IT’S PODCAST TIME!

NB ~ the podcast episodes described below were recorded some three months ago, so not all information discussed is necessarily 100% up to date. It is, however, 100% interesting!

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In the spring King’s Online’s in-house Wed Developer, Simon Date (@simondate), went to have a series of chats about all things instructional design with Kristin Anthony (@anthkris), recorded as part of her excellent podcast – Dear Instructional Designer.

Two of the three conversations have now been uploaded and are available to download. Anyone interested in the world of instructional design and eLearning should definitely check them out at this address: https://dearinstructionaldesigner.simplecast.fm/

In the first episode Simon and Kristin talk, chiefly, about massive open online courses, AKA  ‘MOOCs’. The discussion touched upon:

  • The range of MOOCs that King’s produces, including Shakespeare: Print and Performance, and Medicines Adherence: Supporting Patients With Their Treatment;
  • The challenges facing MOOC providers, such as low completion rate and difficulties surrounding making a profit; and
  • The values of MOOCs from a brand recognition perspective.

In the second episode the pair chat about King’s Online’s chosen design programme, Adapt. When the team were looking for the central authoring tool for their work, it had to fit several criteria:

  • Embracing modern web standards – traditional desktop based authoring tools do not meet the needs of today’s modern learner, who often demands a higher standard from a website than they did ten years ago. They, for example, expect scrolling pages that work with all devices that they use.
  • Enabling collaboration and flexible working – server-based tools enable multiple users to work on a project at the same time, without having to install software on one’s computer and bounce large files around.
  • Extendibility – certain members of the King’s Online team have grand ambitions for what our content should look like. Having an open platform for which we can create new plugins allows us to achieve anything we can conceive, rather being limited by a software vendor.
  • Theming – our web designers are able to create beautiful designs for courses and see these designs realized across all of King’s Online’s lessons.
  • Ease to use – the tool is very simple to pick up and understand. People can place content in a component and there it appears. But it also allows for components and extensions which add exciting interactivity which might increase engagement.

The third episode, which will be uploaded in a fortnight’s time and which will be downloadable from the same address, touches upon open source software. Keep checking the King’s Online blog and follow us on Twitter (@kingsonline) to stay up-to-date!

A VR VISIT TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

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The time had come, as it occasionally does, for a team outing. And what better way, we thought, to spend a Friday lunch-hour than attending Mat Collishaw’s Thresholds exhibit at Somerset House?

Billed as a ‘new virtual reality artwork’, this was a particularly exciting prospect to the team, as both virtual reality (VR – an interactive, fully computer-generated simulation) and augmented reality (AR – superimposing images onto the real world) are hot topics of conversation within the eLearning world. We at King’s Online are always keen to explore innovative ways to bring online learning to life – so off, as they say, we went.

The central conceit behind Thresholds is that, before entering the exhibit space, visitors are equipped with an array of wearable devices: headset, earphones, backpack. Donning this futuristic attire, we were guided into the exhibition area, whereupon the virtual reality scene flickered astonishingly into view.

The white, box-like installation transforms before one’s eyes into a digitally reconstructed room, based exactly on scientist William Henry Fox Talbot’s photography exhibition in 1839. An opulent Victorian museum space now surrounds you, with high, vaulted ceilings, dark oak cabinets, and towering windows. Sounds from the era are piped into your headphones – including the echoes of Chartist protesters, rioting in the Birmingham streets ‘below’ – and Talbot’s exhibition cases ‘contain’ various priceless photographs and other fascinating items which would not typically be available to the general public. If one hovers one’s hand above these exhibits, one can bring them closer, offering a more detailed look.

As we began to move about in the room, smaller details started to emerge, such as a mouse scurrying across the floor under our feet, a spider crawling across a painting, moths flying about in the lights above. Moving across to the windows to take a peek ‘outside’, you see a Victorian street scene: a dark, grubby road, mist swirling, a soldier marching up and down.

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As a team, we could immediately see the possibilities that virtual reality might offer the realm of online learning. Putting aside, for a moment, the cost implications of producing VR and AR to the level that Mat Collishaw has achieved; or the logistical complications of the kit itself, the opportunities for, example, healthcare education are enormous: Imagine being able to teach anatomy and neuroscience by immersing students in an experience where they can ‘see’ organs pumping and blood flowing; neurons and synapses working away.

All sorts of different disciplines could, we believe, apply VR techniques to their educational offerings, making use of simulation-based learning to improve learner engagement and real-world relevance. Mat Collishaw’s exhibit has definitely whetted our collective appetite, and VR and AR are technologies which King’s Online will certainly be exploring further over the coming months and years.

  • Photos and text by Lindsey Fulker, May 2017