MOOCs – Promise and Opportunity

In case you don’t know by now, MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and they are causing an upheaval in higher education worldwide. We should be careful when describing something as a ‘game changer’ but perhaps this is one instance where it is appropriate and warranted. In essence MOOCs are online courses that are generally free of charge and delivered on a range of topics from prestigious universities and colleges. MOOCs are made available through various platforms or providers – the big providers are Coursera, EdX, Udacity and ClevrU. A clance through any of these sites will give you a sense of the range and quality of courses on offer. The numbers taking some of these courses are staggering – class sizes in the tens of thousands are not unusual. However, completion rates are modest enough with an average of about 20% – a good interactive source on completion rates is found here at Katy Jordan’s site. The big question is why a prestigious institution like Harvard, Stanford University and MIT would want to offer courses free-of-charge and risk destroying a valuable source of future revenue? The answer may lie in a new emphasis on the provision of quality Read More …

RoboBraille An Interesting Pedagogical Tool

  Some of my colleagues and I are participating in a European project as part of a transnational consortium looking at the uses of RoboBraille -an interesting tool/service that has emerged as an assistive technology for the blind.  www.robobraille.org As the name suggests RoboBraille began as a Braille conversion tool to enable simple text to be rendered in various forms of Braille. The technology has now been developed to provides conversion and translation between a wide range of formats: From .doc, .docx .htm, .html .xml .txt. .asc .rtf .pdf (all types) .epub, .mobi .tif, gif, .bmp .jpg, .j2k, .jp2, .jpx .pcx, .dcx .djv To: Braille, MP3, ebook (epub or mobi), Daisy, Accessible Formats Put simply, if you have a text file (say from a word processor like MS word) and you want to be able to listen to a very good synthesised voice reading this document then you simply submit your file on the web site above or by e-mail. You get back an MP3 or a Daisy (a format that allows text and speech to be played together). This is very useful for people who find reading difficult – the partially sighted, people with literacy difficulties and people with Read More …