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All the stuff I work on around the digital world

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Copyright and MOOC article in MOOC NEWS AND REVIEWS

MOOC News and Reviews has my post on Copyright issues, arguing for a tighter hold by academic institutions on the content in their MOOCs, and on learners' grasp of their data rights.

Looking at language learning technologies for conversation

I have been examining some online language learning tools focussing on conversational English, assessing whether they offer a good experience. And talking to several colleagues about the issues of instructing in accent, tone, personal interplay and so on over the internet.

First up, DuoLingua.

I created an ID as a French speaker wanting to learn English. The whole effort seems to drive to obtaining my Facebook login. I didn't give it. The test and pedagogy were mickey-mouse. The premise that my friends in social media would support me was laughable.

Next, Telelangues (Berlitz recently bought them)

This is full of gimmicks and false promises about support and community. A tracking pentagon representation of progress - these are functions, not products. The idea of communication has become lost. It treats language as a technical skill, and speaking as a subset of that. You can't help feeling that the aim of aggregating eyeballs on site is never far behind its teaching goals.

Language Lab was my next visit. This is a virtual world simulation based approach, focussing on sectors such as Oil & Gas, and Aviation, and Higher Ed, where there is known demand for English communication. There is a principle behind it - immersion, which they compress into the acronym VERITAS. But it's not a pedagogical framework that any educator or course-publisher would recognise. The monetisation model is simple (you pay) so you don't have the annoying feeling that you are being pulled in to support someone's revenue-generating aim.

The feedback on pronounciation is detailed, excellent even, but I wonder how many students can take in a panel of instruction like this:

Pearson is the one to watch, however. What is Pearson's play in this space ? They have Versant, Voxy and Global Education Technology Group (GETG) [Chinese] as the spoken language technology brands, and I can't yet see a single vision for conversation training across the Pearson stable. But a birdie tells me they are surely working on it.

The Economist reports education technology as an opportunity leveler

This week The Economist reports on the use of Desire2Learn's Degree Compass analytics technology for supporting wise course choices.

This is a technology-triumphs-where-policy-has-failed story. And without doubt a triumph for the students whom it liberates from the pain of bad guidance.

I am contrasting it with a small local story this week, which is the inverse. My children's school had been consigned (along with hundreds of others) to "Special Measures" in 2011, a measure either of failure (not my view) or a trick played by those with political determination to inflict painful change on state education. This week parents and teachers celebrated the successful emergence from this grim regime, and the restoration of the school's official reputation as "good".

That was a story of the triumph of old fashioned effort by dedicated human beings, over the manipulation of categories that those in power like to resort to.

MOOCs are the forcing-house for Learning Analytics

The current Times Higher Education podcast gathers at the microphone the brains behind University of London International Programme's recent slew of Coursera MOOC.

What stands out for me is the assertion that the MOOCs are the forcing-house for Learning Analytics technology. With such a standardised and large pool of data gathered in a unified platform, we have a perfect scenario for building powerful statistical models of learning, and data-driven approaches to personalising learning.

Interestingly, the expertise on this is going to go to the course producer, not the platform.