Introduction

    Welcome to the Wales Wide Web

    October 25th, 2007 by Dirk Stieglitz

    Wales Wide Web is Graham Attwell’s main blog. Graham Attwell is Director of the Wales based research organisation, Pontydysgu. The blog covers issues like open-source, open-content, open-standards, e-learning and Werder Bremen football team.

    You can reach Graham by email at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com

    Wales Wide Web

    What is Machine Learning

    January 20th, 2021 by Graham Attwell

    What is machine learning header

    I am copying this from Stephen Downes’ ever informative OLDaily newsletter digest. It features an article entitled What is machine learning? – A beginner’s guide posted on the FutureLearn website.

    This is quite a good introduction to machine learning. If you don’t know what it is and would like a quick no-nonsense introduction, this is it. Machine learning is depicted “as the science of getting computers to learn automatically.” It’s a type of artificial intelligence, which means essentially that they are software systems that “operate in an intentional, intelligent, and adaptive manner.” The third point is the most important, because it means they can change their programming based on experience and changing circumstances. The article talks about some types of machine learning systems and outlines some application in the field. It’s FutureLearn, so at the end it recommends some course tracks for people interested in making this a career, and just to dangle a carrot, the web page lets you know the median base salary and number of job opening for the program in question.

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    Subscriptions to streaming learning provision

    January 19th, 2021 by Graham Attwell

    Soon after MOOCs had burst onto the scene, I was talking to a senior manager at a UK university. He was charged with leading their development of MOOCs. But despite his enthusiasm,he thought he would only be given two or three years to get things right. And the big thing he had to get right was making money.

    And so it has been for the last ten years. There have been a whole number of attempts to make money out of MOOCs. One popular measure has been to charge for certification. The problem with that is that many who enroll on a MOOC really are not that concerned about the certificate. And others may wonder just how much traction a MOOC certificate has on the labour market, even if from a renowned university or university alliance. Another way of raising funds is to allow access to a MOOC for a period after it has finished for a fee. Of course the early MOOC providers generally just turned themselves into commercial online course providers, with a pivot towards continuing professional development,especially towards technical knowledge and skills.

    Europe’s largest MOOC provider FutureLearn, an alliance of organisations led by the UK open University,has tried quite a few of these ideas. And now they are enhancing their paid for provision, albeit with an interesting spin.

    “You’ve probably heard of music, TV, fitness, and even snack subscriptions,” they say, “but what about a subscription to learning?”

    Whilst the world was already well on its way to being filled with subscription-loving societies, the COVID-19 pandemic has supercharged our desire for easy, affordable access to the things we love without setting foot outside the front door.

    Our way of achieving this at FutureLearn is by offering flexible, career-focused, and fun learning experiences online.

    Our brand-new learning subscription model,, offers you the chance to build expert knowledge and workplace skills entirely on your own terms.

    In an explanation of Learning Subscriptions which they, describe as “the learning of 2020, they say:

    Learning on demand refers to the kind of learning where you have access to educational content at any time or in any place. The learner, therefore, has control over their learning and gets to plan and create their own educational journey. A model like this differs from a typical in-person learning model due to its flexibility and because it requires less of a financial and personal commitment.

    So is this really something new and does it require less commitment?

    ExpertTracks -the FutureLearn implementation of Learning Subscriptions

    are carefully curated series of online courses that focus on specific areas of learning. They’re designed to help you fast-track your studies across various topics, subject areas, and industries.

    You’ll find ExpertTracks on a diverse range of topics, including ones such as blended learning, getting started with SEO, and fintech innovations. From the basics of psychology to the teaching of practical science, you can develop your skills to match your career aspirations. …..

    with each ExpertTrack, you’ll complete at least 20 hours of learning time, often from a top educational or business institution.

    The ExpertTracks look to me like a series of repackaged MOOCs, designed for continuing professional development. But of course one of the things about MOOCs is they were free and have played a big role in opening up education. The cost per month per ExpertTrack is 36 British pounds.

    I am sure many of these online courses (because that is what they are) will be very good. But all in all I can’t help thinking this is yet another go at marketising MOOCs. And I am not sure that people are going to ought up 36 pounds a month to Open Learn for professional development which if we are serious about promoting and supporting skills development should be for free.

     

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    AI and Edge computing

    January 7th, 2021 by Graham Attwell
    ball, abstract, pattern

    geralt (CC0), Pixabay

    A recent MIT Technology Review Insights reports on a survey of 301 business and technology leaders around their use and future planned us of Artificial Intelligence. The survey confirms that the deployment of AI is increasing, not only in large companies but also in SMEs. It also points to the emergence of what is known as edge  comput9ing, using a variety of devices closer to the applied use than cloud computing allows and capable of near real time processing.

    38% report of those surveyed report their AI investment plans are unchanged as a result of the pandemic, and 32% indicate the crisis has accelerated their plans. The percentages of unchanged and revved-up AI plans are greater at organizations that had an AI strategy already in place.

    AI is not a new addition to the corporate technology arsenal: 62% of survey respondents are using AI technologies. Respondents from larger organizations (those with more than $500 million in annual revenue) have, at nearly 80%, higher deployment rates. Small organizations (with less than $5 million in revenue) are at 58%, slightly below the average.

    Cloud-based AI also allows organizations to operate in an ecosystem of collaborators that includes application developers, analytics companies, and customers themselves.

    But while the cloud provides significant AI-fueled advantages for organizations, an increasing number of applications have to make use of the infrastructural capabilities of the “edge,” the intermediary computing layer between the cloud and the devices that need computational power.

    Asked to rank the opportunities that AI provides them, respondents identify AI-enabled insight as the most important (see Figure 2). Real-time decision-making is the biggest opportunity, regardless of an organization’s size: AI’s use in fast, effective decision-making is the top-ranked priority for large and small organizations.

    For small ones, though, it is tied to the need to use AI as a competitive differentiator.

    Again, the need for real-time data or predictive tools is a requirement that could drive demand for edge-based AI resources.

    Survey respondents indicate that AI is being used to enhance current and future performance and operational efficiencies: research and development is, by a large margin, the most common current use for AI, used by 53% of respondents, integrating AI-based analytics into their product and service development processes. Anomaly detection and cybersecurity are the next-most-deployed AI applications.

    Large organizations have additional priorities: 54% report heavy use of robotic process automation to streamline business processes traditionally done by humans, and 41% use AI in sales and business forecasting. For organizations with AI strategies, 40% rely on robotic process automation, and 42% use AI to estimate future sales.

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    Word of the Day

    January 7th, 2021 by Graham Attwell

    Rather than comment on the goings on in America yesterday, I will leave it to Susie Dent and her extremely timely Word of the Day tweet.

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    Basic digital skills

    January 5th, 2021 by Graham Attwell
    student, typing, keyboard

    StartupStockPhotos (CC0), Pixabay

    Happy new year  to you all and the first post of the year comes from the Marchmont Employment and Skills Observatory monthly mailing.

    A new survey has found that many people are still lacking basic digital skills during lockdown. Most people have had no recent help to improve their digital skills, despite the pandemic moving personal and professional life online. Some 83% of UK adults said they had not received any support to improve their tech skills over the last six months, the poll by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT found.

    Most offers of help with digital skills came from employers (57%), over a quarter (28%) from family and friends and 13% from organisations like government and training providers. Asked about specific software, nearly a third (31%) of people are not confident with basic data management using an Excel spreadsheet, the professional body for IT reported

    . The research follows an issue with the NHS track and trace system where people testing positive for COVID-19 were not recorded once an Excel spreadsheet reached its maximum capacity.

     

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    MOOCs and Artificial Intelligence – Potentials for the Professional Development of VET Teachers and Trainers

    December 21st, 2020 by Graham Attwell
    processor, cpu, computer

    ColiN00B (CC0), Pixabay

    It does not seem likely that we are going to participate in any face to face conferences in the near future. But conferences are continuing online and in some ways there are increased opportunities for sharing ideas and knowledge. Anyway that was a preamble for the latest abstract that I, together with Sohia Roppertz and Ludger Dietmer have submitted for the 4th Crossing Boundaries on Vocational Education and Training in 2021.

    1        Introduction

    The growing use of Artificial intelligence (AI) and other technological innovations are leading to a fundamental change in the world of work, as tasks previously performed by humans can now potentially be performed/assisted by computers and computer-controlled machines (Brynjolfsson & McAffee, 2014; Dengler & Matthes ,2018).

    This digital transformation places VET under high pressure to adapt (Seufert, 2018), to provide professional action competence within non academic technical, social, commercial and other occupations. VET schools and their teachers and trainers have the central task of preparing learners for the changing world of work.  Technological change also is impacting the organisation of  VET schools through the introduction of big data and e-government and at the implementation level in connection with e.g. adaptive learning systems and learning analytics (Seufert 2018).

    Against this background, the question arises how vocational school teachers and trainers can be prepared for these tasks. While a survey undertaken through the Taccle AI project found most vocational teachers and trainers recognised the importance of AI, there are presently few opportunities for professional development (Author, forthcoming).

    This paper reports on work in progress through the EU Erasmus Plus funded Taccle AI project examining the impact of AI on Vocational Education and Training, led by the University of Bremen Following initial research and the development of a Resource Toolkit, the project is developing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), to be offered in English and  Germany and expected to be launched May 2021.

    In section two of the paper we will examine the vision behind MOOCs and in section three will look at the different dimensions of a MOOC for professional development for teachers and trainers around AI. This will be followed by a discussion of how cooperative and project related MOOC design can support teachers and trainers in developing their professional practice. Finally we will draw some initial conclusions based on our work.

    1.       Theoretical background

    The first MOOC, led by George Siemens and Stephen Downes was in 2008 around the topic of Connectivism. According to Downes (2012) it was based on the realization that the use of distributed open resources would support – with ease – an attendance in the thousands. The vision grew out of the idea of Open Education, where everybody could access free online courses. The idea quickly took off, especially with the launch of Coursera and Udacity. Although the founders of these companies saw their innovation as disruptive to traditional education institutions, universities have been quick to pick up on the potential of MOOCs. In Europe one of the biggest MOOC providers is OpenLearn, through the UK Open University leading a consortium of educational providers.

    2.1       Vision behind MOOCs

    There has been and continues to be discussion over pedagogic approach to MOOC design, with advocates of so called cMoocs emphasising the active contribution of participants, using digital platforms and technologies while so called xMOOCs, for example from Stanford University, are more focused on the transmission of knowledge.

    MOOCs are increasingly being used for professional development, for instance by companies like Siemens, and for teachers and trainers.

    1. MOOCs and AI – two dimensions

    There are two key dimensions to the AI MOOC.

    3.1       MOOCs as a Way to Learn about AI

    The first is MOOCs as a way to learn about AI. This in turn has three key foci. After an initial introduction the course will examine both the impact of AI on the Changing world of Work and its implications in terms of skills, tasks and consequently curriculum. The second focus will be on the use of AI for teaching and learning in VET. The final section will examine the ethical implications of AI for VET.

    3.2       Artificial Intelligence powered MOOCs

    The second key dimension will be the integration of AI into the MOOC platform. While this work is still under development it is intended to incorporate Natural Language processing for the production of materials and Learning Analytics within the MOOC Platform.

    1.             Implementation of cooperative and project related (more interactive) MOOCs design in professional development of VET teachers and trainers

    New forms of learning are needed for AI in VET. MOOCs including practice and project-based learning can be used both in VET courses and for training teachers and trainers. The paper will discuss how MOOCs can be designed through a new didactical approach to teaching and learning.

    The article will explore the concept of additional qualifications within apprenticeship training and how such concepts can be adapted to different European vocational settings. It will show how the new arrangements affect the teaching and learning of  VET students (e.g. mechatronic apprentices), and new roles for VET teachers and trainers. Discussion will be based around examples, for instance the mechatronic students are working and learning in school based and training factory labs themselves developing AI projects (Author et Al, 2020a). This functional learning material allows student teams to plan, prepare, realize and demonstrate projects in which for example autonomous driving or robot functions are programmed, tested and presented to bigger audiences. These practice based developments will be incorporated in the MOOC.

    1. Conclusions

    This paper will examine the question of whether MOOCs are suitable for the continuing education of VET teachers and trainers in the context of Artificial Intelligence. It will also clarify what kind of MOOCs types and settings can be connected to projects, how MOOCs can be implemented by VET teachers and trainers and how they have to be structurally designed in didactical terms. This includes the question how teachers and trainers have to be prepared for such new learning arrangements in order to develop vocationally oriented MOOCss (Author at Al, 2020b).

    References

    Author, Bekiaridis, G., Author., Tutlys, T., Perini, M., Roppertz, S., & Tutlys, V. (2020a). Artificial Intelligence in Policies, Processes and Practices of Vocational Education and Training. Institut Technik und Bildung. https://doi.org/10.26092/elib/307

    Author, Author., Tutlys, T., Author, & Perini, Marco. (2020b). Digitalisation, artificial intelligence and vocational occupations and skills: What are the needs for training teachers and trainers? In C. Nägele, B. E. Stalder, & N. Kersh (Eds.), Trends in vocational education and training research, Vol. III. Proceedings of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Vocational Education and Training Network (VETNET) (pp. 30–42). https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4005713

    Downes, S. 2012, The Rise of MOOCs, https://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=57911, accessed 15 December, 2020

    Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2014). The second machine age: Work, progress, and prosperity in a time of brilliant technologies. WW Norton & Company.

    Dengler, K. & Matthes, B. (2018). Substituierbarkeitspotenzial von Berufen. Wenige Berufsbilder halten mit der Digitalisierung Schritt. IAB-Kurzbericht.

    Seufert, S. (2018). Flexibilisierung der Berufsbildung im Kontext fortschreitender Digitalisierung. Bericht im Auftrag des Staatssekretariats für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation SBFI im Rahmen des Projekts «Berufsbildung 2030 – Vision und Strategische Leitlinien» Zugriff unter: https://edudoc.ch/record/132323 (1.12.2020)

    Author, (forthcoming). Artificial Intelligence and Vocational Education and Training – Perspective of German VET teachers. Proceedings of the European Distance and E-Learning Network Research Workshop, 2020 Lisboa, 21 – 23 October 2020.)

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