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February 22, 2007

Elluminate webinars

Elluminate (the maker of Elluminate Live! web conferencing system) has an interesting series of webinars entitled Let's Get Serious About New Learning... [Technologies, Approaches, Architectures]. Registration is required but free.

There is one scheduled for today, at 2 PM EST: "Let's Get Serious About New Learning Technologies: Learning-At-The-Speed Of Work/life"

There is also a pretty big library of recordings of past lectures - all of the webinars from the above series are already available there for on-demand playback. (Apparently, they are repeats.)

Posted by wlodek at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2007

Wetpaint wiki

SI students have setup a Wetpaint wiki "to try some ways to share information besides si.all emails and hallway conversations". Somehow I never developed a deep appreciation of wikis, but I must admit that I'm very impressed with this Wetpaint tool for creating wikis - it appears superbly easy to use yet quite sophisticated, with simple yet elegant interface. Too bad it is only available in the hosted, free version (free isn't bad, except in this case it means ads), as this is the best tool for collaborative site building that I have seen in a long while...

Posted by wlodek at 09:43 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2007


There has been a growing demand for recording of lectures and class sessions at the School of Information. We've been using software called ProfCast (available only for the Mac) and a combination of off-the-shelf hardware (Mac mini, camera, microphone, monitor) mounted on a cart, which we would move from classroom to classroom, depending on the need. It is not a bad system, but it requires more care than we can devote to it, and it is not quite there yet in terms of features. So we've been looking at various alternatives, trying to locate something that is fairly sophisticated yet easy to use and affordable. (Yes, it's about as fruitful as searching for that one person that is super smart, with stunningly good looks, and madly in love with you. :-)). This morning we had a rep from Anystream demonstrate their Apreso system.

It was fairly impressive, especially on the ease-of-use front: the system hid all of its complexity from the end user, actually to the point of overdoing it by not even giving the user any indication as to when recording started and ended. (This is driven entirely by a scheduling system and there isn't even a big, green "Start" button to press...) That's a tough sell at a university where few things start and end exactly on time, especially since the system provides no editing capability, so the first 10 or 15 minutes of waiting for the latecomers to show up can't be edited out...

Apreso is a hardware/software combination, although there is a software-only product that does not provide the capability to record video of the presenter. It's not quite turn-key, in that in addition to the processing box (a Dell desktop outfitted with a bunch of cards) one also needs a Content Management server (to handle scheduling and store the final product), a streaming server (if streaming of content is desired), and an LMS (in our case it would be CTools) to control access to the recordings.

Also impressive was the range of recording formats, from the "whole nine yards": talking head + live screen capture + close captioning, to an audio-only file on iTunes. The processing of those is done automatically, behind the scenes - again, with the substantial caveat of not being able to edit the recording.

Pricing was not impressive, although, in all fairness, the system is significantly less expensive than comparable products from its competitors: the Apreso appliance (the recording/processing box) costs $2,500. The support contract is $5,000 annually - optional after the first year, but it is still one of few products for which the support costs several times as much as the product itself... ;-) With all the other peripherals we will need (not including the servers), we'd probably be looking at close to $10,000 to equip just one classroom. Ouch! (Presumably, each additional classroom would cost significantly less, but the "ouch!" would in all likelihood still apply.

I wonder if other schools have found the Holy Grail of an "easy-to-use/powerful/inexpensive" recording system, and whether they've just put together something from various components, or went with an Apreso-like appliance?

Posted by wlodek at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)

Keeping an eye on this blog

A few people asked me whether it would be possible to subscribe to this blog and get all new posts via e-mail. I said it wasn't possible, but I was partially wrong. Maybe mostly wrong. :-) Well, you can get the blog entries as RSS feeds and have them delivered to your e-mail client.

It is easy to setup in Outlook 2007: just go to Tools --> Account Settings --> Rss Feeds --> New and past the URL from the link "Syndicate this Site (XML)" visible on this blog. You will end up with another folder with the name of this blog under RSS Feeds, containing the posts. Here's a screenshot from my Outlook:

I'm sure it is not more complicated (probably less) in other clients (e.g. Thunderbird, Outlook 2003) that have RSS readers.

Posted by wlodek at 05:04 PM | Comments (1)

February 15, 2007

Fully online programs and courses at UM

I am interested in finding out about all the fully online courses and degree programs that exist in the UM system. At Dearborn, we have fully online courses in Engineering, Business, and Arts, Sciences, and Letters, and maybe a few in Education (we are very decentralized). The SOM has a fully online MBA program, the CASL is quite close to offering a BGS online degree and not far from being able to offer a BA or BS degree online. We are also collaborating with the Flint Office of Extended Learning to offer online courses jointly to students at both campuses. Flint currently has a large number of courses online, mostly lower division courses, while our courses are mostly upper division. This partnership agreement will enable us to offer a complete online BGS degree from UMD and will enable Flint to offer a complete online IDS degree. I am the Director for the CASL Distance Learning Office. Deborah White is the Director of Extended Learning at Flint.

-- Caroline Landrum

Posted by clandrum at 10:25 AM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2007

SI in SecondLife

I have recently mentioned that the School of Information might consider acquiring an island on Second Life, so that students can have additional venue for socializing and collaborating. Some students became pretty excited about this prospect and began exploring SL with an eye toward potential applications in SI's teaching and research. Here's a screenshot of their gathering spot in SL:

Perhaps there is a way for two or more schools to collaborate and share the cost of an island? With education discount, the cost is reasonable: $980 plus $150 monthly "maintenance" fee.

Posted by wlodek at 05:12 PM | Comments (1)

Agora on CTools?

The Centre for e-Science in Lancaster University (UK) has just released the beta version of Agora, an online meeting tool integrated with Sakai. The features of Agora include: It is a server-client application, with the client currently available for Windows XP or 2000 (Versions for Linux, Windows Vista, and Mac are in the works, but it will take a while.)

It probably won't take long before we see Agora added to CTools.

Posted by wlodek at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)