Archive for the 'Resources' Category

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!

Enhancement Themes!!!

I often look over at my colleague Kevin Brace’s blog with great envy when he pulls together posts full of great resources. I think I might have trumped this time with outputs from the Enhancement Themes.

For those of you unaware the Enhancement Themes are planned and directed through the Scottish Higher Education Enhancement Committee (SHEEC), involving:

The themes are designed to “encourage academic and support staff and students to share current good practice and collectively generate ideas and models for innovation in learning and teaching”.

The main outputs from this initiative are a series of enhancement publications. There is a mindboggling amount of great material here.  A good starting point is the ‘Overview of the Enhancement Theme 2006-08: The aims, achievements and challenges’ (written by our recent RSC-MP3 contributor Professor Terry Mayes). After this I highly recommend you check out the publications page of the Enhancement Themes website

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.

Useful data for physics and chemistry students

Higher Education Academy Physical Sciences Centre Logo I picked this one up from the Intute Science, Engineering and Technology New Resources feed. The Higher Education Academy Physical Sciences Centre have produced two data sheets for chemistry and physics students (the physics sheet might also be useful for 1st year engineering students).

Useful data for chemistry students
Published by the Higher Education Academy Physical Sciences Centre, this reference guide, in PDF format, includes: the periodic table, physical constants, units, algebra, trigonometry, weights, SI unit prefixes, logarithms, the Greek alphabet, indices, moles, gases, thermodynamics, mixtures, reactions, phases, kinetics, spectroscopy, electrochemistry, lattice energies, quantum theory, pH equations, and magnetic moments.
http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/ps/documents/chem_2008.pdf

Useful data for physics students
Published by the Higher Education Academy Physical Sciences Centre, this reference guide, in PDF format, includes: work and energy, thermal properties of matter, motion in one direction, temperature and heat, waves, simple harmonic motion, momentum and impulse, rotational motion, quantum mechanics, torque, elasticity, electricity and magnetism, and gravitation.
http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/ps/documents/phys_2008.pdf

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!!!

HE in FE

In the last week I’ve hit a rich vein of reports and resources on ‘HE in FE’. Here’s a summary of what I’ve come across so far:

The first one has catchy title ‘Further education and the delivery of higher-level qualifications: understanding the contribution of further education to the delivery of Level 4 (higher) and professional qualifications - final report‘. This report was commissioned by the Learning Skills Council (LSC) to provide an overview of the contribution Further Education Colleges (FECs) in England make to the provision at Level 4 and above. The report concludes that "FECs make a significant contribution to higher level provision, especially for learners who might otherwise find HE difficult to access because of lack of prior academic attainment, inadequate funding, geographical location, or lack of confidence." Looking at the data in the report it was interesting to note that while the total number of students taking Level 4 and above has increased by 10% between 2002/03 and 2005/06 the proportion choosing to study degrees at FECs has decreased slightly from 12% to 11%.

We are also just over half way through the JISC funded HE in FE projects. A number of projects have been funded which are implementing, piloting and evaluating a range of technologies with learners in the HE in FE context. These projects have been piloting existing technologies capturing the learner experience. The full list of projects is available from the JISC HE in FE site.

The Higher Education Academy (HEA) is also currently running a HE in FE enhancement programme. Of note is the monthly e-briefing which you can subscribe to or download from the main HEA - HE in FE page. They also have a comprehensive list of the Subject Centres which have pages devoted to HE in FE on the Subject Centre Work page.

One final report which is in my ‘to read’ pile is the QAA ‘Learning from Academic review of higher education in further education colleges in England 2005-07‘. This report was recently highlighted by a Times Higher Education article.

UPDATE: If you are interested in the reports above you may also like:

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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