Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Creating E-Resources, Trainers Doing it for Themselves

An increasing number of work based learning providers are moving towards installing learning platforms or environments that now make electronic learning materials available to their learners. Consequently, delivery staff are also being encouraged to also make their resources suitable for this medium, but as Wikipedia notes... “..the vast majority of teachers do not have the technical skills to build their own web pages, and must therefore rely on the availability of web developers to generate professional looking online content.”

I'd suggest that was true in a lot of cases, but Ive been recently pleased to see that with exe, a free content creation tool, many delivery staff now can and are, doing it for themseves.

Exe is an e-learning editor (or content creation tool) that can be used to create web-based learning and teaching materials without the need to know html or to use web-publishing applications.

Curious to know more? Here are a few links to get you started.

* Watch a very brief you tube video introduction to what eXe is all about.
* Download the software form the exe learning site where you’ll also find links to support forums etc.
* Take a look at RSC North Wests e-book that explains how to use exe which you can access in their online e-library. (Thanks to John Dalziel for that)
* Visit Exe’s Wikipedia page for online tutorials, and hints and tips to show you how to use the software.
* The free E-Guides programme includes a workshop that will show you staff how to access and use exe.
* RSC West Midlands is scheduling a content creation workshop that will cover using exe (as well as other open source tools). Keep an eye on our events page for details.
* Any other questions, feel free to get in touch (or use the comments below).

Next Generation Learning Campaign

This month, Becta (the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency), has launched a new national campaign about putting technology at the heart of learning. The Campaign, Next Generation Learning is about using technology well to make learning a more exciting, rewarding and successful experience for people of all ages and abilities.

The campaign is supported by a website which has three main topic areas focussing on:

Better results - Creating an education and training system that uses technology better to improve performance.

Better ways to learn - How technology can change the way you learn; giving you more control over what, when, where and how you do it.

Better for business - Ideas for improving your organisation by making better use of technology.

The site has checklists for learners, practitioners and businesses, which provide helpful hints on how to utilise technology. You’ll also find advice, tips and resources to help you get the most out of technology.

Via Ferl

Friday, 25 January 2008

E-Guides National Event 2008

The National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) are holding their third E-Guides National Event 2008 on 13 March in Manchester. This year's programme is jam-packed with speakers who will bring you up-to-date on key themes and issues in e-learning, and workshops that offer hands-on opportunities to improve your skills in this area.

I'm spoilt for choice as the workshop programme has a choice of over 30 titles this year, including:

Quality and inspection: what role ICT and e-learning?
E-portfolios – explored
Developing active learning strategies in e-learning
Make your photos tell a story for assessment
Mobile learning in action: Lessons from the MoLeNET project
Working with Windows Moviemaker
Mobile learning: The impact of mobility on learning, learners, society
Using electronic voting systems
Online learning skills
ICT Skills for Life

I’ll almost certainly attend as will Work Based Learning Advisers from our other RSC regions. As was noted in previous years, it’s a fantastic opportunity to get tips, ideas and to see real life examples of what e-learning has to offer.

You can watch a short video clip to see what last year’s attendees said about the 2007 event here.
Full details of this year’s programme and booking information etc can be found on

It's worth noting there is also an additional discounted fee for E-Guides, or those who are booked to attend the three-day training programme in the future. So if you've not already booked your place on e-guides, now might be the time to do that, particularly as there are currently capital grants available for early birds that do.

Hope to see you in Manchester!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Free and Freeware Software

Marcus P Zillman points to the Best Free and Freeware Software for Windows, a very nice listing of free and freeware software that can be operated on Windows (and are useful both at home and at work). It has tools listed under several categories including:

Office tools
– including Open Office , a suite of free applications designed to mirror the tools available in Microsoft Office
– including music players, media players, sound recording and editing software
Security and Privacy Protection
– antivirus and spy ware detection software
Graphic / Desktop publishing tools
- free image and photo editing software
- web browsers and Internet suites

I like this listing – it’s clean and easy to follow and includes many of the popular free software options with links directly to pages where you can download them. It also shows just how much great software is becoming available to use in this way.

I’ve also mentioned previously why alternatives to costly proprietary software are important to the WBL sector – if you missed that and want to know more you can access that post here.

Via Marcus Zillman

Recognising Learner Acheivements - Adult Learners Awards

Do you know someone whose remarkable learning achievements deserve recognition? Then it’s not too late to nominate them for an Adult Learners' Week Award. Making a nomination is very easy and can be done online, but you’ll need to act quickly as the closing date for nominations is 25 January 2008.

EVERYONE nominated will receive a Certificate of Achievement, with the winners being invited to an awards ceremony to also receive a learning voucher.

I’ve seen the walls of thank you cards in our local training centres so why not give one of your learners that extra bit of recognition too? To learners who have overcome the odds to get back into training or education, those little things make a really big difference.

It’s great to see our region promoting our learners achievements too. (Us Midlander’s are keen on learning after all!)

Details of how to nominate can be found in this previous post.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Get Chips Online?

Yes, you can now get ‘Chips with Everything’ online.

Chips with Everything is a newsletter produced by the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) with support from the LSC. Its aim is to ensure that staff working within learning providers are aware of the benefits of e-learning and it includes case studies, articles and useful tips that support this, which is great. What's even better is the fact that you can now access copies of the complete publication and its supplements online, making it even easier to discover ways that e-learning is being used.

Currently hard copies of the publication are also distributed free to over 11,000 readers in work based learning organisations and other adult learning providers. If you would like to receive your own print copies of Chips with Everything, simply complete this form. NIACE will then mail you the next and all future editions of the newsletter ensuring you are notified of developments in this area.

Photograph courtesy of John Muir

Mobile Learning in the Work Based Learning Sector

I’ve recently promised several people links to mobile learning related sites so thought I’d post them here so that everyone can share.

The NIACE Mobile Technology website offers lots of practical suggestions and examples of how and why handheld devices can be used in teaching and learning in the sector. It includes sections that cover:

What to look for when buying the devices, with reviews and suggestions
FAQs and issues that organisations experience
Technical Tips, troubleshooting, software and hardware solutions
Guidelines for using the technology accessibly
The Future and the changing world of handheld devices
An a-z glossary of mobile technology terms

I posted a free online Mobile Learning guide here on Wobble back in November. This guide is aimed at people in the learning and training community who are keen to learn more about the potential applications and practicalities of mobile learning in their organisations.

The m-Learning and Accessibility section of the TechDis website explores the accessibility issues around mobile devices, focusing on Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and mobile phones.

Using PDAs with learners focuses on work being carried out by Dewsbury College in West Yorkshire into the use of PDAs in Outreach Centres. There, a childcare tutor is using PDAs in her delivery of NVQ Level 3 Early Years Care and Education.

ACLearn’s Resource Exchange has a useful page on Mobile Learning which addresses the question - why use mobile devices for learning and then also goes on to outline some of the issues.

The LSDA report Mobile technologies and learning (pdf format) presents some exciting ideas on how mobile technologies, such as smartphones and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), can be useful learning aids - particularly with young people. It noted that “The learners were mostly enthusiastic about mobile learning and 62% reported that they felt more keen to take part in future learning after trying mobile learning”. It also suggests that mobile learning can make a useful contribution to attracting young people to learning, maintaining their interest and supporting their learning and development.

Finally, on the subject of mobile learning its worth noting that right now, there are 32 project teams across the country involved in Mobile Learning Projects supported by the MoleNet initiative. These will no doubt result in a lot more material being available to support developments in the mobile learning area.

There are also plans to extend the MoleNet work into a Wider MoLeNET community . This will extend access to the MoLeNET on-line networking and knowledge sharing system to enable more people with an interest in mobile learning to benefit. This wider network will also offer face-to-face events which project teams and members of the wider community can join. Watch this space to learn more about that as it is rolled out.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Converting from PowerPoint

Ever wanted to reduce the size of those massive PowerPoint files to upload to the web, make them more accessible or just to run more smoothly? Our HE Adviser Kevin Brace does and he’s also discovered and kindly outlined a few ways to do this easily and for free.

For learning providers using PowerPoint, these tips are worth noting because –

You still can’t guarantee that everyone has MS office
By converting to PDF your make documents available to a wider audience
Readers can use the PDF aloud option to read out presentations

In the post Kevin also notes how you can use Impress (a free PowerPoint type application) to easily export files to Flash format (.swf) or to convert to portable document format (.pdf)

Now there’s another good reason to try out a free software option that also offers you that little bit more.

Thanks Kevin!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Work-Based Learning Online Toolkit

The Centre for Excellence’s Work Based Learning Online toolkit (as mentioned in a previous post) is an online resource tailored specifically to the needs of WBL providers. It provides work based learning leaders and managers with learning opportunities in nine interactive topics that cover the core business areas crucial to improving organisational effectiveness.

Further to the success of earlier versions, a new toolkit has now been developed and will be launched on the following dates:

30th April – Manchester
13th May – London

These events are free and they offer a good opportunity to explore some of the issues associated with introducing e-learning into your organisation. For further information or to register your interest in the free workshops please contact or phone 0870 060 3278.

Electronic Post it Notes

I was asked recently to share details of a post it note type tool that I had used in a training session. I'd used it a way of quickly electronically capturing feedback from attendees that were sat in front of computers at the time (could be used by learners in the same way). Attendees simply noted their thoughts as 'post-it' type notes on a webpage. These were then collated automatically and appeared on the web-based workspace that was visible on the projector at the front. Sound complicated? It wasn’t.

Using this free tool also had the benefit of:
  • Allowing the attendees to note their comments anonymously.

  • It made the feedback instantaneous.

  • And fairly importantly, it meant I didn’t have to type anything up later. Great.

It's also one of those tools you also don’t have to sign up for – you can just use it when the need arises.

So to the detail - it was called Webnote and its free and its available here. I won’t go into any more detail here simply because I've already wrote about this previously - if you’re interested you can read about it on a previous blog post here. If you just want to have a quick glance at how it looks and/or try it for yourself though, I’ve also set up a demo workspace for you to play with here. Basically just choose a new note using the button on top left and away you go...!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Capital grants for LSC funded providers

The LSC is making capital funds available to providers whose staff attend various e-learning programmes that are being delivered under the QIA National Teaching and Learning Change Programme (NTLCP). These programmes include NIACE E-Guides, CEL’s e-learning programmes and the LSN Subject Learning Coaches’ e-learning elective.

Many of these programmes have already proved to be very popular in the region so it’s great to see that additional funding is now being made available to support them. It can help providers to be able to purchase the technology which allows their staff to fully realise the skills they have gained on the programmes.

Providers will be able to claim £2,500 of funding to buy ILT equipment and up to three participants per provider can attend each of the programmes. Providers can therefore, claim up to £7,500 from LSN, £7,500 from NIACE, and £7,500 from CEL – totalling a maximum of £22,500 per provider (which in e-learning terms can buy a lot of kit!)

The grant is available for staff attending programmes running from September 2007 to July 2008. As you can imagine, places on the programmes are limited, so if you’re interested in benefiting from this round of funding I’d suggest you book as soon as you can. You can do this for each of the programmes using the links below:

Dates and a booking form for the E-Guides training programme are here.
Further information about CEL’s training programme is here
For further information about Subject Learning Coaches e-elective is here.

It’s worth noting that most programmes also have an email waiting list facility for people to register interest so please get in touch if there is a programme you wish to be considered for that is noted on the website as full. New dates are being considered for some of the programmes to accommodate demand.

Microsoft Vista and Office 2007 (Becta Report)

Becta, the education technology agency, has published a key report on Microsoft Vista and Office 2007 which analyses its suitability for adoption by learning providers, recommending that IT departments review the findings of the report before considering any large-scale investment in these software packages. (The report is aimed predominantly at schools and further education but the same issues affect Work Based Learning providers who are considering future upgrades.)

It notes that "upgrading existing ICT systems to Microsoft Vista or Office 2007 is not recommended and mixed Windows-based operating environments should be avoided."

It also states that IT users “… should also be made aware of the wide range of free-to-use products currently available and on how to use and access them…” and “…the ICT industry should be facilitating easier access to 'free-to-use' office productivity software.”

I agree entirely and by pure co-incidence this also leads on nicely to another post I wrote earlier today. (Free software anyone? )