got MOOC?

I confess…I am a MOOC dropout. In fact, on more than one occasion.

Now, you might be asking: MOOC? What’s a MOOC.

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. They typically have open registration and will have several thousand registrations at the outset. However, the dropout rate is very, very high…like above 90% of the registrants don’t complete the course. But, for the 10% that do, it is a great access to education.

A timeline of the history of the MOOC

HIstory of the MOOC

MOOCs have been around for about 4 years and have evolved into several types:

  • Connectivist MOOC (cMOOC) relies on the connectivist education theory which emphasizes the personal learning network for each participant and a collaborative structure to creating the learning experience.
  • Content MOOC (xMOOC) is a bit more “traditional” in its approach and are the types of MOOCs garnering a lot of the press right now. Examples of these include Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence  course or any of the MIT Open Course Ware options from back over 10 years ago.
  • A third type could be called the Task MOOC (tMOOC?) and it involves a set of tasks that the participant completes from prompts within the course. The students also then comment on and/or critique the other’s tasks. An example of this type of MOOC is the Digital Storytelling course from the University of Mary Washington known as ds106.

The overwhelming type of MOOC is the xMOOC approach and you can find courses from many consortia of universities in places like:

  • Coursera:  Courses from schools like Stanford, University of Michigan, Georgia Tech and more….Where I dropped out of the Human-Computer Interaction Course
  • EdX: Courses from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and Georgetown
  • Udacity: Offers courses for high school students and beyond


The challenges, in my mind, for MOOCs include:

  • increasing the completion rate, which will also increase the scalability of the course delivery both infrastructure as well as human resources needed
  • finding a revenue streaming to keep the model viable in today’s increasingly difficulty higher education budget world
  • determining how to keep academic integrity to allow for some form of credential to be awarded for successful completion, whether it is a badget, a certificate, college credit or some other – yet to be invented – type of recognition. The introduction of Signature Track within Coursera is a move in that direction as it will use photo ID and biometrics to identify a student taking the course before a certificate can be offered.


For a very thorough review of the rise of MOOCs, check out Sir John Daniel’s paper: Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility

FUSION 2012: responsive web design

Brandon and I presented at the FUSION 2012 Desire2Learn Users conference this week. Our presentation focused on creating responsive webpages using the Skeleton ( framework. If you haven’t heard the term “responsive web design” before, it’s all about creating webpages that looks great on a variety of different screen sizes. Notre Dame’s website is a great example of responsive design. Try accessing the site on your desktop computer and resizing the browser window. Notice how the content resizes and reflows to match the width of the browser window. You can find out more about our presentation by accessing the links below.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions!

Reinventing Mobile Media for Distance Education

image of cell phone on desktop of a computerAudrey presented at the Tennessee Alliance for Continuing Higher Education on November 10, 2011. Here are notes to support that talk.

Modern Mixtape: QR Code created by Kaywa linking to playlist in Spotify


Voice (beyond just phone to phone calling)


Video as Communication

Video as Content: Universal Design and Accessibility

Providing players with HTML 5 and Flash fall back (which YouTube and Vimeo provide)


  • dotSUB (for translations and subtitles – crowdsourced option)
  • 3Play (pay service for transcriptions and subtitle files)


Interactive and Location-based Media


Layer Demo Video:


Image: ‘Technology – “Future Vision”
Technology - "Future Vision"

Decisions, Decisions: D2L email

The feedback provided by students during the SpeakOut sessions last academic year included concerns with having two different email systems for communication. Along with upcoming changes announced within the D2L email configuration options for the newer versions being released this fall, ETS began to gather information and explore options for simplifying email for everyone. We presented some options during the Fall UnConference in August 2011.

Thumbnail of the presentation start screen

Watch the presentation.





Please feel free to give us feedback here in the comments. Thanks!

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QR + AR = ??

See that code to the right of this post? Yes, that funny black and white image. It’s called a QR code (QR = quick response)

If you have a mobile phone with a camera and a QR code reader (like Barcode Reader on an Android phone or QR Reader for iPhone or the Kaywa Reader for just about every other phone), then you take a picture of the code and the reader decodes the information that is embedded in the code.

Most QR codes take you to web sites that have additional information. However, some can also embed information like photos, documents and other media. We mentioned QR codes way back in 2007 as something to watch but they have been slow to pick up in the US. However, I am starting to see more and more codes in magazines and other media.

There is also AR (augmented reality). Augmented Reality also uses a camera on a phone or iPad 2 to view the world around you and then place additional information over the image so the reality is “augmented” with data. Some examples include:

The Layar Browser that can show you locations of stores, rental property, restrooms and more.

The Rayban Virtual Mirror let’s you see yourself in Ray-Ban sunglasses. Although, ahem, they need a Mac version of this as everybody cool wears Ray-Ban AND uses a Mac 🙂 You use Java and your webcam to “try on” various styles of Rayban sunglasses – and of course you can buy them right there as well!

Daqri is a new player on the market that mixes the QR code with Augmented Reality so you can have the interactive experience of AR with the ease of a QR code. Check out their demo reel:

I am in the beta for Daqri and will let you know how it goes during our experimentation. In fact, Brandon and I are thinking of using Daqri for our poster session at the upcoming FUSION 2011 D2L Users Conference. Could be a whole different take on handouts.

Do you think you can find ways to implement QR or AR in your teaching? Your everyday life? Have you? Let us know in the comments.

Embed Plus – a new way to embed YouTube videos

If you are a big user of embedding videos into your online class resources or blog for your students, you might want to check out EmbedPlus. This is a new site that allows you to add some custom features to your embed so you have options like:

  • Slow Motion
  • Movable Zoom
  • Instant Replay
  • Custom start point in a video (if you want to skip material at the start)
  • DVD like forward/backward with custom scene markers so students can jump to pre-set points)
  • Annotations (you can annotate videos on YouTube but this seems easier)
  • Access to comments on YouTube

Here is an example.

HyFlex: A new approach to course design

From the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), this newest entry in their “7 Things You Should Know About…” series was very interesting. While we have had hybrid courses at Pellissippi State for several years now, the concept of HyFlex is very new. HyFlex stands for “Hybrid and Flexible” course design. Developed by Dr. Brian Beatty at San Francisco State University, the main characteristics for a HyFlex course are:

  • a menu of assignments offered to students (some more tailored to online and some more tailored to in person)
  • students can choose between in-person or online and change delivery format each week or each unit
  • the final assessment is usually taken all together no matter how the rest of the class was presented

Dr. Beatty lists four pillars in HyFlex Design. These are:

  1. learner choice
  2. equivalency
  3. reusability
  4. accessibility

This kind of course design would help bridge the gap between both online and in-person classes and allow students to choose as their preferences, strengths and needs allow. It appears to be best suited for classes where students enter with a wider variety of ability and background.

Learn more about HyFlex here from EDUCAUSE or read more about HyFlex Course Design Theory

Top Tools for Learning: What are yours?

I participated in this in 2007 and 2008 and just realized that I missed the deadline for 2009, darn it.

But, the work of Jane Hart at the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies to create the Top 100 Tools for Learning is always very helpful and informative for both seeing trends in popularity and discovering unknown gems.

My 2009 list is:
1. Firefox – same reasons as before. Free.
2. Tweetdeck – I have finally “gotten” Twitter and my personal learning network is pretty much based there now. Free.
3. Delicious – I have to have my bookmarks and I have to have them anywhere, searchable, tagged and shareable. Free
4. Keynote – I have been speaking more in the past year than I have in a long time. So, I have gone back to presentation mode and Keynote does the job for me. Not free.
5. WordPress MU – We have it installed on campus and I am so tickled to see our blogging community growing bit by bit. Free!
6. MPEG Streamclip – handles most any video I throws its way and encodes, clips and more. Free!
7. Etherpad – I have been using it for collaborative work with faculty and ETS. I cannot believe it just got bought by Google but I have hope for the open source option.
8. Flip and Kodak Zx1/Zi8 cameras – these little web ready video cameras are great for creating quick content both for and by students
9. Google Video Chat – love it!
10. Vimeo – I like it better than YouTube because it has less ads, fewer crass comments and a nice privacy feature for sharing videos. For a while the encoding was better but I think YouTube has caught up with that.

Audrey J Williams’s Top Ten Tools (from 2007 and 2008)

The “EDUbrowser” – a vision


I have been thinking about this for several years now but some recent events have brought this to the forefront. The “camel meet straw” event was when our most recent course management upgrade was installed, it was extremely buggy with Internet Explorer 8, which had been installed on campus as a standard browser. Of course the CMS vendor was clear in their listing of supported browsers (and IE8 was not on that list). Still, we had to deal with MANY calls and frustrated users because they were trying to use their updated browser in our updated system and things just were not happy.

I see two major problems here:

  1. it is time-consuming and expensive to continually develop a product and test it against ALL browser flavors available now so the supported browser list stays “dated” for longer than end users want or need
  2. it is impossible to prevent end users from upgrading to the latest and greatest browser, (especially when Microsoft Software Update does the upgrade for the user)

So, I present the concept of the EDUbrowser.

It really is pretty simple. Take a browser engine like WebKit or Gecko and build your own browser around it. Using a plugin architecture (I know Gecko supports that – don’t know about WebKit), you can add features like HTML editing (like Xinha) , annotations (ala Scrapbook or Zotero), social networking options such as Flock has done and, perhaps, work with third party companies like Respondus to create optional secure browser features for online testing/quizzes much like Respondus LockDown Browser but within the EDUbrowser rather than using a totally separate product.

Add in some video editing capabilities (like Kaltura) and Audio Recording (such as the JetPack audio option from Mozilla labs) and student and faculty generated content and media becomes even easier.

And, of course, you can build a toolbar that “brands” your school so you can also provide access to support links, school event information and more. Something like Conduit would do the trick

Plus, if the LMS vendors take the EDUbrowser and test it against their products, then it can be come the ONLY supported browser greatly simplifying their QA testing and verification as well as the local school’s own technical support.

Thus, you simply tell faculty and students that they must use the EDUbrowser. Our experience with the RLDB has been that students are fine with downloading and installing something they need for class, so I don’t think asking them to use this particular browser will be an issue (except for those who are attending class at work and cannot install something on their computers there – I can see that being an issue).

What else does it take to get the EDUbrowser out in the wild? What else would you add to it?

Photo remixed from:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by kate e. did

Here is a Ignite-style talk I gave on the Edubrowser at the D2L FUSION Unconference in July 2010

Shift Happens (version 4.0)

We blogged about the 2.0 version of this video WAY back in the golden ages of 2007. And, apparently totally missed the 3.0 version!  But, served up this week is version 4.0 of “Did You Know?” or as it is also sometimes called “Shift Happens”. It is now in widescreen format, has a great pop culture surprise reference and is now almost half the length and, as always, remains well worth watching.

[kml_flashembed movie=”″ width=”425″ height=”350″ wmode=”transparent” /]

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