Sunday, 30 November 2014

CILL - a work in progress

It will be soon 6 months into its existence following the merging of the two centres namely CDPL and the VCILT. Some of the activities that the CILL has been engaging into (excluding existing ongoing work prior to the merging) are as follows:

1. Research and Development
 
As Associate Professor in the Centre, my main aim is to leave a mark on research and development activities of CILL. I am currently working on the CRIG Project with Uptoten Ltd (previous blog post) to be funded by the MRC, and another similar one with the State Informatics Limited.There is already an ongoing research project that is looking into the elements affecting students’ performances in online courses (previous blog post). I am setting up a living lab for teaching and learning at the CILL and the project is ongoing and it has made quite some progress. The project involves a bunch of our students too. Hopefully next year CILL will aim to become a member of ENOLL and the Living Lab project will get into another phase of its activity.

The work I engaged myself in 4-5 years ago in rapid elearning is into a later stage of activity where we have already started capacity-building activities on a regional scale to disseminate the technique. A project has been submitted to AAUN for funding the development of courseware in the context of a post-graduate certificate in teaching and learning.

2. Teaching and Learning

The first achievement is that the Diploma in Management and its top-up component has been migrated online (to the elearning platform). We are still in the process of refining the presentation of the content. This course is currently offered on DE mode with face-to-face components every Saturday on a full day basis. The modality will be reviewed for more flexibility in the programme. A University-wide e-learning policy has been worked out by the academic team and submitted to management back somewhere around April 2014. It will aim at transforming the teaching and learning landscape at the University. Administrative processes related to the management of the teaching and learning component of commissioned courses (re: Certificate in Police Duties) have been improved and done with more rigor to ensure adherence to University standards. CILL Quality Assurance Team has been recently set up to look into all quality issues and general issues related to teaching and learning and delivery of programmes at CILL. We are working with the Commonwealth of Learning to deliver two programmes of studies namely the Quality Assurance in Higher Education and the Education Leadership Masters. An MOU has been drafted and will hopefully be implemented soon. We have reviewed the structure of our MSc in Educational Technologies to make it in line with recent developments in the field and in line with our forthcoming collaboration with GESCI for the African Leadership in ICT. The programme structure has been reworked in such a way that it will be conducive to reach out to foreign students who can follow the course while being in their home country, and at the same time we have taken steps to ensure quality will be maintained. Similarly the three new programmes are being worked out that will help the University in its strategic directions 2 and 3 with a particular emphasis on internationalization.
The three programmes are as follows:
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Rapid e-Learning Methodologies (Support of COL)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Quality Assurance in Higher Education (Collaboration with COL)
  • Masters in Education Leadership (collaboration with COL)
3. Service to the University

CILL has maintained the VCILT’s tradition to be a highly efficient unit when it comes to supporting the University’s activities in general. CILL technical staff (web multimedia developers, visual communication designer and research assistant) has been providing unflinching support to the following activities:

  • Assisting the CITS in the redesign of the UoM website
  • Newsletter design and artwork as well as brochures
  • Mounting of the UoM Strategic Plan 2015-2020
  • Assisting in Court meeting PowerPoint Presentation
  • Technical support for the Use of Moodle e-Learning Platform
  • Working on the UoM 3D modeling project, to improve visibility of UoM on Google Maps and to improve student experience on campus (Strategic Direction 4)
  • Conducting workshops for educators on the use of 21st Century teaching and learning skills (Strategic Direction 5 on Community engagement)
  • Annual research week website and abstract handling system

4. Challenges of Leadership and Management

  • Moving all staff to the CORE without major complaint and resistance, occupying classrooms as offices, to work in difficult situations with no running water, intermittent Internet connection and with no access to UoM intranet services (MIS/SIS etc), and difficulty of transport for dispatch, and no fax.
  • Handling two different generation of work cultures (CPDL and VCILT), different aspirations and multiple grades of staff in one Centre (Academics, IDs, Web Developers and Administrative Staff). This is a unique situation at the University.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

CRIG Collaborative Research and Innovation Grant

Mobile (Tablet) Adaptation of the Flash-Based Edutainment Website UpToTen.com

Its been a long time no post on the blog! But things have been happening and I will be slowly updating the posts over here.

The MRC has recently launched the CRIG scheme where a private company can apply for research and development grant jointly with a collaborating academic/institution. The proposals should be for innovative, collaborative research and development projects with commercial potential.

I have been working with the Uptoten Ltd company, which is mainly a fun based learning website for kids and Uptoten Ltd has submitted a project for funding to the MRC. The collaborating institution is the UoM and I am the Principal Investigator of the project along with my colleague Roopesh Sungkur from the Computer Science Department. The project has been accepted in principle for funding and the last step is being awaited to finalise the process.

The technical abstract of the proposal is as follows:

UpToTen.com is a kids fun learning website with a worldwide visibility deriving its major traffic from France, the US, Canada and India. The main problem is that in 2014, 80 percent of the new visitors to the site access it via a tablet or a Smartphone. Given that the site is mainly in Flash and not tablet-compatible, such visitors spend only an average of 2 minutes and visit only 2 pages maximum on the site prior to opting out of it, compared to an average of 15 minutes and 15 pages when the site is accessed on a desktop/laptop computer. UPTOTEN is currently struggling to maintain its customer base due to the exponential growth of tablet utilisation among its primary customers. The aim of this project is to develop a rapid methodological process that can be applied on a large scale to re-adapt flash-based games to mobile mainly tablet-based environments. This will eventually help in improving the financial sustainability of the company by retaining its customer base through the development of a redesigned product that is responsive to their needs that is a tablet-compatible environment.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

MRC-Funded Research on factors affecting student performances in online courses


General Objective

 
Providing ICT education using an online mode of delivery is a challenging process. Online courses in the IT sector have been running since 2009 at the University of Mauritius. The researchers want to establish if the online mode of delivery affects the students’ performances, with respect to first year students enrolled on the web and multimedia development programme of the University of Mauritius.

Short Summary of the Research

Since 2009, the University of Mauritius has been running the Diploma in Web and Multimedia Development programme online. Two modules in the first year are however offered on a face-to-face basis. In 2013, the enrolment on the programme has climbed to 150. However, in 2012, it was noticed that many students were terminated in the first year, or had to repeat the year or had at least one re-sit module. The project will investigate into this problem to try to establish the main reasons through the learning analytics approach using educational data mining. Learning analytics refers to the collection and compilation of data produced, which will then be used to assess the progress of learners, as well as, judge their performances. Assessing these learners might be in terms of different variables, such as their way of participating, their responses and their academic performances.

Main Research Questions

The main research questions based on the specific objectives of the project are as follows:
  • Is there a correlation between HSC grades of first year students and their performances in online modules?
  • Is there a significant difference between the performances of students in the online modules when compared to modules offered on a face-to-face mode?
  • Is there a correlation between student engagement in an online module and the performances of the student?

Training of Agricultural Extension Officers on Development of Multimedia-based Distance Education Materials

The training was conducted by the Dr Santally acting as consultant to the Commonwealth of Learning to train 15 extension officers of the Food and Agricultural Research Extension Institute. It was a 10-day training spanned over a period of 1 month in May-June 2014.

Training Objectives
The objectives were such that it was expected, that at the end, participants would be able to
  • Design a storyboard for an interactive multimedia course
  • Use an e-learning authoring tool to design good-quality interactive learning resources
  • Convert and burn interactive materials into DVD format
  • Design and implement self-assessment instruments in an elearning environment
  • Manipulate images and videos to create simple animations in a pedagogical context
  • Mount a full-fledge e-learning short course to be deployed on PC and/or mobile devices
Technical Competencies
  • Image editing and video manipulation software (Movie Maker and Photoshop/Gimp)
  • Stop-Motion Animation
  • E-learning authoring tools (Articulate Storyline Suite)
  • DVD production (DVD Maker) 
Participants working in groups to have hands-on practice on Stop-Motion Techniques....
 

Participants having hands-on practice on specialized e-learning authoring tools.

 

2014 Educator's workshop on the Microsoft PiL Network Program

35 Educators participated in a two-day training on the Microsoft PIL Network. The theme of the training was "Building Educator Capacity". The workshop was conducted at the University of Mauritius on 15-16th April 2014 and it was led by the VCILT team. The workshop was supported by Microsoft Indian Ocean and French Pacific once more. Two educators received a Windows phone offered by Microsoft through a lucky draw. 


VCILT and CPDL merge to become CILL (Centre for Innovative and Lifelong Learning)

Finally! A process that started about 7 years ago finally comes to fruition. The subject of merging the two centres of the University into one consolidated centre finally becomes a reality.

The new centre is called Centre for Innovative and Lifelong Learning. From the VCILT's perspective, the merging was always seen to be a reinforcement of the centre's activities related to eLearning development and to achieve the mission of making the University of Mauritius a dual-mode institution as well as the establishment of a modern ICT-based teaching and learning system at the University.

A first attempt was made in 2004 when the former Director, Prof Senteni and Prof Fagoonee, the then Vice-Chancellor, setup the Lifelong Learning Cluster board to act as a virtual faculty giving three university centres namely the CITS, the VCILT and the CPDL the capacity to mount innovative flexible online programmes. 

For some well documented reasons, the LLC worked quite well without really gathering the synergy to achieve the mission and vision of the University when the centres were respectively created in 1993 (CPDL) and the VCILT (2001).

Since 2007 or so, when the visionary Prof Fagoonee realised that the two directors were reaching the end of their respective contracts and career, he launched the idea of a merger of both centres to strengthen them into 1 core that will foster a more conducive environment that will reduce the concept of 'turf-wars' - a very common phenomenon in Mauritius (and may be in other countries also).

On one hand one centre wanted to stick to its main strength, that of doing paper-based on-campus and off-campus traditional DE, while the other Centre (VCILT) was always under the pressure to deliver as per its mandate. 

As a result the merger never happened. In 2011, the merger was finally approved by Senate but could not pass the Council step. Finally in 2014, the Centres became one as will as from now be known as the Centre for Innovative and Lifelong Learning. It will have one common vision and will work towards a common strategic direction. 

The website of the new centre can be accessed here.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Multiple-Impact Social Partnership Model to promote Educators’ Development, Youth Empowerment and Poverty Alleviation in Mauritius


The organization Helping Our People has been setup in 2011 by a team of education professionals working at the Virtual Centre for Innovative Technologies (VCILT) at the University of Mauritius. In 2009, the VCILT embarked on the SIDECAP project, funded by the EU-ACP in a consortium regrouping the Open University of the UK, the University of the West Indies, the University of the South Pacific and the University of the Highlands and Islands. The work of the VCILT in the context of the SIDECAP project was essentially focused on the repurposing of Open Educational Resources to fit in the local Mauritian Context.

At the same time, the VCILT received an internal grant to work on the development of interactive learning materials using the integration of text-to-speech technology in instructionally designed PowerPoint presentations. In this presentation we show how the research activities of the two projects led to a series of development and applications in the real-world context for the continuous professional development of educators, the establishment of a social entity, an NGO called Helping Our People, a partnership with Microsoft Indian Ocean and French Pacific under the Partners in Learning Program and the Youth Empowerment Program to alleviate the suffering of those living in vulnerable conditions in the country.



Tuesday, 25 March 2014

UoM : Un haut cadre accusé de plagiat

Link to original article
  • http://www.defimedia.info/defi-quotidien/dq-actualites/item/49892-uom-un-haut-cadre-accuse-de-plagiat.html
This article is really intriguing - I will use the approach of a soccernet.com blogger - the famous ''Three things'' article...

Three things 

1.Brilliant students or Whistle-blower colleagues?

Students have realized that the 'haut cadre' has had recourse to plagiarism in Journal Science and Royal Society of Biological Services. This suggests that UOM is finally playing dans la cour des grands as apparently many students (the press article refers to ''un groupe d'etudiants") are active in this area and have been strangely looking at such kinds of articles. Or is it that information has leaked from colleagues who knew about any kind of procedure that was ongoing with respect to the alleged case of plagiarism? Could academics be becoming whistle-blowers to the student community nowadays? it seems possible!

2.The timing of the press article and the timing of the release of such information 

In the press article it seems the University authorities have conducted some background checks and its revealed nothing was found that is linked to plagiarism...Therefore could someone knowledgeable enough with respect to the issue have chosen the ''right'' timing to leak .....

3. The culture of mistrust and to some extent backstabbing has not yet been overcome at the UoM 

Sadly though but this is the reality. The article of the press demonstrates clearly that we have still a lot to surmount in this aspect of professional life and inter-collegial trust and support. Backstabbing is becoming by far the most notorious way to do away with those whom you see as challengers or opponents rather than fair competition. 

Let us pray for a better UoM and that backstabbers take the time to sit and think of what would they feel like if they were backstabbed one day .......

Saturday, 22 March 2014

A reflection on Education for Development in the Mauritian Context


In developed countries, Finland serving as an excellent example, it is widely said and proven that research has been the driving force behind innovation that led to the socio-economic developments of the countries through industrialization, the design and development of new products and services to the global markets (OECD 2010). Research and development in the context of developing countries should also embody community service as an important and key element to promote social justice and alleviation of poverty.

The University is more and more called upon to assume a preponderant role in the socio-economic development process of the country through sustainable initiatives to promote community building, social progress and inclusion for all.  Unfortunately the reality in Universities at least in the developing world and in our local context that research takes another priority dimension – that of getting publications for promotion. The University of Mauritius had an external academic audit in 2005, which was conducted again in 2012, followed by a Visitor (appointed by the Prime Minister) in 2012 itself to look into the operational challenges being faced by the University in the 21st Century. The common critique of all the three successive reports was the lack of research being undertaken at the level of the University. At the same time the two external audits commended a Faculty in particular for its very high research output. This is a type of contradiction, which calls for a broader debate into the issue of research and development in a small university of a small developing island surrounded by the ocean. Research leads to the exploration of new ideas, which in turn are developed into products and services that can be commercially exploited or that can lead to significant improvement to the community (common good).

Naturally speaking, research and development activities often span over years, even decades and in some cases more than that. On the other hand, when research is evaluated on the number of publications an academic achieves over a pre-defined period of time to be promoted, a rat race of research and publications gets underway. And, when people engage in such a race of research and publications we often end up with little or no applications of the research. Researchers are driven by the mindset where after a paper is successfully published in a peer-reviewed journal, then they move on to undertake the next ‘research’ with a publishability prospect. The other route many will take to distort the value of research is to fit themselves into all possible situations where their name could figure out on a published work to earn some marks. Hence we find ourselves being a bit the jacks-of-all-trades under the umbrella of ‘multidisciplinary research’.

Research and Development is also seen as the number of patents a University and its personnel can file. While this could have been a real value addition for developed countries with a variety of natural resources and extensive scientific advancement, over-emphasis on this element for a country like Mauritius is a misconception about research. Filing a patent is one thing and the ability to sustain it and convert it into a successfully commercial product or service is a completely different element. While the aim should not be to discourage this aspect, the real issue in developing countries is that less and less value is attached to research for development. In a country like Mauritius where free primary, secondary and tertiary education has been a landmark in the socio-economic development and political stability in the country, it is deplored that research in education for development has long been a sidelined issue despite having three public universities and one dedicated institution for teacher training.

Recently the concept of ‘Maurice Ile Durable (MID)’ has been put forward as the new leitmotiv for promoting socio-economic development, social justice and education in a framework respecting the environmental eco-system. Such an ecosystem that the MID concept is trying to promote is perfectly in line with the concept of Living Labs model. The Living Lab is essentially a research lab that fundamentally departs from the closed and restricted nature of research laboratories working on ‘closed’ innovation to the concept of an ‘open’ user-centered innovation system where all stakeholders form an integral part of the process. Hence the ‘living’ concept being embodied and replacing the term research in research labs.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

LiveCode : Deploy your first Android App using these simple Video Tutorials

The LiveCode programming language (formerly the "Revolution" programming language) is both an open-source and proprietary cross-platform rapid application development language inspired by HyperCard's programming language HyperTalk. LiveCode runs on iOS, Android, Mac OS X, Windows 95 through Windows 7, and several variations of Unix, including Linux, Solaris, and BSD. It can be used for mobile, desktop and server/CGI applications. The iOS (iPhone and iPad) version was released in December 2010

The following video tutorials will help you to get started with this 'very high level programming language'.

Special Thanks to Kaylash Ganeshe and Ravi Rajputh for working on this tutorial.

Step 1:  Download Livecode Community Edition at: http://livecode.com/

Step 2 :  Installing LiveCode Community Edition (Part 1)


 

Step 3 : Coding for Android with LiveCode  (Part 2)

 


Step 4 : Testing your application using an Android Virtual Device  (Part 3)