Tuesday, 30 October 2012

LMS Popular Tools

Found an interesting infographic on learning management systems in today’s market – the most popular options measured by a combination of their total number of customers,  active users and online presence.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Get Your Education For Free: Top 5 Open Learning Platforms

Say you have a full-time job, or a part-time one or are a home maker looking to learn new things to begin a career. Do you feel the need to step up your knowledge? With the vast internet resources, it probably gets easy to do that. But when it comes to getting the job that is just right for you, you might need to streamline what you really want to learn and showcase that on your profile. There are a number of online learning courses that you can take up but most of them will probably come with a cost. You might just end up spending a lot of your time and money in just figuring out what is the best way to educate yourself. With the vast internet resources available online, there is more than one opportunity that you can have to widen your understanding and increase your knowledge base. Let’s take a look at a few online free virtual schools that you can use to your benefit.

We all are familiar with TEDx.com but very recently TED has diversified into using engaging videos on TED-Ed to create customized lessons. You can use, tweak, or completely redo any lesson featured on TED-Ed, or even create lessons. They have an interesting section called flip – where you the teacher can flip his/her own lesson to add more to the existing content and customize it for the class. Ted Ed has about a total of 131 videos and 9468 flips. Each lesson on TED Ed.com is recorded by an actual educator and an animator. Know more about TED Ed by watching this video.

With a library of over 3000 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and hundreds of skills to practice, Khan Academy offers you short and captivating videos in varied subjects to increase your understanding.  Before you can begin focused study on your major, you must first complete your general education—introductory maths, modern civics, and some general sciences. The Khan Academy offers these fundamental courses—Algebra, Macroeconomics, Chemistry—as well as more advanced fare, like Cryptography, Cosmology, and Finance. The site even features educational resources that will get you into a real degree program with lessons on how to ace the SAT, GMAT, and California Standards Test.

Open Culture provides the tangential cultural experience to transform you into a well-rounded academic. Links here lead you to 500 free courses in Literature and Philosophy, alongside Hitchcock movies and film noir.

The NROC is an online database of coursework, contributed by leading US academic institutions, with a strong focus on the most fundamental building blocks of a higher education—that is, all the stuff you forgot from high school. Algebra 1, College Prep Physics, and a litany of AP courses are all available for free, as well as general education subjects like Non-Majors Biology, Introductory Calculus I, and Statistics for Social Sciences. While you won't find video lectures here, NROC offers complete and extensive courses including notes and homework.

Math may get all the glory for being the "universal language," but its melodious derivative is a close second. Music theory, a staple of the liberal arts education, explores the mechanical underpinnings of music itself. Teoria offers a bevy of online tutorials, exercises, and analysis of both modern and classical composition for anyone willing to listen.
However, it is important to keep in mind that none of this work will get you an actual college degree, which, in some job interviews, is still valued as a genuine credential.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Blended Learning in Distance Education

I came across this wonderful blog that speaks about the beauty of blended learning and its advantages. Many distance learning institutes offering weekend classes are resorting to this model of education.
Read full article by Michael Spencer below:

Let’s start with a definition. What exactly is blended learning? Here’s a great, generally useful definition found on the City Prep Academies website that clarifies the term: “[Blended learning] integrates face-to-face classroom time with online learning (facilitated at all times by a classroom teacher), combining the effectiveness and socialization of the classroom with technology-enhanced online materials.”
What makes blended learning especially appealing is that it provides students with courses that wouldn’t otherwise be available; teachers get near-instant student assessments and the opportunity to provide their students with individualized instruction. It gets students up to speed and on track, challenging talented students and engaging individual learners in differentiated instruction. What’s more, the technology component inherent in a blended learning environment isn’t merely an attractive distraction, but an integral approach to acquiring knowledge and engaging in curriculum that’s simply second-nature for today’s 21st-century learner.
Now, with some general idea of what blended learning means—essentially a blend of the best of in-classroom and online, technology-enhanced learning—let’s look at several different specific areas of rapid change in education and see what they add to the mix.

1. SaaS, or “School as a Service”. Yes, normally this acronym means Software as a Service. But apply it to schools and some of the key elements include: an engaging media library of learning objects and experiences, instant feedback from lots of content-embedded assessment, enhanced student profiles, customized learning experiences driven by “smart recommendation engines” and online student support services tailored to individual student needs. School as a service? Sounds like a great mindset and model and it certainly only adds to improving our schools by ensuring student-centric learning.

2. Apps. There are literally thousands of educational apps for the iPod, iPhone and iPad available on the Apple site. Some states are launching digital curriculum aligned to history textbooks. Students can use apps to learn about the National Gallery in London, they can watch and learn with mini-movies from BrainPOP apps, do battle with an app called Multiplication, use Netter’s Anatomy Flash Cards, or even improve on their important test terms with the SAT Vocab Challenge. With apps perfectly suited for bite-sized, handheld learning experiences that connect students to the real world, we’ll begin to see what digitized textbooks, and digitized learning really means for students.

3. Edmodo. This learning platform feels a little like—and could easily be positioned in one’s mind as—the Facebook of Education, with some Twitter elements thrown in. Brilliant, and probably why Edmodo is growing at a phenomenal rate: in the 2009-2010 school year, Edmodo experienced 10X growth to outpace all other players in its category. With several thousand sign-ups per week, the company projects they’ll hit the 1 millionth-user mark by December 2010. That’s 499 million to go and not bad for an education-specific platform directed mainly at students and teachers.

4. Credit Recovery. Using online learning to assist at-risk students to recover missing or flunked credits that would otherwise impede them from graduating with their cohorts is a great idea, and there are several companies that have not missed targeting this segment. The main concern here is rigor. Do the online courses have the rigor offered by something on the order of a small-class sized, intense summer seminar at a well-regarded university? Or are they a diploma-mill style money machine for capitalizing vultures? The truth lies closer to a positive outcome when students and schools use known or trusted entities that show results.

5. City Prep Models. City Prep Academies is a blended learning service provider to schools and districts. You might think of it as a hands-on consulting firm to “21st-century-ize” a school district, they offer help with education management, operations human resources, budgeting and finance, compliance and accountability. As other education consulting firms assist in developing next generation secondary schools, more in-class and online learning blends will follow.

6. Content Going Mobile and 1 to 1. An interesting trend: content companies such as Discovery Education are increasingly branching out into the mobile learning arena, creating apps that take direct advantage of the mobility of cell phones, tablets and other mobile devices. For example, the U.S. Geography by Discovery Education app is designed for middle and high school students. With videos, interactive games, a global competition and sharing, users can explore various regions of the country and learn about different aspects such as bodies of water, cultures and major cities. But think about it: this is 1-to-1 learning at its best. The learning goes to the student, the learning is personalized, the learning is tailored to what the student wants to know and where that student wants to click. All of this can be tracked and assessed.

7. Deeper Learning. Are we really dumbing down our kids with video games and increased Internet time? Student can drill down on a subject and come out an expert; a mom can educate herself and know more than her child’s doctor might know, a teacher can present the world to his students—quite literally.
If we’re excited and responsible in how we use technology for learning—then, like never before—the future of education is ours to create. And with blended learning helping to individualize a student’s learning experience, it all makes sense.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

eLearning and Learning Management Systems

The term "electronic learning" or more commonly called "eLearning" is used often but it is important to understand its true meaning. The term refers to learning anytime, anywhere beyond the barriers of time and distance. In today's world, where jobs need to be done while budgets are limited, eLearning is a progressive solution to the use of technology for training, or for delivery of just-in-time information, or for guidance from experts.

People have different learning styles and have different learning needs. The VAK theory looks at three broad learning styles:
1. Visual Learners - who learn through seeing
2. Auditory Learners - who learn through listening
3. Kinaesthetic/Tactile Learners - who learn through hands-on doing and touching
(Take a quick learning style test here)

It sometimes gets hard to purvey these learning styles in a traditional classroom setup. The main essence of eLearning lies in its delivery and content. eLearning can suffer from some pitfalls such as boring slides, minimal interaction between student and teacher and monotonous speech. However, the beauty of an effective creative learning management system is the creation of learning environments that are conducive to learning styles as well as makes for a fun learning experience!

eLearning could be web-based training (WBT), CD based training (CBT), internet based or intranet based. It can include features such as audio, instant messaging, email, animation, video, app sharing, shared whiteboard etc. All this could be done through building virtual environments to enhance social interaction. Due to the limitations of face-to-face interaction between the learner and the teacher, it is critical to keep the learner engaged. Imagine a virtual guide or a mentor who works as a partner to take the learner along their online journey. It works as a great tool for keeping the learner's attention and also gives the learner the feeling that s/he is not alone in his/her learning journey. This is exactly what Data-Core's proposition is - to be able to deliver a perfect blend of technology and creative LMS.

Out of the various Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) platforms (e.g. Moodle, Sakai, Blackboard etc.) a good LMS will work as a software application for administering, documenting, tracking, reporting and delivering education content either through self-service or self-guided services. Learning Management solutions must be tailor-made based on the business and training needs of an organization. Learn more about a complete LMS practice adopted by Data-Core Systems Inc.