September 17, 2014

Examples of virtual worlds, simulations and mobile apps from Ontario

Listen with webReader

Carleton Virtual

This is the second in a series of guest blogs on innovative developments in online learning in Ontario post-secondary institutions. (The first was examples of hybrid learning.)

In this post, Judith Tobin of Contact North| Contact Nord focuses on examples of virtual worlds and simulations, and mobile apps. Here is her guest post:

Introduction

In my previous guest blog, I highlighted examples of online and hybrid learning innovations in Ontario post-secondary institutions that were serving as vehicles for bringing new ideas into the classroom, such as restructuring class time, collaborative learning, and changes in the teacher/student relationships. This time, I have focused on applications of leading edge technologies, including virtual environments, simulations, and mobile apps. These technologies are just beginning to have a role in learning and considerable research and experimentation are taking place to determine their optimal contributions. The innovations below explore student learning and responses, while working to make the technologies easy to use and flexible.

Virtual Worlds and Simulations

The Virtual World Design Centre at Loyalist College in Belleville has been working with virtual environments for a number of years, using the open source software Second Life (http://secondlife.com) since 2006.  They have recently adopted the Unity 3D authoring tool as they find it more adaptable for educational purposes. 

 Virtual worlds are successful in education because students identify with the characters and the situations portrayed and so become active participants in the events on screen. The learning from these experiences carries over into real life applications.  In an award-winning and educationally successful project, the staff in the Virtual World Design Centre created a virtual border crossing at which students’ avatars take on the roles of border crossing guards, interviewing travellers who present challenges of documentation, prohibitions, smuggling, and difficult communication.  The virtual traveler interviews take place in class and each encounter is then analyzed by the entire group so that best practices are identified.  Applications for completely online learning are being investigated.


Virtual environment of a border crossing

The students at Loyalist found the virtual experience provided them with more than enhanced content learning; they also developed confidence, observational skills, and the capacity to respond to developing situations.

 Other virtual environments created at Loyalist included a virtual hospital tour for secondary school students and a factory simulation for the repair of machinery for food processing. Experience in these virtual worlds prepares students for more effective and informed exposure to the real environments.

Carleton Virtual is an online virtual environment resembling the physical setting of Carleton University in Ottawa that was constructed to explore how virtual environment can be used to enhance learning.  An English-as-a-second-language teacher used the virtual meeting space so that her students could practice language usage and collaboration skills in a risk-free environment. They used the virtual classrooms, meeting rooms, and other spaces, with many students participating more actively in the virtual spaces than in a face-to-face classroom.  A virtual archeological site allowed students to better understand the archeological processes that create knowledge, when a visit to a functioning site was not possible.

The virtual archeological site

At the Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Oakville, students in the Veterinary Technician Program could no longer have access to live animals and cadavers for both ethical and health reasons. In response to this need, the Network for Innovation and Leadership in Education built a 3D dog skeleton with images that can be manipulated and disassembled. The skeleton was then built into a web-based learning tool as a complete package for online student learning, including mobile applications.  The simulation is being tested for educational effectiveness.

Mobile learning

In Fall 2012, all full-time, first-year students enrolled in the four-year Bachelor of Business Administration Program at Nipissing University in North Bay will receive iPads. Leading up to this innovation, pilot projects are being undertaken to explore applications for teaching and learning.  For example, connectivity was set up so a professor could use an iPad while moving about the room and illustrating and annotating normally static PDF documents, then saving the revised slides for class distribution. Meanwhile, the students would use their iPads to add their own notes to the same slides. The first year of the iPad usage will be dedicated to introducing students to software for document preparation and research; more advanced learning applications will be developed over time to emphasize the collaborative and creative possibilities of the iPad.

Nipissing is also exploring the development of apps for mobile learning but, for ease of access and flexibility of revision, these would be web applications hosted on web servers that would look and function like apps. 

Using mobile apps to encourage language learning and practice outside the classroom has been the focus of recent work at George Brown College. Extensive research is being done on student ownership of mobile devices and data plans, preferences for activities in mobile learning, and an instructional design framework to encourage active participation and extensive language usage. From this, a set of design principles for effective mobile learning was created. The Mobile Learning Specialist at George Brown would like to collaborate with colleagues in other institutions on mobile learning developments.

Research and evaluation

Research is an essential component of all these innovations as post-secondary institutions ponder and test how these technological and software advances can best be used to serve learners.  They are often expensive and require technological and pedagogical sophistication to develop and implement. The educators want to be sure they are using them as tools for effective learning.

Thank you, Judith, and if anyone else would like to do a guest post of an innovation in online learning at their institution, please contact me at tony.bates@ubc.ca

Further reading

For more details on each application go to the following links:

Border Simulation – Student Learning in a Virtual World: Loyalist College

Simulations for Learning: Loyalist College

Carleton Virtual: Carleton University

A Simulation-Based Learning Tool for Students in the Veterinary Technician Diploma Program: Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning

Going mobile: Nipissing University

Mobile-assisted language learning: George Brown College

For more examples of innovation in online learning in Ontario, go to: Pockets of Innovation

 

 

Financial Times highlights online business degrees

Listen with webReader

from Wikipedia, 2012

Financial Times (2012) Online Learning, March 12

This special edition of the UK-based Financial Times has about a dozen articles about online learning in business schools.

The articles cover a range of the more prestigious business schools now offering blended or fully online programs.

It should be noted that this is a market where cost is a major factor – one school charges $89,000 in tuition fees for its online MBA. However, some prestigious schools also offer online programs in the $25,000 range.

It is interesting to note that in the FT’s ranking of 48 business schools offering online programs, Athabasca University’s executive MBA is the only Canadian school listed. There is also an interview with an Athabasca University student taking their executive MBA

The FT also compares the rankings of online programs within their overall rankings of business schools:

Of the 48 schools featured in this year’s FT Online MBA Listing, 12 have full-time programmes ranked in the world’s top 100 in the FT Global MBA Ranking 2012.’

On the technology side, there is an article on the use of iPads in business education, and also an interesting article on the use of mobile learning in business programs by Carina Paine Schofield: Business schools need to think beyond convention

All in all, this is a useful guide to students thinking of doing an online business degree, since it really doesn’t matter where you live, so long as you meet the institution’s admission requirements. However, be aware that there are many other good schools not mentioned in this edition.

It is also a useful resource for those trying to move their business schools into the 21st century: many of the more prestigious schools are already there. Show it to your Dean!

 

Can education afford the iPad?

Listen with webReader

 Extract: Click on the graphic to see the full graphic

Onlineteachingdegree.com has produced another interesting graphic comparing the costs of iPads to textbooks. It argues that textbooks are 41 per cent cheaper than iPads.

This is an interesting comparison, but it only makes sense if the iPad is seen merely as a replacement for the textbook, which it is not. It has many other features that could be used in a school, college or university. However, the overall point is a good one. iPads are too expensive at the moment for every student to have one.

Doing similar calculations though for a simple e-book reader such as the Kindle ($129 in Canada) or the Kobo Touch ($100) does bring the price down to a point where it would make sense to replace textbooks with e-readers – provided that the textbooks are available as e-books and at a reasonable price, which they are not yet. (But see Rice University develops free online textbooks)

Currently with e-books we are in a classic technology development phase, where the costs are too high for widespread take-up, and the necessary concomitant changes in an industry are not yet in place. However, several things will happen to change this.

  • First, the iPad or something like it (iPad 3? Android x?) will become cheaper and will have more functions, gradually replacing the use of laptops in most educational institutions; using multi-functional tablets for interactive, multimedia textbooks will become one application of many. Time horizon (for widespread adoption): 3-5 years
  • ‘specialized’ low-cost tablets will be compete with the iPad and other high-end tablets, and will provide an economical way to access e-textbooks. Time horizon: now for the hardware, but cheap e-textbooks are not currently available, so see below
  • new forms of open publishing will drive down the cost of textbooks, whether in print or electronic form, to the point where printed textbooks are really coffee-table books for specific purposes. Time horizon: 3 years. (In other words, we will go back to a pre-print age of just one copy in the library.)
  • eventually, textbooks as we know them (a single, comprehensive source for a whole course) will disappear altogether, to be replaced with modular collections of multi-media digital material that can be searched and combined at will by both teachers and learners. (These might even be called ‘open educational resources’.) Time horizon: 10 years. The problem is not the technology, which is available now, but the need for educators to understand the value proposition.

So we are not there yet, but e-textbooks are coming, probably within 3-5 years for general use. But they won’t be with us for long.

The Victoria, Australia website on iPads for Learning

Listen with webReader

iPads for Learning, Victoria, Australia

I am making two exceptions with this post. I don’t normally cover k-12 (too large an area and too different from post-secondary education), and I don’t normally steal Richard Elliott’s thunder, but this item is so good I had to comment on it.

Richard Elliott’s monthly e-Learning Watch is always chock full of links to interesting e-learning sites and his latest is no exception. In this edition he directs us to the Victoria Government’s iPads for Learning web site, which is terrific, for a number of reasons.

First it has listed some of the educational affordances of iPads, most of which would apply to post-secondary education as well as schools.

Second it has produced a very pragmatic online handbook for planning, preparing, implementing and evaluation programs using iPads

Third it has suggestions for specific uses in the classroom by teachers.

Fourth it has a one-stop shop for a whole range of educational apps for the school sector, including reviews (although this is one feature that does not transfer quite so well to post-secondary education).

Lastly, it’s an easy-to-navigate, well-designed web site. (I particularly liked the video on the Animalia iPad app – definitely on my Christmas present list for my grandkids. Some of their photos of kids using the iPad – such as the one at the head of this post – are also excellent)

Above all, it constantly focuses on what learners can do.

If you’re hesitating about using an iPad in your teaching go to this site – it will convince you. All you need is a little imagination to transfer this to a post-secondary education context.

 

$300 iPads will eat Notebooks: Gartner

Listen with webReader

Nagel, D. (2010) Media Tablet Growth to be driven by iPad Campus Technology, October 26

Gartner Consultants has updated its forecast for overall worldwide enterprise IT spending

“The all-in-one nature of media tablets will result in the cannibalization of other consumer electronics devices such as e-readers, gaming devices, and media players,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, in a written statement. “Mini notebooks will suffer from the strongest cannibalization threat as media tablet average selling prices (ASPs) drop below $300 over the next two years.”

An iPad for less than $300?! I told my wife to wait before buying one. Too late: $1,000 gone. That’s a really expensive way to read Jane Austen.

Lastly, remember you are getting this third hand (Gartner-Campus Technology-me-you). If your institution can afford the full report, click here