Monday, September 30, 2013

The MOOC is dead, long live the SPOC!

Sean Coughlan, writing for @BBC_Business, tells us that Harvard plans to boldly go with 'Spocs', and that Prof Robert Lue, chair of Harvard's on-line experiments, says that we are already "post-Mooc". Enter the SPOC - small private online courses. These are free on-line courses, but access is restricted to much smaller numbers, "tens or hundreds, rather than tens of thousands".

Leonard Nimoy William Shatner Star Trek 1968
It's education Jim, but not as we know it.
Image source:  [Public Domain] Wikimedia Commons.
The success of MOOCs, measured in the thousands of people who have signed up for them, can be a problem. As Coughlan writes about Harvard "more people have signed up for Moocs in a single year than have attended the university in its entire 377-year history". Teaching, assessing, and accrediting such numbers is a huge challenge. With a SPOC there is the opportunity to target education a bit better, plus reduce the challenge of teaching, assessing, and accrediting students. Colleges such as Harvard are now experimenting with this new type of education as online learning is now moving beyond trying to replicate classroom courses and is trying to produce something that is more flexible and more effective. I like this idea as it fits neatly into the gap between classroom and open on-line education.

Can charging a small fee for a SPOC be far away? I'm sure that if Harvard charged $100 a head for a course that has just 500 students, I'm certain that it would be filled and that the $50,000 earned by Harvard would be put to good use. The likes of Udemy and Lynda are charging small fees for courses in what seems to be a very successful model. One things for sure, we all need to be ready "to boldly go" where education has never been before!

Saturday, September 28, 2013



Sometimes you get annoyed.
Sometimes you get more annoyed than others.
Sometimes others get annoyed when you get annoyed.
Sometimes you get angry.
Sometimes you get angrier than others.
Sometimes others get angry when you get angry.

Sometimes not worth the bother.
Sometimes must learn to get along.
Sometimes must learn to shut the hell up.
Sometimes must take no shite.
Sometimes must learn to pick the right fights.
Sometimes must get it right.

Sometimes, always learning.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Increase in Spam on Blogger

My website/blog is hosted on Blogger and I allow comments and responses to my posts. While the number of comments is quite low, 385 published in 1,136 posts, I welcome them even when I disagree with them. I have deleted hundreds of other comments, almost all were spam. My post on 13th August last about Twitter, has attracted 2,456 views to date - way above what I normally get (average is about 100 views per post).

Blogger has several protections against spam and what they call "other associated dastardly behavior". You can switch off all comments, or prevent comments on individual posts (comments are now switched off for the Twitter post above, and for this one too). Blogger has a "Word Verification" system that requires "people leaving comments on your blog to complete a word verification step, which will help reduce comment spam". Each comment must be moderated by me when I receive an email - I can then decide to publish or mark as spam. As you can see with the numbers above, I don't normally get that many comments.

Word verification in Blogger.
Image source: Google Support.

Since the Twitter post above I have noticed a huge increase in the number of spam comments on my blog, spammers have found a way to easily get past Blogger's very basic spam prevention systems. Despite Blogger's assertion that a "lot of comment spam is made automatically by software which can't pass the word verification step" - this is clearly not fully the case. I guess one thing I could do is to avoid posts that are likely to attract spammers, and be a bit more aware of what I write. My YouTube channel has also recorded a slight increase in spams.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Internet mentors could supplant traditional lecturers, via @timeshighered

Jack Grove, writing today for The Times Higher Education, tells us about a report that indicates "Internet mentors could supplant traditional lecturers" by 2020. Grove writes that "Traditional lecturers may soon be replaced by networks of online mentors working for several universities" and that "that academic staff are likely to be employed part-time by several universities – often working remotely via the internet – rather than relying on a single employer".

Image source: ITViz Multimedia.
In the age of more on-line education than ever before, and the advent of MOOCs, I guess that it inevitable that a question about this would be asked. Is the day of the Lecturer doomed? 

Not yet - I hope!

In 2020 I will be 61 years old and not too far from retirement, so it should not matter too much to me if I am replaced by an on-line mentor, or if this is a role I would have to take on myself. But what about all the younger lecturers, and the postgrads coming out of College in the next few years - what will the future be like for them? This semester I have 13 weeks of classes with about 100 students. In the same time I will have reached over half a million learners on-line through my YouTube channel. I guess there is evidence in that alone that on-line education is here to stay. On-line paid-for education sources like Udemy and, are becoming more and more popular as a destination for learning by students. Indeed many of the courses on theses sites are by professors/lecturers who are earning extra cash for it. 

It is inevitable that the role of the Lecturer will change, and with that will come many challenges for both Colleges and their staff. My gut feel is that we should embrace this and become part of it, rather than be left behind. Don't wait for working conditions to be changed and union negotiations to take place. Each of us Lecturers should have an on-line presence, be free to educate others outside our own Colleges, and to be the drivers of technology in education instead of getting run over by it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"I'm sorry but I'm your professor, not your friend" via @globeandmail

Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail in an article by Janni Aragon, published an article on September 9th last entitled I'm sorry but I'm your professor, not your friend. First, I am not a "Professor" - I am a Lecturer, but if I worked in the same role in America I would be called Professor O'Loughlin (I like the sound of that!). I have heard from a colleague about research that getting to know your professor/lecturer could be worth up to 15% more on your grades, however, when challenged he could not remember the source of this research. 

I have wondered myself if it makes any difference when grading assignments and exams, if I know the student well. Many of my classes are small, so I do get to know the students quite well. I certainly believe that I am fair, and in 11 years in this job I have never had a grade queried by second markers or external examiners. In that time, some students have requested reviews of their grades, but so far none have been altered after review.

It does make it a little easier to decide on borderline cases if you do know a student well - these are the ones who turn up for class/tutorials, participate in class, submit assignments on time, and generally behave well in an academic environment. In many cases I can't put a face on a name, and also when students are absent it is almost impossible to know them, and how much effort they have put into their studies.

It is a serious matter to us as a profession if the level of acquaintance with a student affects marks in any way. Therefore we have to continue to put aside any personal relationships in dealing with students and retain a strict code to not let this interfere with grading or give precedence to any student.

Image source:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The 4 Things Modern Students Must Understand by @Sugatam - I agree 100% with this!

Professor Sugata Mitra of Newcastle University, he of the "Hole in the wall" experiment with children in India, lists four things that students must understand and be good at. These are (list via Eric Patnoudes):
  • First, they should be adept at finding information quickly and easily on the internet.
  • Next, he says they have to comprehend what they are reading.
  • Third, students will have to organize the information they have discovered in a manner that makes sense.
  • Finally, decide which information they will use to make a decision, solve a problem, or accomplish a task.
When I ask my students in class to use a computer to find information on the World Wide Web, I never have to show them how to do it. It comes natural and in the main, most are quite good at this. Typing stuff into a Google Search is easy, knowing what to do next is not so easy, there is no pointer after a search to say that "this is the answer you need..." - hence the skills above need to be developed and improved. Hear Professor Mitra explain all this himself in the following video:

Friday, September 20, 2013

What's it like to teach to 10,000 learners in one day? #HDSDA #Analytics @YouTube

I never asked myself this question before as it would have been a hypothetical question. However, on Tuesday this week I managed to reach 10,163 learners on my YouTube channel - the first time the channel has breached the 10,000 views/day milestone. Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not shy about self-indulgently sharing this type of information - below are some of the analytics for views by region. Major English speaking countries such as the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia account for almost 70% of views. Other interesting locations near the bottom of the table (not shown below) are for three views each from Angola, Panama, Georgia, and Morocco. 

On the same day (Tuesday) I had three classes at which about 60 students attended. Reaching out on-line via YouTube to so many other learners in one day is a tremendously satisfying experience, though not as good as the vibe I get in the classroom. While there may be a few views from my own students (there were 164 views from Ireland on Tuesday), almost all of the 10,163 learners are of course unknown to me. I'd love to know how and why they ended up viewing my videos. Just over 60% of traffic sources are from Google or YouTube searches - so I'm guessing that learners are just looking to figure out how to do stuff or solve problems, and go to Google to find out. A growing source of traffic is from YouTube suggested videos - these are "Views from thumbnails appearing on the side of the page of other videos or on the end screen of a video". Google/YouTube are very clever at this.

I'd also of course like to know if the viewers actually found the videos beneficial and useful - did they learn what they needed? Feedback via comments is good, but only a tiny fraction of learners make comments. Unlike my classroom students, my on-line learners will not be tested at the end of a semester! 

As always, a HUGE THANK YOU to all who viewed the videos - it inspires one to keep going and create more videos.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Experimenting with Twitter in class #HDSDA #analytics

This semester I am using Twitter as part my Business Analysis and Problem-Solving Techniques classes on the Higher Diploma in Data Analytics. I'm doing this for sharing information only, and it is not compulsory for students to take part. Some of my colleagues have done this and I know from others that it is now becoming a popular tool for learning. In my class we agreed to use the hashtag #HDSDA - about half the class said they used either Twitter and/or Linkedin (my tweets automatically go to Linkedin). From time to time I will tweet about Business Analysis as well Data Analytics, and hope that students will benefit from and share the tweets.

I have also added the Twitter feed to my Moodle course page, but not after encountering some problems. Twitter provides a widget to generate the code, but for some reason it would not work for me yesterday (I tested it again today and it does works - I suspect a temporary glitch on Twitter side). I put a call out on Twitter for some help and Moodle genius @ghenrick responded, created the code for me, and talked me through the fix via Skype. This is a wonderful way to connect and solve a problem!

I'll be sure to survey the students and provide some analytics about the use of Twitter in my class after the semester is complete, and report my findings here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Can YouTube be the new eBay? #HarleyDavidson @YouTube @eBay

I'm sure that there are some very clever highly paid folks in Google/YouTube right now figuring out how Google can make more money using the video platform that YouTube provides. I came across the ad below for a 2003 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic (including very pretty girl) from Tampa Harley, and thought "Why didn't I think of that before?". Now regular readers of this blog need not worry that I am about to sell my own bike which (apart from the white-wall tyres) is the very same model. But it did occur to me - why don't YouTube/Google use their platform to sell stuff on-line? Maybe they are doing it already, but it seems to me that others are using their platform to sell products. I like the idea that a seller can show a product (such as the coolest bike in the world) working - nothing beats the sound of a Harley-Davidson purring.

So - can YouTube take over from eBay? I think so - YouTube can provide the means for buyers to review a product. I know this is happening on eBay already, but YouTube should be in this market.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How To... Embed a YouTube Video into a PowerPoint 2010 Presentation [WORK-AROUND]

Sometimes the old way is best! As I've written elsewhere in this blog, since the early summer there have been lots of difficulties embedding YouTube videos in PowerPoint 2010 and 2013. Since Google changed the YouTube API from version 2 to version 3, embed code just does not work as well, or not at all, any more. Many comments on my YouTube Channel are from frustrated users who, like me, just want the bloody thing to work. Microsoft are obviously either not able or are not willing to fix this problem in PowerPoint, and have pulled the feature to allow embedding from both 2010 and 2010 versions.

There has always been a slightly more awkward way to embed YouTube video in PowerPoint and that is through the Developer Tools. I have created videos to show how to do this in both 2010 and 2013, and both are already getting lots of views. Below is the one for PowerPoint 2010, this is also the first time I have used a Snowball microphone which I think has improved the sound quality.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Back to Evening/Night Classes

For the past few academic years all my classes have been with full-time students during the day. Since the demise of NCI's learning technology postgraduate courses, I have not been given evening classes and I have to say I have missed working with part-time postgraduate students. 

Image source: Comedy Plus.
This evening, the first of two Higher Diploma in Data Analytics programmes begins at the National College of Ireland. From a student recruitment point of view, this has so far been a very successful programme for the College, we will have about 140 students divided into two classes - now all we have to do is deliver! This evening, the first group start off with the module Business Analysis and Problem-Solving Techniques which I will be teaching. I will have a class of 75 students - by far the largest part-time evening class I have ever had. The class is four hours long and starts at 18:00 hours. I think this is too long and should be split over two evenings, but the time-table Gods think otherwise. It will be a challenge for me to keep going for this amount of time and keep the interest up - it will equally be a challenge for my students to keep their interest up and stay awake. Many will have completed a day's work by the time they come to class at 18:00.

The Business Analysis module is based on the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) methodology. It is a new module for me to teach, though it is similar to a Business Systems Analysis module I teach on the Certificate in Business Analysis course. I even managed to get my book An Introduction to Business Systems Analysis onto the reading list for the module. I'm really looking forward to this module!

One thing teaching at night means is that since I will be working late, I will not be starting work until two o'clock in the afternoon. I have the morning to myself and am writing this post at home. I plan to spend the rest of the morning writing. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A selection of photos from Flight Fest Air Show over Dublin #FlightFest

Today I was one of over 100,000 people who lined the banks of the Liffey for the Flight Fest air show, which is part of The Gathering experience this year. My vantage point was close to the East Link bridge where the massive traffic jam was almost as spectacular as the air show. Lots of air lines showed off their air-crafts, I liked Ryanair's message "U NEVR BEAT D'IRISH". The highlight for me was the Flying Fortress - I can't imagine the terror that people in Germany must have felt when these things flew over them during World War II. Thankfully today it came in peace! Despite the very blustery conditions, all pilots did a great job in flying low over The Liffey. After about two and a half hours I had had enough and decided to head home without seeing the massive British Airways Airbus A340, but when I got home it flew close to my house and I got a few shots - below is a selection of the photos I took today:

Irish Air Corps.

Great formation flying by the Irish Air Corps.

The B-17 Flying Fortress under attack from two seagulls.

The B-17 Flying Fortress.

The traffic jam at East Link.

Airbus A340 over my back garden.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Look out Ulster, there's an O'Loughlin coming! #StartingCollege

This morning I waved good bye to my youngest daughter Vicki, who set out to start college at the University of Ulster. She is going to study Culinary Arts Management at the Belfast Campus, and today is the first day of a new adventure for her. While we'll miss her here in Dublin, we know she is doing exactly what she wants to do in a subject she is passionate about. Go for it Vicki!

All loaded up and ready to go!
I'm trying to recall how I felt about this time 35 years ago when my Mum and Dad brought me to Dublin when I was going to Trinity. I know I was nervous, worried, and fearful of going to College, but did my best to hide this in front of my parents. I wonder do I feel today how they felt 35 years ago? I was certainly a lot less informed about College than Vicki is today - I really had no idea what I was letting myself in for and that it was the first day of eight years as an undergraduate and postgraduate in Trinity. I didn't know it then, but College changed my life and I wouldn't swap a day of it for anything.

Friday, September 13, 2013

If you're Irish and have an apostrophe in your name - does anyone care? @google #rant

Today I notice that Google have mangled my surname as follows:

You can see that Google has of today replaced the apostrophe in my surname. As an apostrophe is a regular ASCII character just like the other letters in my name and I don't see why this should be a problem. I'm not saying that Google are anti-Irish, just that they are careless in how they display names. Google is available in many languages with many different symbols - I'm sure this is not a problem elsewhere.

Image source: Celtic Crests.
However, Google are not alone in this. Recently I received a new email handle at work ( which does not include an apostrophe - I was told "the system can't handle it". In the past some websites would not allow me to enter my proper name, only by removing the apostrophe was I allowed to continue. I should say it has been some time since this happened to me. Lotus Notes email systems could always handle apostrophes.

The apostrophe is part of my surname, just like  O, L, o, u, g, h, l, i, and n. I hate it when my name is misspelled and I do not think it is beyond the capabilities of a giant like Google to get this simple thing right.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

8,311 viewers in a day - new @YouTube high #analytics

On Monday of this week the Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin YouTube channel had its best day ever with 8,311 views in one day. This is also the first time it has broken the 8,000 views per day barrier. As always, I am both thrilled and humbled that so many people have chosen to view my videos - a big THANK YOU to them all!

Just under half (3,989) of the views were from the United States, while there were just 56 from Ireland (my own views are not counted), and one from Nicaragua. The analytics for the day's views are interesting - especially to see from what countries the viewers are coming from, the numbers of views from each, the estimated minutes watched, and the average duration of the views. The total (estimated) minutes watched for the day was 25,860 minutes which is the equivalent of almost 18 days!  Below is a summary for the top 25 countries for the day:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

There's my Dad Joe in the paper!

The Enniscorthy Guardian published an article on Carnew throws open windows to past during Heritage Week featuring a photo of my Dad with organizer Noelle Keogh. Dad is 82, still going strong, and has lived all his life in the parish of Carnew. We attended the "Carnew, A Town of History and Heritage" exhibition together (I previously wrote about that in this post). We were both fascinated by all the memories and he especially liked the references to his own father PJ. Carnew is indeed a town full of history and heritage, and my Dad has memories of the town and surrounding areas going back to the mid 1930s!

Joe O'Loughlin Snr with Exhibition organizer Noelle Keogh.
Image source: The Enniscorthy Guardian.

Monday, September 09, 2013

New Academic Year at NCI

Today is the first day of Semester I at the National College of Ireland and there are plenty of both new and old faces around the college this morning. Some students are of course new and they are starting out on a new adventure that will hopefully result in a certificate, diploma, degree, or a masters at the end of the year. Some final year students may wonder how come their previous years went by so fast, others might wonder how they made it to final year in the first place!

The first day is a time of optimism. Exams and assignment submissions seem so far away today, but they will come around quicker than you think. So get ready to study, but don't forget to party as well.

Welcome back to all NCI students - have a great year!

Image source: National College of Ireland.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

"You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" #nostalgia

Here's one for my 1970's buddies - do you remember Bachmann-Turner Overdrive and their hit "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet"? It was a No 1 hit in 1974 and I remember in the pre-MP3 days when I listened to David Hamilton on BBC Radio 1 in school that I hoped and prayed that he would play this song. As I didn't have the single or a record player (if you've no idea what I'm talking about, Google it!) I along with my entire generation, was totally dependant on radio playlists to hear our favourite songs.

"You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" is a symbol of my generation - it was "our song". Nothing reminds me of the 1970s more than this - enjoy!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Repeating in College

In September 1980 I thought my world was in serious sh1t. I had to repeat my second year Science exams in Trinity. I well remember the day when I headed off to the Chemistry building to look up my repeat results on a notice board (no email or on-line lookups then). I was so confident that I had passed that I was already looking forward to third year. I got a huge shock to see an F1 grade for Biology I, and an F2 for Physical Sciences I. I was devastated and dreaded the trip home to tell my parents. However, both my Mum and Dad were very supportive and wanted me to repeat and continue - me too. The advice from Trinity at the time was that I was totally unsuited to College and should consider doing something else. To make matters worse, Johnny Logan had just won the Eurovision Song Contest with "What's Another Year" - many people used this to try to make me feel better. To cut a long story short, I repeated and went on to eventually graduate with a PhD from Trinity.

Round about now, many students will be receiving the results of their repeat assessments. Most will get through to progress to the next year, but others will get the bad news that one or more failed subjects will mean that they have to repeat. If this happens to you, the first thing to get into your head is that you are NOT a failure - though you might feel like one right now. You will recover from this and learn from this experience. In my case it was only when I repeated 2nd year that I really began to "get" College. Students fail for a variety of reasons. But it is important to get over it, absorb yourself in your repeat year, get to know your new classmates as quickly as possible, and move on with your life.

Though it will not make anyone who has to repeat a year in the least bit better, here is Johnny Logan with "What's Another Year" (fast forward to 50 secs):

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Dublin 3-18 Kerry 3-11 #GAA

Another O'Loughlin family day out at Croke Park to see the All-Ireland football semi-final between Dublin and Kerry. The seven point margin flattered Dublin in the end, but for me they were just about the better team throughout. Kerry were brilliant at times in the first half, but could not keep going for 70 minutes.

A huge crowd of nearly 82,000 enjoyed six goals in a thrilling game. I thought Kerry were hanging on and some of their players indulged in a lot of fouling and spoiling the game. For long spells Kerry made a lot of mistakes and didn't really seem up to the challenge. Yet somehow with just a few minutes to go the game was level. Two late goals won it for the Dubs.

Dublin well deserved the win and will now meet Mayo in the All-Ireland Final. This will mean divided loyalties in our house as my two daughters will be up for the Dubs, Roma of course will be supporting Mayo. I'll be up for Wicklow, despite the fact that they will not be in the final.

Now - how to get tickets for the final?