Books · Computer Science · Educational Philosophy · Emerging Trends · Hardware · Robotics · Smart Education · Springer · Teaching

Smart Learning Objects

Title: Smart Learning Objects for Smart Education in Computer Science

Theory, Methodology and Robot-Based Implementation
Author: Vytautas Stuikys
2015 | ISBN-10: 3319169122 | 336 pages Smart Learning Objects for Smart Education in Computer Science: Theory, Methodology and Robot-Based Implementation

This monograph presents the challenges, vision and context to design smart learning objects (SLOs) through Computer Science (CS) education modelling and feature model transformations. It presents the latest research on the meta-programming-based generative learning objects (the latter with advanced features are treated as SLOs) and the use of educational robots in teaching CS topics. The introduced methodology includes the overall processes to develop SLO and smart educational environment (SEE) and integrates both into the real education setting to provide teaching in CS using constructivist and project-based approaches along with evaluation of pedagogic outcomes.

Smart Learning Objects for Smart Education in Computer Science will appeal to researchers in CS education particularly those interested in using robots in teaching, course designers and educational software and tools developers. With research and exercise questions at the end of each chapter students studying CS related courses will find this work informative and valuable too.

Title: Smart Learning Environments

Authors: Maiga Chang, Yanyan Li

Publisher: Springer | English | 2015 | ISBN:3662444461 | 219 pages

This book addresses main issues concerned with the future learning, learning and academic analytics, virtual world and smart user interface, and mobile learning. This book gathers the newest research results of smart learning environments from the aspects of learning, pedagogies, and technologies in learning. Smart Learning Environments

It examines the advances in technology development and changes in the field of education that has been affecting and reshaping the learning environment. Then, it proposes that under the changed technological situations, smart learning systems, no matter what platforms (i.e., personal computers, smart phones, and tablets) they are running at, should be aware of the preferences and needs that their users (i.e., the learners and teachers) have, be capable of providing their users with the most appropriate services, helps to enhance the users’ learning experiences, and to make the learning efficient.

See also this post: Smart Education

Books · Hardware · ICT

It’s Not About the Computers

Title: Do IT Right: It’s Not About the Computers

Author: Marty Kaufman
English | 8 July 2016 | ISBN: 1619614618 | 130 Pages

Your business has an information technology problem—and you don’t even know it.

Whether your company has 15 employees or 500, you’re almost certainly behind the IT curve. Information technology changes so fast that business leaderslive with problems and fail to seize the IT advantage.

That’s costing you money, time and opportunities.

For over thirty years, Marty Kaufman has shown companies big and small how to achieve the winning IT-driven results previously available only to the Fortune 1000.

In Do IT Right he shows you how to effectively utilize information technology, grow your business and beat the competition.

Do IT Right is the handbook to help you see—and target—the problems and opportunities hidden in your IT systems. Do IT Right shows you how to:

Develop an IT strategy.

Optimize the information technology portion of your business.

Get the same results as large companies at a fraction of the cost.

Understand proper—and cost-effective—IT staffing.

Get smart about hardware and software implementation.

Learn from the mistakes others have made.

You don’t have to become a computer geek to get the most out of information technology. All you need is to learn how to Do IT Right.

Hardware · Science · Uncategorized

3D Printed Science Projects

3D Printed Science Projects: Ideas for your classroom, science fair or home (Technology in Action) (Repost)

Title: 3D Printed Science Projects: Ideas for your classroom, science fair or home (Technology in Action)

Author: Joan Horvath
2016 | 224 Pages | ISBN: 1484213246 | PDF | 4 MB

This book describes how to create 3D printable models that can help students from kindergarten through grad school learn math, physics, botany, chemistry, engineering and more. Each of the eight topics is designed to be customized by the reader to create a wide range of projects suitable for science fairs, extra credit, or classroom demonstrations. Science fair project suggestions and extensive “where to learn more” resources are included, too. You will add another dimension to your textbook understanding of science. In this book, you will learn: To create (and present the science behind) 3D printed models. To use a 3D printer to create those models as simply as possible. New science insights from designing 3D models. Who this book is for: This book shows parents and teachers how to use the models inside as starting points for 3D printable explorations. Students can start with these models and vary them for their own explorations. Unlike other sets of models that can just be scaled, these models have the science built-in to allow for more insight into the fundamental concepts.

Books · Emerging Trends · Hardware · Research · Springer · Teaching

Digital Ink

Title: Revolutionizing Education with Digital Ink: The Impact of Pen and Touch Technology on Education

Authors:  Tracy Hammond, Stephanie Valentine
2016 | ISBN-10: 3319311913 | 385 pages

Derived from contributions to the Workshop on Pen and Touch Technology on Education (WIPTTE) in 2015

, t

his edited volume highlights recent developments for pen and tablet research with

in the education system with a particular focus on hardware and software developments, comprising the perspectives of teachers, school and university administrators, and researchers for educators at every level.

Split into six distinct parts, the book explores topics like how classrooms are increasingly using sketch-based videos, created by teachers and students alike, and how the teaching of key skills such as literacy, languages, math, and art

via pen and touch technologies within the classroom are leading to improvements in engagement, learning, and retention levels amongst students. Future perspectives of digital learning, as envisioned by current high school students, are also explored.

Revolutionizing Education with Digital Ink is a must-read for those seeking to understand the direction of current and future pen and touch research, its current use in classrooms, and future research directions.

Computer Science · Hardware · Teaching

National Science League

ncseblog_bannerTitle: Let Them Eat …. Smartboards

Author: Emily Schoerning   04.19.2016

There are a lot of reasons why I love funding teacher requests. The purpose of NCSE’s Science Booster Club Project is fundraising as much as it is outreach, and the purpose of the fundraising is to support teachers. Although we’ve recently received requests for professional development scholarships, what we do right now to support teachers (and avoid brawls with school administrators) is fund durable equipment requests. Last month we managed to raise enough microgrant money to get durable equipment valued under $300 into four local science classrooms. Crowded science classrooms. Two of our teachers work with over 400 students a year. This funding cycle will benefit more than 1,350 students a year. That brings our total number of students impacted by material donations to around 1,800 in our first year of operation. The Science Booster Club Project started on April 13th of 2015.

It’s great to have that kind of impact, but I’ll admit that as much as I love funding teacher requests, I really, really like the opportunities for connections these grants provide. The grants help me meet a lot of teachers. And I learn what kind of things—fairly small, modest things—teachers want and can’t get from their administrations.

This microgrant cycle attracted a lot of applicants. Many of the things teachers asked for really steamed my clams. It was all very basic equipment. Balances, thermometers; in the most egregious case, safety goggles. The teacher in question told me that in her AP biology class students had to share one pair of safety goggles for every three students.

The teachers were not able to get this basic, essential equipment through their school budgets. All the teachers I talked to said they would probably have ended up buying this basic equipment themselves, out of pocket, if NCSE had not been there to fund the request.

I wondered what was going on at these schools. How can a school not have money for safety goggles? The situation was as mystifying as it was blood-boiling. I was very glad for the opportunity to deliver the equipment and see for myself what was going on.

And that’s when things got even more interesting. One of the teachers, who had absolutely no money in the budget for equipment, supplies, or reagents, taught in a newly renovated classroom with a full complement of instructional technology. The lab had chemical-resistant benches and smartboards, but the forty kids in her biology class had to take turns using two thermometers, which were also shared with the physics and chemistry classes. Check out this lovely modern classroom below, which looks really great and has no money at all for basic equipment.


This modern classroom has no funding for basic equipment


Another teacher had a smartboard and tablets for each student, yet taught in a classroom that hadn’t been renovated since the 1920s. She works with hundreds of students every day, but needed our help to get basic safety equipment,

“It doesn’t work,” she said, cheerfully, of the smartboard. “We mostly just waste time trying to convince it to work. And they took out the blackboard.”

Despite the fancy technology, all three classrooms I visited last week were overcrowded, with science teachers working with as many as 40 middle school students in the classroom at a time. All three of the teachers proudly showed me the low-tech supplies they had scored through relationships with friends at universities: microscopes and glassware that would have been thrown out, incubators on loan, last year’s books.

What is going on here? A year ago, I sure thought I knew. I thought the problem was that school districts were not investing enough in science classrooms. Now it seems that while lack of resources is indeed a problem, it turns out that when there are resources, they’re not necessarily the right ones! There is a complete disconnect between district funding and what teachers need. A lot of people are pushing technology in every classroom, and that’s very nice. All kids should be learning how to harness modern information technology. But it’s weird to go into a classroom and find that modern information technology is all they have—and that anything needed for an authentic, hands-on science experience, any equipment or materials whatsoever, has been begged, bought, or possibly stolen by the teacher.

What can I say? My experience in these classrooms suggests that there are many stories like these that need to be told. If, as a society, we care about improving STEM education, we need to know what’s going on. It may seem disruptive, or sexy, or forward-thinking to leap-frog over traditional laboratory supplies into the high tech future. But what is the evidence that such investments will have a greater impact than providing teachers with what they say they need, instead of what we think they need? The NCSE Booster Club funding model can provide first aid in this situation, and that is really important. But we need a bigger conversation. What’s going on in your school? If you’re a teacher, tell us your story. If you’re not, ask a local science teacher. Let us know what you find out.


*Hyperbole alert. I have no reason to believe any teachers are guilty of theft.

Books · Hardware · Science · Teaching

3D Printed Science Projects

Title: 3D Printed Science Projects: Ideas for your classroom, science fair or home

Authors: Joan Horvath, Rich Cameron
Apress | Computer Science | May 3 2016 | ISBN-10: 1484213246 | 203 pages

Book covers 8 separate, customizable projects, each applied to a different topicLearn to use a 3D printer to create these and other models as simply as possibleScience fair project suggestions and extensive “where to learn more” resources are included

Note: All the books presented in this blog. Include the original cover and review provided by the publisher. This information is used to accurately promote and show respect for these resources, the authors and the publishers.

Hardware · ICT · Music · Programming · Teaching · Web Resources

Sonic-Pi: Music for Raspberry Pi

Sonic Pi: The Live Coding Synth for Everyone.

Simple enough for computing and music lessons.
Powerful enough for professional musicians.
Free to download with a friendly tutorial.

Learn to code creatively by composing or performing music in an incredible range of styles from classical to algorave.

Created at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory
with kind support from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
Sonic Pi is an Open Source Project released under the MIT Licence.sonic

There is a great article in the newest MagPi Essentials: Check out this cool TedTalk about the Sonic-Pi


Books · Computer Science · Emerging Trends · Hardware · Periodical · Teaching

Raspberry Pi used in Primary Classrooms


The Raspberry Pi is a series of credit card–sized single-board computers developed in England, United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intent to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries. The original Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi 2 are manufactured in several board configurations through licensed manufacturing agreements, The hardware is the same across all manufacturers. In February 2016, the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced that they had sold eight million devices, making it the best selling UK personal computer, ahead of the Amstrad PCW.

Kids can use these inexpensive computers ( often <$50/per machine) to learn about computers or coding. Here are a couple of books that present processes and project to do both.

Title: Raspberry Pi for Kids For Dummies

Author: Richard Wentk
2015 | 352 Pages | ISBN: 1119049512
Raspberry Pi for Kids For Dummies (Repost)

Raspberry Pi For Kids For Dummies makes it easy for kids to set“up, operate, and troubleshoot like a Pi pro! Introducing you to Pi through a series of entertaining and inspiring projects, this handy, step“by“step guide shows you how to write computer games, build websites, make art and music, create electronic projects, and much more! From downloading the operating system and setting up your Raspberry Pi to creating art in Tux Paint and designing games with Scratch, everything you need to have fun with Pi is inside!Raspberry Pi For Kids For Dummies leaves the confusing tech talk behind and explains in plain English how to unleash all the cool possibilities of Pi, like playing Minecraft in Python, using HTML to make a website, managing and customizing your Raspberry Pi, playing music with Sonic Pi, and understanding and playing with the GPIO.If you²re aspiring computer programmer age 8“18 and want to start having fun with Pi, look no further The Raspberry Pi for kids (True PDF)than Raspberry Pi For Kids For Dummies.

Here is another, recent periodical that addresses the same phenomena.

Title: Raspberry Pi Projects for Kids 2nd Edition
Author: Daniel Bates
2015| ISBN: 1783982225 | 96 pages

Technology today is growing rapidly, with all sorts of cool gadgets, applications, and games made thanks to the rise of computer programming. The Raspberry Pi is a crafty device that has promoted the teaching of basic computer science in schools, catching the attention of both young and old. Although learning to program offers a unique set of skills that allows you to explore your creative side, it has its own challenges, which may mean you will need a helping hand.

This handy guide will launch you into the world of computer programming by showing you how to build your own amazing applications. Raspberry Pi Projects for Kids contains several awesome projects for you to get hands-on with, including creating your own games, crafting your own simple electronics, and making your own interactive map. By learning how to use Scratch and Python in your programming, you will be a computer scientist in no time!

After you have become comfortable with setting up and playing with your Raspberry Pi, you will be transported into this exciting world of technology, where you will get to grips with using Scratch, Raspberry Pi s official programming language, in order to develop your own version of Angry Birds! After connecting new circuitry, lights, and switches to your Raspberry Pi, you will then get to use Scratch to create your own reaction game. See for yourself who s the quickest off the mark!)You will finally get to step things up by developing an interactive map of your own hometown using the Python programming language. You will be working for Google before you know it!

This book will teach you everything you need to know about using your Raspberry Pi in order to develop your own games, applications, and electronic circuits. It s time to have your Pi and eat it, because you will be able to create virtually anything you like.

Note: All the books presented in this blog. Include the original cover and review provided by the publisher. This information is used to accurately promote and show respect for these resources, the authors and the publishers.

Educational Philosophy · Hardware · ICT · Mobile · STEM · Web Resources

What has changed in 3 years

Outlook for online learning in 2013: online learning comes of age

FunTab Class 9.1 Android ICS Tablet: will 2013 be the year of the tablet?

In a previous post, I talked about the difficulties in making predictions in online learning. Bearing in mind the hazardous nature of this endeavour, here are my predictions – or perhaps better, I should say ‘forecasts’ – for online learning in 2013. The percentages are not probabilities in a statistical sense, but an estimate of the proportion of institutions in Canada that will move in these directions in 2013. Thus in (1) below, I forecast that for between 10-30% of Canadian universities and colleges, online learning starts to become a core activity affecting all its teaching areas during 2013.

The forecasts are listed in my order of importance, in terms of their likely impact on post-secondary education.

1. From the periphery to the centre: one year 10-30%; three years: 30-50%; five years: 60-80%

This is the year online learning comes of age. If we take 1995 as the first year that online learning really took off with the development of web-based online courses, then online learning becomes 18 years of age in 2013 (you get to vote in federal elections at 18 in Canada – and even drink alcohol in some provinces.).

More importantly, I see 2013 as a terrific year for online learning, where it moves from being an interesting sidebar, operating on the fringes of an institution’s core, to becoming central to an institution’s operation. In particular, online learning will not continue to be supported or housed mainly in Continuing Education or Faculty of Extension, but will start to become integrated within the core activities of faculties and academic departments. If this is so – and I will provide some evidence that this is already beginning to happen – then another set of sub-forecasts fall from this.

2. Hybrid learning: one year 20-40%; three years: 40-60%; five years: 70-90%

What’s primarily going to drive this move to the centre is not MOOCs but hybrid learning, by which I mean the re-design of courses to integrate the best of online and campus-based teaching. This is being driven by dissatisfaction with very large lecture classes in first and second year university courses, the need for increased productivity/better learning in times of economic austerity, and faculty’s increasing familiarity with online learning in supporting regular lecture-based classroom teaching.

Initially in many institutions the move will be crude pedagogically, with an emphasis on video recording of lectures and flipped classes, or merely increasing the amount of online learning supporting regular classes. Over time, though, as instructors get more experience in hybrid learning, get more instructional design support, and greater pressure from the administration, full course re-design will increase, but major redesigns around hybrid learning may take as long as five years in many institutions. One reason for this slow adoption of re-design is the current lack of appropriate models for hybrid learning that have been tested and evaluated; this will change though as experience grows. Best practice for hybrid learning will emerge, as it did for fully online learning.

I see this move being quicker and more in-depth in Canada than the USA, because Canada has a large number of dual-mode institutions, i.e. institutions that for many years have had both on-campus and distance programs. Many of these institutions (and more importantly, many faculty) already have extensive experience in fully online courses, mechanisms to register, support and assess online learners, and the expertise and technical staff to facilitate a move to hybrid learning. However, the support staff are often not located within the academic departments, so some reorganization will be necessary, and this will take time.

Although the USA has a number of dual-mode institutions, especially among the land grant universities, it also has a great number of institutions that are either very new to online learning, or have outsourced or isolated online learning from the main campus activities, or even more so, some very prestigious institutions that have no online activities and are just waking up and smelling the coffee (mainly the MOOC brand). However, this slow start for many institutions may be mitigated by the tendency of US institutions to move faster and farther than Canadian institutions, once they get going. Thus Canadian institutions have a window of opportunity to become leaders in hybrid learning but it won’t be open very long.

3. A strategic institutional approach to online and flexible learning: one year 5-15%; three years: 15-25%; five years: 25-50%

I expect to see online learning increasingly appearing as strategic initiatives within institutional plans (where institutions actually have concrete plans, which is still a surprisingly small proportion). A good example of such a strategic approach is the University of Western Sydney, which has developed a detailed strategy for hybrid learning which includes the issuing of iPads to all first year students. I know at least five universities in Canada that are currently in the process of developing strategic initiatives or plans for online, hybrid or flexible learning. I know there are many more institutions out there starting to move in this direction.

There are several factors that will drive this trend during 2013:

  • political pressure, from boards and governments looking for greater productivity and innovation. Ontario is a good example.
  • MOOCs: intelligently run institutions will ask themselves the broader question of what their long-term goals and strategies are for online learning before making any significant investments in MOOCs, but boards and faculty wanting to jump into MOOCs will start forcing this question. For an excellent discussion of this issue, see Joshua Kim’s post on MOOCs, Online Learning and the Wrong Conversation; also see  “What should we do about MOOCs?” – the Board of Governors discusses.
  • changing demographics: as the population gets older, so do students. In many traditional, campus-based institutions, over the next few years there will be more students over 25 years of age than under – many two year colleges already have passed this point. In other words, lifelong learners will exceed high school leavers in new admissions. Is the institution ready for this demographic change? If not, it will lose students and funding. Online learning is likely to be a key strategy for dealing with this future shock.
  • the move to hybrid learning: this will raise issues of resources, organization, and priorities – in other words, you will need a plan
  • a slow but gradual move towards more formal academic planning; deciding on the methods of delivery – such as hybrid or fully online – as well as what courses or programs to offer will fit naturally into such planning cycles and decision-making.

However, many institutions will struggle with this development in 2013. Planning is often resisted by faculty as being bureaucratic (poorly done it can be) and as restricting their academic freedom (which is nonsense, but nevertheless a reality, unless they themselves get involved.) Furthermore, there are few places to go to get help with planning for online learning (my phone number is 604…..), other than private sector companies (see outsourcing below) who have their own interests. Nevertheless developing institutional strategies for online learning will become increasingly necessary.

4. Outsourcing: one year 0-10%; three years: 5-15%; five years: 15-25% (figures for Canada – double for USA)

This is a corollary of the previous three trends. I see this as more pertinent to the USA than to Canada, where most institutions have at least some resources and experience already in online learning, and also are wary of private-public partnerships. However, I do see some institutions outsourcing all or a significant part of their online learning activities to organizations such as Academic Partnerships, Pearson or its subsidiaries, or 2U. In order of probability, I list the services most likely to be outsourced:
  • 24×7 technical support
  • learning management systems
  • marketing of online courses
  • online student administration:
  • registration, assignment submission, assessment
  • learner support/tutoring
  • course design
  • all online activities as a separate unit, with fees/royalties paid to the institution

The decision to outsource will vary from smart (it’s not a core activity and they can do it better and cheaper than we can) to not so smart (panic: we’re so far behind it’s the only way we can catch up.) In the long run, if online learning moves to the core, i.e. hybrid learning, then you can’t afford all the expertise to be externally owned and controlled. However, not all online learning activities are core or unique to an institution, so I do see outsourcing increasing in 2013, sometimes even for good reasons.

5. The evolution of MOOCs: the trough of disillusionment? One year: 20-30% of institutions; three years: 5-15%; five years: 10-20% (having reaching the plateau of productivity, the rest having exited the MOOC market).

Whither MOOCs in 2013? Well, first, they are not going away. Indeed in many ways I expect activity to ramp up in 2013 as many new MOOCs now in development begin to roll out. EdX in particular will be worth watching with a number of courses due out in the spring. I will be particularly interested in their design. Will the EdX courses reflect best practice in online learning (from the past) or new features based on recent research into cognitive learning, or new features drawn solely from the information sciences – or even best, a mix of all these? Or will it be the same old, same old recorded lectures?

I suspect that towards the end of the year, MOOCs will start entering the trough of disillusionment, although I doubt if they will hit bottom until 2014, when evaluation reports start to roll in, and the universities participating decide whether the business model works for them. I think there is enough momentum though to carry them through 2013.

I do expect MOOCs to survive over the long term, but they will be smaller, more diverse in design and targeting, and better integrated within ‘the system’ of post-secondary education. Indeed, some, such as the current cMOOCs, will continue to exist outside or in parallel to the formal education system. MOOCs will in essence fill a niche, or rather a range of niches, and important niches at that. They will not though have as much impact on institutions as the move to hybrid learning and fully online credit programs, although MOOCs will help to open up, but only a little, many previously ‘closed’ institutions. MOOCs will provide an accessible, low-cost source of up-dating for professionals, although there will still be increased demand for qualifications from lifelong learners through credit programming. MOOCs though, at least as we know them, will not solve the challenge of providing high quality, effective education to the billions in developing countries who most need it, because of language, lack of Internet access, and materials that are inappropriate for their learning needs.

The biggest impact of MOOCs from an institutional perspective in North America is likely to be on continuing education departments, many of whom for survival have relied on income from fees for their mainly non-credit courses. MOOCs will not destroy that market but will cause a lot of financial problems for these departments, especially where they have been offering non-credit online courses at a high fee. The response I think will be for many universities to charge a small fee for participation, and a larger fee for assessment, which will have a dramatic downward impact on numbers enrolling for MOOCs. Other institutions (or in particular instructors) will cap numbers (turning them into SOOCs – small open online courses) and run them in parallel with their credit courses, and some institutions may even offer credit to ‘open’ students who successfully complete such ‘capped’ courses, even if such students were not previously admitted to the university. (See University of Maine PI as an example). I also see some two-year colleges developing MOOCs, although they already have competition from providers such as Alison. Open universities are also likely to be impacted, but not as much as one might think, because they offer credit programs, and have in some cases been leaders in offering open educational resources (e.g. the UK Open University’s OpenLearn).

Lastly, we are likely to see some real innovation in online learning design in MOOCs. There is less risk in getting things wrong in a ‘free’ course, so more to be gained by an instructor in taking a risk, and the challenge of handling very large numbers requires innovation in software and design approaches, and a chance at getting large data sets and statistically significant results with the very large numbers involved (and no ethics committee to go through, in many cases.). The successful innovations will in most cases easily transfer over to credit online courses, so everyone will benefit.

At the same time, sadly many instructors will go on delivering video lectures, and will get away with it because of their research reputation or the brand name of the institution to which they are (often nominally) attached. However, MOOCs could and should be much more than this.

6. Open text books: One year: 25-35%: Three years: 45-55%; Five years: 90-95% 

From a tiny seed a forest grows. In 2012 the provincial government of British Columbia announced an open text book scheme. In essence, it is asking BC institutions to come forward with proposals for developing open text books for large enrollment courses, such as Psychology 100. The program is modelled on a similar program from the state of California. The idea is that the text once developed will be available for free for all students taking Psychology 100 across the province, although it will be left to individual instructors to decide whether or not to use the open textbook or other commercially available textbooks.

This is an incredibly smart political and educational move, for several reasons:
  • Post-secondary students in BC are currently spending on average over $700 a year on text books. This will reduce their costs dramatically, and the government gets the credit
  • Secondly, at least in the case of BC, it doesn’t cost the government any new money. It already had a modest annual online course development fund of $750,000, managed by BCCampus, which will now be used to develop the textbooks.
  • Third, if you are developing an online textbook, it makes a lot of sense to include student activities, video clips, OER animations or simulations, etc. In other words, you not only get a textbook, but a wrap-around course. Individual instructors can add, amend or remove not only content but also the wrap-around material, so they can individualize parts of a course without having to redesign the whole thing – AND they get a feeling of ownership that way
  • If, as I hope, two of the leading research universities, such as UBC and the University of Victoria or Simon Fraser University, were to get together, they could ensure that the text book would cover at least 50% of the students enrolled in that level of course in the province, and would put enormous pressure on the other universities to follow suit. If they were to partner with universities in other provinces, the costs of developing such wrap-around courses would come down dramatically for each institution. Thus this has the potential for scaling up dramatically.

If I was a betting man, I think this is the place where the OER movement will end up. It provides the means to combine open content, pedagogy, delivery, course individualization, student cost savings, and economies of scale. What’s not to like about this (unless you’re a commercial publisher?). Indeed, there are only two things that can really stop this from taking off: faculty intransigence (not invented here; interferes with my academic freedom); and political lobbying by publishers, which I don’t underestimate.

7. The year of the tablet? One year: 10-15%: Three years: 20-25%; Five years: 40-50% 

Of all the predictions, this is the one where I have least certainty. Logically, tablet use should grow in 2013. It’s the obvious way to store and access textbooks, they provide any time anywhere access to learning, they are more portable and cheaper than laptops, and they could provide extraordinary interactivity with learning materials. Perhaps even more importantly in the long run, students can use tablets for collecting multimedia in-the-field evidence, and for creating multimedia demonstrations of their learning. One or two universities are already giving all first year students a free tablet, such as the University of Western Sydney.

However, there are many reasons why this is going to be slow progress in 2013:

  • first, at least in North America, they are still too expensive. They need, like the Aakash 2 in India, to come down in price below $100. More significantly in Canada, roaming costs are still too high, as soon as you step outside the campus. If we can pre-load online courses and open textbooks, then a higher tablet price might be acceptable, but the roaming charges are a killer
  • no-one’s designing courses for tablets, but until we do, we won’t get the true affordances of the technology. It is simply not sufficient just to transfer over courses designed around a learning management system. The extra cost to the student cannot be justified. If, however, we started designing courses around the affordances of the technology, and in particular if we have tablets that enable the creation and adaptation of multimedia materials by the student, then their use could be better justified
  • tablets are still better at publishing and distribution than the creation of materials, although they are getting better. Indeed a lot of thinking suggests that they are complementary to rather than a replacement for laptops. If that is true, then tablets remain too expensive for education on a large scale
  • you need an institutional strategy for blended and online learning into which the use of tablets can be fitted; one-off experiments in individual courses or even programs will be hard to justify
  • the technology is still evolving rapidly, so what first year students get this year could easily be obsolete by the time they get to their fourth year.

So there are too many uncertainties to be confident about tablets taking off this year in post-secondary education, although I do believe their time will come.

8. Flexible course design (FCD) One year: 10-15%: Three years: 20-25%; Five years: 40-50% 

We are now getting much more into speculation than evidence-based forecasting, so treat this as very tentative.

I see FCD as being somewhere in between the full, ADDIE-type instructional design model, and the complete lack of pedagogy in video lecture-based online and hybrid learning. It will be developed in response to VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environments, which is a pretty good description of online learning these days.

I see FCD as being different from rapid instructional design (RID), although it shares some commonality. The focus in FCD is not so much to reduce the cost of course design, by shortening the process (as in RID), but to enshrine core pedagogical principles while responding to a constantly changing academic, technological and organizational context. FCD also tends to be more constructivist in its approach compared with the more behaviourist approach often found in RID. In particular, FCD will increasingly focus on the design and integration of learner-directed activities, such as project work and multimedia assignments, which cannot be easily controlled or specified in detail or in advance, and to integrating new and educationally relevant technologies as they become available. FCD will also not fight traditional teaching methods applied to online learning, but will work with faculty to gradually modify their practices to a more pedagogically sound approach over a period of time.

9. International


Watch Mexico. Mexico waxes and wains in online learning. For many years, Tec de Monterrey (private), Universidad de Guadalajara (public), and a number of other universities have had successful online programs, but these have reached less than 5% of post-secondary learners. However, the new President has promised a national online virtual university, and more significantly, has promised to open up Mexico’s telecommunications industry to more competition. The latter should result in the cost of Internet access declining rapidly from its very high current level, opening up a huge market for online learning, as currently less than 30% of the population have Internet access at home. I see 2013 as a year when the foundations are solidified for a rapid growth in online learning in subsequent years.

Asia (especially India)

Asia already has massive numbers of online learners, particularly in South Korea, Malaysia and China. India now has the Aakash 2 tablet, and a strategy for online science teaching through the Indian Institues of Technology, and is likely to expand its online teaching rapidly, although lack of infrastructure and Internet access remain huge barriers. However, the government of India is putting in place a national high speed network connecting the major universities and colleges. India also has a thriving e-learning service and course design industry, mainly focused to date on international and business services but which will be able to ramp up online learning in India very quickly as Internet access improves, mainly through university and college campuses also being opened up for off-campus students requiring online access. In terms of sheer numbers, then, India will continue to develop and evolve its e-learning activities.

10. Expect the unexpected: One year: 100%; Three years: 100%; Five years: 100%

These are the monsters lurking in the shadows. In online learning, the only thing you can really be certain of is the uncertainty. These are Donald Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns, so by definition they are unpredictable or non-forecastable.

However, there are also some known unknowns that perhaps we should discuss. (MOOCs are good examples – they were known in 2011, but the likelihood that they would take off in 2012 in the way they did was not known, at least by most pundits.) Here are some possible bogeymen to lie awake worrying about:

  • the privatization of post-secondary education in the USA. Many states are in dire financial trouble. Will this result in some states privatizing their public post-secondary education systems? What price would Alabama State University fetch from a commercial buyer and how would that affect the state’s finances? If some states do decide on privatization, expect online learning to increase – indeed, online learning will likely increase in financially challenged states without privatization, because, rightly or wrongly, it will be seen as cheaper; also expect federal student financial aid to take a hit in the USA as Congress grapples with the deficit.
  • a major Internet player (Apple, Google, Facebook or Amazon) jumps into the online learning market, perhaps in partnership with some elite universities, and takes a major share of the for-credit online market, because of lower costs, quality content, and accreditation from elite universities (but with a different category of degree from their on-campus programs)
  • The US Congress backs publishers and shuts down all publicly funded open educational resources; copyright legislation is tightened on US-based Internet companies making it all but impossible to use educational resources over the Internet for free
  • major power shortages/outages, due to bad weather/a surge in energy prices/political activists (pick your reason) makes online delivery increasingly unreliable during winter
  • quantum computing arrives at a reasonable cost and completely changes the game.

You could have fun adding to this list, but you get my point. There’s not much we can do about even the expected, never mind the unexpected, so really there’s no point worrying about it until it happens.

We’re in charge: creating our own future

First, you will note that I am more of a fox than a hedgehog. Most of these forecasts are a continuation of existing developments rather than startling new advances in online learning. Also the future is not going to be delivered to us; we need to create it ourselves. This means post-secondary institutions thinking through the role and purpose of online learning very carefully, rather than being driven by external and often hostile forces. However, post-secondary education is a slow moving machine, and change takes time.

Overall, though, you can see I am starting 2013 much more optimistically than for many years. Online learning will come of age, will become a central, core activity in most universities, will be strategically planned and managed, pedagogy will become more important, and learning as a result will become deeper, richer and more flexibly accessible. If all that happens in 2013, I will be more than pleased.

May your 2013 be as good as this if not better.

Now, given that more heads are better than one in forecasting, where do you see online learning going in 2013?

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