Yesterday we had the official opening of the brand new TU Delft Teaching Lab. It is a laboratory where, as a teacher, you can experiment with new forms of education and/or tools. Together with students and fellow-teachers from all faculties. Try out new assignments, improved ways of lecturing or the implementation of a new educational concept. All with professional (technical & didactical) support.
Last week a group of edubloggers were invited for a session at the HTC office in Utrecht to learn and experience the HTC Vive. HTC Vive is a Virtual Reality system (hardware and software). First we got a presentation of Graham Breen. He is the senior product manager of HTC Vive. After the presentation we all got the play around in the VR world.
HTC Vive products
The HTC Vive product lines consists of five parts:
- Studios: for creating content
- Port: for the distribution
- X: an investor/accelerator for startups
- Port Arcade: to support the arcades you see in many US malls
- Enterprise: support specific industries, such as automative, architecture, design and education
Something he emphasized is that from the beginning they have focused on minimising the delays. If your brain notices delays, this can cause the nausia and dizziness that some people experience. Many people have experienced google cardboard, but that isn't the full experience according to Graham. He is very confised about VR and used this quote:
"There are two kind of people: people who love VR and people that haven't tried it"
For education VR can offer a way of engagement that you can't reach other ways. What you can do is limited to your imagination (and your budget). There is no gravity, you can zoom in and out, there is an history. During the demo we could go through the content of Engage platform:
ENGAGE is a new free to use education and presentation platform that seeks to transform how people share ideas and teach lessons to each other globally by harnessing the power of virtual reality technologies such as the Oculus Rift & HTC Vive.
Engage is created by Immersive VR Education Ltd.. This is a virtual reality software company dedicated to creating quality educational experiences for all students. This video gives a nice overview of the platform:
HTC is currently put a lot of resources and time in supporting developers. The key to succes of VR is great content. I definitely see the added value for the learning experience, but I also see the limitations. The current developments are fast paced, so these limitations will disappear in no time.
Activities in Delft
At the TU Delft we have different departments that are experimenting with VR. In our new teaching lab we will organise a bi-weekly Virtual Playground to bring together teachers that are interested in VR/AR/360 videos. Our NewMediaCentre has already built up expertise in this field with the HTC Vive. We also offer an AR/VR educational accelerator to promote the usage in our education.
The photo below is the group of Edubloggers with Graham. My colleague Michel is wearing the HTC Vive.
On September 5th I attended the Blockchain in Education conference in Groningen. More than 250 attendees came to the beautiful Academiegebouw of University of Groningen to learn about the great potential of blockchain in education. Probably you have heard of blockchain (or maybe bitcoins), but you don't exactly know what it is. Blockchain is a way of encrypting information and simultaneously storing it in different places. Its most important feature is that the stored data can no longer be changed or deleted. Blockchain technology uses decentralized networks and thus avoids a central party determining or changing the rules. All blockchain transactions are encrypted, public and completely transparent, and therefore supposed to be safer and more reliable.
Already other attendees have written excellent blogposts about the conference:
- “Tour d’Horizon” of the organisation
- Wytze Koopal
- Joël de Bruijn (multiple articles in Dutch)
- Wilfed Rubens (in Dutch)
After the day I know much more about what blockchains can do, but also the limitations. Most important conclusion for me is that there are some cases to make for using blockchains, but that the technology is still in its infancy. One of the most mentioned case is for diplomas and certificates. Although you know if a diploma or certificates was changed since it was granted, it still doesn't say if it is a valid diploma and you should trust it.
We have to be careful to use blockchains for everything, it is starting to show hype characteristics. In many situations other options are better.
In the Open Access Journal International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL) three researchers of the University System of Georgia published on the student and faculty perception of OpenStax in high enrollment courses:
As public funding for higher education decreases and the cost to students to attend college increases, universities are searching for strategies that save students money while also increasing their chances for success. Using free online textbooks is one such strategy, and the OpenStax College initiative at Rice University is one of the most widely recognized producers of such materials. Through a mixed method approach, this article examines the student and faculty experiences of adopting and using an OpenStax textbook. With 1,299 student participants, it was found that students greatly value the quality, attributes, and the cost of the OpenStax Biology textbook, though minor concerns were raised about its online format. Faculty adoption of a free textbook provides unique opportunities for course redesign and improvement, and the approach employed in this course transformation context resulted in clearly articulated learning outcomes, a fully realized structure in the course’s learning management system, and improvements to instructional practice. The student, faculty, and course benefits of this study offer a compelling argument for the adoption of high quality open education resources (OER) in public higher education contexts.
This kind of research shows every time that OpenTextBooks and OER is comparable to commercial textbooks, but it has a couple of important benefits:
- No or limited costs for students. This removes the financial barrier to fully participate in a course and its content.
- More flexibility to the teachers
I fully agree with their conclusion:
Such student benefits, coupled with opportunities for course revision and improvement, create a compelling argument for the broad adoption of OER at public institutions of higher learning.
Watson, C., Domizi, D., & Clouser, S. (2017). Student and Faculty Perceptions of OpenStax in High Enrollment Courses. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 18(5). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i5.2462
Image is screenshot of website OpenStax.org
Next week the new academic year will start with a new Collaboration & Learning Environment Brightspace. This summer the teachers, supported by the migration team, have done a great job in migrating all the courses. More than a 1,000 courses have been migrated. Earlier this year we did a pilot at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering (IDE). Based on the pilot we made many improvements to our implementation. One of the teachers involved with the IDE pilot was Jasper van Kuijk, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. Below is an interview with him about his first experiences.
‘In the course that I coordinate, we did a lot of things outside of Blackboard. So when Brightspace came along, we wanted to use it for everything that we could’, explains Jasper van Kuijk, Associate Professor at IDE. Last semester, he gained experience in Brightspace at IDE, which was the first faculty to start working with the learning environment. ‘There are a lot of intermediate deadlines in our course, so everything is now arranged via Brightspace’. Jasper points to student assignments as a good example of how the system helps. ‘An added benefit is that all assignments are submitted in Brightspace, so we can easily keep track of who has submitted what. It is all available per group in one place. And that means that your teaching material archive is also kept up to date, which is handy should the inspectors visit, for example’. As a pedigree industrial design engineer, Jasper also considers other crucial aspects, such as design. ‘The design of Brightspace is smoother, such as when drafting messages for students’.
However, he does see room for improvement: ‘The student environment is alright, except that students still do not receive a message when feedback is posted online’. And what about for teachers? ‘I have seen that numerous coaches in my course without prior experience of Brightspace need a few goes to get the hang of it. I think this is down to the back-end of Brightspace, which if you ask me, sometimes lacks logic. It is very hip and modern, with large letters and lots of white. And it is very spacious; but as a teacher, you sometimes want a better overview’. Jasper admits that some issues are a case of habituation, from both sides: ‘Procedures regarding how something works in Brightspace are sometimes unclear – even after five months, I occasionally still make the same mistakes. Perhaps the amount of time it takes to set-up a system like this was a little underestimated. But I must say that the Brightspace support team take feedback from teachers very seriously and even contact the Brightspace supplier when necessary’.
Courses are being transferred to Brightspace in the run-up to each quarter this academic year. This year the basic configuration is being installed, so that everyone has time to get used to the system. In the next academic year, the focus will be on optimisation and improvement. Jasper’s tip for all teachers still to get started with Brightspace: leave plenty of time to get to know the system. ‘Start on time and explore what Brightspace has to offer – it has different functions to Blackboard. It is much easier to use films and new media, as well as to store assignments and offer your students structure – use this to your advantage. You will not master Brightspace in one day, there is a learning curve. Also give sufficient thought to how you set-up the student environment, to avoid it being different for each course’.
This interview was first published in TU News.
We continue to develop new MOOCs as part of our Open & Online Learning programme. This fall we have 9 new MOOCs that will start, next to the reruns of 16 other MOOCs. In total we have 64 MOOCs announced and a couple more in development.
- Programming for teachers
Last year we introduced a programming in Scratch for kids, in September the accompanying course for teachers will start. This course will teach teacher how to teach programming to kids. The course is in Dutch.
- Solar Energy: Photovoltaic Technologies
This is the second course of the MicroMaster programme Solar Energy Engineering. This course will get you insight into the main PV technologies in the current market.
- Managing Building Adaptation: a Sustainable Approach
The biggest sustainability challenge for cities worldwide is adapting existing obsolescent buildings and making them future-proof. In this course, you will learn about adapting buildings for sustainability.
- Business Model Metrics and Advanced Tools
This course is the fifth course in the XSerie on Business Model Innovation. In this course you will learn advanced business model tools and metrics to help you achieve an agile business model.
- Co-Creating Sustainable Cities
This is the second course we are co-developing with Wageningen University. This course is about how citizens can be co-creators of sustainable cities when they engage in city politics or in the design of the urban environment and its technologies and infrastructure.
- Railway Engineering: An Integral Approach
Discover the science and complexity behind the exciting world of metro, tram and railway systems.
- Forensic Engineering: Learning from Failures
Don’t let good failures go to waste! Identify the causes of failure and use this knowledge to enhance safety and improve performance.
- Globally Distributed Software Engineering
Software engineering operates ever more frequently in globally distributed settings. This practice, also known as Globally Distributed Software Engineering (GDSE) has advantages and disadvantages that will be addressed in this course.
- Solar Energy: Photovoltaic (PV) Systems
This is the third course of the MicroMaster Solar Energy Engineering. In this course you will explore the wide range of solar energy applications and learn to design a real PV installation with excellent performance and reliability.
Our MOOCs keep attracting new learners. This summer we reached the milestones of 1.5 million enrolments and 1 million learners. Overview of all the course we offer you can find on our online learning website.
One of the big sessions at D2L Fusion Conference is the Solution Spotlight. Interesting is that they hardly tell anything new, because they release new features and updates every month as part of the continous delivery cycle (CDC). But it is good to see what has happened in a year time and a couple of new interesting features.
After eight years Mary Lou Forward is leaving the Open Education Consortium (OEC). It is with a mix of sadness and gratitude that we see her leave. Mary Lou has played a critical role in the development and success of the organization. It does mean that the consortium has an opening for a new executive director. Will you be the new ED?
The Open Education Consortium is looking for an Executive Director who is a creative thinker with strong leadership skills to join a small, internationally diverse team of educational change-makers to lead planning and implementation of activities for our second decade. Under the direction and guidance of the Board of Directors, the Executive Director is responsible for planning, organizing, directing, and managing all aspects of the organization, while motivating staff, volunteers and members to advance open education around the world. OEC is a virtual organization, and therefore the location of the position is flexible.
Please see the position announcement and description, including how to apply. The Open Education Consortium is committed to promoting geographical distribution, gender equality and diversity within the organization, and we welcome applications from all who meet the requirements. Position open until filled, with review of applications starting on 30 August 2017. Salary is commensurate with experience.
One of the important chooses an LMS supplier has to make is how to deal with mobile delivery. There are two strategies in the industry:
- full responsive LMS
- separate apps for different platforms.
At the Fusion conference in Las Vegas, D2L made it clear what their strategy is. With Daylight they have choosen for full responsiveness for Brightspace. Other LMSs, such as Blackboard and Canvas, made a different chooses.
I personnally think this is the choose for the long run because of these three reasons:
- One platform
It is less costly to maintain one platform than multiple. This means that your resources are all working on that one platform and don't need to be distributed among all the different apps. This means you can move faster in developing new features, solving problems and more.
- One learning experience
It is easier for the users, they will know where to find their information on any devices.
- Less support
Every extra platform or app means extra questions to support. It is easier for support if there is only one platform. So in the end this means less support is needed.
Offcourse there are also downside to this strategy. One important issue is that the screen layout is not optimised for your screen. We have noticed that currently that is mainly the case for the features of instructors. D2L has prioritised the student experience, so this will certainly improve in the next months.
Developing for responsiveness
A full responsive design also means that your instructors should be aware of this. Some guidelines to make sure that all your content works on any device:
- Create files in HTML (responsive), avoid PDFs and documents (non-responsive) as much as possible.
- Use the accessibility check in the text editor to make sure your content complies to accessibility standards.
- Test your external learning tools (for responsiveness)
- Don't use Flash or Java
- Set max widths on images
- Use video tool to insert videos, or use responsive CSS
- Avoid tables, or use responsive CSS
Altogether I think this a good choose of D2L. In combination with a cloud based platform it allows to move fast and stay ahead of the game.
Last year I attended my first D2L Fusion conference. It was only 2 weeks after we signed the contract. This year we thought it was important to present our project of changing to Brightspace.
In Februari we did a pilot with one of our faculties, in September we go live with all other faculties. Brightspace will be our one and only Collaboration & Learning Environment (CLE). (Blackboard will stay available as archive).
In my presentation I presented five lessons learned. One I want to highlight: It's Education!
From the start of this project we have approached the project as an education project and not what I see at other universities as IT project. This means that our Director of Education is in the lead, the project is strongly connected to the academic leadership in the faculties and our strategy is focused on improving education.
When there is a strong focus on education, decision making is less focused on IT issues (there will always be IT issues). It is about how the CLE support our education and the learning process of our students.
This focus also made us choose for mandatory course structure for all courses. Technology this wasn't necessary, but from the perspective of our students it was a solution to their biggest complaints: "I don't know where to find certain information in my course. Every course is organised in a different way".
Only education and learning
Blackboard has been used for all different kind of activities, as a portal, for software distribution, communities for research projects and many more. In 17 years people find a lot of different ways to use the system for not intended purposes. With our clear focus on education, we have decided to be very strict: the CLE is only for education and learning. Our number of organisations is cut by 90% because of this. New courses and organisations need to be approved by the faculty managers Education & Student Affairs. They are made responsible for this.
Here the full slides of my presentations