For years and years, one of the main arguments proposed in favour of using learning technologies has been: “It scales!” Whether there are ten, a hundred or a thousand students in your class, it doesn’t matter. We used this argument in the early days, when developing adaptive on-line courses for students at the University of Education in Freiburg. And yes, we had a couple of hundred students every year. We used the very same argument when designing courses in software engineering at Fraunhofer IESE. And yes, at lot of learners came.

There are lots of examples, where learning was brought in based on the promise that you could reach a large audience in an easy way. But I always felt that e-Learning had never really delivered on this promise. A course for a couple of hundred students. Good. A training solution for several thousand employees in a company.  Nice. But only recently, we have seen examples of real scale. More than 100,000 people registered for a free on-line course on Artificial Intelligence offered by Stanford University. And 25,000 of them actually finished. Yes, that’s 25,000 people completing a hard, technical university course! Based on this success they have now started Udacity, a growing set of on-line lectures (all of them in Computer Science so far).

1 million learnersThe phenomenon has been coined Massive Open Online Courses, MOOC, by George Siemens back in 2008 (see interview). Only now, it really gets massive. Similar offers are available from academic room and the by now well known MITx.

But we don’t even have to look that for to see the emerging trend. My esteemed colleague Eugene just celebrated the 1,000,000th view on his YouTube channel Learn with Dr Eugene O’Loughlin. The first million is always the hardest, but I am confident we will all soon be millionaires.


Stephan and I are delighted to have been accepted to participate in a new European Funded Network of research and best practice; the COST Initiative.

The aim of the COST Initiative is to reduce the fragmentation in European research investments and opening the European Research Area to cooperation worldwide.

Researchers from NELL will be joining the IC0904 Network called ‘Towards the Integration of Transectorial IT Design and Evaluation’.   The Priniciple aim of this Action is to harmonise research and practice on design and evaluation methodologies for computing artefacts, across sectors and disciplines.

This Network currently has members from 20 other European countries and is growing.

We see participation in COST Network as exiting opportunity to share research and learn more about what other members in the network are currently investigating in the area of design and evaluation metrics of usability and user experience, particularly in e-learning applications. 

We would also look at participation in the Network as opportunity to encourage mobility and exchange of research students, faculty and staff between different research centres and to collaborate on scientific research and publications.

The first meeting of the Management committee of this Network will meet in Nov 09, so watch this space…

In the beginning..

May 27, 2009

Blogging and usability; what’s it all about?

 Why blog about usability? Here in National E-Learning Laboratory (NELL)… we like asking questions… Lots of questions..  questions like what do your users think of your website?  How long does it take them to do what they want to do? Do they like it?

And as a College, National College of Ireland especially want to understand more about e-learning and how technology can support learning. We want to know more about how students learn in on-line environments. 

Why do we want to know? Because once we better understand the users’ on-line experience, we can then work towards improving and building on that experience…

And why blog about it?  Well, we launched NELL just six months ago and have been pretty busy undertaking lots of usability research projects and learning many interesting things.  We thought a blog a good way of sharing our experiences.  

And frankly, these days; its seems Blogosphere is the place to be..