Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Some small YouTube Analytics Landmarks

Today the YouTube channel Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin has reached its highest ever position of a modest #87 in the world in the Lifelong Learning section of YouTube EDU. It has also reached just over 4,000 subscribers last week, and is breaking daily viewing figures almost every week. Last Tuesday there were 7,887 views - a new record. As always, I am quick to point out that these figures are almost insignificant in the overall context of YouTube - but I continue to be amazed, humbled, and delighted at these (to me) almost unbelievable numbers. 

Image Source: Wikipedia.
The jump to #87 may be due to some channels being removed/deleted, but I love it nonetheless. In the Top 100, the channel is ahead of the likes of Smithsonian Videos, and US National Archives. But the channel is a massive 924,000,000 behind the National Geographic Channel - a long way to go to catch up!

Next week I'll write about passing the next milestone - 2,500,000 views, and provide some detailed analytics to show who's viewing and what they are learning. New videos are in the pipeline, but May is the busiest month for us in the College, so most likely I'll create some new ones during June when things get a bit quieter.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Earning a bit on the side?

In these days of increment freezes, pay freezes, pay cuts, pension payments suspensions - plus extra taxes and charges on everything, thoughts inevitably turn one's opportunity to "earn a bit on the side". I write this following my other posts over the past week or so about Udemy and other websites that allow people to put up some courses on-line and make some extra money. This seems to be a popular thing for American professors (the equivalent of our Lecturers). A quarter of  Udemy instructors are reported to have earned $10,000 or more. I have been experimenting with Udemy and had thought that I could make a few extra euro as I do on YouTube, but so far I am unlikely to release a course on this platform.

Employees of any organization are usually prohibited from earning extra by working on the side - especially if this is in conflict with the organization's main goals. No argument here, for example - it would not be appropriate for me to start running a Project Management course privately. And rightly so. An accountant is prohibited from opening up his/her own business when working for another company. The only people who are allowed to legally earn a bit on the side are hospital consultants?

I know of one College where you have to have written permission from the College President to do ANY work other than required by the employee's contract. I wonder how many employees abide by this? Surely it is morally OK for someone to earn a bit on the side if it is not in conflict day-to-day work? Especially if they have too endure pay cuts?

I can see the Udemy model causing problems is some organizations, as more and more professors/lecturers go on-line to sell their on courses.

Note: this post has nothing to do with NCI.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

On Stage in 1976

Last week I wrote about meeting up with my old Cistercian College Roscrea school mates from  the class of 1977. One of the guys (Mike L) brought along some photos from our time in CCR and and I was surprised to see myself in one of them. It's a black and white photo of 5th year students performing a routine in 1976. On the extreme left is Geoff C who played the part of Freddy Eynsford-Hill, so I'm guessing that this routine is for the song "On the Street Where You Live" (which he sang again last Saturday!).

I have only one other photo from my five years in CCR, and that's the 6th year photo of our class. Can you spot a youthful looking Eugene in stage below? Or an ex-Taoiseach?

Friday, April 26, 2013

The On-line Lectern and "tuts"

The web is fast becoming a place where educators are making a name for themselves. Katherine Rosman of the Wall Street Journal reports that This Term, Teachers Are Trending, and cites the example of Victor Bastos from Portugal who has netted more than $250,000 in revenue for his Web Developer courses at Udemy. According to Rosman, one of the fastest-growing categories of videos on YouTube, according to the site, are "tuts"—pronounced "toots" and short for "tutorials". It seems that many educators have started to make a lot of money and that the most popular instructors and professors say they are getting recognized at restaurants and on city buses!

Image Source: Ways & How.
For years the Web has been talked about as potentially a fantastic tool for education. We've lived through e-Learning hype cycles and seen an industry created for on-line education that is worth millions as businesses look to train their employees with the best value in content. Sites like Udemy are now allowing the best teachers to create courses and make them available on a low price sell-a-lot model. Victor Bastos has 7,239 students for his web developer course at $199 a go, but most courses on Udemy seem to me to be much less than this. It just goes to show that if you create good content and deliver it successfully on-line, that people will sign and pay up to learn for the good stuff.

The "on-line lectern" is here to stay and may some day completely replace the classroom. From Monday to Friday this past week my YouTube channel had well over 30,000 views, reaching a new one-day record for me of 7,887 views. My biggest class during the same time had just 58 (for a Project Management class). I sometimes wonder if I am in the right job at all?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Experimenting with @udemy @youtube

Recently I had a look at Udemy who under the slogan of "Who do you want to be" provide on-line courses that are created by professors, lecturers, educators, and trainers. They are available to all, some are free, and most others are quite cheap to sign up for. It has hit the news as they have publicized the things like How 10 Instructors Earned $1.6 Million on Udemy in One Year. They claim that on average, instructors make $10,000 - not bad as an extra line of income. I have viewed some of the (free) material, and they have a huge variety of courses. Definitely good work by the Udemy folks and I think we'll see a lot more of this kind of education. Check out the following video for what Udemy are all about:

I decided to try it out and I created a course on Udemy about Problem-Solving Techniques. I used 37 of my own YouTube videos and structured them into themes (eg decision-making, identifying priorities, etc). Much is modelled on my book - An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis. It is very simple to create a course, and even easier to add YouTube videos. I thought I had a nice course put together and that this time next year I'll be a millionaire! It is not to be as I discovered through their Facebook support that while YouTube videos can be linked or embedded to, it is not allowed to use it for lessons/lectures. I would have to download the video from YouTube and upload it to Udemy. The YouTube links that are allowed should be something like "an example of a news clip from a journalism course".

The thought has struck me - how tough would it be to create a similar site to Udemy that allows courses to be created using YouTube?  Would it be useful to not only create your own videos, but to use videos from other content creators (who can be paid with extra Ad revenue)? Might make a nice student project! 

Also - why don't YouTube do this? The YouTube EDU section is huge, but it is made up of individual lessons that have to be aggregated together by third parties such as iTunes. Anyone in YouTube/Google reading this should pay attention - there's an opportunity here to improve EDU and make even more money.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

CCR Class of 1977 Revisited

23 of the boys of Cistercian College Roscrea who left the school nearly 36 years ago got together in Morrissey's Pub in Abbeyleix for an evening of chat and banter. Good fun was had by all, and it was great to see so many of the lads I went to school with. There is something about school that ties us together - we spent just five years of our lives together, but here we were like best friends meeting every week. 

The photo below was taken in May 1977, and sad to report that collectively we have added some weight, lost a few hairs, and most are grey. On the plus side our sense of fashion has improved! There is a slideshow of photos I took on the night on my Flickr stream - click here to view.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What annoys you about PowerPoint presentations?

Dave Paradi, who runs the brilliantly named ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com website, provides some free resources to help people communicate more effectively using PowerPoint. One of these is the Results of the 2011 Annoying PowerPoint survey - here are the key findings:

  • The speaker read the slides to us – 73.8%
  • Full sentences instead of bullet points – 51.6%
  • The text was so small I couldn’t read it – 48.1%
  • Slides hard to see because of color choice – 34.0%
  • Overly complex diagrams or charts – 26.0%

Now I certainly would not argue with these results - the first two above are my pet hates and switch me off almost instantly. Paradi also notes that presenters try to cram too much information onto the screen, are guilty of poor design choices, and are at fault for typos and bad grammar. This can show lack of respect for the audience. For instance, he suggest that putting too much text on the screen could be as a result of not being prepared or using someone elses slides, to simply read off the content.

In education at third-level we have seen the trend of Lecturers providing copies of their PowerPoint slides as notes through the likes of Moodle/BlackBoard. I rarely see students taking notes (as I had to do in the good ol' days!). We are therefore torn with the dilemma that if we provide detailed notes with lots of text - we are boring, but if we provide short presentations with skimpy notes, the students will have no notes. Perhaps we should use TWO sets of slides? Or just one "skimpy" set to use in class, and provide more detailed notes as a PDF?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

20th vs 21st Century Learning and Education via @medkh9

I came across this interesting table on the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning Website in a short article written by Med Kharbach: Awesome graphic on 20th vs 21st century education. Even more interesting about this is that was created in 2007, since then social media has boomed. But I think it is as true today as it was six years ago. Check some of the keywords in each part of the 21st century column: "dynamically", "participants", "discovery", "on-demand""virtual", and "connections". 
Image source: www.educatorstechnology.com.

It's not just technology that drives this, but the many educators who embrace change and the many students who participate and demand this change. The education landscape is changing rapidly at all levels, and we will all be challenged to do our "bit" to make education a more collaborative and engaging experience for both teacher/lecturer and students. We will never get "there", because "there" keeps moving - and it is our job to KEEP UP!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Why is a class full of individuals tested by the same means?" from @sulibreaks

I watched a very interesting video created by Suli Breaks about what students learn in school and education in general. His rap-like poem (he is a poet!) ends with the thought-provoking statement "We will not let exam results decide our fate". He tells us in his own style that we learn things that we never need, and don't learn the things we do need. He's right - I have never used Pythagoras's Theorem in my life, yet I had to learn it to pass an exam.

The video really questions all (not just young) our thinking on assessment. The headline I have taken from the video "Why is a class full of individuals tested by the same means?" grabbed my attention as of course I do exactly that in my own classes. It's not practical to have individual assessments for every student, but I'm sure there are researchers working on adaptive assessment technologies that can be matched to individual students. Suli Breaks is not about bashing the education systems - he tells us "Why I hate school but love education". Educators should take the time to look and listen to this video, and listen to what young people are saying.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"A 'mistake club' can be a fabulous learning experience"

Marc Rosenberg writing this week in the Learning Solutions Magazine on Practice Makes Mastery reviews a keynote speech by Daniel Coyle at last month’s eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference. In it Coyle spoke about three habits to achieve mastery:

  1. Maximize "reachfulness"
  2. Fill the windshield
  3. Communicate like a coach

Image source: Business Know-How.
The most interesting item for me was the second habit  - Fill the windshield, which is about two things. First, Coyle recommends that people who aspire to greater performance should be encouraged to "steal the techniques of masters and make them their own". Not sure that I'm 100% in agreement with this, though I do agree that role models provide targets that others may want to aspire to reaching. I love the definition of a "Guru" (master) that I once got from a colleague in my previous job in SmartForce: "A Guru is someone that an expert will go to for advice". The second part is about focussing on mistakes, and not to "penalize, but to celebrate and learn from" them. I'm not sure from the article whether they are Rosenberg's of Coyle's words, but I loved the line A "mistake club" can be a fabulous learning experience".

They are over-used expressions at times, but we do all "learn from our mistakes", know that "to err is human", or as Einstein so succinctly put it "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new". In my Project Management classes towards the end of the module, we discuss Lessons Learned documentation as part of project closing. It is stating the obvious that we learn from our mistakes, but that we should try to avoid making them in the first place. Reaching a mastery level in anything will take a long time, and will no doubt be built on success as well as mistakes. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A New Meaning to "Flipping" Classes via @storyful

Professor Michael Danduran of Wisconsin’s Marquette University, who teaches Exercise Physiology, "flipped" in one of his classes. No - not recording the class for outside viewing and using class time for homework, he really did a back "flip"! One of his students caught his flip on camera and it is posted on YouTube:

While this is very entertaining, and good on Prof Danduran for his agility, there are a few things to consider. First, this is an Exercise Physiology class, so I assume that something like this might be a regular occurrence, and is perhaps part of the syllabus. 

But... how appropriate is it for a student to shoot a video in class and post it on YouTube? At my own College we are in the early stages of discussing policy towards recording in class, which is of particular interest for students with disabilities. Could the same thing happen to us? Will a video of me falling on my arse (which is what would happen if I tried a back-flip) go viral on YouTube? Prof Danduran is no doubt the coolest guy on the Marquette campus today, and is probably suffering much slagging in the staff canteen.

Also... perhaps more importantly, what will students gain from this experience. No doubt they'll never forget the day there were in class to see Prof Danduran's back flip, but what else will they remember from the class? Wouldn't a video clip of the explanation of an important concept be more valuable? Is this education or entertainment?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

How To... Add an Average Line to a Line Chart in Excel 2010

In an exercise today during a Project Quality Management tutorial, I asked students to create a control chart.  I have a video to show how to do this, but despite my channel being common knowledge among students, very few checked out my video beforehand. This video shows how to create a chart that shows the average as a straight line on the chart. This allows a Project Manager to check for quality issues during the project - in other words check how many values are above or below average.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Mrs Thatcher - the Iron Lady who many Irish people loved to hate

I've often had somewhat of an admiration for the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, who died today. In 1980 and 1981 I hated her. I was definitely on the side of the Hunger Strikers in Northern Ireland during what was a very turbulent period on this island. Mrs T stood up to the IRA and Sinn Féin with a single mindedness that drove us all mad. How could she let 10 men die on hunger strike? She kept repeating the old mantra that they were terrorists, and that she would not give in.

Mrs Thatcher.
Image source: Wikipedia.
On the 8th of August 1981, IRA man Thomas McElwee died on hunger strike after 62 days. At that time I was mad as hell at Maggie Thatcher, and I signed a book of condolence for McElwee outside the GPO in Dublin. It was difficult at the time not to take sides in this divisive campaign between Irish Republicans and the British Prime Minister - and I sided with the Irish. She was that type of person - you either loved her or hated her.

In 1982 she showed her mettle again when leading Britain to victory in the Falklands War, and I grudgingly admired her resolve. Winning three general elections was also a feat achieved by very few UK Prime Ministers. Even today on Sky News there were people who praised her achievements, but also remembered her as a divisive person, none more so than the coal miners whom she ground down after a long and bitter campaign.

We educators should also remember that Mrs Thatcher was Education Secretary from 1970 until 1974, and did valuable work in building the school comprehensive system in the UK. But here she will be remembered most for abolishing  free milk for children aged 7 to 11.

Many people in the UK will be sad today at her passing, and we must respect that. Others will be glad that she is gone, but at the same time not take much satisfaction at the death of an old woman at the age of 87. Even in death, Mrs T continues to divide. Time to let her rest in peace.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Being Careful with my Axe!

A sunny Saturday afternoon in April and time to do some gardening. Late last year I cut down a tree in our front garden as it was dangerously pushing against the front garden wall. Today's job was to remove the stump and roots. This is not a very difficult task, but my sore bones and muscles are testament to the difficulty I had getting the stump out of the ground. My tools were a spade, a chainsaw, an axe, and lots of elbow grease.

Even though the weather has been unseasonably cold this year, today's sunshine brought many neighbours out and I spent nearly as much time chatting as working. It's almost like we all come out of hibernation after a long winter.

Now for a trip to a garden centre to check out a replacement for the tree - I fancy something colourful like a Lobster Claw!

Friday, April 05, 2013

How To... Draw and Format a Basic Bubble Chart in Excel 2010 @YouTube

It's been quite a few weeks since I created a video for my YouTube Channel - my latest one today is about drawing and editing a bubble chart in Excel. This is a cool way to display three variables in one chart, a task that is difficult to complete though bubble charts offer a great solution. For this video (created using Snagit) I used data from The World Factbook - I extracted data for Birth Rate, Life Expectancy, and GDP from five countries. This can be displayed on a so-called bubble chart that will look great in presentations. In this video I also experimented with adding graphics of flags to represent the five countries in order to increase the "coolness" factor of this type of chart. On playing this video back I do notice that I talk a lot faster than usual compared to other videos - especially at the beginning!

See what you think...

Thursday, April 04, 2013

How Clever Are You?

The Harvard Business Review Blog Network yesterday posted an article by Vijay Govindarajan and Srikanth Srinivas: To Innovate, Find What's Hiding in Plain Sight. In it they refer to an exercise I sometimes like to do at the beginning of a new module when I jokingly ask "How Clever Are You?". The exercise is as follows:

How many squares can you see in the following diagram?

We have a bit of fun with this as I start out by saying "I like to know how clever my class is before we start - see if you can answer this simple puzzle" (it's great as an ice-breaker). Students call out answers like "17", "25", "28" and so on, it is almost never answered correctly. The idea behind this exercise/puzzle is to get people thinking and that sometimes what looks like an obvious answer is not correct - you have to think a little bit more and analyse in more detail before deciding on a solution. As Govindarajan and Srinivas say "Innovative solutions are always there for the problems we face, but you won't find them unless you look for them".