Boundless Learning

At my current workplace I have been managing the IT/S for nearly years and the recent six to eight months have been the most challenging as IT within education has been evolving into many different areas as institutions within the UK attempt to secure new revenue streams and secure their future. Some of the market factors have been the changes to immigration law which has restricted the amount of international students allowed into the UK, the economic down turn which has intensified the international market and the increase in tuition fees.

Universities are toying with ideas such as MooCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as a way to generate interest and ultimately revenue an example of this would be Edx which is a joint venture from the big US technical universities; Harvard, Berkeley and MIT. Another route which some universities are employing is the international franchise route which is effectively selling courses and modules to partnering institutions around the world. In this model the university would sell a teaching package to another institution and then validate the course and then award the student with a qualification upon completion. The final route which is currently popular in London, is the setting up of a campus in order to widen catchment area, at present in London you can attend, Liverpool University, Coventry University, University of Sunderland or Glasgow Caledonian.

The IT strategy that I developed is called Boundless Learning which is essentially positioning the university so that it is able to exploit these possibilities and to enable teaching and learning to happen in an environment that suits the learning and supports the teacher. Some of the key traits of a Boundless Learning environment would be the accessibility of the content. The content in a bondless learning environment would be available on any device in any form (this does include paper) so the learner can watch a video, view an article participate in a class in any location. Another feature would be an agnostic BYOD ethos that ensures no device is discriminated from the learning experience.

As an organisation we are looking at how we can fully realise this environment as it would enable us to market and sell our product internationally and prepare us for any major shifts in the educational market.

As we implement and realise the tactical steps I have laid out in my original Boundless Learning strategy I will post up the process so we can see how it evolves over time.

Thanks for reading

Abraham Glover

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Smart Sympodium ID350

Just a relatively short post reviewing the use of the Sympodium ID350 for teaching and learning. We have been using these interactive screens for the past two years and they are relatively solid with Hardware that is fairly timeless. However the ID350 is no longer supported officially by Smart and Smart say the product does not support Windows 7.

With the above mentioned don’t think you have to throw out your Sympodiums as they do work with Windows 7 (and with Windows *8 – tested on the release preview version). The only advice I would add is that you may need to buy need pens as these seem to have a life span of about two years with or without use. When we upgraded to Windows 7 we have a lot of Symoodiums acting erratically when the pens came within 5cms of the screen. We tried many different options with the software and drivers and we were even going to try and make our own drivers until we shelled out the ~£100 for a replacement pen.

Going forward I believe the Sympodium offers a better solution to interactive whiteboards as it doesn’t required it to locked-down to a single location and cost is favourable compared to the larger options. In the planned expansion of our campus we would install more of these devices not only in teaching and learning areas but also in meeting and collaboration spaces.

Yammer

On the 26th of Feb 2013 I attended the annual Yammer road show in London and got a really insight into how businesses and enterprises are using this idea of an ‘Enterprise Social Network’ to work as a tool to aid communication and support the need to retain business knowledge. Yammer gives you all the usual social network tools as you would find with a service like Facebook but with the added angle of it being under your business control.

Yammer has been recently acquired by Microsoft and as you can imagine it is being integrated with the Office suite. I do believe that there is a lot of cross over with SharePoint (especially the 2013 version) and with other tools that mot businesses currently have in place. However with this in mind there is a place for a tool like this in business and there a lot developments which provide Yammer with immense functionality when its combined with Office365. One aspect that was demonstrated was using the Office365 web apps to create office documents in Yammer and automatically translate them depending on specific user settings, the integration with SharePoint 2013 also means that documents can be organised and stored within SharePoint.

At present Yammer offers a range of mobile apps and a cloud based license that gives a scalable service. You can create communities that cover your entire organisation and you are also able to invite external customers and colleagues to join specific communities (a function which I am a great fan of).

Yammer can offer a lot and it is a quickly maturing platform, I can’t recommend that every organisation should go out and purchase a license but I wold definitely say try the free trial and see how it can benefit your business. It may be of use and a valuable alternative to some of the more mundane knowledge management solutions.