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What the heck are ePortfolios?

 

By Paul Taylor, Sr. Product Manager

You probably hear a lot these days, at least in the last few years, about ePortfolios.  Experienced educators probably read about them with a wry smile as we have heard about them for many years and they have never really delivered on their promises.  Most industries, not just education, are awash with technology that claims to be the bright young thing which will change their world.  For me though, the difference with a proper ePortfolio is that it is made by me and for YOU (whoever that might be).  Most LMSs (Learning Management System) are very top down.  My teacher/trainer/manager gives me stuff to do, I do it, and I get something for it.  However, there is little in most instances of the ME in what I do.  I respond to some instructions and give the best material I can, but it might not be the best impression of me.  It will likely never show you, or anyone, what I really am. 

There are a lot of good studies on ePortfolio use and practice which talk about “ineffable skills”.  These are the skills and experiences that are difficult to measure but are essential for life skills.  Many higher education institutes will award degrees to students which say they are a Bachelor in subject X, but it will not say a great deal about how good they are at leading teams and motivating their peers; it will not give a clear and rounded picture about who you are about to employ.  Yes, these may well be garnered at the interview stage, but even here it might be difficult to really gauge who or what this person is or might be.  It is here that an ePortfolio comes into it’s own.  I can incorporate all my formal skills and experiences as part of a resume page.  I can incorporate some of my best material, with peer feedback and critical reflection from me and others as to why it is there and what it shows.  I can have videos of myself winning sporting trophies, not just saying that I have won them.  Using an ePortfolio system that has social networking capabilities, I can incorporate into my ePortfolio on-going discussions with people in various walks of life that act as mentors and guides.  These people may be specialists in their fields, but this would never be shown in a traditional application process.

The other great aspect of a digital portfolio is that it can be truly a lifelong learning experience.  As an elementary school student I start collecting my digital artefacts and organizing them to show my teachers and parents.  I then move on to High School and start collecting more experiences and best work, as well as reflecting on my learning, and use this in order to apply for a job or apply to a higher education institute.  I continue adding to my ePortfolio.  If I am at university, I use it to apply for graduate school.  If I am in employment, I use it to try for promotion or to move to a better career path.  All the while I keep adding and trimming the system and the materials in a way which reflects who, what, where and why I am me.

How would I use ePortfolios?

Here at Remote Learner, we love our ePortfolios and we, to quote one of our senior staff, “eat our own dog food”.

Blog 1

On our internal ePortfolio site we have professional development, but also personal groups to garner team building and support outside of the usual work related areas.  In some instances, the group based discussions and interactions can lead to courses being developed on our internal training system (Moodle and ELIS of course) to plug up some identified skills gaps.

We also do some custom developments for our customers and show them how they can use this system, particularly when linked with Moodle or ELIS.  The ePortfolio can be used as an assignment for example.  The learners can click on t assignment link in Moodle and this will open up their ePortfolio.  They then create and select a page of material for the assignment and this is linked back to Moodle.  The person assessing the assignment clicks on their name and it take to this page in the learner’s ePortfolio.

Blog 2 

In the image above, the employee here has created a page linking to their ePortfolio from ELIS-Moodle, and that page in turn is linking to their Open Badges backpack. The backpack displays the badges they have earned at other organizations, with the criteria for their being awarded.  You can also see that the manager has given some feedback and a formative assessment back in the ELIS-Moodle site.  Both systems are also matched in terms of their responsive theme design.

In order to allow end users to gather and display more in the way of competencies, we also incorporate the Outcomes functionality from Moodle.  Once these outcomes are earned, they are automatically pushed out to the end user’s ePortfolio for them to incorporate into their pages they share with colleagues or others.

Blog 3 

In this view, the end user is a student nurse and has been awarded some Outcomes from the ELIS-Moodle site which equate to nationally recognized Nursing competencies.  The ePortfolio pulls these competencies in from ELIS-Moodle and automatically creates a drop down menu to display them.  In terms a professional portfolio, the nurse can now use these, as well as her formative assessment grades, in order to apply for a job at a hospital or for promotion in her existing place of employment.  This can be used by any professionals such as teachers, lawyers, doctors, early responders etc.

Once all of this material has been collected and organized, the end user can then use it to share with other people.  These could be others in their own organizations, but could also be people outside of the organization.  The ePortfolio is multi-institutional, which means that a local high school could link up with nearby colleges and companies and students could talk directly with people at these organizations in a closed and safe environment.  They could ask the people at colleges to look at their portfolio and give them constructive feedback on what they need in order to get a college place.  Equally, they could ask local employers what they need to concentrate on to get a job in e.g. engineering.

Blog 4 

In this view, a newly qualified trainee teacher is putting together an interactive resume in order to apply for their first teaching position.  The ePortfolio view can be exported as an encrypted link which means the person she sends the link to can see this page, but nothing else.  The difference with a traditional application is that this one is “live”.  The plans she is making and the discussion forums she is linking to with other teachers and her university tutors are all live and evolving, so the potential employers get a full view of their potential.  The Resume on the left side includes goal and skills, and the view also includes video material, as well as links to learning plans and continuing professional development objectives.  All of these were chosen by this person to reflect who they are and who they want to be.

If you are interested in seeing how we can help your learners or employees use this type of technology, please get in touch on our contacts page.

Budgeting for eLearning Course Development

 

Analyze (25% of budget)

Good instructional analysis is the foundation for all phases of a design project. The steps required during the analysis process will differ depending on your unique needs and any existing content you already have in place.

Before embarking on the design of instruction, it is critical to gather all information that supports decisions about strategies, media, and technology. By gathering input from both instructional designers (IDs) and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) begin by working to identify learning needs, learning objectives, and learning constraints. These guidelines establish a solid base for all subsequent development activities. Throughout the development process, you will be able to return to these guidelines to evaluate the success of the design. By investing the time on a thorough front-end analysis to support the design and development of your eLearning solution, you will be able to better meet the unique needs of your organization.
  • During the analysis phase, be sure to review the goals and objectives, evaluate any existing content, identify content gaps, and coordinate obtaining additional relevant content.

Design (30% of budget)

Our design philosophy puts a great deal of thought into content presentation as well as the learner's movements through course activities, the goal being to make the navigation intuitive so the content remains the primary focus for learners. In short, content can only be as useful as the learner’s ability to get to it.


A good eLearning solution requires more than good content. Identifying and implementing the right types of media and instructional strategy can make all the difference. A good rule of thumb is to ask this question about every interaction in a course: "Does this teach the learner about the content, or about manipulating the interaction itself?" If the learner is only learning how to manipulate an interaction, and not reinforcing cognitive pathways necessary to learning, then the interaction may not be the best use of the learners' time or bandwidth.

  • The design phase is a systematic process of linking learning objectives and content to detailed storyboards and prototypes. IDs should work collaboratively with SMEs to design assessment instruments, exercises, lesson plans and determine or develop any relevant media selections.
  • Often during this phase a course shell (or template) is created that aligns with a custom design document that can be populated by SMEs to quickly communicate course content and layout to course developers. This is especially useful when multiple courses are being developed as part of a curriculum.

Develop (35% of budget)

The crafting of truly relevant eLearning interactions is a specialized skill, and a talent. It cannot be achieved with eLearning authorware alone. The most relevant eLearning interactions result from a creative collaboration of subject matter experts and instructional designers.

  • In the development phase, IDs working with course developers, create and assemble the content assets, assessment instruments, and interactive learning materials that were blueprinted in the design phase. This is best accomplished as a rapid iterative cycle of development, review and revision.
    1. Develop prototype (course, or module)
    2. Review by SME
    3. Revision of prototype
    4. Revisions approved by SME
    5. Full course developed
    6. Review of full course by SME

Implement (5% of budget)

Taking time to prepare administrators and instructors to support learners throughout their eLearning course/s can make all the difference. It is also important to be sure to capture all relevant data on student performance to support ongoing evaluation and course improvements.

Evaluate (5% of budget)

Implementing and Evaluating should be viewed as ongoing budget items. It is important to revisit to the guidelines established during the Analysis phase and compare that to learner performance.
  • Evaluate - A multi step beta testing process should be implemented to evaluate all aspects of the course, both instructional and functional.
    1. Review of full course
    2. Revision of full course (in required)
    3. Revision of full course approved by SME


As a general rule, every available effort, within the given budget, should be made to keep the eLearner engaged. There are various strategies for maintaining learner engagement so it is worthwhile to take the time to determine learner needs and then define the best strategies and Moodle tools to meet those needs. Research has shown that appropriate use of Moodle tools keeps learners interested and motivated, and this increases learning. It takes time to plan, construct, and test such interactions, but they will hold their value.

Check out the below infographic.

ADDIE Budgeting


Providing Value To Open Source Moodle

 

By Mike Churchward, CIO/President

At Remote-Learner, we often get challenged by clients and the community alike to explain why we charge for the services and products the way we do. There is often a presumption that our services should be free or “near-free” since the primary application we service is Open Source and therefore free. Primarily these challenges are made of our development services, our expert advice and consultation, our support and our maintenance of other third-party add-ons. To explain this, I will describe who we are and what we do.

Our goal is to be the company that provides the services customers need to run their e-learning programs successfully, using Moodle, an Open Source learning management system (LMS).

Open Source Moodle is freely available to anyone to acquire and use, under the GNU General Public License. One of the key concepts of an Open Source application like Moodle is that it is “free”. The code is free; the application is free; there are no fees in the form of any licenses required for anyone to acquire, install and operate Moodle.

But, operating Moodle is not free. It is often said that Open Source is "free as in a puppy; not free as in beer". It will cost anyone who wants to use it, the time and resources needed to install, operate, manage and maintain the application, and the efforts needed to administer, create and operate the learning programs on Moodle.  This is true whether they do it themselves or whether they contract someone else to do it for them - like us.

As  a company, we have costs - employees, overheads, infrastructure. We need to pay for these, and like any other company, we do this through revenue. Our revenue comes from supported hosting, training, development and other expertise-based services. As a Moodle Partner, we give back a percentage of our revenues to the Moodle foundation to help pay for Moodle’s continued maintenance of itself. We also provide a certain percentage of our workload back to the Moodle efforts.

Primarily, our clients host their sites in our infrastructure, where we can support it best. Our infrastructure has been optimized for performance, security, management and maintenance. We provide a number of pre-approved add-ons from the community, with every installation. We also allow our clients to request other add-ons included in their sites, once they have passed a rigorous approval process. This process looks for potential security and performance issues, and ensures the add-ons meet the minimum development standards defined by the Moodle project.

We support the application layer, administrative functions and teaching functions through our commercial services. If for any reason you need to discontinue our services, you are not locked in. You can take your code and data with you and run it on any suitable infrastructure.

Moodle is a highly configurable, highly pluggable application. It can be changed and configured in infinite ways.. We provide services and systems to allow clients to change Moodle in that way, including helping them install custom plug-ins that they need. Our systems are designed to provide a platform that is maintainable and supportable using these methods.

When we develop code for Moodle, it is either in the form of pluggable add-ons or as a core development project for future releases of Moodle. All of our work is provided as Open Source, available to anyone. We also provide documentation both to the Moodle core and for our own development work.

But because the source code is completely available, many users of Moodle want to change it for their own use on their specific installation. We strive to avoid this with our clients.

One of the greatest strengths of Open Source software is that it can be modified by anyone for their own use. One of the greatest weaknesses of Open Source software is not understanding the responsibility of making those changes. Having custom code means taking on the responsibility of maintaining a "fork" of Moodle. A "fork" is essentially the same as maintaining a custom built LMS.

Maintaining a "fork", means taking on all the responsibility of maintaining it. That means any changes to Moodle (point upgrades, version upgrades) will require extra development work each and every time the application is updated. Extra work means that each Moodle upgrade will incur extra costs and cause delays. There are significant risks in maintaining those changes. If the changes are not part of standard Moodle, the Moodle core code could change in a way that irreparably breaks the modified system.

To that end, we work with our clients to understand their needs and problems, and find ways to solve them with the managed Moodle codebases we provide. We use our Moodle expertise to find the most efficient, low-risk and maintainable way for our clients to do what they need done in Moodle.

There are many organizations out there maintaining their own forks of Moodle. They have their own staff of developers, testers, documenters and support to do so. Our systems allow you to utilize our resources for this, and only bear the cost necessary for your portion.

In closing, Remote-Learner strives to offer freedom and options to clients. Our services and methodologies help to further democratize learning across the world. We promote growth and innovation through open technologies, and we do not shackle clients with expensive locked-in, license-to-use technologies.

Moodle in the Wall

 

By Jason Cole, CEO

During my recent staycation, I happily stumbled across the NPR TED Radio Hour. Two of my favorite things, NPR and TED, now mashed together as one in podcast form! So I loaded up the iFruit with a few episodes, including one entitled Unstoppable Learning, and went for a walk.

The episode features a long interview and excerpts from Sugate Mitra, the man behind the Hole in the Wall experiments in India (see Mitra’s TED talk to learn more about his amazing research). Mitra has become a firm believer in the ability of children to educate themselves. He envisions creating self-organizing learning environments (SOLEs) to enable children all over the world to explore questions of interest to themselves using the internet to ask and answer questions.

I was immediately taken with Mitra’s vision of learning and education. Ed techies have been talking for years about the changing role of the teacher from “sage on the stage to guide on the side”. Unfortunately, what most of us envisioned was replacing the teacher as sage with computer as sage. The flipped classroom model, where students watch their Khan Academy videos at night and then practice at school during the day, is a perfect example. Mitra’s research shows us we can go even further, and allow the learner to become their own sage.

But as Rita Pierson points out in the same program, the personal relationships matter.  As she says “Learning sometimes occurs because someone insists that you recognize the excellence in yourself ”. Treating students as consumers of content without the personal, emotional connection will leave many students behind. Mitra’s answer is the Granny Cloud, a group of retiree volunteers in the UK who log onto a Skype session once a week with students in India. They aren’t there to teach, but to tell stories, ask questions and provide encouragement.

Mitra’s and Pierson’s vision of learning is a radical departure from the regimented and measured approach to education common in many countries. Perhaps its just romanticism, but I’d like to believe educational technology can be used to do more than automate our current processes. Instead, perhaps we can create a new, social, human approach to learning.

Designing to Minimize Cognitive Overload

 

By Page Chen, Chief Learning Officer

Every day, millions of online learners launch their browsers with the best of intentions. Many encounter clean, easily navigable interfaces, with clear course expectations, legible fonts, and valuable, well-placed media. Others are not so lucky. These learners must overcome what is called “cognitive overload” in order to learn.

Cognitive overload is a term originating from John Sweller’s cognitive load theory. Cognitive load theory provides guidelines to assist in the design and presentation of information to optimize intellectual performance. When designing to reduce cognitive overload,  it is important to consider the working memory load of not only the instructional materials but also the interface. In short, be aware that the brain can do only so many things at once. When the brain is asked to do more than its fair share, more than is conducive to learning, the result is cognitive overload. Novelty in an interface will draw the learner's attention, but there is a fine line between getting the learner's attention and keeping the learner perpetually distracted.  Split-attention effect is a commonly seen problem in poorly designed instructional materials and is of key importance to online learning design.

All manner of elements can contribute to cognitive overload, including interface colors and images, font selection and color, animations, multimedia, and sound. While a filigreed font might enhance a header, the same typeface, when used for an entire page of content, creates a significant obstacle for the learner. A single, relevant video embedded in a content page can enhance learning, but an RSS feed of videos on related topics will lead the learner away from the task at hand. The same blinking graphic or colorful theme which draws the learner's eyes to the page will distract the learner from the content and may impede his or her ability to focus. Anything that makes the learner interrupt the precious mental process of learning, be it navigation, visual presentation, or functionality, presents the possibility of splitting a learner’s attention and causing cognitive overload.

Remote-Learner’s Learning Services department specializes in navigating just such nuances. We'll minimize cognitive overload in your online courses, to keep your learners engaged, but not mentally exhausted. Contact us today to learn more about Remote-Learner's Learning Services Division.

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Concurrent User Pricing

 

By Jason Cole, CEO

If you’ve received a price quote from us, you may have noticed we price our offerings different from many of our competitors. Rather than charging a flat fee per user, we price our offerings based on the number of people using the system at the same time (concurrent users).

Most LMS providers charge by the user which makes it easy to do the accounting - simply add up all the user accounts, multiply by the price per user and voila… your annual fee. The problem with this approach is it doesn’t matter how much someone uses the system.

With concurrent user pricing, we’ve aligned our pricing with how much your LMS is actually used. We don’t care if you have 100 users or 100,000 - its the number of people using the system that matters to you and to us. Some examples from our clients include:

  • A government agency needs to deliver a few hours of refresher training to 100,000 users shouldn’t need to buy an expensive license for each person.
  • Schools shouldn’t have to worry about buying a license for every teacher and student when they don’t know how many classes will have an online component.
  • College admins need to be able to load every teacher, student and administrator into the system and not worry that they are wasting money on licenses they won’t use.
  • A company wants to keep users in the system for years, to ensure they have active training records - and be able to immediately re-activate a user if needed.

So we chose to take the road less traveled and set our pricing based on how much our clients actually use the system.

So we defined concurrent users as the number of Moodle log entries generated per minute. We think this is a good measure of how many people are using the system at any one time. If someone downloads a PDF, it generates a log entry. If someone else is taking a quiz at the same time, then Moodle will generate some more log entries for them. If only 50 people are on at the same time, you only pay for 50 users - it doesn’t matter how many people have logins.

Loading people into a database is easy, but it doesn’t help anyone learn. Using the system by downloading materials, participating in activities and taking assessments helps people learn. Why should we charge you for loading user names into a database?

 

Great Questions & Great Answers: The Value of an Official Moodle Partner

 

By Tabitha Richards, Director of K-20 Account Management Team

“If Moodle is free, what am I paying for? This question is asked by organizations new to Moodle and the open source concept, as well as by organizations already using and supporting Moodle internally.  This question arises when people don’t understand the true value-added dimension of working with an official Moodle partner, such as Remote-Learner.  When working with Remote-Learner, client’s fees cover things like the hardware, support, and other services we provide for the product itself.  These are all costs that you, as an organization, would incur internally should you elect to self-host Moodle. We honor anyone brave enough to self-host, of course.  We also believe it’s important to emphasize why having a partner like us is a better idea.

Additional benefits of working with Remote-Learner as your official Moodle Partner:

  • Dedicated Infrastructure-- designed and tested to specifically support the Moodle application with a guaranteed uptime of 99.9%.
  • Dedicated support staff-- available for unlimited, Moodle technical support through our portal system.  (Really!  We have staff who do nothing but work on Moodle and Moodle- related issues all day…, and every day.)  Most organizations don’t have the funding to do this kind of support with their own staff.  (If hosting Moodle internally, you will have to find all the answers on your own... both to general technical questions, and to Moodle functionality questions.)
  • Although Remote-Learner has partnerships with a few other products, we primarily do Moodle.  This intense focus provides a level of expertise which most organizations cannot afford to duplicate in-house. 
  • Remote-Learner employs a number of developers and technical staff who have been working with Moodle from as far back as Moodle 1.2.  This longevity with the product means they have a tremendous knowledge of the product and its nuances.  (Even if your organization elects to self-host Moodle, your staff’s knowledge of Moodle and its nuances will most likely be limited.)   
  • We have a number of developers who write plug-ins and contribute regularly to the core Moodle code.  As a Moodle partner with contributions, we are often one of the first entities to know about bug fixes and security patches.  We have an inside track, so to speak.  (Self-hosting organizations do not have such connections.)
  • What about hardware?  Well, in a day and age when technology changes at such a rapid pace, working with an official Moodle partner means you do not have to worry about keeping an annual “refresh technology” line item in your budget.  Remote-Learner keeps such technologies in place, though.  We know and regularly upgrade hardware required for Moodle’s optimum performance. (We aren’t sure whether our self-hosting friends even consider this as important, of course.  But if you’re still wondering about your own needs, do you want to have to deal with this every year, or more frequently?)
  • Cost?  Yes,  there is an up-front cost to working with a dedicated partner, and we believe these costs are more than offset by the choice to bring hosting costs internally within your organization.  How many people will need to be involved in your hardware and staffing maintenance needs, and assuming you can cover that, can you match the level of expertise we can bring to the table?

The bottom line is simple: 

As Moodle becomes a more and more important part of academic and corporate training efforts, it is equally important to have a complete system that works well and works consistently.  While there will always be issues to troubleshoot from time to time, there’s only one way that you can rest assured that you’re in a safe zone. 

That is, only IF you have a highly-knowledgeable team of Moodle experts working on your site, a team that’s both available and committed to resolve issues as quickly as possible.  This is what allows you the freedom to focus on the more important academic and training issues you really want to focus on. 

This is the value-added dimension of an official Moodle partner, like Remote-Learner. 

Change Is Not So Bad

 

By Audra Wisner, Corporate & Government Account Manager

Many of our clients have been using the same LMS for years and years.  Sometimes, they come to understand that what they have been using is no longer delivering what they need.  But for them, the thought of change is just too much to bear.  (“The work, the glitches, the headache.  Agh!  It’s just too much!”) I’d like to propose another perspective on change:  Even though the thought of change hurts, try not to be scared or stressed out. With the right implementation strategy, all will be just fine.  

I recently attended the Midwest Moot at Northern Illinois University and sat through a session on this very topic,  with a very prestigious university speaking about their experience when switching from one LMS to another. The switch for this university was a major undertaking. They had to decide whether to migrate or rebuild; they needed training for over 300 faculty members, and the training and changes had to occur with no downtime for the students. (Oh, and did I mention they had only 6 months to complete this major transition?) Some might say they endured short term pain for long-term gain by facing this massive change head-on.

They built their strategy around three words, and ultimately ended up with a successful implementation:  

  • Planning
  • Communication
  • Patience

Once you have decided to take the leap and switch your LMS, create the plan.  Here’s a very brief suggestion checklist that may help get you started.

1.  Put together your project team.  Who will be responsible for training, communicating, moving content, and holding the hands of those creating or recreating course content?  

2.  Determine the best way for training to be delivered.  Do you need multiple formats? Or will you make it all self-paced?  Who will deliver it--someone from your institution, or
someone from the new LMS platform?

3.  Communicate with all of the stakeholders.  Let them know all the critical timelines, and make sure they understand when training is being offered.  Especially, do tell them the date that they will no longer have access to the old LMS.

4.  Consider how to handle existing content.   Here, it seems,  is where the most concerns arise.  Will it be best to migrate all or some of the content?  Or will it be best to start from cratch, leaving everything that’s gone before to posterity?

Additional items to consider:

  • Content Shelf Life How old is the content?  How “fresh will the instructors and trainers be to create brand new content? (In academic settings, at semesters’ ending and beginning are definitely out of the question.)  Decide as a team when the content changes should occur.   During the coming months while the transition is in motion, you don’t want your SMEs to burn out.
  • Copyright Issues   Since the course materials were first created, have any of the items had changes in permissions?   And most importantly, will the same [old] content work in the new system in its present form Depending on the original place and method of publication, and the updated copyright’s fine print, it may be necessary to do something radical, like starting over.  (The advice from the university at the Moot?  (“REBUILD.”)

5.  Be patient. Be prepared to have to hold some faculty and staff members’ hands. Be encouraging, keeping everyone focused on the better LMS that everyone will benefit from.  (Of course, many people will persist in believing that, if they just avoid “signing up” and getting involved in creating something new, nothing will change…, or it least, it doesn’t have to.) Be resolved, but gently so. With a little hand holding, more people will end up much happier.

Change is never easy, especially in the beginning.  In fact, sometimes it’s just downright painful all the way through, and through and through.  But with proper planning, communication, and patience, change be achieved in a smooth and successful way.  

In times like these, Remote-Learner is here to help you.  Why not  let one of our expert Account Manager’s sit and chat with you about your needs, then we can help you put together a solid implementation strategy?  Visit our webpage and give us a call so we can help get your change game on.  

 

Martin Dougiamas Joins Remote-Learner's Board of Directors

 

martinWaynesboro, Virginia - November, 18 2013-  Remote-Learner is pleased to announce Martin Dougiamas, the founder and lead developer of the Moodle project, has accepted our invitation to join our Board of Directors. Martin will serve as an independent, outside director.

"I'm very honoured to be invited to have a voice on the board of Remote-Learner, one of the largest Moodle Partners in the world and one that has been critical to the success of Moodle." said Dougiamas.

“As a leading independent Moodle partner, our relationship with Martin and the Moodle community is critical to our success. I’m pleased he accepted our invitation to join the board as an outside director, and I welcome his perspective as a leading open source advocate and developer. Martin’s voice on the board will help us stay aligned with the Moodle community.” said Jason Cole, Remote-Learner CEO.

Chairman Bryan Williams stated, “The Board is very pleased that Martin has accepted this role as one of the people guiding Remote-Learner’s strategic direction. ”

Martin Dougiamas is best known as the founder of Moodle, the popular free course management system used by millions of teachers around the world.

As the executive director of Moodle Pty Ltd in Perth, Western Australia, he leads the team of software developers at the heart of the Moodle project and the global network of more than 50 Moodle Partner service companies that help provide funding for this independent open source software project.

Martin has a mixed academic background with post-graduate degrees in Computer Science and Education, and continues to focus on researching how educators approach internet-based education. His major goal for the future is to improve the quality of education by encouraging social constructionist and collaborative practices within online learning communities.

Shape the Future of Education With Video Using Kaltura

 

Kaltura Connect 2013

By Paul Taylor

The venue for this year’s Kaltura Connect 2013 was the Chelsea Pier, more  specifically Pier 60, on the banks of the Hudson in mid Manhattan. It was an excellent venue and you could feel the history of the place and imagine the tall ships and cargo vessels docking there in days gone by with their various produce from around the world. The clippers are long since replaced with luxury liners, but standing outside the venue and looking across the Hudson and hearing the gentle lap of the waves on the underside of the pier still conjured up some magic. For my part, I was staying nearby in a hotel called the Jane Hotel. The room I had was cozy even for my hobbit like stature, but was built around a nautical theme, keeping with the location, and was (I was reliably informed by my taxi driver) one of the key venues to house survivors of the Titanic disaster in 1912, as well as other returning sailors. Being a keen home brewer it was also nice to see the Chelsea Brewing Company next door at Pier 59.

The conference itself was a two day affair and followed a basic pattern of a morning of inspirational keynotes, followed by afternoon sessions from various practitioners and Kaltura staff. The sessions were divided up into three tracks: Products and Technology; Achieving Your Goals with Video; and Unique Content and Use Cases that Drive Video Experiences. As you would expect, the central theme was the increasing importance of video to the learning and training experience, and this was, for me at least, amply illustrated by the keynote from Scott Chambers, the SVP of Worldwide Media Distribution for the Sesame Street Workshop. Scott presented some facts about the success of Sesame Street over the past 44 years and in particular that they had data to support the power of their shows with Sesame Street children achieving 16% higher scores on standard tests, and 40% better results on social skills. He also showed that they still have a long way to go with 3/10 children still not being properly equipped with the skills they need when they arrive at school. The keynote from Kaltura’s CEO Ron Yekutiel was also very powerful. Ron showed some statistics that 32% of education was now conducted on-line and that by 2017, over 90% of information will be “consumed” as video and 66% will be on mobile platforms. This obviously has a huge impact on education and for us as Moodle Partners.

 

Kaltura Conference Site

I attended as many sessions as I could and my main interest was how the development of Kaltura would affect the use and deployment of Moodle, since Remote-Learner are the developers and maintainers of the integration, and how the integration was being used by some of our clients and other organizations. The key development moving forward was the implementation of the Kaltura Application Framework (KAF). The purpose of the KAF was to allow more consistent integrations across all the platforms that Kaltura integrates with and, as I understood it, to make it easier to add improvements from the Kaltura side regardless of the front end (in my case Moodle). The interesting part of the KAF, was the use of the LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) functionality. The use of this plugin means that regardless of the updates and changes on the Moodle side, the latest and greatest developments from the Kaltura side would always be available. Some of these developments were highlighted in a technical presentation. The KAF integration will allow the embedding of a MediaSpace type interface, complete with bootstrap responsive elements, into a Moodle instance. The framework means that users can use the tools of Kaltura, such as video embed and tagging, screen records, galleries etc with a really easy to use interface. This also means that any developments on their roadmap, such as the ability to collaborate on video content, shared repositories, channel based analytics and searches, a PowerPoint sync widget and chaptering of content will be instantly available to Moodle users without any further changes to the plugin. The LTI integration also means a better interface to the gradebook as there are plans to build in a in-video quiz element and survey tools.

In addition to the technical presentations, there were some really inspiring use cases presented from various organizations. There was a good presentation from Columbia University where they had extensive data about the use of video content and the “magic four and a half minutes”. It seems that that is the average watch length of any video content so should be a target for all video creation. They talked about how effective video had become for the entire life cycle of their process, from giving students videos about their staff and the experience they will have, through the actual education and on to alumni giving feedback for marketing purposes. There was a good presentation from New York University which showed that the video analytics features were now giving them deep data about students and this was improving overall performance by as much as 20%. Students were also voting with their eyes and attending courses which were much more media rich which shows the power of presentation and the importance of good practice in the media age. This is an important take away for good course creation on any LMS. In light of this, there was a good presentation from Houston Community Colleges showing their system using Moodle, Kaltura, Plone and other open Source systems was driving their 70,000 student’s experience forward in a positive way and staff were becoming increasingly competent and confident with the use of video for teaching and learning. They were keen advocates of the assignment functionality of the Moodle-Kaltura plugin.

All in all this was a great conference with some really inspiring presentations and speeches showing that the open source community is alive and well and it was good to see Moodle deep in the heart of this movement. I had some great talks with Moodle users and the Kaltura team about the next phases and developments and am looking forward to seeing the new KAF based Moodle plugin for Kaltura we are developing and seeing how this has been used effectively at next year’s Kaltura Connect.

If you would like to know about the Kaltura Video solutions for Moodle contact us today for a free consultation.

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