Monthly Archive for July, 2008

Twitter Ye! Twitter Ye! Keep your students informed with free SMS text message broadcasts!

Twitter logoUpdate: Twitter currently sends free text messages to users on Vodafone, Orange, O2 and 3

Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) recently posted about the Use of Twitter to Support IWMW Events. In his post he highlights the potential use of Twitter to support communication between participants and conference organisers (If at this point you are thinking ‘what is Twitter?’, Brian and his team have put together a page describing Twitter and how it could be used).

One of the features of Twitter, which I wasn’t aware of, is the ability to follow another persons ‘twits’ via SMS text messages. Twitter doesn’t charge anything for sending texts so it is possible to create a lightweight JANET txt style service for FREE!

Here’s the basic recipe:

  1. Create Twitter account for course/program
  2. Ask your students to create their own Twitter account, registering their mobile phone if they want to receive SMS messages
  3. Provide students with instructions on how to follow the course Twitter account
  4. Start ‘twitting’ important course information (e.g. lecture/tutorial cancellations, important assignment deadlines).

[As a tutor you can also make twitter updates via SMS (sending text messages will be charged at your standard network rate). This way sending one text message to Twitter can be automatically forwarded to all your Twitter followers at no extra cost.]

The video below talks you through the process:

Demonstration of SocialLearn

I’ve been following the OU’s SocialLearn project with great interest. To date the only glimpse I have been able to get are of the OU Facebook applications. My horizon has been expanded today by a presentation by Martin Weller on George Siemens elearnspace blog. The full presentation, SocialLearn: learning about new ways of learning, includes an introduction to the project followed by a live demonstration of the SocialLearn portal (as invariably happens in these situtations the technology stumbled, but ever the professional Martin was able to cope). If you are just interest in the live demo jump to 41min 50sec.

[Martin also outlines some of the additional applications in development at 15min 00sec (Microlearner - twitter for education, Cloudworks - course design tool, cohere - making connections between ideas)] 

250 OpenCourseWare (OCW) and Open Educational Resources (OER) sites searched from 1 page

I came across this post by Zaid Ali Alsagoff the other day. Basically Zaid has compiled a list of almost 250 repositories containing free OpenCourseWare and Open Educational Resources. The list is billed as being for higher education including OCWs from MIT and OU’s OpenLearn, but there are plenty of resources which would be suitable for FE and schools (e.g. Jorum, Intute, TeacherTube, HowStuffWorks).

Tony Hirst had the brilliant idea of making the list of repositories searchable by creating a Google custom search (basically instead of individually searching 250 sites you can search them all from Tony’s custom Google search page). This has now evolved to Scott Leslie’s version which contains a wiki for people to add more OER/OCW links to another Google custom search.

This is definitely a great resource for staff and students!!!

SocialLearn: the future of higher education?

In a recent post I mentioned the OU’s SocialLearn project, so what is it all about. Simply, SocialLearn is a framework which uses social networking, and other web 2.0 applications, for learning.

At the heart of SocialLearn is a central learner profile. This profile contains the usual user information, contacts, groups etc. By releasing an open API, the OU are hoping that any third party application will be able to add to that profile, using a suite of applications to pull information in from other sites, like OpenLearn, BBC (the web is you oyster), or potentially push out (to other profiles, applications and sites). Cue diagrams …

SocialLearn Birds Eye View [Click to enlarge]  SocialLearn Architecture and API  [Click to enlarge]
Taken from SocialLearn: Why/What/How?

SocialLearn is designed to go beyond the control of the institution allowing the integration of learning personal to the user, in effect allowing users to control the networks, resources or tools relevant to them (either through self-discovery or recommended to them by the network). The OU have already developed some applications which are demonstrated on the SocialLearn » Software page.

While the SocialLearn API won’t be beta released until later this month there is already a tantalising list of tools already supported. I was able to pick this list up from Open Content Online:

MicroLearner, Camtasia, 2Learner, Cohere, Twittearth, Cloudworks, Facebook, OpenLearn, 43 things, Remember the milk. Other applications to write to the API: YouTUbe, GoogleDocs, etc.

This brief interpretation of SocialLearn project is the tip of the iceberg. Once you start digging deeper there are implications for all aspects of being a student and the business model used to support that experience. Traditionally higher education institutions have brokered knowledge, controlled content, defining pathways towards accreditation. With SocialLearn students are in control, they can choose to receive content and support from third parties (including their peers), define their own pathways towards accreditation, blend informal and formal learning.

For more information on SocialLearn, Martin Weller has compiled a slideshare presentation there are also various other documents on the SocialLearn website.

UHI granted degree awarding powers

UHI Logo

The UHI Millennium Institute has recently been granted degree awarding powers by the Privy Council. This is a key step towards gaining a full university title.  Previously degrees from the UHI were validated by the Open University and the change gives the Institute more flexibility in developing new courses. UHI Millennium Institute have a full press release on their site. Congratulations UHI!!!

[I must admit I missed this story when it first came out (I blame my parents, they live in the UHI heartland, I'm surprised they never mentioned it :-)].

The Scottish Agricultural College becomes Scotland’s Newest Higher Education Institution

SAC Logo

SAC have announced that after two years hard work they will become Scotland’s newest higher education institution in August 2008. Previously education at SAC was funded via the Rural Affair Department of the Scottish Government. From 1st August SAC will become a full member of Universities Scotland and receive funding from the Scottish Funding Council.  SAC have made a full press release on their site. Congratulations SAC!!!


This blog is authored by Martin Hawksey e-Learning Advisor (Higher Education) at the JISC RSC Scotland N&E.

JISC RSC Scotland North & East logo

If you would like to subscribe to my monthly digest please enter your email address in the box below (other ways are available to subscribe from the button below):

Subscribe to MASHe to monthly email updates


The MASHezine (tabloid)

It's back! A tabloid edition of the latest posts in PDF format (complete with QR Codes). Click here to view the MASHezine

Preview powered by: Webthumb

The MASHezine (eBook)

MASHe is also available in ebook and can be downloaded in the following formats:

Visit to manage your subscription


Opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of the JISC RSC Scotland North & East.

JISC Advance Logo

JISC Advance is a new organisation that brings together the collective expertise of established JISC services:

For further information visit

Creative Commons Licence
Unless otherwise stated this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 UK: Scotland License