Thursday, February 28, 2013

Amazon Author Central Features

Amazon have improved their Author Central site where book authors can get some some data about sales sold through Amazon. Since I have only one book, An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis, I don't have much to look at. But I thought I'd share two pieces of information available: Total Sales, and Sales by Geography.

The information is for the United States only. First below is a chart of weekly book sales going back to February  2011 (about a year after the book was published  by The Liffey Press) - a very modest 57 books in total have been sold during this time.

Next is Sales by region. The numbers are small, but New York comes out on top with 10, Chicago next on 5, and Phoenix on 4. The map that the screen grab below is taken from is an interactive one - you can scroll over each state (on only) and see how many books you have sold in each one. I bet J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown have great fun with this!

All this is part of a greater trend to provide information for authors to improve their own sales and perhaps target new markets. I'm sure that it will also help advertisers to target ads better. I like seeing tools like this as I can check for myself how my book is doing rather than relying on other courses. The book sells for $30 on, this means that it has made $1,521 through Amazon. I have not yet received any royalties - must check that one up!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Academia, and working from home

I read a headline today from The Telegraph for an article by Katherine Rushton newspaper: Yahoo! boss bans working from home, and I wondered how that would work in academia. Rushton writes that Yahoo!, in a communication to all staff, state that it "is critical that we are all present in our offices" and that "best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings". I can't argue with that - I find informal chat with my colleagues to be some of the best discussion that I have in the College.

Many academic colleagues from colleges all over Ireland and abroad choose to work from home at times when they do not have classes - for some it is a necessity. Some like to be able to prepare classes or correct assessments at home rather than come to the office. Others may be writing research reports or work on an academic publication.

Whether you agree with the Yahoo! move or not (some critics have said it is an effort to force resignations from employees who will not/cannot change) it does raise many issues about control, accountability, responsibility, and productivity. For some these will be greater if allowed to work at home, for others the office works best.

Image Source: WiSER.
I have always consciously decided to have a clear separation between work and home, so I am one of those academics who prefers to be in the office. I rarely do College work at home. I do not check work emails and in the main rarely use my mobile phone for work related issues from outside the office. For me, this work/life balance works. I do not have the discipline to work at home because there are far more distractions - the fridge being the biggest one!

To get an idea about what an academic gets up to during the day read this article, Early starts and late launches, lectures, laughs, in today's Irish Times by Professor Diarmuid Ferriter of UCD. You'll see that he spends quite a bit of time out of his office, but I think you'll agree that he is a very productive and busy academic.

Monday, February 25, 2013

New "How To..." @YouTube Video - my first using @Microsoft Office 2013

Yesterday I made a new video using the new version of Microsoft Office 365, and featuring Excel 2013. For my first video in this series I decided to make a new version of my existing most popular video: How to Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel 2010. The procedure to create a Gantt chart is almost the same in both versions of Excel (2010 and 2013) - here's the end result:

I created this video at home, and it was the first time I had done so for my YouTube channel. I used the 30-day trial version of Snagit and my own installation of Office 365. It is not possible for me to create these videos at work where I have made all my previous videos. Since I have created Gantt charts with Excel many times I thought that this video would be a piece of cake to make. But... I made many errors and had to restart many times before I got it right. Also, home is a lot noisier that my office at work - every sound in the house seemed to be magnified at my desk.

I hope to redo all my most popular Office 2003 and 2010 videos (I skipped 2007) as the next series, and then look at some more opportunities to create videos using new material.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Practical tips for academics who want to start engaging with the wider world through social media by Salma Patel

One of the things I've noticed over the past few years is that there is an increasing number of academics using social media like blogs and Twitter. However, many still don't and Salma Patel, writing for the London School of Economics asks the question: "I’m an academic and desperately need an online presence, where do I start?" Patel provides some advice for academics who want to start to use social media as follows:

  1. Set up a Linkedin profile
  2. Set up an profile
  3. Use Twitter
  4. Start a Blog
  5. Start to use some of the many other "curation and sharing platforms" such as Delicious, SlideShare, Pinterest,, Pearltrees, Bundlr, and Storify, Mendeley, Citeulike and Zotero
Quite a list!

I'm certain that in the future academics will find themselves providing details of all the above profiles when applying for positions on Colleges. Linkedin is now like an on-line CV, Who are you following on Twitter in your field (and who is following you)?, what topics are your blogging about? Your academic on-line presence will be just as important as how many publications you have!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"The lesson sticks" - Lecture Theatres without Lectures

The New England Journal of Medicine in an article entitled Lecture Halls without Lectures - A Proposal for Medical Education (Prober & Heath, 2012) reports on an interesting study conducted in a Physics class. An undergraduate Physics course was divided into two: one part had traditional lectures from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, while the other part of the class used on-line material and classes were led by teaching assistants who got students to engage in real physics problems. This comparison in itself is not innovative, but the results were staggering. The first group had a test average of 41%, the second 74%. Here's a quote from the end of the article:

Imagine first-year medical students learning critical biochemical pathways by watching short videos as many times as necessary in the comfort of their personal learning space. Knowledge acquisition is verified by repeated low-stakes quizzes. Then, in class, the students participate in a discussion that includes a child with a metabolic disease, his or her parents, the treating clinician, and the biochemistry professor. The relevant biochemistry — so dry on the page of a textbook — comes to life. 

As the article states: "The lesson sticks".

The empty Nelson Mandela Lecture theatre.
Imnage source: Wikipedia.
Does this mean the end of lectures? Will all our lecture theatres be converted into ski slopes (or some other useful purpose)? Will on-line classes replace professors and lecturers? Will I be out of a job?

Despite being someone who has embraced technology for learning since 1989 when I started to work for the e-Learning company CBT Systems (which became SmartForce and is now SkillSoft), I am not sure that the answer to any of the above questions is "Yes". It is still the overwhelmingly dominant form of teaching in my own College - only labs and tutorials can break the monotony for our students. Man educators see value in "flipping classes" where lectures are recorded for viewing outside the classroom, while class time is used effectively for homework. This is a great idea, but needs new pedagogies and methodologies to make it work. Perhaps the next generation of digital natives can revolutionalize teaching with technology?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why are Sky bothering? But still waiting for @UPCIreland

I received a letter today from Sky asking me to "Be the first to enjoy our new Unlimited Broadband"! The offer is for unlimited broadband usage with calls for €40/month. My current Eircom package is €59/month, so on the face of it Sky are offering a cheaper package. Saving €19 a month equates to €228/year - not to be sneezed at.

When I first heard that Sky were coming to Ireland I thought that this might be the way to get away from the shitty broadband service that Eircom offers (see my speed check taken just now to left - this is supposed to be uncongested 8mbps!). But I have since discovered that they plan to use the same telephone line that Eircom use, which has a maximum capacity of 4mbps in our area. This means that Sky will only be able to offer the same service - so why are they bothering? How come they can't discover what the areas are in Ireland have poor broadband infrastructure? I will not switch from one rubbish provider to another. They are wasting their time with me.

On September 5th last I wrote about UPC installing new cables in our neighbourhood. Now over 5 months later there is still no sign of any service. All I get from @UPCIreland on Twitter is that they will be contacting everyone in our neighbourhood when the network is live. Still waiting.....

Sunday, February 17, 2013

And now 3,000 subscribers to Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin @youtube

Hot on the heels of reaching 2,000,000 views on my YouTube channel another milestone has been reached. Yesterday the 3,000 subscriber mark was passed (and yes - I know I'm boasting again!). Once again I am humbled and gratified that so many people subscribe to my channel and view the videos. I have noticed a recent surge in subscriptions as I get an email every time someone subscribes. The chart below shows this growth since the channel was set up in 2006:

The subscriber who made it as the 3,000th was "dperika" from the UK. There are subscribers from all over the world, for example: 6 from Kenya, 2 from Honduras, 2 from Cambodia, 1 from Mongolia, and 9 from Iraq. The countries with the largest numbers are: 903 from USA, 315 from UK, 189 from India, 180 from Ireland, and 105 in Australia.

My next series of videos will be remakes of my existing ones for the new version of Microsoft Office 365. Unfortunately this cannot be installed at work, so for the first time I will be making a series of videos at home. I'm starting with a free 1-month trial of Snagit which I will probably purchase once the trial is over - this is what my most recent videos have been created with.

Once again - a huge THANK YOU to all my subscribers!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

2,000,000 views on my @youtube learning channel - WOW!!!

Earlier this morning my YouTube channel, Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin, passed the 2,000,000 views mark. I am so thrilled that so many people have viewed my videos and hope that most will have learned something from them and found them useful. 

On the 30th April last year I wrote about reaching the 1,000,000 views milestone - it had taken just over 6 years to reach that mark. The second 1,000,000 occurred in just over 9 months, and if the current rate of views keeps up it will pass the 3,000,000 mark before the end of the year. Even though 2,000,000 is a very modest number of views in the overall context of YouTube, I continue to be astonished at these figures and to have reached so many learners. More in the next few days about the analytics that make up this figure.

In the meantime, a HUGE THANK YOU to all my subscribers (soon to surpass 3,000 in number) and viewers. This is fantastic encouragement to keep creating and publishing videos. 

Image Source: YouTube Channel screen shot.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Should Students Use Twitter?

We had a discussion about the use of Twitter in the classroom today and in general I am in favour of students using Twitter as a learning tool. I get so much information and links to interesting things from the people and organizations I follow that it is like having a private news feed of stuff you want to hear about.

Image source:
The edudemic blog has a post by volunTEENation, about Why Students Should Use Twitter from December last year. Three reasons are given why: 

    1:  The importance of access
    2:  Connect to a wider audience
    3:  Students can tweet for good

Students can connect to professionals and other students in their field, promote volunteer work, improve traffic to a website, and use Twitter as a free way to market and promote a new business ideas. For the Computer Science students in my classes I recommend that that they should follows technical Twitter accounts like @siliconrepublic and @slashdot.  It's a great way to keep in touch with developments in any field, especially technology.

Twitter provides a wealth of information for students and everyone else - it is a fantastic educational resource whether used inside or outside the classroom. I'd like to see us educators embrace it some more.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Map of Educational Tweeps

Here's an interesting tool to show on a map the location of people involved in education all over Ireland and Britain. It is available from the ICTmagic wiki (which was the Edublog Award winner of the best educational wiki in 2011). As more and more educators and learners use Twitter, it's a nice idea to see where we are all actually located. It's sparsely populated so far, and it took a couple of weeks from when I added myself to finally being added to the map. As I write this I am the white dot over Dublin. If you use Twitter, why not add yourself?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Using Google Translate to Beat Plagiarism Detection Software

Last week I tweeted about about "Five Ways to Defeat Automated Plagiarism Detection" and have got some reaction about this from both inside and outside the College. One of the ways was to use a translator to change original text from one language to another. Taking this a step further I decided to conduct a small experiment and use Google Translate to translate some text from English to Spanish, then to French, Polish, Chinese, and back to English. The results are in brown and italic text below.

The sentence I chose was from Wikipedia - I copied word-for-word the first paragraph (removing the hyperlinks) of the Wikipedia page about US President Abraham Lincoln. After the translations had been done, I submitted all the text in all languages to Turnitin. Turnitin correctly detected that the first (original) paragraph was copied from Wikipedia. Interestingly, only a short piece of the Spanish version, and NONE of the French, Polish, or Chinese versions was detected as being similar to anything else. The final paragraph, in English is of course not the same as the original after being translated five times. Here's the before and after Turnitin report:

Before Translation:

After Translation:

As you can see, the translations has had an effect, but not enough in this example to clear a paper of plagiarism. If this second example was presented to me in an assignment it would be referred to the Plagiarism/Discipline Committees. If you are a student reading this post to learn how to beat tools like Turnitin, I'm afraid to tell you that you are running a very high risk of still being caught. Turnitin has done a good job in detecting cheating like this. The message is: DON'T DO IT - YOU WILL BE CAUGHT!

Complete Text of Translations:

English (copied directly from Wikipedia)

Abraham (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln successfully led the United States through its greatest constitutional, military, and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union. Reared in a poor family on the western frontier, Lincoln was mostly self-educated, and became a country lawyer, a Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator during the 1830s, and a one-term member of the United States House of Representatives during the 1840s.


Abraham (12 febrero 1809 a 15 abril 1865) fue el 16 º Presidente de los Estados Unidos, sirviendo a partir de marzo de 1861 hasta su asesinato en abril de 1865. Lincoln éxito llevó a los Estados Unidos a través de su mayor crisis constitucional, militar y moral - la guerra civil americana - la conservación de la Unión. Criado en una familia pobre en la frontera occidental, Lincoln fue principalmente autodidacta, y se convirtió en un abogado del país, un líder del Partido Whig, legislador estatal de Illinois durante la década de 1830, y un miembro de un solo mandato de la Cámara de Representantes de Estados Unidos durante la década de 1840.


Abraham (12 Février 1809 au 15 abril 1865) a été le 16e président des États-Unis, servant de Mars 1861 jusqu'à son assassinat en Avril 1865. Lincoln a dirigé avec succès aux États-Unis grâce à sa plus grande crise constitutionnelle, militaire et morale - Guerre de Sécession - la préservation de l'Union. Élevé dans une famille pauvre sur la frontière occidentale, Lincoln était essentiellement autodidacte et est devenu un avocat de province, un chef de file du Parti Whig, la législature de l'Illinois état pendant les années 1830, et membre d'un mandat de la Chambre les représentants des États-Unis pendant les années 1840.


Abraham (12 lutego 1809 15 april 1865) był 16. prezydentem Stanów Zjednoczonych, obsługujących od marca 1861 aż do jego śmierci w kwietniu 1865 roku. Lincoln sukcesem przeprowadził Stany Zjednoczone przez jego największego kryzysu konstytucyjnego, wojskowych i moralnym - Civil War - zachowując Unii. Wychowany w biednej rodzinie na granicy zachodniej, Lincoln był głównie samoukiem i został prawnikiem kraj, lider Partii Wigów, ustawodawca stan Illinois w 1830 oraz członkiem mandatu izba Reprezentantów Stanów Zjednoczonych w trakcie 1840 roku.

Chinese (simplified)

亚伯拉罕(1809年2月12日1865年4月15日)是第16美国总统,直到他的死亡在1865年4月,从1861年3月服役。林肯成功地领导了美国通过其最大的宪政危机,军事和道义 - 内战 - 保护联盟。提出了一个可怜的家庭在西部边境,林肯大多是自学成才,并成为一个国家的律师,辉格党的领导,在1830年的立法机关,的状态,伊利诺伊州和一个成员的商会代表美国在1840年的任务。

English (again)

Abraham (1809, 1865, April 15, 2011) is the 16th President of the United States, until his death in April 1865, serving from March 1861. Lincoln successfully led the United States through its greatest constitutional crisis, military and moral - civil war - Conservation Union. A poor family on the western frontier, Lincoln is mostly self-taught, and became a country lawyer, Whig Party leadership in the legislature in 1830, the state of Illinois and a member of the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the United States in 1840 the task of the year.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

A Treat at Clarke Railway Station in Dundalk

Today I was in Dundalk Institute of Technology for a short meeting, DkIT is a place I like visiting as it is a wonderful spread out campus with its own giant windmill for generating electricity - some day most institutions will have a similar source of power.

Today's weather from
I had planned to make the 160 km round trip on my bike, but due to bad weather I decided to take the train instead. Sleet and cold were forecasted and this would not have been enjoyable on two wheels. I took the 9.35 Belfast train, and it was my first time to travel North in this way. The (almost empty) train was very comfortable and free WiFi allowed me to get a bit of work done. This trip took 50 minutes and it is a pleasant way to travel.

On  the return journey I spotted that there is a small museum in Clarke station. I had been informed that the train would be 1 hour late, so this was a fine opportunity to while away some time. This museum is a little gem and does not take long to see everything. There are plenty of photos of old scenes from the station, old railway engines, and of people who worked there. The oldest photo I saw was from 1903 of the staff at the station - pity to think that everybody in that photo is now dead. There are some railway mementos and stories of lines now closed. Almost all photos are in black and white which lends a historic air to the place.

Outside the museum are two metal plaques containing the full version of the 1916 Easter Proclamation - I honestly don't recall ever having read it in full before. My Mum used to tell me that she had to learn it off by heart in school.

Clarke railway station in Dundalk is a surprising treat!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Tackling the skills challenge in Ireland

Following up from my post last week commenting on the announcement by Education Minister Ruarí Quinn that the Government is funding "760 ICT graduate skills conversion places", it is clear that Analytics is one of the key skills that this programme is targeting. NCI has responded to this call by launching a new Higher Diploma in Data Analytics with places for up to 50 students under the ICTSkills inititative. Our programme is supported by the HEA and Department of Education and Skills which means the tuition fees normally associated with such programmes are waived.

To emphasize the point of the importance of analytics in order to expand and develop the ICT sector and to support innovation and growth across the economy, Accenture's top man in Ireland (and ex-classmate of mine in Cistercian College Roscrea) Mark Ryan, discusses the skills challenge facing Ireland. He refers to the need for "joined up thinking in tackling the skills challenge" (via Silicon Republic). 

In addition to analytics, Mark also suggests that employers have a role to play in plugging the skills gap in an economy where there is a major skills gap despite 14.6% unemployment in this country. He suggests that employers could help plug the gap by upskilling and providing opportunities for their own people in order to "pull talent through their organization" and "create jobs at the lower end of their company which can be filled by people coming off the unemployment register" with some training and development.

If you are thinking of learning about analytics, or even coming on NCI's new course, have a listen to Mark Ryan - he is talking a lot of sense:

Monday, February 04, 2013

My most popular video hits a quarter of a million views!

Over the weekend my How To... Create a Basic Gantt Chart in Excel 2010 video passed the 250,000 milestone in views - it is by far my most popular video (251,557 views as I write). It has almost double the number of views of the next most popular one - How To... Embed a YouTube Video into a PowerPoint 2010 Presentation (128,697 views). I posted this video on 4th January, 2011, so it has taken just over two years to reach this milestone. It is also my top earner - since last June (when I switched on monetization) it has earned over €2,000. Here is the video:

This video was easy to create, and I have a number of other videos similar to this one that are starting to attract good viewing figures. I think the thing that makes this successful is that first, Microsoft Excel does not have any tools for creating Gantt charts, but with some easy work arounds that I show in the video, it is relatively straight-forward to do. Secondly, most people may not be creating Gantt charts that often - maybe just once for a project. They therefore do not need a project management tool like Microsoft Project, and Excel offers an easy cheap alternative.

I'm also looking forward to later next week when I expect that my Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin channel will pass the 2,000,000 views mark!

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Dublin 1-18 Cork 2-9

The start of the Allianz National League at Croke Park saw the meeting of league champions Cork play the Dubs. On a very cold evening Croke Park felt quite empty even though the crowd was a respectable 28,000+. Before the game there was a tribute to the late Dublin manager Kevin Heffernan, and to the murdered Garda Adrian Donohue. The match programme also has a nice feature on "Heffo", as well as a short history of Croke Park which is 100 years old this year.

Dublin were never in any real danger of losing this match as Cork were quite poor. They gave up some easy scores and missed a host of easy chances that could have made the game a lot closer than the six point margin at the end. Dublin were certainly worth the victory with good performances from Bernard Brogan, Paddy Andrews, Jack McCaffrey, and Stephen Cluxton. On this form Dublin will take some beating this year, while Cork will have a lot of work to do.

Tickets for this game, and four others in the series, are just €50 - my seats were on the half-way line. At €10 per game this is excellent value and it was a surprise to me that the attendance was not higher - maybe the cold had something to do with it. Next up, Dublin vs Mayo on March 2nd in a repeat of last year's All-Ireland Final.

Friday, February 01, 2013

New Higher Diploma in Data Analytics at NCI

Today the Minister for Education Ruarí Quinn announced "760 ICT graduate skills conversion places" for graduates who wish to upskill in technology. These are level 8 Higher Diploma courses and range in subject areas from software development to cloud computing, details are available at The courses are free and will be run by higher educations institutes across the country. This is good news for both the HEIs and graduate students who are seeking employment. This is also good news for the National College of Ireland as we have been approved to deliver a Higher Diploma in Data Analytics for 50 students as part of this programme. It is a new programme that I have been involved with in developing over the past year.

The Higher Diploma in Data Analytics at NCI will include subjects such Statistics, Business Analysis, Programming for Big Data, and Data and Web Mining. "Big Data" is a term that has been around quite a while now and it is defined by Wipro as "data that is too large, complex and dynamic for any conventional data tools to capture, store, manage and analyse". The infographic below from Wipro is a nice summary of "big data" in healthcare. The figures on the map below are in petabytes (1,000,000,000,000,000 or a million gigabytes). Google alone processes about 24 petabytes per day according to Wikipedia - so there is a lot of data around!

I'm looking forward to meeting and maybe even teaching to the new students who will come onto this programme. It is a new area for NCI, and a new area for me.

Image source:
Click image to enlarge for better view.