I saw a really well constructed Request for Proposal this week. It was about 10 pages long and listed a set of business requirements and a set of technical requirements for an LMS, without being overly prescriptive about the specifics of how the system should operate. I work on responses to a lot of these and was nice to see one that was so well written.
It got me thinking about how difficult it is to create a good requirements list. Every so often at Epic we see Requests for Proposals that include almightly Excel spreadsheets listing sometimes hundreds of requirements that vendors must meet, usually to be marked as either a) as standard, b) with configuration, c) with development or d) not at all.
These monster spreadsheets are hugely problematic, not just for the agencies that answer them but for the clients who distribute them too. For the agency, it’s a fairly simple calculation as to whether the cost of the effort involved in filling it in is worth the value of the final contract. But for the customer, the problems may be less obvious.
So, it’s been nearly six months since my last blog post and it’s no coincidence that this post announces the impending arrival of my book! What little time has been left over from work and family life over much of past year has been spent hunched over a laptop late at night and taking numerous Moodle screenshots on my phone and tablet, all in aid of an upcoming Packt Publishing book, Moodle for Mobile Learning.
It’s a huge relief to get to the point where I can announce the book, not least because now that it is complete, I can finally move on! There is so much stuff I’ve been waiting to start, not to mention ideas for blog posts to write, that has been put on hold for 10 months. Having never done this book malarkey before, I had no idea what to expect of the process. The original schedule went out the window and there were points when I couldn’t even look at the thing, not to mention a soul destroying realisation that a complete restructure of the book was needed as I neared the end of the first draft. But then in June the reviewers’ feedback started to filter through and their positive comments lifted my spirits, which made the chapter revision process much more enjoyable. To top off the endless fun and games, Moodle 2.5 was released with lots of user interface changes which required me to retake hundreds of screenshots! So it’s been quite a journey, but one which has given me a much deeper understanding of Moodle as a whole, especially some features that I was previously less familiar with, and I am already benefiting greatly from that in my work.
Moodle 2.5 will be released in May 2013. Since the 2.x series was introduced we have seen lots of incremental improvements but not much in the way of major new features for end users. Moodle 2.5 changes all that and has a number of major feature changes including a couple of real treats.
Open Badges. First up we have Open Badges. In March 2013 the Open Badges Initiative (OBI) standard was formally launched, and Moodle 2.5 becomes the first LMS to support this standard. Many folks will need a bit of background at this point. Put simply, open badges allow learners to represent, verify and communicate their skills, interests and achievements. They do this in a far more meaningful way than a simple certificate and in a more verifiable way than a statement on a CV. Any learning event could have a badge associated with it and issued by the learning provider, be they a school, college, employer, online training provider or face to face training provider.
Open Badges can be used in a number of ways:
- to communicate achievements to potential employers
- to motivate and engage online learners as they progress through courses
- to ‘level up’ within a course or learning path
- to gain acknowledgment and build reputation within online communities.
Importantly, a learner can earn badges from multiple learning providers (badge ‘issuers’), pull them into a single collection in an online repository (their ‘badge backpack’), and share their badges out with various audiences (badge ‘displayers’ or ‘consumers’). Badges may contain information including issuer, issue date, criteria, evidence or artifact, endorsements, and expiration.
Hopefully that background has stimulated your online learning taste buds! Moodle 2.5 essentially works as a ‘badge issuer’ whereby badges can be allocated for course completion or for activity completion within courses, such as an end-of-unit assessment. While there have been Badges plugins for Moodle previously, including one that is fully compliant with the Open Badges standard, it is great to have this included in core Moodle. We look forward to lots of interesting implementations of this new feature.
I have been collecting together examples the past few weeks of when higher education institutions started rolling out these ‘iPads for every student’ programs. While the world read those attention grabbing headlines, a larger number of institutions have been sliently spending vastly more money, but with much less exposure, on supporting Bring Your Own Device strategies and building out wireless networks across their campuses to support this. These huge investments in mobile learning technologies in higher education - for both free devices and BYOD – appears to have really started gaining momentum from 2008 onwards.
By coincidence I did a Google Scholar search on “mobile learning” last night. Google Scholar indexes scholarly literature including journal and conference papers, theses and dissertations, academic books, pre-prints, abstracts and technical reports. I decided to conduct a year-by-year search from 2000 through to 2012 using the Advanced Search tools, and stuck the data into Excel so that I could chart it. The resulting line chart reveals the rise of mobile learning research from just over a hundred articles published in 2000 to over 6,000 published in 2012. That’s not cumulative, that’s 6,000 in a year! You can clearly see how mobile learning research really takes off in the second half of the decade, coinciding perfectly with the first wave of institutional spending in mobile technology.
Image: Google Scholar results for “mobile learning” by year
Now, would anyone like to read 6,000 research papers? That’d be a lifetime’s work for someone…
So, here I am on the Learning Analytics and Knowledge MOOC again, or LAK13 to use its abbreviated name. It is one full year since I aborted LAK12 and 18 months since I aborted the famed Stanford AI MOOC. Determined not be a perennial MOOC dropout I have decided to have another crack of the whip. Not that being a MOOC dropout is necessarily a bad thing, at least not in my book although the MOOC bashers will no doubt beg to differ. People will enter into open courses for many reasons and the success of a MOOC shouldn’t be determined by the number of finishers. I gained a lot from LAK12 in the limited time I was on it and it gave me a great primer on learning analytics which has been really useful in my work over the past year.
During the two days I spent at MoodleMoot Dublin last week, I had an overwhelming sense of information overload which made it all but impossible to blog during the conference. However it was clear at the time that a number of key themes were emerging from presentations and discussions: responsive design and usability, learning analytics, application performance, and Moodle’s place in the fast changing world of higher and further education. Now that I’ve had a few days to reflect on things, I have been able to start to make some sense of it all.
Moodle’s place in the changing world of education
This was one of the big questions for the conference and there were three key sessions where this was dealt with: ‘The Future of Online Learning’ panel session on day one, the Martin Dougiamas ‘Future’ keynote on day two and the ‘Education in a Global Context’ panel session also on day two.
So, the dust has settled from Learning Technologies 2013. What a completely manic two days! I’m not sure how many years I’ve been doing this but it seems like a lot, and I never tire of it. I was looking forward to it for weeks and it didn’t fail to deliver. There were a number of highlights for me.
I did a presentation in one of the exhibition theatres on Tuesday: “What does your next LMS look like?” It was the first time I have presented at LT despite many years of attendance and the theatre was absolutely rammed which was great.
Image: My “What does your next LMS look like?” session on Tuesday morning
Moodle has a new official HTML5 app due out in the coming months. it looks like it will do some pretty interesting stuff including:
- select or capture an image, audio recording or video from your mobile device and upload them into Moodle
- view their fellow course participants and associated contact information
- use Moodle messaging if it is enabled
- access to push notifications
While we wait for that though, here is a roundup of what’s already available in the App Stores.
It’s that time of year when all the movers and shakers attempt to predict what will be big in 2013. Well there are no such predictions here. However, they do say you can predict the future by learning lessons from the past, so I’m going look back over the past year instead and ask: what was crap about 2012? (I should reiterate that these views are, of course, entirely my own…) Continue reading
This article is part of a series of blog posts reviewing academic studies into open source software quality.
Exploring the Effects of Process Characteristics on Product Quality in Open Source Software Development, Koch and Neumann, 2008
Koch and Neumann from Vienna University published this paper in 2008. It built on prior published research into open source development processes and was a landmark study in terms of scale, extracting metrics from over 2 million lines of code. Prior published research in this area analysed data from code repositories and bug trackers, however Koch and Neumann were concerned that the resulting metrics focused too much on product rather than process. Their study would review both product AND process, with the particular aim of assessing the impact of software processes on product quality.