Archive for the 'EduApps' Category

Stocking Filler: The EduApps Top 3

Stuck at home waiting for my car’s snow socks to arrive I thought it useful to remind you of one of RSC Scotland North & East’s stocking fillers, EduApps.

Our RSC has been plugging open source and freeware for ages. Why? Because it has enormous (and still largely untapped) potential in education. Who else says so? You do! Thousands of people have downloaded zillions of poundsworths of applications from our servers. What do YOU say are the most popular in education? Here we present YOUR top three, ranked by popularity through our server requests:

  • At number 3, Audacity hardly needs any introduction: it is one of the most popular open source programs in the whole world, with 72 million downloads registered across the planet (Wikipedia, today). Audacity handles your digital audio recording and editing requirements.
  • Taking the number 2 slot is Balabolka. In Russian, this word means ‘chatterer’. In software, it describes a great free text to speech utility with several neat and customisable features.
  • And at the very top of the tree is XMind, a mind-mapping tool which helps people capture ideas and share them for collaboration.  Perfect for education.

EduApps: just use it, give it, share it – all for free.

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?

EduApps – Portable applications in your pocket

Back in September 2008 we launched AccessApps, an initiative developed by the Scottish JISC Regional Support Centres in cooperation with JISC TechDis. This consisted of over 50 open source and freeware assistive technology applications which can be entirely used from a USB stick on a Windows computer as known as portable software.

The huge advantage of portable software is that it can entirely run from a portable storage device (e.g. USB pen/thumb drive, memory card, mp3 player) without the need for installation or configuration on the computer being used (particularly useful for students working on locked down machines on campus).

The video below prepared for the IMS Learning Impact awards nicely summaries what AccessApps is and the philosophy behind it.

Find more videos like this on RSC Access and Inclusion

Portable software is nothing new and sites like portableapps.com have been going for a number of years. AccessApps is probably unique by highlighting assistive software that is open source and freeware, making it freely available for anyone to download.

Building on our success so far (which has included winning a Scottish Open Source Award) we are now expanding the AccessApps brand with two further software bundles, LearnApps and TeachApps. We are collectively calling these three strands as EduApps.

EduApps USB StickAs well as updating the existing AccessApps software we’ve been trawling the net for new applications to include in the two new packages. Notable inclusions include the popular open source VLE, Moodle, and two a learning object creators/editors, eXe and Xerte.

In total we’re hoping to make 86 applications both freeware and open source available via EduApps (here is the complete list of software we are hoping to distribute).

UPDATE – We’re busy putting the final polish to EduApps. We want to make sure we get it right, rather than putting out a rushed version. Please bear with us, it’ll be worth the wait - we promise! EduApps is here!

About

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

mhawksey [at] rsc-ne-scotland.ac.uk | 0131 559 4112 | @mhawksey

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