February 24, 2006

Stuart Sutherland Interview, The Survey and Staff Interviews

Stuart Sutherland has been interviewed and much insight has been derived from this meeting. The greatest learning points were to do with using E-L to replace or improve some existing problem, not just for the sake of E-L. I was also informed that the comparison between E-L and Traditional is really the wrong question, as people use E-L and Traditional for different reasons. A case-study worth noting for future reference is www.CancerNursing.org set up by Stuart, with thousands of participants worldwide, yet no staff-force. This embodies Stuart's message that different models can work well and badly in different situations.


The Survey is now online, with the following pre-text:

CBS students: please consider taking 5–10 minutes to contribute to a survey by William Lau, CBS3, on the potential of applying more e-learning technologies to the CBS course. This is not a current university proposal, but is a relevant question and makes for an interesting project and survey.
As an extra incentive all genuine participants who complete the survey by Monday 6th March- Week 10 (term 2) will be entered into a prize draw to win one ?0 book voucher OR a CASH alternative!


The feedback has been great so far, with 29 participants (12 Grads, 8 CBS Finalists, 6 CBS 2nd years, 3 CBS 1st years). The summary tools work great with the survey and really do do a lot of the work for you. Open questions are a bit more of a chore to read, however do contain a lot more detailed qualitative information.

The greatest surprise is how unfavourable blogs are with students. Indeed, I do feel asthough I am blogging for no audience as nobody evidently reads this. Perhaps a bit more promoting initially would have helped?

The staff interviews are also being arranged, I anticipate low participation due to the end of term rush. However, within hours of sending my e-mail of invitation out, MCK has already replied! If others cannot make the interviews, I will conduct a similar survey that I used for the students to subsitute the high quality interviews. I aim, as recommended by Stuart to discover anxieties/areas for improvement in particular where workload is high. I will suggest E-L tools and technologies and see how lecturers respond to these suggestions. Their feedback, like the students is invaluable.

February 16, 2006

Project Survey

Having completed a significant amount of research through reading, I have now decided that a student-targetted survey is necessary. This survey will ensure that my recommendations are "Learner-centred" as described by Schank. This survey will be published in the next 2 days, after the modifications I am currently making.

Furthermore, I wish to begin interviews with core-module lecturers in Weeks 8, 9 and 10. I am also prepared to interview lecturers over Easter if this is more convenient for them.

I will hopefully gather some student and staff data which I can use in the project presentation on Thurs 9th March. This will take place in CS101 (Department of Computer Science) at 9:40am.

January 22, 2006


After an informed lecture in writing, I was initially convinced that perhaps my title was too broad and a more niche topic specific to CBS would have to be pursued. I thought about interviewing only a Business Module organiser, as this would lead to fewer complications and made practical sense as my tutor, Andrew Martin is a Senior Lecturer in the business school, not DCS. However, after speaking to Andrew, it has been decided that the scope reamins.

However the emphasis on E-Learning vs Traditional Education will be lightened and covered only in the background to the main issues. References will be made to key papers and themes will be presented briefly under the assumption that the reader either a) is well read in EL theory or b) can look up these references for more detail. The main body will be a presentation of findings, a framework of how CBS could/should be taught according to theory. Both CS and Business module organisers/lecturers can then be contacted and interviewed where possible, to provide their input. Any discrepancies raised contrary to the initial recommendations based on theory can then be commented upon.

It is aimed that the lecturers for the core modules for CBS years 1–3 are all interviewed ; questioning whether the theory would work. Subjectivity will exist for each lecturer. I aim therefore to merely present my ideas and then allow an open critique which will help me refine the initial recommendations.

This focus has enabled me to read more efficiently, without getting lost in books/articles which are interesting but outside the scope of the main issues of the dissertation.

November 24, 2005

Journals, research papers and Newspapers

In the past weeks I have read a few select articles from journals.

The main journal that I have been reading is "E-Learning Age" (ELA). I have also been reading papers published under The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education . You do have to subscribe, but the subscription is free and the articles seem less bias than those written by ELA.

The problem I encountered with ELA would not have been apparent had I not taken the module in "History of Computing". In this module I learnt that all articles have a bias. These become especially noticeable when the articles are being written by MD's and CEO's of large E-Learning companies e.g. VLE providers.

Despite this, I have made notes on 3 ELA articles and an OBHE paper. I have included my own comments, which hopefully will help me think the issues through and remember these when writing the final report.

Of particular interest is a model I found in an OBHE paper classifying the different types of Virtual HE providers.

Finally, today I read an article in the boar, which was quite interesting, despite its errors it will definately be worth following up.

Website to offer academic content from Warwick
Written by Jennifer Harper

Warwick University has joined other top institutions in an innovative website that brings “the lecture hall into your living room.”

Blinkx TV, a searchable archive of information, has signed contracts with Harvard, Cambridge and now Warwick University amongst other institutions to provide hours of academic content.

The service is free to download and will make available lectures given at Warwick as well as various TV programs. The facility boasts broadcasts by Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger and other shows in offer include documentaries produced by Warwick TV….

Read full article

At first I thought I'd struck gold (metaphorically of course), but then there is a comment stating:

Tom Abbott (Communications Office) on Tue Nov 22 16:01:15 2005 wrote:

"Umm.. Blinkx have actually reached an agreement with WarwickTV, not with the University of Warwick.

The company mistook the student TV station for a University TV station and promptly included Warwick in the Press Release without actually checking the content they were publishing.

Anyone looking for academic content from Warwick University will be dissapointed.

This issue was raised last week on the WarwickBlogs system – shame you didn't read it…"

In the end I found a more accurate article at PR Newswire

The concept itself is quite old, considering the Open University have been doing it for over a decade, but Blinkx TV is searchable and online. With universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge signed up, it can't be too bad. But it's unfortunate that Warwick University is not involved.

On a final note, the formatting tools for Warwick Blogs are appauling, non of the tags actually work properly. Someone get on the case to allow live editing in html!

November 07, 2005

Slow progress

Whilst, I have been trying to set aside time for my project it seems more and more courseworks are being allocated, thus my time for project reading has been taken away.

This week I had a History of computing deadline, a prjoect management presentation, a service op's presentation, a strategic information management presentation and a class test for current uses tomorrow. I have made an error in my judgement and wish to revise my plan, in that I believe most of my project work will be done in term 2, when I will be taking just 2 modules, as opposed to 5!

I am sure many other people are facing the same issues. But these past few weeks have been extremely hectic. Grad application deadlines are also looming. I will aim to meet with my project supervisor, by latest next week.

Incidentally, I noticed Paul Stacey's project, although different, is revolving around a similar research path. He has already produced an online questionaire which is launched on my.wbs and stated that a focus group will be in place later this year.

October 11, 2005

Notepad thoughts (informal entry)

Whilst writing up my spec, I realised I would need to find a comparison to CBS that is actually delivered online. I could at least then say that the demand is there and that it is a feasible idea.

I encountered the predicted problem of finding a Comp Sci/Business joint honours style course online. Even in traditional education, there are few universities that offer joint computer science and business.

Kaplan University offer courses in Info Sys and also in business, but not a combined course. I assume that, due to the virtual nature of the university, the two "departments" cannot collaborate or tailor a joint degree.

The american college of computing and information systems (ACCIS) does run a course similar to CBS, with similar module options. However, interestingly enough they also offer a pure CS degree. It is assumed that one cannot combine and do a joint degree. I will e-mail them to confirm this assumption.

One thing that I found in common with all these degrees was that prior basic IT skills were required, as was the ownership of MS Office and a computer with a printer and internet access. The advantage of traditional education therefore, is perhaps that none of the above are required as a pre-requisite. We have ITS (at Warwick) to provide computers with broadband access, we run the CIS module to train users how to use MS Excel and Access. Furthermore, where there has been no prior exposure to MS Word or the other Office app's, there are free courses that students can attend.

Conversely, ACCIS claims there are the following benefits of online learning:

All Inclusive Tuition
At ACCIS, you benefit from an all inclusive tuition model with no additional costs for books, software, application fees, graduation fees, diploma fees, evaluation fees, or library access like you find at other schools. The following examples are based on our all inclusive tuition rate...

This is slightly contradictory though considering their system requirements include expensive programs such as Dreamweaver, MS Office 2003 and MS Visio:

One final problem I encountered regarding accessibility to these US-based online courses is further restrained by the fact that these institutions appear to be targeting (their home) US market, not the international market. All registration forms are rigidly fixed for US addresses and telephone numbers, educational qualification options are limited to "high school diploma's" and the GED-General Education Diploma. There is no option for Bacalaureate or A-Levels, although this was not surprising.

I should however be careful of being hyper-critical, these are just my preliminary findings as I have not started my full research yet. It must also be said that "Online learning" is not the only form of E-Learning, this project's focus is on E-Learning components and it's varying forms. I will therefore try not to focus too much on online-learning or distant learning for now. If there is enough material however, my focus may be narrowed down exclusively to online learning, we'll see where my research takes me.

October 10, 2005

Response to feedback

"Was UKeU failure because of elearning, marketing, IT or project management?"

There were many interrelated issues regarding the failure of the UKeU; according to Richard Garrett from Educause and the House of Commons' Education & Skills Committee, one of the main reasons was a lack of market research. The service was delivered without forecasting demand, neither quantity or preferred method of delivery was forecasted. One of the main reasons for this was the government backing, which acted on fear, not fact. The government feared the USA's dominant e-university initiatives namely Phoenix online and NYU would take away students from the UK HE market. The UK therefore responded, not on figures which suggested a high demand in the UK for a completely online learning experience, but on speculation. The decision to go entirely online was also a big mistake for other reasons regarding the infrastructure of this initiative, these will be discussed further in the project.

Other factors include opting for a bespoke Virtual learning environment (VLE), although some VLE's were already available on the market, the initiative called in Sun Microsystems to produce a dedicated VLE. One of the problems with this VLE was that nothing on this scale had ever been produced before and the system was scaled according to the forecasted enrollments. These forecasts were of course made without the market research regarding demand.

These are just two of the main factors which resulted in the demise of the UK E-University

"I wonder whether a focus group discussion might be useful as well as your planned survey."

A focus group would be a good idea, it may be difficult to attract CBS students to attend unless there were actual incentives. Maybe this is a chance to use my marketing skills to promote a focus group. Perhaps it could be discussed at a WBSS seminar?

"Could you find an example of a course similar to CBS somewhere in the world that has a significant e-learning component. Is it successful? How does it compare with CBS in fitting with your theory of successful eLearning courses?"

I discovered, whilst doing my research that my idea of E-Learning is just one of the many forms of E-Learning. I, and I am sure many others stereotype it as being a form of learning where a pupil watches a recording of a lecture on their computer instead of sitting in a lecture hall. This is one form of asynchronous distance learning, however the way in which we currently study already integrates many other aspects of e-learning. Perhaps we do not see our course as integrating e-learning but it does.

We have:

*Online submission and automatic marking-BOSS ONLINE (DCS)

*Discussion forums-My.WBS and Departmental forums

*Online resources-uploaded to -My.WBS, e.g. lecture slides and readings

*Interactive synchronous discussion/seminar tools-whilst these do not exist formally, we have all used MSN instant messenger discuss course issues before.

*Multimedia resources-Very few lecturers upload video's onto their websites, perhaps because they do not have the tools, resources or knowledge to do so. Martin Campbell-Kelly is probably the best example of a lecturer at Warwick, who (i assume intentionally) incorporates many principles of hybrid/blended E-Learning. Refer to History of computing website.

*Financial and academic administration-My.Insight

*Online Enrolment-OMR

Whilst it would be helpful, and I will definately research further to find an example, we probably do not need to look much further for an example of E-Learning; we are (perhaps unintentionally) implementing one here at Warwick on the CBS course. Whilst we are a long way off from delivering an entirely online based e-learning course for distant learning, the foundations for the infrastructure are certainly already present.

My stereotypical model of e-learning has already been broken and I accept that Warwick itself uses many E-Learning principles, indeed many universities across the UK do. However, they probably do not advertise their courses as hybrid E-Learning courses, despite the fact that they technically are!

Part 2:

I also had an interesting conversation with Pete Thompson (CBS), we were discussing my project and I voiced the notion of theoretical scalability. That is, if a course was delivered online, there would be no limit, except human resources on how many people could sign up to this course. You would not be limited by the size of a lecture hall, so 1000 people could effectively sign up for a course or an individual module.

The problems arise in lecturer interaction, how will a lecturer respond to 1000 asynchronous questions (say) by email regarding the lecture. Pete suggested perhaps you have a live forum, like a seminar. A chat room basically, held at a certain time for everyone to fire away questions. Video-conferencing could be used, although it could prove extremely difficult/impractical to censor and control. We concluded the resources for teaching a class of 1000 online, could possibly be less than teaching a class of the same size traditionally.

We also discussed e-learning as an option, i.e. "you can either go to the 9am lecture, or go online and view the broadcasting of it." You can rewind parts, pause and come back to it in your own time. You would lose the interactivity of a typical lecture, but would you learn any less? Would your experience be less rewarding than a live lecture? What if there was no other choice? (Say) if there was a powercut in 1 building or some other reason why the building was inaccessible, could the lecturer simply hook up his/her laptop in a seminar room and broadcast the lecture on the internet? The technology certainly exists, but would the teaching and learning be of the same quality/standard?

Thanks pete for your discussion!!!

Issues with MS Project

Currently finalising my spec, only the literature section to finish, the timeline needs to be done and the resources need to be stated. One problem remains in that thinclient which is required for me to use a legal copy of MS Project, does not work on campus. At home, my broadband is intermittent and therefore MS Project keeps crashing.

I would like to do a full GANTT chart, yet without project, I cannot do this.

Brainstorming ideas for project scope


Title agony-The formula for success raises the question what is success. What I originally did not want to do I am starting to do…define success. Some argue E-learning is the future, it is not. It will not replace teachers. However, where distance learning is the only option, we should ensure that this e-learning is as of high standard as possible.

Can we make it as good as traditional learning…can we make it better? This is all contingent, on person, situation, subject.
Are there certain subjects which cannot be taught through e-learning, where laboratorial experiments/seminars are involved?
What guidelines can we put in place not to ensure success, but to prevent failure?
What happened in the UK e-U case? Why are there so many other cases of success?

Is there a standard class size, do we still need to employ people…to respond to e-mails, dedicated or will tutors do this as part of their job?
How will they be credited?
What if there is only 1 person who signs up to do a course, what if there are 1000?
How will work be assessed, how can one guarantee that the work submitted is the students own?
Is this the future, will all courses be offered online aswell as offline. Are you disadvantaged or less well taught?

How would module options work? What if nobody chooses that module?
External modules?
Implementable? Practicality side?

Originally written on 29/09/2005 and posted on www.xanga.com/lauwailap

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