Will employer elearning reseach have the answers?

It seems as though every newsfeed or mailing list that I subscribe to is pointing to the new employer e-learning research being undertaken by the Skills for Business Network. (See Seb Schmoller's posting.)

"The Skills for Business Network work based e-learning project (based at e-skills UK) is conducting a major study to understand why UK employers are currently investing in e-learning and the difference it is making to their business and staff. This will give participating employers a unique insight into workforce preferences and what learners really think. The study investigates why organisations are investing in e-learning...and what their successes and challenges have been."

UK employers can take part in an anonymous, online survey. The proposals for Stage 2 will perhaps yield more interesting results - as this will involve employers in undertaking a 'simple' analysis of their employees' perceptions of e-learning. This reflects the growing interest within the Tertiary education sector, with various publicly funded studies focusing on the 'learner experience'.

Can you help me discover more learning that I'll like?

I've just discovered the excellent Pandora, courtesy of Andy Dean and the Marchmont Observatory WebFlash. Normally, the Flash covers all things elearning and lifelong-learning, but a recommendation slipped in for this rather addictive, do-it-yourself kind of radio.

Pandora was created by the Music Genome Project, which "set out to capture the essence of music ... and ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or 'genes'". It might sound a bit implausible, but it works. It certainly delivers on their intention to help me discover more music that I like, and share that with others by email or as an RSS feed.

Getting back to elearning, if the equivalent of these musical attributes is metadata. Can you imagine a time when metadata and the like is such that people could have learning shipped to them on the basis on what they've enjoyed so far? Where they could review what the Top 10 of what their friends or everyone else is learning, or just find something new? A system that delivers on "Can you help me discover more learning that I'll like?"

Blackboard Patent Row

Blackboard have shocked the Educational community by announcing that they hold a broad spectrum US Patent on learning management systems. They have also launched a lawsuit against their competitor Desire2Learn, and have patents pending within many other countries including EU, Canada and Australia. Blackboards patent has been explained in plain English on the No Education Patents wiki, and is summarised as:

"We, Blackboard, invented a system that allows students to interact online with instructors in a course setting. We also invented a method that tracks for each user which data files they are able to read and write, how the data files are transmitted across the network from and to a user's personal computer via an intermediate server, and finally the means by which course data files are presented and organized for each user."

They include within this patent functionality such as discussion boards, chat rooms, multiple choice tests, assignment submission etc.

The educational community is calling for all to pool their knowledge and to submit any evidence they have of prior use of such 'systems' - for example user guides - to challenge the validity of the patent. See the BBC's news article for more detials.

Social Software and Learning

FutureLab have published a report on the use of Social Software and Learning. Along with introducing the concept of social software, it also discusses the issues arising through moving toward learning in an "era of connection and collaboration".

"In the educational arena, we are increasingly witnessing a change in the view
of what education is for, with a growing emphasis on the need to support
young people not only to acquire knowledge and information, but to develop
the resources and skills necessary to engage with social and technical
change, and to continue learning throughout the rest of their lives.

In the technological arena, we are witnessing the rapid proliferation of
technologies which are less about ‘narrowcasting’ to individuals, than the
creation of communities and resources in which individuals come together
to learn, collaborate and build knowledge (social software)."

See the full report for a discussion of how these two issues might come together in the use of social software for learning.

SQA to Introduce Results Online

Follolwing on from their announcement in May that around 120 students had sat some of their exams online (see our blog post on this), the Scottish Qualifications Authority have now revealed that around 400 candidates from some of the most remote locations in Scotland will be able to access their exam results online. To read the whole story, see the article on the SQA site.

Some up-coming e-learning events

Here are some upcoming events and conferences that may be of interest to e-learning practioners:

ALT-C 2006: the next generation
Association for Learning Technology
5-7 September 2006, Edinburgh (Scotland)

ICL2006 - 9th International Conference on Interactive Computer aided Learning
27 - 29 September 2006, Villach (Austria)

The European e-Skills 2006 Conference
Cedefop and European Commission
5-6 October 2006, Thessaloniki (Greece)

ePortfolio 2006 conference: eStrategies for Empowering Learners
11-13 October 2006, Oxford (UK)

IST 2006: Strategies for Leadership
European Commission
21 - 23 November 2006, Helsinki (Finland)

Online Educa Berlin
29 November - 1 December 2006, Berlin (Germany)