The Top 3 Affordances of Tablets in Higher Education

As we all know there is a rapidly growing prevalence of tablets (i.e. iPads, Android tablets and similar) among students in higher education and as a logical consequence the interest in the technology’s educational potentials and affordances is increasing. At this point the research on the technology’s affordances for learning is scarce and the understanding of mobile technologies for learning is equivocal, so the really good question is ‘what are the top educational potentials of tablets in higher education’? Fortunately searching Google Scholar and reviewing various case studies give us an idea. Though we only not know little of the actual magnitude of the impact of the technology in each case, reviewing the top hits draw special attention to these three clusters of affordances, which has the highest prevalence in the studies:

  • use of multimedia/interactive content and apps in teaching
  • mobility/flexibility in place
  • engaging, inclusive, and/or collaborative learning

So answering the posed question in one sentence the reply could be:

‘the predominant affordances of tablets are related to their ability to support engaging, inclusive, and/or collaborative learning, to provide flexibility in place, and to include multimedia and interactive content in teaching practice’


You can find the full details of the literature review and additional top affordances in my paper ‘Tablets for Learning in Higher Education: The Top 10 Affordances‘ (presented at E-learn 2013).


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Filed under Embracing Smartphones and Tablets, Enhancing Learning with Technology, Mobile Learning, Transforming Learning with Technology

Aphorism of being replaced

Sometimes a few lines say it all:

‘If some video lectures and resources can replace educators, then in all probability the educators deserve to be replaced, since they are not adding much to the educational experience of their students. Most educators do far more than this and can continue to do so online.’ (Weller, 2002, p. 30)

So; use the classroom or enhance your online learning.

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Flipping, clicking, MOOCing into 2013!

Just like Bono, we believe on this blog that technologies can help the world be a better place. Focusing on education is long-term planning for raising new generations of deciders. But it demands constant updating to the technologies that emerge and gain in popularity among students and teachers. Below are some of the pointers to where education is going in 2013.

FLIPPING | In the past two years, we’ve reported a few times on the ‘inverted or flipped classroom‘, which consists in having students watch lectures at home and solve problems or exercises during class. “If they’re going to have their iPods all the time, might as well put a lecture on it,” says High school Chemistry teacher Jennifer Goodnight in an interview for the US National Public Radio. The flipped classroom movement has taken off quite successfully, as it seems to “make helping students easier for everyone“— for the most part because shifting lectures outside class turns class time into help sessions.

At universities, Peer Instruction seems to be a suitable choice to flip classrooms. Julie Schell from the Peer Instruction Network just released a Quick Start Guide to Flipping your Classroom. You can also download the guide as a PDF. See illustration below for a handy visual rendering of the student and teacher roles in a classroom which has been flipped using peer instruction.

CLICKING | Of course Peer Instruction relies on effective ConcepTests or clicker questions. Stephanie Chasteen from the Science Education Initiative (SEI) in Boulder just shared again the extensive collection of clicker-related resources available on their website. Clicker questions may be readily available for you if you teach in a discipline that’s also in their course archive. For other clicker question collections you may want to check this list, also on the SEI site.

MOOCing | Massive Open Online Courses have been a tsunami in higher education since their first inception about a year or two ago. Having Ivy League US universities start offering online courses for free was just a revolution, as attested by the >100,000 people that would register for a single course!

MOOCs are the ‘next big thing’, although their place in education is not all clear yet. Will they destroy or merely supplement the traditional university system as we know it? Although it’s true that MOOCs right now are a wake-up call for most colleges in North America, what will their impact be on universities across the globe? Will universities flounder as MOOCs will be rising everywhere? Maybe some universities or departments will disappear, but most likely not all. After all, not everything can be learned online. However, it’s to be expected that MOOCs will not just serve as advertisement for on-campus courses, as proposed by Randy Riddle at Duke University. The thousands of students who sign up for online courses at Stanford don’t all want to go there, nor do they care about MOOCs or on-campus programs offered by smaller colleges or universities.

In any case, now’s probably a good time to start getting involved in teaching online courses. Start small, and start locally. See for example how you could teach only a module of one of your existing courses completely online. We (blog co-author M.G. and I) have been doing just that for a module on “Digital Learning Design” which is part of a professional training currently restricted to new recruits at our Faculty. The experience has been quite positive, so we are now proudly continuing and expanding into 2013!

Whether you will be flipping, clicking, MOOCing, or doing it all at the same time, we’d like to wish you a happy and successful new year 2013!

The World of Massive Open Online Courses
Presented By: Online Colleges

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Filed under Being a Pro with Clickers, Embracing Smartphones and Tablets, Enhancing Learning with Technology, Interaction in and out of the Classroom, Transforming Learning with Technology

The story about MOOCs

“I feel like there’s a red pill and a blue pill, and you can take the blue pill and go back to the classroom and lecture your 20 students. But I’ve taken the red pill. And I’ve seen wonderland.”–Sebastian Thrun, Founder of Udacity

The red pill refers here to launching massive open online courses (MOOCs) for which an email address is the only requirement for admission. Thrun actually gave up his tenure at Stanford to start Udacity, a provider of MOOCs in computer science, physics and mathematics so far. Other folks from Stanford teamed up to create Coursera, which offers courses in a larger variety of disciplines, including medicine, song writing and poetry.

These MOOCs have been immensely popular with millions of students from all over the world signing up just this year. In fact, last week the New York Times called 2012 the “Year of the MOOC“! Participants do not get credit quite yet from completing courses though, but because MOOCs have been such a tsunami in higher education, some form of recognition will eventually need to be given to those who pass courses. Giving out certificates will be challenging when identity cannot be easily controlled online (watch Sebastian Thrun as he discusses that point and more in a Charlie Rose interview from last April). In any case, it should be interesting to watch what will happen when all of a sudden 100,000 of people get credit from Stanford, Harvard or MIT every year!

Click the picture to go to Sebastian Thrun’s interview by Charlie Rose

One might think that online courses will not replace the more intimate and personalized experience at your favorite campus. It’s definitely a challenge for MOOCs, as any learning experience typically benefits from being personalized. That’s why for example MOOCs have not been taking off so much at Oxford or Cambridge in the UK. It’s quite difficult to transpose a 1,000 year old culture of teaching small groups in colleges onto an online free-for-all platform!

The vice-chancellor of one of the top British universities even said “You can download lot’s or Rolling Stones online. But there’s nothing quite like going to the concert”. For sure. But how often do you actually get to go to a Rolling Stones concert and what do you do the rest of the time? “I’m a research nurse”, posted a woman from Oklahoma, “I wanted to go to Stanford when I graduated high school, but stuff happened and that didn’t work out. Forty years later, here I am.”

Free opportunities for a top-class higher education for all, worldwide, 24/7. That’s what MOOCs are about. It’s the combination between the ‘M’ and the first ‘O’ that is the trick. And it’s just the beginning.

Understandably, most universities feel challenged by unfair competition — not everyone can afford professors of Stanford caliber. But after the buzz of MOOCs, comes the time to assess their effectiveness at improving quality teaching while reducing costs. Several public universities in Maryland have received $1.4 million from the Gates foundation to study just that. “Over the next 18 months, the University System of Maryland will serve as a test bed for various online or hybrid courses, including Coursera, edX, and possibly other MOOCs, in a variety of subject areas on different campuses,” wrote Debbie Robinson, a spokeswoman for the Gates Foundation, as quoted in a news post by Inside Higher Ed a few days ago.

Can’t wait 18 months to see what will come out of this! Meanwhile, think about doing your own experiment and trying out one of these MOOCs – always good to see for ourselves!

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What is 8 @ $1? The number of good reasons for capturing lectures and the cost for doing so

Though lecture capturing may not be the most innovative or student activating technology, recent studies of basic lecture capturing at Aarhus University indicate that several affordances can be realised – this even at a low cost. Three different science modules have now been using lecture capturing and each time the technology actualised additional educational affordances such as more flexibility, support for distance education, high student satisfaction, support for strategic learning, the use of multimedia learning materials etc. At least 7 affordances and no significant downsides could be identified while marginal costs per module per student in large-scale subjects were as little as approximately $1.

An example of good use of lecture capturing. The teacher makes a live demo of how to program. The students can subsequently view the explanation again in their own pace.

Further details can be found in my recent article ‘8 Good Reasons for Reconsidering Lecture Capturing (of which Cost-Effectiveness is One)’ which soon will be available in the AACE’s Ed/ITLib and presented at the Global Learn 2012 conference,  Nov. 6-8. Slides and the related discussion can be found here.

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