Monthly Archive for October, 2008

New Report - The future of higher education: How technology will shape learning

Cover of The future of higher education: How technology will shape learning The Economist Intelligence Unit, with sponsorship from the New Media Consortium published The future of higher education: How technology will shape learning report yesterday (27th Oct). The key findings, from the global survey of 289 executives* from higher education and corporate setting, aren’t that surprising. In particular the associated press release highlights that "online learning is gaining a firm foothold in universities around the world" and "university respondents view technology as having a largely positive impact on their campuses", which I’m sure most of us already knew.

Digging deeper into the report there are one or two interesting findings not highlighted in the press release. For example almost 50% of respondents said that their institution already use mobile broadband and 66% utilise text messaging/notifications systems.  SMS usage was particularly surprising as over half the respondents were from the USA, which has historically had a low take-up of this technology.

When asked how respondents felt higher education would evolve in their country over the next five years, 69% felt that campus libraries would be enhanced by full-text searchable databases. The next most popular with 64% of respondents agreeing was that universities will frequently partner with corporations and other third parties to create new areas of study (this was a closed question with 8 other similar statements).

Overall however I feel the questions used in the survey were a little loaded and with the small sample size I doubt many institutions will be basing their strategic plans on the findings. I’ll leave it up to you to decide … 

*189 participants from HE, of which 60% were ‘professor’

Evernote - Notetaking in the 21st Century

Notetaking is an inevitable part of any students life. It might be taking notes from lectures or books, planning essay structures, to-do lists and much more. Arguably the most mobile notetaking form is pen and paper. While this medium has many affordances such as micro-mobility, read-write-rewrite and personalisation, there are a number of notable limitations. For example, written notes aren’t easy to index, organising them can be time consuming, sharing notes for collaboration is limited, transportation of large amounts can be troublesome. More students are using electronic devices to supplement  ‘traditional’ notetaking and there is a growing number of specialised notetaking software and web services. Many of these solutions also appear to dovetail nicely against new study styles and ways of working.

One such solution which I’ve been recently test driving is Evernote. Evernote is designed to allow you capture notes (including typed text, handwritten notes, web clippings,  photographs, sound recordings and much more) on a wide variety of devices and platforms, allowing you to synchronise with their online web service. The basic signup is free which gives you a 40MB monthly allowance, which is more than enough for me. Your notes remain private and there isn’t currently a system to share them with other users, you can however email them to friends or theoretically directly to other web services like Flickr and Google Docs (I was unable to directly email from Evernote to Google Docs. I think Evernote is struggling with the upload email address provided by Google).

It is possible to organise notes by tagging them and putting them in different notebooks. All of this information is accessible and searchable by any device with a browser and an Internet connection. Even text in images is indexed where possible making it searchable.

There are of course other note taking tools and other web services you could use. For example you could use a basic text editor and use your email inbox as a repository. There are also standalone packages like Microsoft’s OneNote which you can synchronise with a Window’s Mobile device. What I like about Evernote is they way they have tried to cater for multiple platforms and devices integrating it with an online service which gives me access to my notes anytime, anywhere.

WikiVet - Veterinary curriculum online

WikiVet Logo"Content is king, community is sovereign" these were the words left ringing in my ears from a keynote given by Stephen Heppell back in 2002. At that time one of the most well known community sites Wikipedia was in its infancy. Since then Wikipedia has flourished and with over 2.5 million articles (in English) making the job or door-to-door encyclopedia sales increasingly difficult. A similar concept is being used in the WikiVet project, designed to be the most comprehensive knowledge base for veterinary students.


WikiVet, a partnership between the Higher Education Academy, JISC and UK veterinary schools, plans to cover the entire vet curriculum from pathology to physiology. They already have a wealth of information including images, videos, case simulators, interactive PowerPoints, flashcards and more. Unlike Wikipedia, content is peer reviewed by subject specialists and access to view or edit is restricted to the vet community.

Interestingly the current contents of the site has not only been generated by academics at different vet schools but also by students. This project, while only officially launched today (9th October), has already received commitment from other European veterinary schools and interest from schools in the US.

Will the vet community continue to add to this resource. If Wikipedia’s predecessor Nupedia is anything to go by which had a similar peer review process it might be a challenge. However, considering the existing content in WikiVet it already looks a valuable resource.

WikiVet is available for general review for one month. Login ‘launch’ and password ‘press’.

Click here for the official press release on WikiVet.

About

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

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