MOOCs and mobile

Among the various MOOC platforms, which really work as mobile platforms? The FutureLearn platform in the UK was meant to have been designed with mobile in mind from the start. I have not done a MOOC on FutureLearn yet, and may very well find myself factilitating or teaching one soon enough, so I would really like to know if learning through FutureLearn, or any other MOOC platform, works well via mobile devices.

Is this a picture of mobile MOOC? Photo by Ed Yourdon on Flickr

Is this a picture of mobile MOOC? Photo by Ed Yourdon on Flickr

To this end, I have created an extremely short survey — 4 questions! — to try and get a flavour of MOOC learners’ mobile experience. If you have participated in a MOOC and attempted to do so via a mobile device or two, please would you take the survey here:   

I will be reporting the results of the survey next week at our Open Education Week webinar entitled New Global Open Educational Trends: Policy, Learning Design, and Mobile, on 11 March 2013 at 12.30 GMT. The Open Education Week website has details of how to join in – everyone is invited!

And I will report my survey findings on this blog as well.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist & SCORE Research Fellow, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

2 billion internet users, 4.5 billion mobile phone users

These numbers were mentioned by Clive Shepherd in an online seminar for ALT earlier this month. The implications for those of us working in the field of OERs (open educational resources) are surely enormous.

My colleague Julian, from the Bath team on the OSTRICH project, had this to say after attending the OpenEd2010 conference in Barcelona:

Design OER for mobile first, desktop PCs second. According to Rory McGreal there are 3.4 billion mobile devices in use, and the majority of people accessing the internet do so via mobile devices. Yet much OER content, from simple Word documents to complex Flash-authored learning objects, are either inaccessible or poorly optimised for mobile devices. And with the vast array of Android and iOS mobile devices appearing, this may be a real issue for many people who choose to learn untethered from their desktop PC.

I assume that there is a higher number of mobile phone users than actual devices, which would explain the difference between Clive Shepherd’s figures and Rory McGreal’s.

One very simple thing that OER creators could do to make their resources more user-friendly for people accessing them on mobile devices is to publish printed materials in e-Pub format as well as in the more usual more computer-friendly formats such as PDF, RTF and Microsoft Word. If you want help in doing this, you might find this OER produced by the OTTER team useful.

Gabi Witthaus, 17 Dec 2010

A Flash in the Pan?

Adobe Flash Professional is one of my favourite software programs.  I find it incredibly versatile as it can create video, interactive resources, vector art, web applications, websites, etc.  Personally I find its biggest limitation is price.  Adobe Flash Professional is expensive and is updated every couple of years (CS5 has been released this year).  Flash Professional CS3 (released 2007) introduced the launch of ActionScript 3 (Flash’s specific programming language) which allows for greater flexibility and scope.  Unfortunately for me, due to the price of Flash, I’m still running Flash Professional CS2 (released 2005).

In order to view a Flash video, website, resource or application you need to download and install the Adobe Flash Player, which can be downloaded for free, and will plug into your browser. In fact Adobe Flash Player is installed on 99% of Internet-enabled desktops and with its latest release of Flash Player 10.1 it is aiming to provide browsing across all devices e.g. mobile phones, tablet-based hardware, desktops etc.

However one thorn in Flash’s side might be Apple. Steve Jobs (Apple CEO) recently wrote this piece about Apple and Adobe’s history:

What it basically boils down to is that you won’t be viewing anything Flash-based on an iPhone, iTouch or iPad. There appears to be an equal amount of people on either side of the fence when it comes to this argument and one question has been asked repeatedly: is this the end for Flash?

I hope not. For me Flash provides smaller file sizes, a range of formats, frame by frame animation, as well as interacting with other programming languages such as HTML, CSS and XML and it can be seen by a wide audience. For e-learning Flash can provide interaction, it can provide video that can be seen by the majority of users, it can be embedded into a VLE or a browser and while it does require technical knowledge to be used effectively there are commercial and open source authoring tools which allow for easier editing of Flash.

If Flash can adapt and evolve for mobile devices and with the Open Screen Project this looks likely, then I think, and hope, the only flash in the pan is the Adobe and Apple battle.

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

Net neutrality – keeping the internet free and open

Last week the USA’s communications control body, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), took a significant step towards promoting net neutrality in that country. Julius Genachowski, FCC boss, said:

I believe we must choose to safeguard the openness that has made the Internet a stunning success. That is why today, I delivered a speech announcing that the FCC will be the smart cop on the beat when it comes to preserving a free and open Internet.

The crux of his speech was in the following points:

In particular, I proposed that the FCC adopt two new rules to help achieve this.

The first says broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. The second says broadband providers must be transparent about their network management practices. These principles would apply to the Internet however it is accessed, though how they apply may differ depending on the access platform or technology used…

I also proposed that the FCC formally enshrine the four pre-existing agency policies that say network operators cannot prevent users from accessing the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, nor can they prohibit users from attaching non-harmful devices to the network.

Wired explains that the first proposed regulation is necessary to “to prevent cable ISPs from slowing down online video services and 3G providers from messing with internet calling services like Skype.” (See the Skype blog for more on this.) The second proposed regulation will require transparency of network management policies by carriers.

Up until now the “four pre-existing agency policies” referred to by Genachowski have not been enforced, and have only been seen to be relevant to ISPs offering wired broadband services: now their application to wireless and mobile devices is also under consideration. These regulations, plus the two proposed new ones, are to be discussed by the FCC as part of an official rule-making process in November. The large American carriers (AOL, Comcast, AT&T) are protesting, as are the Republicans, arguing that such government “interference” will “stifle innovation”.

Meanwhile in Europe, a number of organisations are campaigning for recognition of the principles of net neutrality and a petition is up for signature, campaigning for net neutrality to be enshrined in European law.

For those of us involved in online education, especially in the provision of open educational resources, net neutrality is a cornerstone of the openness that allows for the free flow of knowledge, regardless of platform, application or device used to access the knowledge.

Gabi Witthaus

28 Sept 2009

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