All entries for October 2005

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

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  • I would think that a laptop with Office and internet access is almost essential for any student nowa… by Andrew Martin on this entry
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