El Blog - A UB blog for sharing stuff on eLearning and iLearning (innovative learning)
Document conversion - PDFs and Flash files
Wednesday, March 5, 2008, 10:20 AM
I recently had a request for advice on document conversion from Word and Powerpoint to PDF. Mac users and the few of us who use the free Open Office or enhanced Oxygen Office can already export to PDF. But what about everyone else?
Enter PrimoPDF, which installs itself as a Windows printer, allowing you to export to PDF from Word, Excel and Powerpoint directly from the File>Print menu. It's free, and it works well (no trial period or watermarks).
Going a step further, the free AuthorPoint Lite 2 for Windows lets you convert any Powerpoint presentation into a Flash file (.swf) that can be published as a web page. Why bother? Publishing your presentations this way increases their accessibility (usually a reduced file size, and no need for Powerpoint software to be loaded on the viewer's computer) and also helps to protect your intellectual property - it's much harder to edit a published Flash file than a Powerpoint file. Flash files can also be imported into Blackboard, and viewed without having to leave the web browser environment.
I came across this take on LMS vs. PLE (mashups?) some of you may be interested in...
"Today’s learning management systems can be perceived as islands – islands in the vast sea of learning possibilities the World Wide Web offers. Not only content can be obtained, refined and selected; learners can also adopt those tools which are important for their purposes, create their own and individual learning portals, tag content or register RSS feeds informing about news relevant to them.
The keyword web 2.0 makes it possible: Moving away from standard learning management systems (“one for all” technique) to personalised learning environments (“one for me” technique) consisting of snips, bits and pieces, collections of tools and services which are bundled to individual and/ or shared landscapes of knowledge, experiences and contacts. It is a shift from the island paradigm of the LMS technique to understanding the web as a door, a portal to learning opportunities.
While we have already claimed individualisation of education through e-learning in the past, personalised learning environments are now truly offering it. "
Ian Wright: LEWS (Learning Environments and Web Services) are currently evaluating some options to enable lecturers to record their lectures for later publication on the web or via podcast. We are looking at iPods with voice recorders and a couple of small digital notetaker types of gadgets. We are looking at convenience in use, quality, robustness and affordability. When we decide on an option we'll purchase a couple of units each for Mt Helen and SMB for a more real life evaluation by making them available for loan to academic staff.
We want the recording phase to be easy and to minimise the post-processing of audio. When they become available we'll also have a set of easy instructions to accompany them.
The idea is for a lecturer to borrow the gadget from MTS for a couple of hours, take it into the lecture to record (gadget in pocket, lapel mic), dump audio to PC then return it to MTS. Once we settle on a preferred technology we can recommend a product for those wishing to purchase their own.
Steve: A warm welcome to Kellie Macneil, our Learning Designer who joined us in the Learning Environments team last week. Kellie's expertise will allow us to further assist staff who wish to implement innovative techniques in their learning programs.
Following a 'LEWS' planning sesssion last Friday, we shall be introducing an upgraded website in March. The aim of the new site is to make information regarding learning technologies and the people that support them at UB more accessible. We're still in the planning stages at the moment, but watch this space...
Steve: I've put together a diagram on Gliffy.com that depicts the learning technologies we have at UB (well, at least the way I see them so far!). I must say that the number of applications I'm finding on the Internet is quite overwhelming - lots of potential there! I'll be trying to add them to this blog as I come across them in future...
Steve P: For anyone who may be interested in looking 'behind the scenes' at emerging learning applications without having to worry about installations, configurations etc. I've put together a group of latest technologies you can start and stop on your PC laptop (not for Macs, sorry!). The package doesn't install anything on your computer, but mimics the operation of a web server.
The package allows you to try out several environments:
Mahara - ePortfolio software eLGG - social networking software, useful for podcasting, as used here. tikiwiki - wiki and groupware software, as used here. Moodle LMS - alternative to Blackboard, as used here.
You can download the package and instructions here.
Well, a few interesting things have been happening as 2007 draws to a close. Our Elluminate Live! trial is now officially underway, and staff have expressed considerable enthusiasm for the potential this new tool brings following the workshop held at Mt.Helen on 9 November.
I've been doing a fair bit of research into easy methods for Higher Ed. staff to conduct podcasting (and possibly 'vodcasting') and have recently installed an application named eLLG - a social networking platform similar to MySpace and Facebook that allows users to create profiles and upload audio and video files for sharing (amongst other possibilities). I'll be running a workshop on 7 December based on this podcasting process.
I've also been looking into the wider area of social media in education and this has thrown up some sticky issues to do with privacy, copyright, and equity of access. The educational potential is great, but right now our legal team are looking into some of the implications for UB policy. The outcome will impact upon our adoption of internal and external services, and this grey area is something that many Australian Universities are currently grappling with.
During last week's eLearning Interest Group's meeting a number of issues were raised and debated, including the future landscape of learning technology. What technologies will UB be looking at five years from now? Are Learning Management Systems old-hat? Where is 'web 2.0' going? There are no simple answers to these questions, of course. But the more we think about them, the better-prepared we'll be for the future at UB.
I look forward to seeing some of you at next week's workshop and at the next eLIG meeting. Remember you can give me a call (X9797) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you'd like to discuss anything you have in mind...
Ian Wright: Elluminate Live I am in the process of arranging a 12 month trial of Elluminate Live. We have the quote and I've asked Legal to look at the contract and following that, will arrange the order. The trial will run from November 2007 to end of October 2008. The licence will provide us with one virtual classroom with 25 concurrent students. We've yet to work out a booking system but that won't be needed until next year. Steve or I will handle bookings until then. In the meantime, I'll advise of when it's available and we will probably use our second Tech Workshop to introduce it and play with it. (That is scheduled for Nov 9.)
eActivity Survey The survey we've talked about is now active at: eLWiki and you can fill in a form about the interesting stuff you've been doing. This can be about technology, a particular project, an approach to innovative learning and so on. Don't feel reticent - often stuff you are doing is of interest to others even if you think it's a bit mundane.
Learning Environments Staffing I have just renewed my attempts to get the Learning Designer positions through HR and am moderately optimistic. It's becoming critical with timelines so this needs to happen quite soon. I have a PD approved for a Educational Resource Developer but won't be moving to fill that until the Learning Designer positions are filled and I have an idea of how the budget looks at that point.
Turnitin responsibility coming to Learning Environments Responsibility for the administration of the Turnitin plagiarism detection project is about to come under the auspice of the Learning Environments team. With Tom Keogh finishing in the role he has been holding for much of 2007, we'll be looking to appoint someone to pick up this role. At this stage I'm unclear what the fraction will be and what the full scope of the role will be. It is a logical function to have sitting in the LE team.
First of all, a big thank you to all those who've made me feel welcome here over the last few days. It's great to be here, and I look forward to working with you in various capacities over the coming months.
Yesterday's meeting raised a couple of interesting points. With regard to expenditure proposals, e.g. for trial software, it was agreed that a short 'business case' is required before funds may be allocated. Feel free to comment on the suggested procedure below:
1. Originator of the proposal makes an entry to a shared blog (such as this one) or an internal wiki page (such as UBWiki). This entry will give a brief two or three paragraph cost/benefit (business case) overview. 2. A time frame (e.g. three days) is given for viewers to comment on ideas, concerns etc. 3. All ELIG members are alerted to the entry via email or RSS (or similar) and invited to comment. 4. At the end of the stated time frame the refined proposal is presented to Ian Wright by the originator. 5. Ian updates the blog or wiki with progress statements.
Why don't men ask for directions? Frank Carrucan raised the issue of gender difference in attendance at Student & Learning Support workshops. Currently, 83% of attendees are female, and there is a possibility that successful implementation of technology could overcome barriers to learning for their male colleagues. Of course, it would be easy to suggest "they're just lazy..." but maybe learning preferences have a part to play in this. What do you think?