Monthly Archive for October, 2010

Apple allows eBooks on iTunes U sparking eBook Poker: I see your Shakespeare’s First Folio and raise you 100 interactive eBooks

Books and Poker Chips
Books and Poker Chips
Originally uploaded by Ben Dodson

Apple have announced the ePub (one of the eBook formats) is now available on iTunes U. Users of iTunes have been able to view eBooks in ePub format for some time using the iBook app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, but users of iTunes U have been restricted to distributing text using PDF.

Brian Kelly has recently been questioning What Are UK Universities Doing With iTunesU? as well as iTunes U: an Institutional Perspective, which is a guest post by Jeremy Speller, Director of Web Services at UCL. In the later post Jeremy highlights that for many iTunes U is ‘PR fluff’, mainly used by institutions to market their brand over any educational benefit. Jeremy saying:

For some reason this view is quite prevalent among those who don’t use the system and in my opinion misses the point of iTunes U completely. Sure, there is publicity to be had and, in UCL’s case as a launch partner, was valuable. Of course general PR shorts can be provided. But the real assets should be educational and examples of your institution’s scholarship.

I have to put my hand up and say I’m in the ‘iTunes U is a PR tool’ camp, but can you blame me when the Open University’s VC Martin Bean highlights that 88% of their iTunes U traffic is from outside the UK and is perceived as free marketing.

There is undoubtedly a cost to making resources available, to the point that even one of the biggest players in this field MIT are considering an OER paywall. At the same time there are also benefits, if not educationally, as a marketing opportunity. This in itself has got to be a good thing, stimulating the sector to release content, even if it is just to grab headlines. Besides I’m quite enjoying iTunes U poker: I see your Shakespeare’s First Folio joins iTunes U and raise you OU makes one hundred interactive eBooks available on iTunes U.

[And guess what if you need a tool to make ePub eBooks our Create&Convert tool can help.]

What I’ve starred this month: October 28, 2010

Welcome to my ‘new look’ ‘What I’ve starred …’ posts. Small change in strategy moving to a monthly posting rather than weekly. I’m also going to spend more time annotating these links to help you decide what to click through to. If you can’t wait until the end of the month all these they get pushed to my Google Reader Shared Items and Twitter account. I’m interested to hear if prefer this or the old format … or something different.

So without further ado: Here’s some posts which have caught my attention this month:

Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants for FE (SWaNI)

This post is mainly for staff at FE colleges in the Scotland North & East region

As part of JISC’s Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants a call has been published just for FE colleges in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (See Grant 10/10: Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants: SWaNI FE). The deadline for submissions is 9th November 2010. With these grants:

JISC wishes to fund projects of up to one year that fit with the vision, outcomes and principles of the JISC e-Learning programme and support innovative approaches to learning and teaching.

There are a couple of points highlighted by my colleague Lis Parcell at RSC Wales worth remembering:

  • this call is very unusual in being ring fenced for FE in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: it’s a great opportunity!
  • that there should be a pedagogic justification for a project: technological innovation needs to be driven by institutional need and also be capable of making an impact on the sector as a whole.
  • there have been five earlier rounds of these grants, and it would be useful to look at some of the successful projects
  • Learning and Teaching Innovation Grant calls are unusual in having a two-stage bidding process, so you can ‘test the water’ with a proposal without going to the extent of writing a full bid straight off

If you are interested in submitting a proposal there are a number of ways our RSC (and the wider JISC Services family) can help. In terms of resources as well as the recording of the online townhall meeting and resulting FAQ document you might find this interview with Kevin Brace and associated resources on funding useful.

Our RSC can also help in your bid proposal in a number of other ways including:

  • reviewing a draft proposal
  • highlighting existing projects/research related to your bid
  • sitting on your project steering groups
  • incorporated into your proposals dissemination plan

For any advice please contact us.

I’m sure you have lots of ideas for projects and it is always best to apply for funding for something you were going to do anyway but if you need some ideas you could:

;-)

Create&Convert: Can you afford to ignore this?

A recent article in Fortune highlights ‘How corporate America went open-source’ which in turn highlights:

A Forrester Research survey of the business landscape in the third quarter of last year found that 48% of respondents were using open source operating systems, and 57% were using open source code

In reality the level of open source usage is probably higher than the reported thanks to open source projects like the Apache webserver, Firefox and the Android mobile operating system.

Within our own RSC we recognise the value of open source not just because of the potential cost savings but also because it encourages innovation. One of our flagship innovations is the award winning EduApps project, which has used the model popularised by portableapps.com to provide a range of open and freeware application which can be run from a USB stick.

Since it’s launch in 2008 the EduApps project has evolved finding new family members:

  • MyStudyBar - a suite of apps to support literacy (also available in Spanish Mi Barra de Estudio).
  • MyVisBar - a high contrast floating toolbar, designed to support learners with visual difficulties.
  • MyAccess - a portal to all your favourite and accessible applications providing inclusive e-learning options for all.  

All of these are the brainchild of Craig Mill our e-Learning Advisor (Accessibility and Inclusion). One of Craig’s continual frustrations is the amount of public money that is spent through the Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) on commercial software to support writing, reading and planning as well as sensory, cognitive and physical difficulties when there are open and free alternatives.

To illustrate this we surveyed a number of products which provide commercial alternatives to MyStudyBar and calculated an average cost of £115 per user licence. Since March 2010 through downloads from our site alone we estimate we have potentially saved, at time of writing £729,560. It is worth highlighting this figure doesn’t include all the versions of MyStudyBar that get redistributed after downloading with an entire council looking at rolling out MyStudyBar across their entire network you can arguably add another digit.

Craig’s latest little baby is Create&Convert. This suite of portable applications has been put together in response to the Equality Act 2010 which came into force on the 1st October 2010. JISC TechDis have prepared a Single Equality Duty guidance document which highlights that the Equality Act now means that further and higher education have a requirement to take:

a proactive approach to shaping institutional processes and the promotion of equality

Create&Convert is a free tool that has been designed specifically to help institutions or organisations comply with the Act in the way that they publish information. It brings together in one neat package a range of open source programs that can quickly and capably translate electronic documents into an accessible alternative format, such as audio or a talking book. All of the tools are the outputs of the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium, and are therefore completely free to use and distribute.

Create&Convert interface image

Create&Convert will work with any new or existing document that is in editable form, such as the common Microsoft Word. In a nutshell, Create&Convert is a legislation-compliant, budget-friendly tool that can transform exclusion into participation for the learner.

Click here to find out more and download Create&Convert – Can you afford not to?

What I’ve starred this week: October 5, 2010

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

About

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

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