GOOGLE’S chief technology advocate Michael Jones has a vision for global education in which the world’s best professors will be movie stars. They will sell the best online courses that money and whiz-bangery can buy to universities which will charge students to be examined on their rebranded version of it. Mr Jones says ”a mobile […]
Apple made a big splash in NYC in January when it announced an improved iTunes U application. Once simply a section of the iTunes store, Apple relaunched iTunes U as a dedicated app for iOS devices. As Phil Schiller, a senior vice president at Apple, explained, iTunes U courses enable “anyone anywhere at any time […]
It may not have the nightlife but as a way of accessing a flexible, quality education, I’ve found the Open University can’t be beaten He was a flying goth with rocker looks. I was a new Open University tutor researching a play. I ventured into the OU room in Second Life , and after a few introductions (He: F04 R08 . AL? Me: Yep. A363 . R11), we had a long chat about non-Euclidean geometry. Call me strange, but I found this amazingly thrilling. Living in a rural area, you don’t come across many Gauss experts. Vast academic libraries, with international journals on tap, books and courses to get your brain cranking, people who enjoy a good barney about Shakespeare’s sonnets: the OU has brought all that to my doorstep, and it’s been an absolute joy. A quick straw poll reveals quite a few of my friends are closet OU students – they just haven’t mentioned it. All over the country, distance learning is helping students overcome not just geography, but also disability, culture, financial and family circumstances. Susanne Lockie, a full-time mother to three children, told me the mental stimulation has made it a lifesaver: “I need to keep my skills ticking over, but I couldn’t study to a high level without that flexibility. I’ve been able to get credit for my previous full-time study in nursing, which was interrupted when I had a family. I’ve finished my Open degree now, but I need to spend more time with my parents at the moment, so I’m taking a year out before starting on honours.” Employers tend to be supportive of OU study, knowing that OU students are likely to be unusually determined and committed. That’s why it’s all the more disappointing when you hear lazy “not a real degree, then” comments and ancient stereotypes of tweedy tutors and chalk-and-talk TV. I’ve found the quality of OU learning materials outstanding. The modular structure means you cover the ground systematically, with a clear understanding of context. Elsewhere (I studied at Oxford), I’ve found the learning experience equally stimulating, but much more haphazard.
From video marking to Second Life, technology is transforming the options for online students There’s not a red pen in sight when Russell Stannard marks his master’s students’ essays – but it’s not because the students never make mistakes. Stannard doesn’t use a pen, or even paper, to give his students feedback. Instead – and in keeping with his role as principal lecturer in multimedia and ICT – he turns on his computer, records himself marking the work on-screen, then emails his students the video. When students open the video, they can hear Stannard’s voice commentary as well as watch him going through the process of marking. The resulting feedback is more comprehensive than the more conventional notes scrawled in the margin, and Stannard, who works at the University of Westminster, now believes it has the potential to revolutionise distance learning. “It started when I began to realise how useful technology can be for teaching,” he says. “I wanted to help other teachers, as well as general computer-users, to learn how to use tools like podcasting, PowerPoint and BlackBoard, software that a lot of schools and universities use to allow teachers to provide course material and communicate with students online.” Follow the mouse So he set up a site to teach people how to use the technology, providing simple, video tutorials where users watch Stannard’s mouse pointing out how to use the software, with his voice providing constant commentary. He used the screen-videoing software Camtasia, and the site rapidly took off: it now receives more than 10,000 hits a month. Then he started considering integrating the teaching style into his own university work. “I was mainly teaching students on master’s courses in media and technology, and I realised that while I was talking about the benefits of new technology, I should be making the most of the opportunity to use it,” says Stannard. “That’s when I had the idea of video marking. It was immediately well received. Students receive both aural and visual feedback – and while we always talk about different learning styles, there are also benefits to receiving feedback in different ways.” Stannard says the technology is particularly useful for dyslexic students, who appreciate the spoken commentary, and students learning English as a foreign language. “I started my teaching career in language learning, so I quickly realised that students learning English would benefit from video marking. They can replay the videos as many times as they like and learn more about reasons for their mistakes.” Stannard also believes video marking is “perfect” for distance-learning students. “It brings them much closer to the teacher,” he says. “They can listen, see and understand how the teacher is marking their piece, why specific comments have been made, and so on.” The technology is already being used for informal distance learning, as Stannard uploads the videos he makes for his lectures at Westminster to multimedia trainingvideos.com.