Saturday, March 26, 2011

Guru Melek IT Menuju Pentas Dunia  

TEMPO Interaktif, Jakarta - Penggunaan teknologi dalam proses belajar mengajar semakin banyak diterapkan di sekolah-sekolah. Bukan sekedar praktis, kegiatan belajar menjadi lebih menarik, mudah dipahami, dan aman.

Namun, baru segelintir guru yang dapat memanfaatkan teknologi sebagai alat mengajar. Salah satu pengajar yang mampu memanfaatkannya adalah Ari Budiyanto. Guru Komputer dan Multimedia dari Sekolah Dasar Muhammadiyah Condong Catur, Yogyakarta ini mengajak siswa membuat karangan prosa atau puisi untuk menerapkan modul belajar mengetik dengan sepuluh jari.

"Kami mengemas kegiatan pembelajaran komputer dan multimedia menjadi kegiatan yang menarik dan menyenangkan bagi para siswa," kata Ari. Setiap karya yang dibuat akan disimpan dalam bentuk majalah digital di server sekolah dan dapat diakses siswa maupun guru yang memiliki akun. Di jaringan sekolah itu, mereka juga dapat berinteraksi satu sama lain, seperti memberikan komentar dan penilaian terhadap hasil karya temannya.

Inovasi itulah yang mengantarkan Ari untuk mewakili Indonesia dalam ajang tingkat dunia di World Wide Innovative Education Forum yang berlangsung November mendatang. Forum itu merupakan kelanjutkan dari acara Regional Innovative Education Forum tingkat Asia Pasifik yang diselenggarakan Microsoft di Thailand awal bulan lalu.

Academic Program Manager Microsoft Indonesia, Ananta Gondomono mengatakan ada lima guru yang terpilih untuk dapat mengikuti forum inovasi pendidikan tingkat regional itu. Mereka adalah Ari Budiyanto, Siti Maftukah (guru SDN Ngabean, Yogyakarta), Muhammad Zulham (guru SMPN Sedayu , Yogyakarta), Anastasia Putriandi Djuana (guru SMAK 1 Penabur, Jakarta), dan Rima Artha Manurung (guru SMAN 61, Jakarta).

"Kami harap mereka mampu mendorong pemanfaatan teknologi informasi dan komukasi dalam proses pengajaran dan pembelajaran," kata Ananta. Apabila setiap guru dapat menerapkan teknologi informasi di sekolah-sekolah, Ananta berharap ke depannya tak ada lagi kesenjangan kualitas pendidikan antara kota besar dengan daerah pedalaman.

Rini K
build-access-manage on www.dayaciptamandiri.com

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kuliah di Harvard dari rumah

21 Maret 2011 14:19 GMT


"Di dunia internet Anda tidak harus memenuhi gedung-gedung atau bangsal kuliah dengan orang lain dan Anda tidak perlu terjebak dalam jadwal kuliah," kata Peter Scott, Direktur Institut Pengetahuan Media di Open University Inggris.

Open University atau universitas terbuka ini memungkinkan orang-orang belajar dari rumah pada waktu yang mereka atur sendiri dan mendapatkan gelar sarjana.

Universitas itu menjadi pelopor gelar sarjana lewat internet.

Universitas yang memiliki lebih dari 263.000 mahasiswa di 23 negara itu sekarang menjadi pemecah rekor di iTunes U, bagian dari toko online iTunes yang menyediakan perpustakaan digital materi kuliah bagi mahasiswa dan staf universitas.

Materi kuliah Open University yang disediakan di iTunes U diunduh 31 juta kali, lebih banyak dari universitas manapun dan merupakan 10% dari seluruh materi yang diunduh lewat iTunes U.

Hampir 90% dari pengunduh adalah pengguna yang berasal dari luar Inggris.

Sarjana mandiri

Tidak seperti iTunes, yang menjual musik atau film online, iTunes U milik Apple memungkinkan mahasiswa mengunduh video kuliah dan bahan-bahan lain dari berbagai universitas di dunia.

Universitas terkemuka dunia seperti Massachussetts Institute of Technology dan Universitas Harvard di Amerika, sampai Universitas Oxford dan Cambridge di Inggris meletakkan video dan audio materi kuliah mereka di iTunies U, yang tersedia secara gratis bagi orang yang ingin mengunduhnya.

Prospek untuk bisa kuliah di universitas terkenal seperti Harvard dari rumah semakin terbuka.

Walaupun saat ini Universitas Harvard dan universitas terkemuka lain belum menawarkan gelar sarjana lewat internet, materi kuliah yang mereka tawarkan online bagi semua orang sangat besar manfaatnya bagi mahasiswa lain dan terutama bagi mahasiswa Open University.

"Kenapa kita harus menghadiri kuliah di sebuah universitas dan mendengarkan dosen yang mungkin terbaik atau tidak terbaik di bidang mereka, kalau kita bisa mengakses iTunes U dan mendengar kuliah dari dosen yang terbaik di dunia?," kata Lord Jim Knight, mantan menteri pendidikan Inggris.

"Semakin banyaknya pilihan dan akses terhadap kualitas dan semakin banyak orang yang terbiasa dengan produk-produk digital, saya rasa, akan mengubah semuanya. Tetapi apakah berbagai universitas siap untuk berubah, itu pertanyaan lain," tambah Lord Knight.

Anthony Salcito, Wakil Presiden Microsoft urusan Pendidikan Global mengatakan, pendidikan tinggi lewat internet akan menjadi satu cara membuka lebih banyak pilihan dan memberi peluang bagi mahasiswa agar bisa melihat pilihan lain selain universitas besar.

"Ketika kita membuka pendidikan dan teknologi, tirani nama besar dalam pendidikan akan berubah dan akan berevolusi karena mahasiswa memiliki pilihan," katanya
build-access-manage on www.dayaciptamandiri.com

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Solusi Learning Management mana yang tepat?

Pertanyaan yang sama yang saya dapatkan pada waktu terlibat dalam sebuah
pekerjaan di perguruan tinggi.

Untuk menjawabnya, silahkan membandingkan apa yang telah ada.

gunakan tools ini:
http://www.edutools.info/item_list.jsp?pj=4


Silahkan hubungi kami untuk pembuatan e-learning system, digital content
instructional system untuk eLearning Anda.

Teknik Pengukuran Kualitas Perangkat Lunak

by Romi Satria Wahono
qualitysoftware.gifDeras masuknya produk perangkat lunak dari luar negeri di satu sisi menguntungkan pengguna karena banyaknya pilihan produk dan harga. Namun di sisi lain cukup mengkhawatirkan karena di Indonesia tidak ada institusi yang secara aktif bertugas membuat standard dalam pengukuran kualitas perangkat lunak yang masuk ke Indonesia. Demikian juga dengan produk-produk perangkat lunak lokal, tentu akan semakin meningkat daya saing internasionalnya apabila pengembang dan software house di Indonesia mulai memperhatikan masalah kualitas perangkat lunak ini.
Kualitas perangkat lunak (software quality) adalah tema kajian dan penelitian  turun temurun dalam sejarah ilmu rekayasa perangkat lunak (software engineering). Kajian dimulai dari apa yang akan diukur (apakah proses atau produk), apakah memang perangkat lunak bisa diukur, sudut pandang pengukur dan bagaimana menentukan parameter pengukuran kualitas perangkat lunak.
Bagaimanapun juga mengukur kualitas perangkat lunak memang bukan pekerjaan mudah. Ketika seseorang memberi nilai sangat baik terhadap sebuah perangkat lunak, orang lain belum tentu mengatakan hal yang sama. Sudut pandang seseorang tersebut mungkin berorientasi ke satu sisi masalah (misalnya tentang reliabilitas dan efisiensi perangkat lunak), sedangkan orang lain yang menyatakan bahwa perangkat lunak itu buruk menggunakan sudut pandang yang lain lagi (usabilitas dan aspek desain).
APA YANG DIUKUR?
Pertanyaan pertama yang muncul ketika membahas pengukuran kualitas perangkat lunak, adalah apa yang sebenarnya mau kita ukur. Kualitas perangkat lunak dapat dilihat dari sudut pandang proses pengembangan perangkat lunak (process) dan hasil produk yang dihasilkan (product). Dan penilaian ini tentu berorientasi akhir ke bagaimana suatu perangkat lunak dapat dikembangkan sesuai dengan yang diharapkan oleh pengguna. Hal ini berangkat dari pengertian kualitas (quality) menurut IEEE Standard Glossary of Software Engineering Technology [3] yang dikatakan sebagai:
    The degree to which a system, component, or process meets customer or user needs or expectation.
Dari sudut pandang produk, pengukuran kualitas perangkat lunak dapat menggunakan standard dari ISO 9126 atau best practice yang dikembangkan para praktisi dan pengembang perangkat lunak. Taksonomi McCall adalah best practice yang cukup terkenal dan diterima banyak pihak, ditulis oleh J.A. McCall  dalam technical report yang dipublikasikan tahun 1977 [1].
product-process.gif
Di lain pihak, dari sudut pandang proses, standard ISO 9001 dapat digunakan untuk mengukur kualitas perangkat lunak. Dan diskusi tentang ini berkembang dengan munculnya tema kajian tentang CMM (The Capability Maturity Model) yang dikembangkan di Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University serta beberapa kajian lain seperti SPICE (Software Process Improvement and Capability dEtermination) dan BOOTSTRAP. CMM, SPICE dan BOOTSTRAP mengukur kualitas perangkat lunak dari seberapa matang proses pengembangannya.
Tulisan ini akan mencoba fokus ke bagaimana mengukur perangkat lunak dilihat dari sudut pandang produk. Untuk pengukuran proses pengembangan perangkat lunak akan dibahas pada tulisan lain.
PARAMETER DAN METODE PENGUKURAN
    When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it. But when you can not measure it, when you can not express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind. (Lord Kelvin)
Pendekatan engineering menginginkan bahwa kualitas perangkat lunak ini dapat diukur secara kuantitatif, dalam bentuk angka-angka yang mudah dipahami oleh manusia. Untuk itu perlu ditentukan parameter atau atribut pengukuran. Menurut taksonomi McCall [1], atribut tersusun secara hirarkis, dimana level atas (high-level attribute) disebut faktor (factor), dan level bawah (low-level attribute) disebut dengan kriteria (criteria). Faktor menunjukkan atribut kualitas produk dilihat dari sudut pandang pengguna. Sedangkan kriteria adalah parameter kualitas produk dilihat dari sudut pandang perangkat lunaknya sendiri. Faktor dan kriteria ini memiliki hubungan sebab akibat (cause-effect) [4][5]. Tabel 1 menunjukkan daftar lengkap faktor dan kriteria dalam kualitas perangkat lunak menurut McCall [1].
Tabel 1: Faktor dan Kriteria dalam Kualitas Perangkat Lunak
quality-factor.gif
Kualitas software diukur dengan metode penjumlahan dari keseluruhan kriteria dalam suatu faktor sesuai dengan bobot (weight) yang telah ditetapkan [2]. Rumus pengukuran yang digunakan adalah:
    Fa = w1c1 + w2c2 + … + wncn
Dimana:
    Fa adalah nilai total dari faktor a wi adalah bobot untuk kriteria i ci adalah nilai untuk kriteria i
Kemudian tahapan yang harus kita tempuh dalam pengukuran adalah sebagai berikut:
    Tahap 1: Tentukan kriteria yang digunakan untuk mengukur suatu faktor Tahap 2: Tentukan bobot (w) dari setiap kriteria (biasanya 0 <= w <= 1) Tahap 3: Tentukan skala dari nilai kriteria (misalnya, 0 <= nilai kriteria <= 10) Tahap 4: Berikan nilai pada tiap kriteria Tahap 5: Hitung nilai total dengan rumus Fa = w1c1 + w2c2 + … + wncn
CONTOH PENGUKURAN PERANGKAT LUNAK
Untuk mempermudah pemahaman, akan diberikan sebuah contoh pengukuran kualitas perangkat lunak dari faktor usabilitas (usability). Yang akan diukur adalah dua buah perangkat lunak yang memiliki fungsi untuk mengkontrol peralatan elektronik (electronic device). Perangkat lunak yang pertama bernama TukangKontrol, sedangkan kedua bernama Caktrol. Contoh dan hasil pengukuran dapat dilihat pada Table 2 dan 3.
Tabel 2: Contoh Pengukuran Usabilitas Dua Perangkat Lunak
tukangkontrol1.gif
Tabel 3: Hasil Pengukuran Usabilitas Dua Perangkat Lunak
tukangkontrol2.gif
Dari penghitungan yang ada di Tabel 3, dapat kita simpulkan bahwa dari faktor usabilitas, kualitas dari perangkat lunak bernama TukangKontrol lebih baik daripada Caktrol. Nilai total TukangKontrol untuk faktor usabilitas adalah 16.8, sedangkan Caktrol adalah 10.2 (dari maksimum total nilai 20).
Catatan: Edisi lengkap dari tulisan ini dapat dibaca di majalah SDA Magazine edisi Juni 2006.
REFERENSI
[1] J.A. McCall, P.K. Richards, and G.F. Walters, Factors in Software Quality, Tehnical Report RADC-TR-77-369, US Department of Commerce, 1977.
[2] T.P. Bowen, G.B Wigle, and J.T. Tsai, Specification of Software Quality Attributes: Software Quality Evaluation Guidebook, Technical Report RADC-TR-85-37, Rome Air Development Center, Griffiss Air Force Base, 1985.
[3] IEEE Standard Glossary of Software Engineering Technology, IEEE Std 610.12-1990, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, New York, 1990.
[4] Hans Van Vliet, Software Engineering – Principles and Practice, John Wiley & Sons, 2000.
[5] James F. Peters and Witold Pedrycz, Software Engineering: An Engineering Approach, John Wiley & Sons, 2000. 
ttd-small.jpg

Elements of Digital Learning

The Elements of Digital Learning were released on December 1 at Excellence
in Action National Summit on Education Reform 2010 in Washington DC.

View the full report here.

10 ELEMENTS OF HIGH QUALITY DIGITAL LEARNING

1. Student Eligibility: All students are digital learners.
Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:
• State ensures access to high quality digital content and online courses
to all students.
• State ensures access to high quality digital content and online courses
to students in K-12 at any time in their academic career.

2. Student Access: All students have access to high quality digital
content and online courses.
Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:
• State does not restrict access to high quality digital content and
online courses with policies such as class size ratios and caps on
enrollment or budget.
• State does not restrict access to high quality digital content and
online courses based on geography, such as school district, county, or
state.
• State requires students take high quality online college-or career-prep
courses to earn a high school diploma.

3. Personalized Learning: All students can customize their education using
digital content through an approved provider.
Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:
• State allows students to take online classes full-time, part-time or by
individual course.
• State allows students to enroll with multiple providers and blend online
courses with onsite learning.
• State allows rolling enrollment year round.
• State does not limit the number credits earned online.
• State does not limit provider options for delivering instruction.

4. Advancement: Students progress based on demonstrated competency.
Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:
• State requires matriculation based on demonstrated competency.
• State does not have a seat-time requirement for matriculation.
• State provides assessments when students are ready to complete the
course or unit.

5. Content: Digital content, instructional materials, and online and
blended learning courses are high quality.
Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:
• State requires digital content and online and blended learning courses
to be aligned with state standards or common core standards where
applicable.

6. Instruction: Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.
Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:
• State provides alternative certification routes, including online
instruction and performance-based certification.
• State provides certification reciprocity for online instructors
certified by another state.
• State creates the opportunity for multi-location instruction.
• State encourages post-secondary institutions with teacher preparation
programs to offer targeted digital instruction training.
• State ensures that teachers have professional development or training to
better utilize technology and before teaching an online or blended
learning course.

7. Providers: All students have access to multiple high quality providers.
Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:
• State has an open, transparent, expeditious approval process for digital
learning providers.
• State provides students with access to multiple approved providers
including public, private and nonprofit.
• States treat all approved education providers- public, chartered and
private – equally.
• State provides all students with access to all approved providers.
• State has no administrative requirements that would unnecessarily limit
participation of high quality providers (e.g. office location).
• State provides easy-to-understand information about digital learning,
including programs, content, courses, tutors, and other digital resources,
to students.

8. Assessment and Accountability: Student learning is the metric for
evaluating the quality of content and instruction.
Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:
• State administers assessments digitally.
• State ensures a digital formative assessment system.
• State evaluates the quality of content and courses predominately based
on student learning data.
• State evaluates the effectiveness of teachers based, in part, on student
learning data.
• State holds schools and providers accountable for achievement and growth.

9. Funding: Funding creates incentives for performance, options and
innovation.
Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:
• State funding model pays providers in installments that incentivize
completion and achievement.
• State allows for digital content to be acquired through instructional
material budgets and does not discourage digital content with print
adoption practices.
• State funding allows customization of education including choice of
providers.

10. Delivery: Infrastructure supports digital learning.
Actions for lawmakers and policymakers:
• State is replacing textbooks with digital content, including interactive
and adaptive multimedia.
• State ensures high-speed broadband Internet access for public school
teachers and students.
• State ensures all public school students and teachers have Internet
access devices.
• State uses purchasing power to negotiate lower cost licenses and
contracts for digital content and online courses.
• State ensures local and state data systems and related applications are
updated and robust to inform longitudinal management decisions,
accountability and instruction.


Fanky Christian
Business Development Director
PT. DAYA CIPTA MANDIRI SOLUSI
IBEC Building 2nd Fl
Jl. KH Wahid Hasyim No.84-86
Jakarta Pusat, 10340, Indonesia
SMS: 62-21-98054359
Telp: 62-21-3924716
Fax: 62-21-3903432
mobile: 62-812-1057533
www.dayaciptamandiri.com

Online Store: www.tokofc.com

visit:
- dayaciptamandiri.blogspot.com
- fankychristian.blogspot.com
- www.facebook.com/fanky.christian

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Survey Finds Strong Support for Educational Technology

By Leila Meyer 03/14/11

Most educational leaders around the world support technology in
education and believe it is increasingly transforming teaching and
learning, according to an international survey commissioned by Cisco
and conducted by Washington, DC-based Clarus Research Group. The
survey revealed that education is transitioning to the new "connected
learning" networked economy, which requires technological skills
development for increased global competitiveness in education.

Clarus conducted telephone interviews with 500 educational
administrators and information technology decision-makers in 14
countries across five continents. Half of the respondents were from
K-12 schools, and the other half were from colleges and universities.

The majority of people surveyed indicated they see potential for
technology to improve student employment prospects, distance education
opportunities, student engagement, communication and collaboration,
and research capabilities. Most also said they see technology as a way
to reduce costs. However, online security rates high on the list of
concerns.

The three teaching and learning issues affected by technology rated
most critical were teamwork and project-based learning, student
engagement, and preparation for the workforce.

Eighty-six percent of respondents indicated a need for programs and
curriculum that help students develop teamwork skills. The survey
concluded that increased availability of collaboration tools is
helping to foster teamwork and project-based learning.

Eighty-five percent of respondents reported they believe technology
plays an increasingly large role in student engagement and
participation. They said most students seem to enjoy using technology
in the classroom and also indicated technology enables teachers to
tailor lessons to the needs of each student, rather than leave some
students behind or pace teaching for the slowest learners. Teachers
who have used computers to teach math, for example, found that the
technology allowed students to progress at their own pace while also
freeing the teachers to spend more time with students who needed extra
help.

Eight-three percent of respondents considered educational technology
critical to preparing students to compete in a global economy and
ensuring their employability after graduation. Those surveyed said
technology must be incorporated into the core curriculum so students
will be ready to engage in the increasingly connected "workforce of
tomorrow" that requires them to understand how to use technology
effectively.

Other issues of importance identified in the survey included:

Using technology to improve communications with students, parents,
faculty, and staff;
Protecting students from Internet abuse;
Strengthening on-campus data security;
Using "presence" technology in teacher training and staff development;
Using technology to reduce administrative costs and improve cost-efficiency;
Embedding video and multimedia in the learning process;
Investing in data-driven assessments and decision-making systems; and
Expanding online international education.

The priorities of survey respondents varied by region. Those in the
Asia-Pacific region focused on improved communications with students,
improved research infrastructure and capabilities, and preparing the
workforce of the future. European respondents focused on funding,
online security, international presence, research infrastructure and
capabilities, and online international curricula. Respondents from
emerging markets focused on preparation for a global economy, student
attendance, and employability. Latin American respondents had the
highest hopes overall for educational technology and its positive
effects on society.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can
be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Membuat materi pembelajaran dengan Flash

Seringkali kita berpikir rumit untuk membuat media pembelajaran untuk murid atau mahasiswa kita. Salah satu tools yang tersedia adalah menggunakan BB Flash Recorder (download disini).

Mulailah mendownload dan menginstallnya di komputer kita, dan gunakan dengan mudah. BB Flash Recorder tersedia versi free yang dapat kita gunakan dengan baik. 

Seluruh materi akan tersimpan dalam bentuk flash dan dapat disebarluaskan dengan mudah.

Selamat mencoba.


Apabila Anda ingin membeli license software BB Flash Recorder dapat menghubungi kami.



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Can Tech Transcend the Textbook?


As the e-book market explodes, publishers and educators debate why e-textbooks lag behind -- and what they should even look like.


Illustration by Ryan Etter

After traveling a long, tortuous road, the much-anticipated e-book revolution has finally arrived. Any doubt that the future of the book is digital has been laid to rest. Kindles and iPads sold like hotcakes during the 2010 Christmas shopping season, and Forrester Research expects the recipients of those devices to spend more than $1 billion on e-books in 2011, and $3 billion by the middle of the decade.

So where's the revolution in the e-textbook market? According to the National Association of College Stores (NACS), digital books currently account for less than 3 percent of textbook sales. NACS expects that percentage to reach 10 to 15 percent by 2012, while researchers at Simba Information predict that e-textbooks will account for more than 11 percent of textbook sales by 2013. But even this relatively swift growth rate represents a trickle compared to the flood of e-book sales on Amazon.

In "Google Enters the E-Book Fray. What Does It Mean?" John K. Waters looks at Google's new cloud-based e-books service.

"To state the obvious, academic publishing is slower to change," says Vineet Madan, vice president of strategy and business development in McGraw-Hill's Higher Education group. "But so is the market we serve. There's a lot at stake for students. The money they spend on a textbook is an expense related to an outcome -- a grade, which gets you to a credit, which gets you to a degree, which, hopefully, gets you to the job you're looking for. As long as the online experience doesn't offer significant value over the print experience, I believe the preference in consumption will still be toward print."

That preference has shown up starkly in some recent surveys. Three-quarters of the students queried by both NACS and the Student Public Interest Research Groups said they'd rather use a paper-based textbook than its digital cousin. Eighty percent of the students queried in the fall 2010 College Student Tracking Survey, commissioned by the Nebraska Book Co. and conducted by Crux Research working with Harris Interactive, said they bought new textbooks; 72 percent bought used textbooks; 20 percent were renters; and only 8 percent bought digital textbooks.

Matt MacInnis, co-founder and CEO of e-book publishing startup Inkling (not the same company as Inkling Books), sees these responses as an unsurprising reaction to the current state of e-textbook publishing.

"All it means is that everything those students have seen up to this point has been junk," MacInnis says. "Come on. Present me with a PDF on a screen and I'll take a book any day."

An Interactive Experience
MacInnis, along with partners Robert Cromwell and Josh Forman, started their company in 2009 to take advantage of a then-unreleased device that promised to change the digital publishing landscape: the iPad. Before going out on his own, MacInnis worked at Apple for eight years, managing the company's international market development for education. He started Inkling, he says, after years of watching technology's power to change the way people learn go unexploited.

"It was frustrating to watch," he says. "No matter how much power there was in the laptop, the teacher would still whip out the textbook, and we were thrown back into the 19th century. I really wanted that to change, and the iPad gave us the opportunity to make that change."

MacInnis agrees wholeheartedly with McGraw-Hill's Madan that an e-textbook must provide a "significant value over the print experience" to win the hearts and minds of students.

"It has to be appreciably better than using a book," he says. "A book provides a really good user experience. It doesn't crash. It's predictable. You know exactly what you're going to get. Simply putting a textbook on a Kindle or a Nook is actually a worse experience. You're working entirely within the constraints of the book, but you're taking away the convenience and reliability of the book."

MacInnis talks a lot about "the constraints of the book" and how textbooks of the future must transcend those constraints. For its part, Inkling has done away with the book metaphor entirely: The company refers to its e-textbooks as "titles," and the Inkling platform presents the content of its titles as sets of "cards" that can be shuffled, so to speak, to suit the needs of the student and requirements of the professor. Audio, video, animation, assessment banks, and other content can be integrated within a single title, and the text becomes just one type of raw material used to create what MacInnis calls "an interactive digital experience."

"We're not trying to replicate a book experience at all," MacInnis says. "No hokey page transitions on screen and that sort of thing. We take advantage of the interactive capabilities of the iPad, in part, by doing away with the constraints of the book. It's the only way to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the iPad."

Inkling is betting big on Apple's category-redefining tablet, but its gamble may not prove too risky. After all, Apple sold close to 15 million iPads between its April 2010 launch and Christmas. In its recent report, E-Textbooks in Higher Education, Simba Information cited "the spate of pilot programs" for the iPad in colleges as a key indicator of a bright, digital future for e-textbooks on the popular device. But MacInnis is also hedging his bets. While Inkling is currently iPad-focused, the company is platform-agnostic and will support other tablet devices as they make their way to the market.

Several big-name academic publishers, including Cengage Learning, John Wiley and Sons, Wolters Kluwer, and McGraw-Hill, are placing their own small bets on Inkling's digital publishing platform. MacInnis says McGraw-Hill moved especially quickly to put some of its content on the Inkling platform. A deal with that publisher was actually struck before the iPad was launched on April 3 last year.

"Our notion is that technology has been under-leveraged to develop more compelling and engaging learning experiences," McGraw-Hill's Madan says. "As we look at evolving our products, it's really about how we deliver more engaging experiences that drive better teaching and learning outcomes. We're all being pushed increasingly into the business of providing outcomes, but we're still exploring how we can best accomplish that."

Exploring and Investing
While many publishers are exploring the kind of compelling e-textbook concept espoused by Inkling, they are not ready to bet the farm on it -- yet. Indeed, McGraw-Hill is among five major academic publishers -- including Pearson, Cengage, Wiley, and Macmillan -- that partnered in 2007 to sell e-textbooks that emphasize fidelity to the print textbooks. Essentially, these e-textbooks offer exact digital replicas of their paper counterparts, including page numbers and page layout.

The joint venture, known as CourseSmart, currently offers a catalog of more than 15,000 e-textbooks, including over 90 percent of the core textbooks in use today in North American higher ed -- available for an average of 60 percent less than a printed textbook. It also boasts a large selection of "eResources" and digital course materials. And the company partners with other e-book distributors, such as Jones and Bartlett Learning, Elsevier Science, Sage Publications, and Princeton University Press.

"When you look at a CourseSmart book on your iPad, you're seeing the same thing as a student sitting next to you in class who prefers to use the print book," explains Sean Devine, CourseSmart's president and CEO. "The benefit there is that when the faculty member says, 'Everyone turn to page 343 and look at the graph in the upper right-hand corner,' all students are literally on the same page."

The CourseSmart e-textbooks can be accessed through a PC and a web browser, but also downloaded and read on an iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The books support what are fast becoming standard features of the e-textbook, including keyword search capabilities, highlighting tools, clipping features, note-taking options, and e-mail links. In the next six to 18 months, the company plans to introduce the ability to link to Wikipedia, Google, and other sources on the internet, Devine says.

Despite these enhancements, the CourseSmart e-textbooks still seem worlds apart from the Inkling concept of a product that completely transcends the book. But Devine, who's been working in the electronic book space since the 1990s, believes that too much can be made of this divide. In his view, the e-textbook market is in a transitional period -- a period that he doesn't expect to take long.

"We've been talking about electronic textbooks for about 15 years as the next big thing," he says. "One thing that's different today is that all the stakeholders -- the publishers, the hardware makers, the software producers, the consumers -- are getting behind the idea. That's very different from what we saw when the e-books first emerged in the late '90s. And when you have companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple getting into the game, that starts to break down barriers pretty quickly."

Indeed, textbook publishers, including some investors in CourseSmart, now seem to be gearing up for the next wave. "We're jazzed about the coming digital revolution," says Don Kilburn, president and CEO of Pearson Learning Solutions. "We have traditionally been a textbook publisher. Now we're an educational content and services provider. Every day we are creating new types of content."

As Kilburn describes it, the Pearson approach blends the kind of content-delivery model offered by Inkling with a focus on learning outcomes.

"We all talk about textbooks, but I'm more interested in what we're doing with the content paradigm," Kilburn says. "One of our biggest initiatives is to think about how we create content. We're creating content that is modular, that revolves around learning objects based on course objectives, that is built in ways that are measurable, and from which we can actually begin to get some outcomes."

While he admits it's a cliché, Kilburn says that he sees the future of the e-textbook as more evolutionary than revolutionary.

"The content hasn't been designed for the medium yet," he explains. "That's where we are right now. The first TV shows were broadcast radio shows; the first iterations of digital content delivery have been static e-books, flat pages. But we're going to see text combined with more robust apps that engage the student and use the medium for both graphic display and interactivity in ways you could never achieve with a static textbook."

A Different Approach
Not everyone believes that the transition will occur so rapidly, though. In the opinion of Eric Frank, co-founder of Flat World Knowledge, there's plenty of demand now for digital textbooks that resemble actual books, and he believes that demand won't dry up any time soon.

"It's fun to talk about all the bells and whistles," says Frank, whose company publishes commercial open source college textbooks. "It's sort of sexy, and everyone nods their heads and says, 'Yes, that's the real use of technology, not a flat reading experience online.' But I don't think that's what the market is really looking to technology to do today and in the next five years. I think what consumers are really looking for right now is technology to take the costs of using this content down, and to be able to take full advantage of the malleability of online content to improve it for their own purposes."

Flat World Knowledge's e-textbooks are essentially digital replicas bundled with some useful editing tools, but its publishing and delivery model is bleeding edge. Flat World's offerings are open and customizable e-books published under a Creative Commons open license. Anyone can access the books for free online. Students can also buy paperback versions of the books, PDF downloads, audio and e-reader versions, and study aids. The books are available for the iPad, the Kindle, and other popular e-readers, as well as iPhones, MP3 players, and other media devices.

"What we're trying to bring to the mix is the best of the old world -- a publishing sensibility that quality and who the author is matters, that the editorial development work a publisher does actually adds value -- combined with an open license that gives our customers the tools to really control the content in a much more profound way than was ever possible before," Frank explains. "I'd argue that professors would generally prefer to add their own two cents and integrate a video they found on the web that they thought was a perfect example of something, rather than to take someone's spinning 3D image and try to teach around it."

Flat World's "malleable content" model was what first drew Miles McCrimmon, a professor of English at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA, to the company.

"Our department, like so many others around the country, was interested in weaning ourselves from the traditional textbook model and the inevitable compromises of the textbook selection process," he says. "The minute we agreed on something every three years, we would have to begin this patchwork process to make the text work in our classes. We thought Flat World might offer an alternative."

The company, after talking with McCrimmon and his colleagues, offered him a publishing contract instead. McCrimmon's first textbook, The Flat World Knowledge Handbook for Writers, hits the virtual shelves this month.

"It's a book that anyone can use off the shelf, and it's meant to be competitive as a first-year [composition] textbook," he explains. "But I've come to characterize it as more of a beginning than an end. My job was to start the conversation through this baseline text. A year from now, I'll be able to click on a number of URLs and, one hopes, find dozens of different versions of my book. And I'll be able to see which chapters were the most useful, and which were not. It's just much more of a dynamic relationship between the author and the end user."

A Matter of Money
In all the debate about how today's technology can be used to reinvent the textbook, it's easy to overlook something as straightforward as cost. But that's what matters most to Shawna Coram, a business professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville, who is using Flat World's Organizational Behavior and Personal Finance textbooks primarily as a cost-cutting strategy for her students.

"Our students struggle, as all students do, and if the content is as good -- which it is -- and I can give them the option to get a free textbook, I feel that it's my obligation to do that," she says.

The same is true of Steve Barkan, a professor and chair of the department of sociology at the University of Maine. "A lot of my students are first-generation students, and many work 30 hours a week during the semester just to pay their tuition," notes Barkan, whose book, Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World, was published by Flat World in September. "Textbooks are expensive: $100 to $150 in many cases. When I heard about Flat World's 'freemium' model, I thought, 'What could be better for a student than being able to read a textbook for free online?'"

Barkan believes that the high price of paper textbooks will ultimately drive students and teachers to embrace less expensive e-textbooks. But he expects the transition to take a while -- as long as a decade -- as publishers sort out the best way to deliver academic content. In the meantime, students will be using both digital and paper textbooks.

"A model like Flat World's makes the most sense right now for students, both from a price standpoint and a flexibility standpoint," he says. "Students can get the textbook for free online and read it anywhere in the world. But if they want a print copy, which lots of students still do, they can get a black-and-white version for about a hundred dollars less than equivalent textbooks in my field."

Inkling's MacInnis, on the other hand, feels that students are simply not thrilled by the idea of flat e-textbooks, not matter how customizable or cheap -- and the anemic sales record of e-textbooks compared with that of e-books is proof enough. He insists that students and professors will embrace e-textbooks fully only when the publishers let go of the "book" and exploit the technology offered by a new generation of devices and software.

"Once we put something better in front of them that could never have been a book," he says, "when they get used to being able to listen to the opera while watching the Italian and English scroll by, when they get used to being able to quiz themselves on the spot and get real feedback from the device on how they're doing and have it feel like a lot of fun, then they'll wonder how they ever used a book in the first place."

New E-Readers Stick to the Script -- for Now

While e-readers have caught fire among consumers of novels and nonfiction alike, they have managed to generate only a squib of damp smoke when it comes to textbooks. As CT noted in "The Device Versus the Book", students in three e-reader pilot programs last year found the Sony Reader, the Amazon Kindle, and the Barnes and Noble Nook seriously wanting.

It's a view shared by many faculty, too. "Studying is not the same as reading," says Shawna Coram, a business professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville. "You read a novel and it's a linear advance, page by page, through the book. But when you're studying a textbook, you do a lot of flipping back and forth, and that's not so easy to do with an online book right now. They're getting better, but they're not there yet. That's why I've made it an option, but haven't switched over completely to e-books."

If educators had hoped to see manufacturers respond to such critiques, the latest crop of e-readers unveiled at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January will probably disappoint. Compared with the dozens of e-readers launched last year, only a handful of new entries debuted this year. And while the new e-readers have been nicely augmented with better e-ink, color, and a few annotating and highlighting tools, they still don't give students the freedom to browse, dog-ear, flip, and scan that a physical book does.

Tablets don't necessarily offer these ways to interact with text either, but that fact didn't stop them -- and not e-readers -- from being the talk of this year's CES. Indeed, it seemed as if every Joe with a soldering gun and an LCD had an entry. The industry's rapid response to the iPad -- the release of 80 competing tablets in one year is nothing short of astonishing -- may be the biggest indicator of where, ultimately, the whole e-textbook argument is headed. While e-readers may flourish in the short term by offering a digital replica of the printed page, the long-term future probably belongs to products that will, in the words of Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis, provide "an interactive digital experience."

The whole e-reader versus tablet debate may become irrelevant, however, if the books-in-browsers movement catches on. And there are signs it's happening -- at least in the general consumer space -- as evidenced by a recent conference cosponsored by the Internet Archive and O'Reilly Media that was entirely devoted to the subject. Simply put, browser-based books give readers the ability to access their e-books across multiple devices, ranging from desktop computers to smartphones -- and e-readers.

Some of the industry's heavyweights are positioning themselves to take advantage of this flexible delivery mechanism. Amazon recently announced that consumers will soon be able to read their Kindle books on a browser, with no download or installation required. Google, too, is offering similar browser access to readers of its e-books. In both cases, users will be able to sync their libraries across their various devices.

So what does this mean for e-textbooks on college campuses? In the short term, browser-based books suffer from the same shortcomings as e-readers. Kindle users will see much the same functionality on the browser-based product as they do on their e-reader, while Google's browser-based product can't highlight sections or annotate the text.

The best days of the books-in-browser movement may lie ahead, though. Unlike the books that appear on today's e-readers, browser-based books have the capability to become far more dynamic thanks to HTML5 and Flash. Indeed, browser-based books may be perfectly positioned to ride the transition from today's digitized textbook pages to tomorrow's interactive, dynamic content. Right now, browser-based books display a replica of the print product -- because that's what's available. As publishers start to produce the educational content of tomorrow, incorporating video, sound, interactive quizzes, and more, the concept of e-textbooks in browsers -- whether displayed on an e-reader, a tablet, or some other device -- may come into its own.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance journalist and author based in Palo Alto, CA.

When Textbooks and Social Media Collide


A professor at a Christian liberal arts college in Michigan puts textbooks together with social networking to get students jazzed about historical events.

Right around the time that the term "social networking" was starting to roll off the tongues of school administrators and teachers, Christian Spielvogel was already deep in the throes of a project that would combine the next concept with traditional textbooks.

The year was 2007, and Spielvogel, now an associate professor of communication at Hope College in Holland, MI, was experimenting with the idea of implementing gaming and computer simulations while on sabbatical at the University of Virginia. Having conducted intensive research into the public memory of the Civil War period, Spielvogel wanted to "un-romanticize" public perception of the conflict and create a more realistic, engaging, and even risky learning experience for high school and college students.

Using the University of Virginia's Valley of the Shadow digital archive as a guide--and funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Virginia Foundation for the Humanities for financial support--Spielvogel developed an online reenactment and multiplayer role-playing simulation that takes place during the American Civil War.

Spielvogel used documents featured in the Valley of the Shadow archive, which includes more than 100,000 digitized letters, diaries, and newspaper articles. He identified 25 of the most interesting people and used that information to develop comprehensive biographical sketches that tell students more about how their characters' economic class, gender, race, and religious background shaped their identities.

Testing the Multi-Player Sim
Known as Valley Sim, the online simulation allows high school and college students to explore the wartime period through the perspective of former residents from two warring communities in the Shenandoah Valley. Students assume one of these 25 different "characters" and then react as their character would have reacted to pivotal wartime events that took place in Virginia's Augusta County and Pennsylvania's Franklin County.

Little did Spielvogel know at the time, but his creation would become an early example of how computer gaming can be successfully combined with education. "At the time, there had already been some efforts made to develop games and simulations with most of them based on single-player models," said Spielvogel, "but the whole idea of a multiplayer experience that allowed a group to become involved in the game and interact online was still pretty new."

Like all pioneers, Spielvogel ran into challenges in his attempt to introduce multiplayer gaming into educational circles. Because Valley Sim is customized around a specific experience, for example, developing plots and backgrounds necessary to create a complete experience for users--and for teachers who needed control over the characters and scenarios--took many hours.

Piloted at Pennsylania State University, Valley Sim has been used in traditional, hybrid, and online formats, and has been tested by more than 80 secondary teachers. Spielvogel, who has used the role-playing game in a communications class focused on the missteps of the Civil War, said he's seen a nearly 100 percent interest in adoption among its users.

"Teachers see it as a great way to get their students invested in history," said Spielvogel, "and the students spend a lot of extra time getting immersed in the experience."

Spielvogel is in the process of integrating Valley Sim with original textbook material authored by historians Gary W. Gallagher of the University of Virginia and Joan Waugh of University of California, Los Angeles. He was recently selected as a fellow in the Kauffman Foundation's inaugural Education Ventures Labs Program, where is he completing this new "social e-textbook" prototype and scaling the technology for use in other large, introductory "gateway" or general education college courses.

"Some of the student feedback on Valley Sim indicated the need for a broader political, economic, and military context to help students understand individual motivations during the Civil War period," Spielvogel explained. "We're answering the call by evolving the project into a social e-textbook and collaborating with prominent civil war historians to get that done."

E-Textbook Development
Pointing to the predicted 100 percent to 200 percent increase in digital textbooks over the next few years, Spielvogel said he sees more innovation ahead in a category that he helped pioneer more than four years ago.

"There is serious game development in the future for education," he said, "and it will only increase as digital textbooks become Web-based and open the doors for more opportunities to integrate dynamic, student-centered learning experiences into what has traditionally been a static and passive medium for students: games and simulations."

The transition to interactive, dynamic textbooks will come with its own set of challenges, according to Spielvogel, who said game developers aren't always the best candidates for creating educational games, and teachers don't typically know the technical ins and outs of developing games.

"On one hand, the developers lack a strong foundation in the education sector, and, on the other, academics can't always develop games that students will find fun and entertaining," said Spielvogel. "That gap will have to be bridged before gaming can become a substantive piece of the learning experience."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at bridgetmc@earthlink.net.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Virtualizing the Campus Data Center

Reducing servers in the data center through virtualization saved so
much money for Loyola University Chicago that the move paid for itself
almost before the project was complete. At another Chicago
institution, Saint Xavier University, annual virtualization savings
from energy cuts and less hardware is estimated at some $7,500 a
year--including not just a smaller utility bill, but fewer software
licenses and greater efficiency.

Saint Xavier's 'Green Angle'
And, by reducing the overall server load, virtualization has brought
an added benefit: Regardless of the original reasons for the
downsizing, the much-unappreciated campus data center may well get a
PR boost for "going green."

"It did help to mention the green angle" in proposing Saint Xavier's
data center revamp, according to Dan Lichter, director of data and
network infrastructure at Saint Xavier.

The university, an independent Catholic institution in Chicago with
5,000-plus students, had launched an office of sustainability, and
dormitory buildings had gotten awards for green steps. "There was an
overall [environmental] tone, and the timing was right," he said, "for
both the whole country and for higher ed--there is a lot of attention
and thought being put to [energy efficiency issues] right now."

That attitude helped foster appreciation for the change and an
attitude of cooperation at Saint Xavier when the data center was
briefly down during the move.

Saint Xavier's revamp was begun in late 2008 with the virtualization
of some servers. "We went down from 50 or so to 20," Lichter said. "It
increased efficiency as well as reliability, so it was a win-win." The
original driver for the change was the need to make the university's
data center more reliable and to update the power and cooling system
to keep up with demand.

The following year, Saint Xavier's success story enabled the
university to make another energy reduction move, downsizing an
eight-year-old UPS device that handled all of the data center's
servers. With fewer servers to support, it was a good time to move to
a more efficient UPS that brought a 30 percent reduction in power
usage with little power loss, Lichter said. Additional downsizing is
planned that will address several more physical servers in the data
center.

In terms of a hard total return on investment measurement, Lichter
said, the payoff for the new servers is perhaps two years. Calculating
out from the late 2008 project, he estimated that the new servers have
probably paid for themselves by now through more efficient use of
power.

Each new server in the Saint Xavier data center costs about $15,000,
including hardware, software licensing (including Windows and backup
software), and configuration. That figure doesn't include storage
costs, which are additional and shouldn't be overlooked, Lichter said.
Much of the software cost for new servers, he pointed out, can be
saved by migrating existing software such as Windows to the new
hardware. Saint Xavier uses VMWare for virtualization, and the cost of
that license is included in Lichter's estimate.

The reduction in software licensing costs due to the reduced number of
servers was another savings for Saint Xavier. "That's a benefit we
didn't [anticipate] originally, but is easily quantifiable," Lichter
said. "SQL Server [licensing alone] would have been prohibitively
costly."

There are other important benefits to a virtualization project,
Lichter pointed out--ones that are more difficult to measure than
straight energy savings. "People need to keep in mind the intangible
benefits like speed, flexibility, and reliability," he said, that come
with a revamped data center. He and his staff sleep better at night
knowing the data center is properly equipped, and that "our end users
... are all happier. We can get them what they need faster than ever
before."

While Saint Xavier has some monitoring and notification abilities
through the UPS and cooling systems, Lichter said that it was only
during the data center downsizing that he learned about software for
tracking energy efficiency, available free from the United States
Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy. "Taking
advantage of those features is underway," Lichter said. "It's a
learning curve."

A final big benefit from the project is that Lichter now works much
more closely with the campus facilities team. "I have learned a lot
more about electricity than I ever thought I would [during this
project.] And my counterpart has learned about how to cool servers.
That's been a big return." For example, the two teams are now working
on incorporating fire alarm notifications into the network
infrastructure notification systems. If a fire panel is
malfunctioning, software can notify the facilities team.

Loyola's Savings and Increased Flexibility
At Loyola University, another Chicago institution, energy savings was
a side benefit of virtualization, "but to be honest, the real driver
was the flexibility virtualization afforded us," according to Loyola
University's Dan Vonder Heide, director for infrastructure services.
The university started its virtualization program in 2007 and has been
"going strong ever since," he said. "We've really shifted the way we
look at server allocation."

The main reasons for virtualization included flexibility and
redundancy, confirmed Jeffrey Apa, who is the server operations and
data center manager at Loyola, as well as reducing the physical
footprint, which in turn translates into energy savings.

Loyola has long had green initiatives in place, including
energy-efficient buildings and a bio-diesel program, along with an
award from the state of Illinois for designing an energy efficient
space. In line with that ideology, the university proposed an entire
new data center design in 2007, constructed around the idea of being
more efficient.

Cost savings due to energy reductions were realized almost instantly.
"As soon as we put in a virtual server, there was an immediate savings
within a week," Apa said.

The university's primary data center, at 2,000 square feet, currently
has some 360 servers, 60 percent of them virtual. With virtualization,
Loyola estimated it's saving 350 percent over previous costs per each
fully utilized server, Vonder Heide said. That's based on the cost of
each blade or server and on the fact that the university typically
fits 30 virtual guest servers on each physical server and has been
able to reduce energy consumption by at least 5.32 kVA (kilo-volt
amperes, a unit of power) for each physical server box implemented.

"The savings are pretty straightforward," Vonder Heide said. "And that
doesn't even take into account smaller footprint and resulting energy
savings," Apa pointed out, as well as software savings from a reduced
number of software licenses.

Reducing energy usage is "just part of our culture," Apa said. "We
have 15,000 students who are always making sure we're doing the right
thing." The virtual data center, he added, fits right in with items at
Loyola that get much more publicity, such as energy-conscious
buildings and the university's bookless library. "Any university that
hasn't invested in virtualization is missing out on an opportunity,"
Apa said.

About the Author

Linda Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She can
be reached at lbriggs@lindabriggs.com.