Monthly Archives: October 2009

Technology Strategy?




Technology Strategy?

Originally uploaded by Daniel Livingstone.

Posting from Second Life at the Technology Strategy Board island – and wondering more than a little what strategy they actually have for using the virtual world.

It is undoubtably a ‘nice’ island, but like many in Second Life it seems like an virtual world presence that has been created specifically to host a launch event, gather some publicity and allow the owners to say they are in Second Life. Are there any plans to actually *use* this space?

The blog linked to here doesn’t inspire confidence – having last been updated in December last year.

Handheld Learning 2009

I *still* haven’t found time to watch all the videos from ALT-C, or review all the virtual world related papers that I picked out from the proceedings. Now the video and audio proceedings are available from Handheld Learning 2009, here: http://www.handheldlearning2009.com/proceedings.

I wonder if I download the proceedings to my phone and put it under my pillow if I’ll be able to absorb all the information by osmosis…

OER in Games, Sims and Virtual Worlds

My talk earlier this week at SJSU SLIS on ‘Opening up education in games, simulations and virtual worlds’ went pretty well, with some good questions and response from the audience on campus and in Second Life. A video of the talk is being prepared by the tech support folks, but in the meantime I’ve posted my slides to SlideShare (under CC-Attribution-ShareAlike).

To summarise some of the key points:

  • Generally speaking computer games are too expensive to produce for most OER purposes
  • Even where games include source code and art assets, and allow remixing, the level of expertise required means that 3rd party remixing of OER games is unlikely
  • User-generated content in *some* virtual worlds (Second Life is the key example) can be produced much more cheaply than creating novel games or simulations
  • There are current challenges in effectively sharing OER content in virtual worlds
  • ‘Open’ can refer to content that is free to use/visit, content that might be free to copy, content that might be free to give-away and content that might be free to remix/repurpose. Check the terms and conditions!
  • Being able to backup content out of virtual worlds more readily will allow virtual world OER content to be stored in repositories outside of the virtual world, and help guarantee availability over longer periods of time
  • Linden Lab have recently announced policies relating to copying items out of Second Life, and more action is expected soon. Using some copying technologies may result in banning?

Answering demand for instruction and guidance… in real-time

A mind-blowing article in November issue of Wired (17.11 – not yet on the web) on page 158 – and it isn’t even on the cover. Demand Media, which runs sites such as eHow and has published tens of thousands of instructional videos on YouTube produce over 4,000 articles and videos EACH DAY.

Demand use a few computer programs to mine current search engine terms, the ad market and competitor articles to determine daily what topics and articles to produce. A computer algorithm generates suggested article titles based on this information, these are then proofed and edited by humans proofers before the titles are added to an online repository of articles needed. Freelance writers and video producers trawl this site, write up their articles or shoot their videos for low, low fees (a typical video producer might need to make 10 videos a day to earn a wage).

This is a highly industrialized method of production, production to meet demand in real-time. And all of this is funded through advertising revenues…

Are there ways that academia could better use some of these notions? I would hate to see such an industrialised mode of content production, but the contrast with institutions, consortiums and even nations that have in the past spent millions of pounds on distance learning initiatives that have failed to return even one tenth of the investment could not be starker.

Yet another AR game – Invizimals

Yet another Augmented Reality game makes it to commercial handhelds – this time the Sony PSP (with Go!Cam). Invizimals is a Pokemon pet training game that allows users to capture pets, then trade them or pit them in combat against friends’ pets – the twist being that you have to first find them in their hiding places somewhere around your house, and the AR interface places the Invizimals in the environment. Looks good – but from viewing the video I think I’m somewhat disappointed that the use of real world environment seems very limited – but I think more interesting and clever exploitation of the environment might be a bit beyond the current generation hand held hardware.

It would be great to be proven wrong though…

Distance Learning initiatives reviewed

On Friday, Paul Bacisch of Re.ViCa gave talk and led some discussion at the University of the West of Scotland, just along from my own office. One of the key aspects of his talk was consideration of the Open Learning Innovation Fund – a large HEFCE initiative to support the development of distance learning activities of UK universities. But not for all the UK – as HEFCE’s remit only covers England, Scotland (along with Ulster and perhaps also Wales) is not covered. This would seem to put Scottish universities at a significant disadvantage, however as Paul’s talk amply showed large investments of money do not always lead to success.

Indeed many of the largest and most well funded distance learning projects fail to cover their own expenses. Paul has some direct experience of this from his time at the UK eUniversity, and his presentation was on the same day that THES reported on the small returns on investment so far from the large international U21Global collaborative distance learning project.

Technology is not a differentiator, with VLEs available to all – pedagogy is more important than technology. But Paul he was particularly critical of the lack of market research involved in many of the larger projects, and highlighted a number of success stories. These tend to be home grown, organically developed, and as likely to come from the FE or commercial sectors as from a university. Basically, universities that are doing it right have got a head start and are succeeding – most universities are not.

Meanwhile world markets are not sitting ducks – Paul pointed out that distance learning offerings come from over 100 countries. As well as other British institutions, American, Canadian, and European universities, colleges and companies, recruiters have to also consider the local competition.

At the end of the meeting it was interesting to discuss with other faculty from across the university about where we might be going wrong with some of our own DL offerings. Illuminating, but nothing I can share here ;-)