Category : Featured

Smart courses are coming

IMG_0474I few weeks ago, I had the chance to participate to Educause. Great place, great event, great talks but difficult to meet colleagues in such a huge attendance. As usual one is lost in the gigantic exhibition hall, navigating among the vendors and all their inventive proposals. As usual it was difficult to choose among the parallel conferences. Hopefully I was not alone, coming with ten colleagues from different French universities. We will soon write together a report on our findings and impressions. Hopefully it will be translated into English and made available to the EUNIS community.

Among many other thoughts, this week, I will discuss a very promising feature appearing at the horizon of the digital pedagogy: adaptive learning. A new generation of Learning Management Systems (LMS) is just emerging which goes much further in the implementation of a personalized education. We already had some highlights at EUNIS 2015, in Dundee, and now we have returns from colleagues in the US.

The emergence of MOOC has put in the forefront an important feature of all LMS, known and used only by the most advanced teachers, but ignored by the majority of their colleagues: the ability to guide the students through the course’s documents, building an educational paths. This goes far beyond providing a simple table of contents to search among the documents stored in the platform.

Most often platformsare used to store course materials and to provide links to documents available on the Web. In the best case,professors add a table of contents with links to each document so that students are not lost. However, it is possible to go further and to control the order in which students travel between the documents, instead of letting them peck at random. This is fundamental to help the students to gradually discover a subject, which requires the knowledge of some fundamentals before pursuing the discovery and the understanding of their course. All LMS allow, to some extent, to control the progressionby placing mandatory prerequisites before accessing a document, for instance having opened previous documents or successfully submitting a quiz or actively participating in a forum… This obviously complicates the construction of the course because,instead of a linear progression, one must prepare in advance all the control points to drive the students. Instructional designers are often essential to help teachers who are new to this approach. It also requires writing additional documents and the total workload is much larger than in the classical approach of teaching. This partly explains the lack of awareness of these LMS’ features by most teachers: they do not have the time and/or the training to build such complex courses. Building controlled pedagogic paths is certainly a progress, smarter than the usual linear progression, but it presents some limitations: the possible paths are provided in advance and cannot be adapted to each student.

An answer to this challenge is now emerging: adaptive learning.

Adaptive learning is supported by a new generation of LMS, enabling to dynamically create individualized learning paths for each student. A branch of the possible pathways is dynamically opened to a student, according to a number of criteria much larger and more sophisticated than those previously mentioned. These criteria are based on the mass of data collected by the platform, knowledge acquired when running the course, on a set of parameters based on the use of the platform by the students and the individual dynamic profile of each user. Each branch of the graph is analyzed and the least employed are dismissed. The goal is to build a predictive and adaptive model that employs methods of Artificial Intelligence. Teachers can adjust the possible paths, at each node of the graph, manipulating these parameters through given variables that play on the knowledge that the platform claims to have acquired on the students. What is the relevance of the findings that the platform derives from the mass of accumulated data? Do the variables that adjust the courses are meaningful? These are questions that remain obscure. Vendors such as Knewton, Realize IT Desire2Learn, Blackboard… respond only vaguely and rather justify themselves through the results of ongoing experiences. An interesting aspect of this approach is that it is a first example of the use of learning analytics data restricted to the world of the LMS only. No need to assemble and to mix data from independent Information Systems.

What do say the universities that have implemented these experiences? As they work on a small scale it is still too early to draw definitive conclusions. They all agree on the interest of this new generation of LMS for the students who are very supportive. For the teachers it provides alerts when students are at risk.

UCF(University of Central Florida) did not find asystematic improvementin the success of the students:it depends ontheir work andvaries fromcourse to course. Thestudents appreciate this new method of learning but,interestingly, teachers have to justify to some studentswhy the systemoffered thema differentlonger route. The building ofa course, however, is more complex and teachers had to betrained andaccompanied byinstructional designers. Preparatory workwasmuchheavier.

A study on adaptive learning platforms, conducted by ALMAP (Adaptive Learning Market Acceleration, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), at a larger scale (700 teachers, 21,500 students), confirms these results. It also says that the efficiency gain is not obvious compared to other blended learning methods and that it is too early to conclude.

A lot of research is still needed to determine which data to consider and how to analyze them in order to offer students personalized trails. However, this approach holds great promise because it does not seek, unlike a lot of learning analytics projects, to use all the data from all university information systems, data often difficult to recover in a set of systems often inconsistent between them: the platform is self-sustaining. It remains to determine the right indicators and how to use them. It joins the general problem in the use of learning analytics and construction of indicators.

There is still much research to pursue to define relevant data and how to handle them in order to build really personalized paths for the students. However, this approach holds great promises because it does not seek, unlike a lot of learning analytics projects, to handle all the data from all the university, data often difficult to recover in a set of Information Systems often inconsistent between them: the platform is self-sustaining. This is part of the general problem about the use of learning analytics and the construction of indicators.

Each teacher cannot afford to build his/her own course. This would require too much work and expense. Building and delivering must be shared. As often, the digital transformation of the university will be successful only if we are able to work together and to share.

Open Education Week Call for participation

International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) invites your contributions to and participation in the annual Open Education Week, featuring online and in-person events around the world. You decide how you will participate: host a local event, give a webinar, submit a video about your open education work, use the week to highlight the benefits of open education, get creative and try something new!

Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) is a celebration of the global Open Education Movement. Its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Participation in all events and use of all resources is free and open to everyone. Open education encompasses resources, tools and practices that employ a framework of open sharing to improve educational access and effectiveness worldwide.

Submissions need to be sent by 12 February 2016.

More information here


Sponsored webinar: Applications anywhere – what, why, how? December, 15

Sponsored webinar: Applications Anywhere – what, why, how?

The mission of EUNIS is to help member institutions develop their IT landscape by sharing experiences and working together. Besides the main events organised by EUNIS throughout the year and the activities of our Task Forces, starting from this year we decided to add another opportunity for our members to share their experiences and best practices, promoting and organising Webinars in collaboration with our partners. The first webinar will be presented by University of Wolverhampton in cooperation with Software2.

Date: the 15th of December at 14:00 CET for 30 minutes

Presenter: Nici Cooper, Asst Director, University of Wolverhampton

Register: Online

Overview: As part of a Digital Campus Transformational Change, Wolverhampton University aim to deploy software applications to staff and students anywhere, on-demand. With a large software portfolio and silo based structure the challenge to give better access to software was large.

The webinar will cover how Wolverhampton University answered the following;

–          How to deliver a better experience for everyone

–          How to address the issues of application virtualization

–          How to ensure a successful virtualization project

There will be an opportunity to ask questions for around 10 minute after the webinar.

If you are interested, please register here to receive an invitation.



vendredi1The following is an adaptation of the blog I wrote for a French Journal, Educpros, in a rush after the events of last Friday. It seems to me very important to show how the digital communication has played a crucial role in this night of nightmare.

I went to bed quietly Friday night around midnight, without knowing anything. The news, at 8pm could not mention anything, of course.

Hopefully I was reading an e-book on my tablet when a message from an American friend from Philadelphia, whom I know through EUNIS, popped up. She wrote through Messenger, worrying about others and myself: “ Yves, Jim and I are hearing the news now. I am so sorry and praying for you […] and all of your country ». It was 6PM for her and these news were the headline. I fell from the clouds, I thought for a moment about a bad joke but radio and television have quickly made me understand the nightmare that we lived.

The assassins had not shot randomly, anyone. It is our youth that they attacked in a neighborhood that is theirs. Like many people I worried for my family, my children and my nephews and I immediately sent a series of SMS to find out more. But how to reach all my acquaintances and friends who could be out this Friday night? Facebook has been the response through its application, which asked all persons registered in the Paris area to report they were safe. Certainly not everybody registered in my Parisian address book was looking at Facebook but the number of people for whom I had reassuring news was impressive. The final touch came with WhatsApp. Three weeks ago, when traveling to Educause (I will report later on that), my group of 10 French people decided to use a list under WhatsApp to exchange, find ourselves at the exit of the conference, dinner together … This list worked again the next morning when we learned that a colleague who was at the Bataclan (the attacked theater) had come out safe and sound.

During the night we followed the news on television. Meanwhile I keyed on my tablet, shifting between Tweeter and Facebook to learn more. Of course, even if you must read this kind of news carefully and double check, how not to be moved by the calls offering hospitality to those fleeing terror, calls for blood donation and many others. How not to be comforted by seeing, on a video, at the TV, a person lying among many others, still possessing enough forces to call for help using his/her smartphone. All the messages comforting the wounded and the escaped, offerings of help of all sorts were the first manifestation of a great movement of solidarity, which warms the heart.

During all the weekend fell emails, from my French and foreign colleagues and friends from around the world, from Europe, the United States, from Japan, who were all concerned and begged me to convey their solicitude. The Web pages of newspapers around the world, photos posted on Instagram and elsewhere showed that we were not alone in our drama.

Through this quick post I wanted to show that the Web and the digital communication have played a major positive role in this event. I would like to emphasize that these means are part of our daily live and send a message to all the leaders of our universities, not just those in charge of communication, on the fact that they should be fully recognized on the campus. New technologies have entered the Higher Education. A lesson learned through these tragic events, is that it can do much more: it can be used to create real communities, what we lack most today.

Workshop: “Sharing Research Data and OA to publications in H2020”, Nov 18, Ghent, Belgium

As a major funder, through Horizon2020, the EU has been at the forefront of implementing Open Access policies. Following the Open Access pilot in FP7, Horizon2020 brings a strong mandate for Open Access to publications as well as an Open Data Pilot for certain areas of research. The pilot encourages researchers to deposit research data in data repositories to make them accessible and usable to others.
Many questions arise from this policy: how to implement the requirements, where to publish, and what about confidentiality and privacy issues? Issues of priority and planning; what should be taken care of at proposal state, during the project and after the project ends?
The workshop aims to provide answers to these questions. And also provide an arena to exchange experiences, define problems and possible solutions. The target audience is NCP’s, research administrators and project coordinators. Tools will be presented to facilitate data management and experiences will be exchanged to provide hands-on solutions.
Read more here…