hosted by Southampton Solent University, in which Professor Mark Brown, Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning, Dublin City University, talked about the project Experiences of First-time Distance Learners [full report].  This explored the transition of learners from college to university with an especial focus on online students in their first few weeks, driven by concerns about retention and completion.

In 2011 OECD data showed the New Zealand completion rate was 66%, while in the UK It was 79%. But of course there is wide variability between institutions and the kinds of students they cater for, and NZ has a much larger proportion of distance learners.

“Institutions have a moral and financial responsibility to improve student retention”

The project’s key research objective was to improve the supports and services available for first-time distance learners, and to utilise the students’ voices on their experiences.  20 ‘typical’ learners produced video diaries, created with the aid of a ‘reflective prompt framework’. Ethical dilemmas were encountered with example learners who were struggling – they were provided with individual help but of course this affected the study. And how to compare their very different stories?

It seems that 25% of distance learners are ‘support seekers’ who actively search out the help they need while the other 75% are ‘lone wolves’ who didn’t really want to interact.  Life happens… so for example there was a mismatch between first two weeks of university term and school holidays for learners with children… and mostly they had no idea what the reality of distance learning entails. A key finding was that having clearly articulated study goals really helped with resilience and success.

“Metaphorically, how can we use the new digital technologies to provide caves, campfires, watering holes and mountain tops which promote a stronger sense of belonging and connectedness?”

And of course we are really talking about the affordances of those spaces: individual study and reflection, storytelling, social exchange, and celebrating successes.

Finally, he made the point that MOOCs can give learners a taste of being an online learner in their chosen discipline, as part of a cohort – so they can really start to understand the amount of time, effort and self-discipline required.

Using Student Response Systems to build student’s Academic Self Efficacy

November 28, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment
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Today ILIaD hosted a session by Dr Fabio Aricò, a lecturer in economics at the University of East Anglia who was awarded an HEA Teaching Development Grant to disseminate some really interesting practice – full details of the project including resources and presentations can be found on his website.

As I understand it, at the heart of Fabio’s project is a desire to improve his students’ Academic Self Efficacy (ACE) – in other words their confidence in their own ability and understanding of the subject, as well as their capability as independent learners. The way that he does this is to provide them with lots of feedback about their performance on in-class conceptual questions, answered using the Turning Point Student Response System. In an extension of Mazur’s Peer Instruction method, Fabio also asks the students how confident they are in their inital responses to the conceptual questions.

The data from Turning Point is processed  and the results form the basis for a written report that Fabio posts on the course website within a few days of the session. See below for an example of how the feedback makes good use of the data:


He also asks the students how difficult and interesting they found each session, and can track this over the course. The difficulty rating enables him to adapt his teaching, but also provides feedback on the amount of independent study that the students are engaging in. And of course the data also allows him to track attendance – with the students’ consent of course.

For me, the key messages were that the use of a Student Response System enabled ASE to be measured during learning throughout the course (rather than just at the end when the exam results are known) and that students really valued the regular, prompt and specific feeback that this method affords.

A bonus was Fabio’s strong recommendation to read this extremely useful article:

Nielsen, K.L., Hansen, G., and Stav J.B., (2013), “Teaching with Student Response Systems (SRS): Teacher-centric Aspects that can Negatively Affect Students’ Experience of Using SRS”, Research in Learning Technology, 21, accessed 27 June 2014, 14:00. http://www.researchinlearningtechnology.net/index.php/rlt/rt/printerFriendly/18989/html.

E-Learning with Camtasia Studio

November 26, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Posted in lecture recording, software | Leave a comment

E-Learning with Camtasia Studio book coverI’ve been a fan of Camtasia for some years now, and this screen recording/video editing software has been the subject of several posts on this blog, so I wasn’t too surprised when I was approached by Packt Publishing to review their ebook E-Learning with Camtasia Studio. Weighing in at 188 pages, it turned out to be a really useful introduction to the thinking, processes and planning required for almost any multimedia learning/training resource, as well as covering Camtasia-specific features. The author, David B. Demyan has obviously has a great deal of practical experience in using Camtasia to produce interactive learning and communicates this clearly in his writing.

As mentioned, a significant portion of the book is devoted to non-technical but essential issues, from establishing the learning outcomes and the learner profiles to planning, scripting and storyboarding. It goes on to cover the essentials of creating and editing using Camtasia – introducing each of the key features (such as pan-and-zoom) without un-necessary detail of every option. This is a good thing as there are plenty of other online resources including the TechSmith website that provide that level of detail. What is really useful and new, however, are the chapters on the addition of interactive features (hotspots, quizzes) and the integration with learning management systems using SCORM. Even if you already know Camtasia, you will probably find that these sections alone justify the modest cost. The e-book comes with a ZIP file of sample files that you can download so that you can follow through the exercises and example production – and this includes all the planning documents as well as the media files. Recommended.

Packt Publishing offer two further books on Camtasia by different authors – one on Advanced Editing and Publishing and another on Building an E-Learning Course with Camtasia Studio – and the latter seems to broadly cover the same material.

I’ve also been a long-time subscriber to Daniel Park’s helpful emails about Camtasia from dappertext.com, although I never got around to buying his well reviewed (but more expensive) Camtasia Guide. Prompted by writing this review, and looking through the sample chapters Daniel provides, I think that the book reviewed above is not as comprehensive, but provides better coverage of the topics it does include – and the example project management files are  the icing on the cake.

“Because we’ve always done it that way…”

November 10, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Posted in waffle | 1 Comment
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The ILIaD was launched on 3 November with a conference on the theme of ‘revolutionising education’. All members of ILIaD were encouraged to submit proposals, and I decided to tackle two entrenched features of Higher Education which I think are ideal targets for revolution. The first is the shocking under-utilisation of expensive buildings and facilities that seems to reflect a model of education 150 years old; why are they only used Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm for 30 weeks of the year? I accept that is a simplified view and that research facilities and study spaces such as the Library are used much more intensively, but it is still broadly true. The second is the straight-jacket of the hourly timetable for administrative convenience rather than educational need. We get lectures that are 50 minutes long (minus the time needed to set up and settle down) which is too long for anyone’s attention span if it is ‘just a lecture’ and too short if it is to be properly interactive. And don’t even get me started about three-hour lectures without a break and the wasted time moving between lectures…

When I found that my proposal had been accepted, but was to be a 7-minute Petcha-Kucha-style slot immediately after lunch, I realised that radical action was needed. It needed to be lively enough to wake people up, but wasn’t going to have any time to really unpack or discuss the issues. Inspiration arrived in the form of Hieroglyph, a bold project by Arizona State University and an anthology of ‘science-fiction’ stories that extrapolate current technologies to offer a positive vision of the future, in contrast to the more usual dystopias.

I framed the issues using a story; a history lesson from the future, delivered online by LearnU, one of the leading commercial universities in 2050. The lesson comes from a unit on ‘A century of educational revolution in the UK 1945-2045’ and compares current (early 21st century) university practice (utilisation and timetables) with the model offered by LearnU. Their ‘learning centres’ are located in rented retail units in shopping malls that are open from 7am-midnight, seven days a week, 51 weeks a year., and include café franchises so that students can socialise easily. The educational promise is ‘learn while you earn’, an explicit recognition of the fact that most students will need to have a job to survive while they study.

Their model is an easy-to-envisage extension of MOOC technologies and pedagogies that includes small-group (virtual) seminars facilitated by (under-employed freelance) postgraduates to provide the personal and individual mentoring that good education requires. I also suggest that  assessment technologies will have evolved to the point where they can provide automated feedback on essays – although peer assessment will also be an important part of the equation for both cost and educational reasons. The net result is that LearnU can provide degrees at a total cost of around £6000, spread over two to five years of part-time study, and that around 60% of students choose to study this way for reasons of cost and convenience. What about degrees such as medicine or engineering that require expensive labs? Well, in LearnU’s view those are ‘someone else’s problem’… perhaps industry’s or whatever is left of the NHS?

Needless to say, this has had a drastic impact on traditional public universities, many of which have failed financially. The story doesn’t say so, but it is clear that some elite universities continue to thrive, providing a first-class education for those who can afford it – or are lucky enough to be be awarded bursaries. This is definitely a two-tier system, with the elite institutions perpetuating the all-important social networks of the ‘haves’. See my video ‘Different Trains‘ for another story about this. This isn’t a vision of the future that I would welcome, although it does have some good features… so not entirely a dystopia. And I see LearnU as a consortium of EU public universities and academic publishers, so for some institutions it is a route to survival and growth.

My talk included two key questions:

  • What are the factors that prevent universities from breaking out of their current inefficient utilisation patterns?
  • What will universities need to do to enable them to not only survive but thrive in a world where commercial universities can offer a degree for £6000?

By all means post your thoughts to the comments…

FOOTNOTE: In the story I suggest that the currently-controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Programme (TTIP) is the key that enables US providers to start offering degrees in the UK. This may not be true, but a 2014 briefing paper written by the European Universities Association states:

The EU and the US have embarked on negotiations designed to culminate in a major trade deal. Will it lead to unrestricted market access to higher education services? This is not the first time that the issue has arisen. The question is complex, the implications uncertain, and the answer unknown.


November 8, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized, waffle | 2 Comments

ILIaD_TEThis Monday (3 November) saw the official launch event for ILIaD, the Institute for Learning Innovation and Development at the University of Southampton. I’ve supported the use of learning technologies at the university for 23 years now, and in that time I’ve always been part of teams with acronym names; the ILC, CLT, LATEU, TELE and most recently CITE. I think ILIaD is my favourite so far, but maybe that’s only because I’ve always been interested in the Greek myths and the tales of the Trojan war.

For those of you without the benefit of a classical education, the Iliad is Homer’s epic tale of the forbidden love between Paris and Helen of Troy, the wrath of her husband King Menelaus, the gathering by King Agamemnon of the greatest warfleet ever and the subsequent 10-year siege of Troy (the kingdom) and fair Ilium (the city). Both sides displayed the greatest heroism as well as despicable brutality and essentially fought each other to a bitter stalemate. It was only the cunning of Odysseus and his plan for a wooden horse that finally allowed the Greeks to take the city, burn it to the ground, slay and enslave its citizens and reunite Helen and Menelaus. A second epic tale, the Odyssey, tells of the ten year journey home for Odysseus as the gods and fates blow him this way and that.

If you want a highly readable version, I recommend Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff, illustrated by the excellent Alan Lee (who did much of the visual design for the Lord of the Rings movies). There is a companion volume, The Wanderings of Odysseus. Do not under any circumstances watch the execrable film Troy, with Brad Pitt – we’re still waiting for a decent retelling, but the all-star 1971 The Trojan Women tells of the aftermath from a female perspective.

ILIaD’s mission is to ‘revolutionise education’ at the University, perhaps by using the trojan horse of learning technologies to infiltrate new pedagogies into the ivory towers of academe? Let’s hope it doesn’t take us ten years!

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