A couple of interesting Web 2.0 applications 
Hi, all. I have been using a few applications lately that may be of interest to some of you. The first one is Ning which is a great social networking page that allows blogs, forum, video, pics etc on a theme. I have a travel page at KazbaahNing by way of example. I can see it being really useful for group projects. Another great new service is teamsnap. This is a page for human movement - it supports anyone trying to organise an amateur sports team.
Finally, I use wiki pages a lot. I find that students love them, particularly if you include a sandpit (a page where they can experiment and share information). I use pbwiki but there are many free wiki hosts. I thought we could perhaps consider attaching a wiki to this blog. This is an example I have set up. I have embedded a video on it that is about Web 2.0. If anyone wants to have a go at editing the page the password is just ballarat. I use both blogs and wikis all the time and they both have strengths and weaknesses. Blogs are orderly and a great way to present weekly information for a class, but I find they are not great for encouraging participation. They are more formal and I find students can be shy about making entries. Wikis are great for participation, my students love them, but they can look like a dogs breakfast! Cheers.

Ian K.

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eLearning Meeting: June 6, 4.30pm, C004 
Media Streaming, Update on Resources for eLearning, Discussion on Blackboard

Media Streaming Demonstration - Eammon Jones
Demo of UB's Media Streaming System: Starbak, by Eammon Jones, Media Streaming Administrator/Producer. Now's your chance to see what this is, does, can do, can't do.....

Update on Learning Environments Project & eLearning Staff Resources - Ian

Discussion: Blackboard at UB led by Phil Taylor, School of Business
Phil has submitted the following as background to his discussion:

"The School of Business is collecting and reviewing all teaching and learning materials for distribution to partners and use on Blackboard. A number of serious issues regarding the quality of existing content have been uncovered. The primary concern is copyright restrictions on the use of publisher slides and amendments made to them. "Lecture notes" based substantially on publisher slides cannot be posted to Blackboard without time-consuming and/or costly permissions. Even in the cases where slides are the sole work of the lecturer, they are usually just "prompts" to aid in face-to-face delivery. The School will continue to use its Moderated Materials Website to distribute these "teaching aids" to guide Partner lecturers and to help ensure integrity of the Unit when delivered at other locations. But these "teaching aids" are not really suitable for delivery to students through Blackboard as "lecture notes". It is a timely opportunity for a total rethink about Blackboard and the quality of "learning resources" we intend to develop.

In the meantime SoB will only use Blackboard at Mt Helen in TP3. The minimum requirement is to deliver core documents such as Unit Outline, Unit Description and assessment tasks. This is obviously much less than was expected of the Blackboard investment.

It is assumed that Blackboard is intended to be part of a "blended learning" experience for students, where face-to-face teaching is supported by comprehensive "learning resources". In other words, the SoB Blackboard focus is not on a distance education model, but rather intended to go some way to ensure consistency and fairness of access to the same high-quality resources no matter what the delivery mode or where the location. This is critical for the SoB brand, quality assurance and accreditation. In this regard, Blackboard and other web technologies are assumed to be part of the solution, but they also spotlight the deficiencies of current content.

To use Blackboard as a document delivery system misses the point that the web technologies are a new medium requiring a rethink about what constitutes comprehensive or high quality "learning resources". The print paradigm is fading. Just rewriting "lecture notes", downloading tutorial tasks or reading about assessment in the Unit Description is not nearly enough. The potential for interactive engagement, podcasting and vodcasting, whiteboards, wikis and blogs suggests it is time for stategic refocussing. There is a need to establish what will be best practice pedagogy and standards.

The School of Business has quite independently of eLearning Interest Group started to address and quantify the need for professional input and resources required to "update" our offerings. The School is planning a workshop to explore examples of online teaching and learning, to distill and adapt to suit our "blended learning" approach. The goal was to look at the feasibility of establishing a learning development unit employing an instructional designer with graphic design support. A proposal and funding request is to be put to the DVC. It is assumed that each School has wrestled with the implications and frustrations of Blackboard during TP1 in a similar way. Gathering existing content, creating folders, letting lecturers explore the new medium independently, and watching the innovators go their own way.

The centrally-funded support for a new professional learning design unit with a senior Learning Designer mentioned in El-Blog is a welcome development. The School would like to align its initiatives in this context. Perhaps it may lead to an extension of the learning design unit to have support embedded within each School?

I look forward to participating in the next eLearning Interest Group meeting.

Posted by Ian Wright

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Second Life Presentation 
Hi Ian

Any chance you have a podcast or vodcast of SaeRa's second life presentation given at the last eLearning group meeting?

Sally :)

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News on eLearning Resources at UB: 3 New Staff 
Hello All,

I am the bearer of good news regarding support for those struggling with eLearning support and development at UB. The Vice-Chancellor has identified some significant funding for a new initiative to provide tangible support to those using and developing online resources. Darren Holland has been working to frame up a project proposal and this has been through a number of iterations and continues to evolve.

However, the recent experience of the academic community working with Blackboard, particularly in Higher Ed (who have lacked the equivalent of a TAFE Development Unit), has been less than satisfactory in many respects. In response to that, the Vice-Chancellor's Senior Team has signed off on the release of some of the tagged eLearning resources to support HE content development and whole-of-University systems support. Three new positions are being created in my team. These positions are for a Learning Designer, a Learning Technologies Technical Support role and a Learning Management System client support role.

This will give us the capacity to assist academic staff in the design and planning of their online programs, to evaluate, implement and support emerging learning technologies and to provide support to Lloyd for much of the basic administration and user support he provides. This is three additional positions until the end of 2008. It is highly likely that after 2008 we'll see a confirmation and consolidation of this approach and probably additional resources. There is also capacity to seek additional funding along the way for more staff if we can demonstrate satisfactory outcomes.

The roles as I currently see them operating are:

Learning Designer: a resource for academic staff to facilitate the production of quality learning resources, assist decisions around the appropriateness of particular resources, assist with structuring course content, facilitate the transfer of learning design skills to academic staff, all couched within a sound understanding of pedagogy in online and flexible learning. I see this as primarily a HE resource as TAFE currently have access to similar support from the TDU. (HEWA 8)

Learning Technologies Support Officer: to investigate, evaluate, make recommendations on and support learning technologies across UB. This would include being able to evaluate extensions to Blackboard; explore emerging technologies like blogs, wikis, podcasting etc.; install and evaluate alternative Learning Systems such as Moodle, Sakai and LAMS. (HEWA 6)

Learning Management System Client Support: this will be a support role to the Online Systems Administrator (that's Lloyd to us), performing much of the clerical work the OSA currently undertakes and providing phone support to academic staff. This will both improve our backup capacity for Lloyd and free Lloyd up to undertake more investigation of Blackboard's foibles and potentials, provide more advanced training etc. (HEWA 4)

These two positions would be whole-of-University in their focus.

This is a small start. We are still extremely limited in terms of production capacity such as for writing/editing, video, audio, multi-media, photography etc. It is, however, a start.

The location of the resources within my team is not confirmation that they will remain there indefinitely. I believe there's scope in future for a more fully provisioned Learning and Teaching initiative that may sit outsite my area and effectively encompass TAFE and HE. I'll be working closely with the TDU to blur boundaries and try and achieve the best possible functional symbiosis.

In the short term I'll be formalising a project around these resources that will include deliverables, timelines etc. I'll keep you informed.

There will be opportunities for this interest group to have a role in shaping the project.

(Posted by Ian Wright)

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Looking for International eLearning Conferences 
Clem and I (but mostly Clem) are putting together a list of good international conferences around eLearning and Flexible Learning. There may be a possibility of the University funding attendance at some conferences. If you're aware of something coming up, please let Clem know and we'll collate them into some sort of list. We, as a group, can then put forward some suggestions to DVCAR for consideration.

It would be good if we had the list ready for the next meeting on May 9.

Clem's email is: c.barnett@ballarat.edu.au

(Posted by Ian Wright)

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John Lennon Tour Bus Video 
An example of a mobile educational music production facility in a bus. Very swish. Large Quicktime movie (15Mb).

John Lennon Tour Bus Video

(Submitted by Ian Wright)

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eLearning Meeting 1/2007: Plans for 2007 
Outcomes from meeting on April 4 2007
A small but highly animated group met to discuss where we want to go with the group for 2007 and some exciting decisions were made.

Meeting Schedule
It was decided to hold monthly meetings at 4.30pm on a Wednesday. Meeting times will always be difficult and this was settled on as a reasonable time. It will be reviewed semester by semester. The next meeting will be on May 9 at 4.30 at a location to be decided.

Meeting Structure
Despite the very good natured anarchy that prevailed, we did agree that structure had its place! The meetings will follow the format of a 15-30 min (semi) formal presentation followed by general info sharing, updates etc. We'll aim at an hour but for those who wish the sessions could continue beyond that.

The first presenter has been identified - she is an ITMS student currently researching 'Second Life' who will give us a look at what this virtual world is and what some academic institutions are doing with it.

Seminar Series
An exciting suggestion that we adopted was to conduct a series of seminars for the UB community and beyond. We anticipate 2-3 hour sessions with food, addressing particular themes through presentations, demonstrations, hands-on workshops or whatever suits the occasion. These are intended to be practical and grounded. We see the audience going beyond UB, maybe to the general public. Probably 3 sessions in 2007. We can use some of the seed funding to underwrite these events with admin/organisation, catering etc.

It will also help to position the group within UB by giving it profile and showcasing some of the activity and capabilities of our participants, and UB in general.

Establishment of an eLearning Website
Finally, we've agreed to establish a small website to profile the group and to use as means of sharing info. Charlyn has 'volunteered' an ITMS student or two to set it up. Ian W. will create a spot on the corporate website and provide the students with access.

So, a small but very exciting meeting. Looks like it's gunna be an exciting year! (Oh, yeah, Blackboard was mentioned but I'd rather not dwell on that....!!)

(This post submitted by Ian Wright)

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Commentary from Marijke Groothuis - ITMS 
Marijke responded to my email to the eLearning Group - her comments placed here with permission:

From where I am sitting I can see the future filled with "blended learning" and have noticed rumblings in the innards of the online learning community indicating that the term e-learning is at best a misnomer and in the worst case scenario something that simply does not exist. Pity that most of our students would need to have "ubiquitous" explained otherwise we could use the term "u-learning" (had a student ask me in the exam what the word "analytical" meant!) Or how about blearning? Only kidding...
Come to the point woman! Ok! Here goes...

From what I have seen and found while researching the psychology of web and multimedia design, none of e/i/u/b-learning is going to be successful UNTIL we start to accept the fact ALL teaching materials need to be adapted to the specific medium with which the materials are delivered. It is astonishing to see how much we still treat monitors as if they were the equivalent of pages in books inspite of all the research that is out there that says that computer-based (I include the Internet in that) reading IS NOT THE SAME as print-based reading. There have been enough head-tracking studies done to prove this. Yet time and time again you come across materials meant to be read on a computer screen that are:
- far too wordy
- not easily scannable (ie. first part of the paragraphs does not give an indication what the paragraphs is all about)
- with paragraphs that are too long
- with headings that are severed from the paragraphs they belong to by a blank line (useful in print only - not online)
- and the list goes on and on...

Bill Horton (considered by quite a few to be the guru of web-based training) spoke quite some time ago about "horseless carriage" thinking when it came to e-learning design - not much seems to have changed. He based the term around the thinking behind the building of the first car which was a replica of the horse and cart without the horse! Initially we base the new on what we are familiar with, until such time we actually see a better way of doing things according to him. In my opinion it is crucial that every person who is thinking about developing online learning should have a course in "How people digest information delivered via a monitor" and "There is "usability" and "GOOD usability" - the psychology behind good design of online materials".

It is quite amazing isn't it that most people think they are qualified to write for the Web but few would consider themselves good enough to write books, be they textbooks, romantic novels, journals, magazines and so on!

End of ranting...


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What about an eLearning Conference at UB early in 2007? 
The idea has been raised of running an eLearning Conference at UB early in 2007. This would be a great showcase opportunity for people to share practice, ideas, directions, dreams, fantasies (I'll stop there), to develop a better 'across the board' awareness of what people are doing, to share expertise and to develop projects collaboratively.

We see this as more than eLearning - to include iLearning (innovative learning) that may not involve technology at all.

Whaddya think? Comments please.

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Short video on Microphone Technique 
With the rapidly increasing interest in podcasting and audio recording to accompany PowerPoint presentations, people are now starting to record themselves. The process of capturing good quality audio is not as simple as it sounds (ho ho) and there are some simple techniques that can be used to help. The video available from the link below was made for RODE Microphones, an Australian company that produces world class microphones. They've agreed to us putting this video on our internal website. RODE produce a very sophisticated USB microphone, the Podcaster, that is ideal for desktop recording. It is available for about $250 if you shop around. Their website is at this link. (That's the plug I'm giving them in return for the video even though they didn't ask! I do like to support Australian products, especially when they're as good as this.)

View the video at this link.

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