The University of Helsinki’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the topic of education is now available for local and global audiences. Uncover Finnish Education MOOC is presenting the current situation of the Finnish education from a systemic perspective. Designed based on the students’ interests and needs, the course covers topics such as underlying values, educational ecosystem, administration aspects, curriculum development, quality enhancement, teacher education and current challenges. The content is presented in a wide variety of formats such as text, podcasts, videos, and VR resources.
The course has been developed by the Faculty of Educational Sciences in collaboration with the Global Innovation Network for Teaching and Learning (GINTL), a Ministry of Education and Culture-funded network of 20 Finnish higher education institutions(universities and universities of applied sciences). The vision of the development team was to create a course which is captivating, meets the needs of the learners, promotes personalized learning, brings creative approaches to online environments, has a modern and stylish UI and is available for everyone. Sharing a similar vision for online learning, Global Campus joined this course as a development partner. Interested in experimenting with VR tools in online environments, Global Campus supported the design of several features for the Uncover Finnish Education MOOC, as seen below.
The course includes two AI videos. One is presenting the structure of the Finnish education system and it is based on an infographic from the resource library of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The second video presents the learning experiences of Ella Kämper, a student at the University of Helsinki. Ella wrote the script and provided the photos and videos. The process of creating the videos was very smooth, faster and with less effort than it would have been to record videos in a studio. The editing of the videos was done in Premier Pro. You can see Ella as an avatar in the video below.
At the suggestion of the Global Campus team, we developed two simulation exercises for the course. And I must confess that it has been one of the best choices we have made for this course. Shortly into the design process of the simulations, I understood the high value these types of exercises can have in supporting the students’ learning. Being able to immerse yourself in a specific situation, practice different skills, and make decisions, is an opportunity that cannot be usually provided during courses.
To develop the simulations, we worked with two experts from 3DBear, a company which provides service solutions for AR and VR learning. Both experts had a pedagogical background, which was very useful when developing educational content. With them and a couple of course content authors, we developed one simulation about outdoor learning, which can be also used as a professional development tool and another video simulation, where the course students can experience being a Finnish teacher in a teacher- students- guardian meeting. You can spot the simulations in the Chapters 4 and 5 of the course.
We knew early in the course design that we would like to include immersive and interactive content. We wanted to create possibilities for the students to learn by discovery and by doing. Therefore, under the advice of the Global Campus team, we have used Thinglink to develop several interactive resources. Thinglink proved to be a very handy and versatile tool, which catered very well to our need for immersive content. We have created interactive resources using 360° photos and infographics.
Due to the intervention of Global Campus in this course, the variety of the content formats has increased considerably. Including AI and VR resources in online learning environments can make a difference on the students’ learning. We are hoping that Uncover Finnish Education MOOC will bring a holistic learning experience to everyone studying it. Take the course and let us know what do you think about the use of emerging technologies in online learning environments.
Uncover Finnish Education MOOC project planner/Faculty of Educational Sciences
The field of Educational Technology is rapidly evolving and the trends and advancements in online/digital learning are ever-changing with a fast pace. Online learning has been on the rise globally, particularly with a further acceleration during and after COVID-19 pandemic as a need for a shift from traditional education to remote learning. This shift has been driven by factors such as accessibility, flexibility, and the need for continuous learning. With an increasing impact of digitalization on education and a demand for digital transformation, educational opportunities are becoming more accessible and more flexible. Education sector has to prepare and adapt itself to ensure that all students can benefit from these advancements.
During the past six months, in addition to a number of local and small events and seminars on different topics in education, I attended a few major global conferences on online learning and digital education as well as the biggest EdTech event in Europe in which I was able to participate in many keynotes, workshops, presentations, and discussions. Here, I present a reflection on my observations and takeaways of these events .
Online Educa Berlin (OEB): a global leading cross-sector conference and exhibition on technology supported learning and training that brings participants from higher education, workplace and government sectors to discuss how technology opportunities and challenges are transforming the world of learning.
bett London: one of the biggest EdTech exhibitions in the world and a global meeting place for the educators, change-makers, startups and major companies in the field to present and discuss cutting-edge EdTech solutions.
EATEL Summer School : a major European event on technology enhanced learning held by the European Association of Technology Enhanced Learning which brings together researchers, doctoral students, and professors from a range of disciplines (computer science, educational science, phycology, social sciences ,and IT) to share and discuss their latest projects.
EDEN Digital Learning Europe: Europe’s leading network for advancing digital education Digital and a community to foster knowledge exchange and enhance understanding among professionals in distance and e-learning, and to promote best practices and policies throughout Europe and beyond.
As a professional in the field with hands on development who is closely following latest developments and advancements in education and EdTech sector, I can summarize the key trends and directions in online/ digital learning as follows:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and generative AI in education:
Artificial intelligence and its associated technologies have been a major point of discussion in the past few years. Lately, this has been particularly augmented by the emergence of generative AI such as ChatGPT. As a hype, it has triggered very heated debates on their applications, risks, and challenges from technical, pedagogical, social, and ethical perspectives (see UNESCO’s recommendation on the ethics of AI). On a broader level, it has got the attention of all stakeholders not only on micro levels but also macro and global change/decision makers. While there are extreme viewpoints of both proponents and opponents on the impact of AI on human being, society, businesses, and future jobs, for us educators and EdTech innovators, what is most important is the educational applications of AI. Whereas AI technologies are increasingly being used for various purposes in education such as intelligent tutoring systems, AI-powered simulations and immersive experiences, automated assessments, personalized guidance, and virtual assistants to offer immediate support to students, it will be still a big challenge in education and learning that how AI-powered tools can be implemented in a pedagogical and ethically sound way in educational settings. As such, in our Global Campus project we strive to explore the potential of generative AI as an assistive tool and content creation in online learning, e.g., Creating Videos with Artificial Intelligence. Another bigger question for educational institutions’ decision makers is how to deal with use of ChatGPT and AI-powered tools by students as it increases the risk of plagiarism and cheating.
Micro-learning, bite-sized contents and stackable credentials:
With the rise of digital learning in various formats, micro-credentials are becoming more prevalent in higher education. Micro-credentials involves delivering contents in small, flexible, focused units and bite-sized formats that learners can access on their convenience with a possibility of combining them together to accomplish wider learning topics. While micro-credentials are emerging and being developed across education sector, numerous global initiatives seek to support the development, implementation and recognition of micro-credentials across institutions, businesses, and sectors. Such examples include: European Council recommendation on micro-credentials, UNESCO’s definition of micro-credentials, and OECD’s education policy perspectives, and a cross-university initiative is the Micro-credential in Sustainability by Una Europa which the University of Helsinki is part of. Combining micro-learning modules together can create stackable credentials to build up higher-level qualifications as a flexible pathway to up-skilling, re-skilling and lifelong learning. A natural result of digital transformation and micro-credentials is the development of a kind of non-degree education structure of online credentialing and digital badges. Many online learning platforms are partnering with universities and industry organizations to offer recognized credentials, such as certificates and digital badges. These micro-credentials provide learners with evidence of specific skills and achievements which can enhance their employability. While learning outside the formal education systems through online/digital formats is increasingly growing, a big challenge that faces the global education ecosystem is to find the ways to accredit alternative learning pathways. Thus, certification and accreditation of online learning is still an issue. To address this, there have been a number of initiatives to provide both technical and organizational infrastructures to promote the recognition of digital badges and online credentials. For instance, MIT DCC Digital Credentials Consortium. Another standard for verifying and issuing badges is Open Badges which is the world’s leading format for digital badges.
Mixed reality (XR), immersive learning and game-based learning:
Gamification as a learning and training method has been around for many years. In the recent years, however, new generations of immersive experiences have emerged and been implemented in education and learning. Immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) are being incorporated into digital learning to combine physical and virtual worlds to create interactive learning environments enabling learners to interact with digital contents and virtual objects in simulated real-world contexts.
Applying appropriate pedagogical principles of entertainment, adventure, problem solving and exploration, virtual reality can create realistic simulations of complex environments such as historical settings, medical procedures, and science laboratories allowing learners to practice and experiment in a safe and controlled environment. The applications of XR in all its forms in education and learning are various. For example, they can cover a range of purposes such as skill development and training, collaborative learning and teamwork, storytelling and narrative-based learning, cultural interaction, art and design, and language learning. Apart from the many EdTech startups and SMEs developing their solutions on different aspects of XR, big enterprises such as ACER and Microsoft are also trying to provide tools and resources of the educational applications of these technologies. One of the main product development goals in our Global Campus project is to implement different types of XR technologies in our experiments of which we are currently focused on creating a a VR learning adventure for sustainability.
Data Analytics and Learning Analytics (LA)
The grow of online learning in very many formats and the emergence of massive (open) online learning environments such as MOOCs has resulted methods and tools for data mining and learning analytics. LA is both methods and tools used to collect, analyze and report data about learners, their interaction and behavior, and the contexts and harnessing the power of data to understand and optimize learning and the environments in which it occurs.
Data analytics and learning analytics play important roles in the field of education. A well-developed area of research in education in the past decade, LA has gained the attention of course developers, learning designers and educational institutions to implement different methods of LA in online and digital learning environments to gain actionable insights and make data-driven decisions to enhance learner performance, engagement, motivation, learning outcomes and to personalize instruction. In recent years, efforts to combine LA and learning design have been developed across universities to apply and translate these approaches into online learning development.
Upskilling, digital skills and the future skills:
With the ever-changing nature of the society impacted by digital transformation, the skills needed for the present and the future citizens are evolving in a very fast pace. Not only the workforce of tomorrow will need new sets of skills but also today’s workforce needs to continually learn new skills and adapt as new jobs emerge. This digital surge requires a skills revolution in Europe, as well as globally. Today’s learners need to develop both multidisciplinary competencies, soft-skills, and digital skills to be equipped with the demands of the society and the future job market. As such, Future Skills are currently being developed all over the world in various shapes and forms, and the focal point is the changing nature of social conditions for work, education and life and the importance of the skills for workers in a digitized world (a). Digital learning is increasingly recognized as a means to upskill and reskill individuals in a rapidly evolving job market. This calls for alternative forms of learning that the stakeholders should respond to. For instance, the European Commission calls to provide high-quality, inclusive and accessible digital education and training to develop the digital skills of the citizens. Part of the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027), European Commission launched European Digital Education Hub to reinforce cooperation between stakeholders to promote digitalization agendas. An effective approach of lifelong learning is key to ensure that everyone has the knowledge, skills and competences needed to thrive in personal and professional lives. Defining skills for citizens, Mckinsey & Company has identified 65 fundamental skills that will help citizens thrive in the future.
Alternative formats of education such as digital credentials, micro-learning and badges require appropriate standards and protocols for verification, certification, accreditation, transferability and security. One way of applying blockchain in education is to use it as a Credentialing Ecosystem to create portable, interoperable, user-controlled digital credentials. While the use of blockchain technology in education is still in its infancy, in recent years blockchain has been a debated topic to explore what are the promises and challenges of Blockchain in education. Here are a few ways and purposes that blockchain can be applied to educational contexts:
issuing, sharing, and verifying educational qualifications
Blockchain can help educational institutions for a better security, anti-fraud protection and optimization as well as students to have their personal lifelong learning passport stored on Blockchain for use as part of their future career. While blockchain holds significant promises, implementing it in education requires cautious consideration of technical, regulatory, and organizational factors.
OER/OEP and open education:
The notion of open education is not new, however, and it goes a few decades back when there were efforts to change institutional practices to eliminate barriers and expand access to learning (b). Open education in its wider definition includes open educational resources (OER), open educational practices (OEP) encompassing a range of concepts and strategies that promote the accessibility, sharing, and collaboration of educational resources and practices. They are characterized as learning opportunities which are informal, personalized and distributed largely outside the boundaries of established educational institutions. MOOCs as the results of OEP and OER are the main formats of opening up learning possibilities to all that have been increasingly expanded in the past ten years and still are the major form of open online courses developed globally covering a wide range of topics.
With the widespread use of smartphones, tablets, and handheld devices, mobile learning has become prevalent in recent years. Learning platforms and educational apps are optimized for mobile devices enabling learners to access learning resources anytime, anywhere. Still, mobile learning is remaining a relevant solution to be more explored and adapted in the future of digital learning as a solution to address accessibility and equity in education. With the increasing development of mobile apps for various purposes, mobile learning is becoming even more prevailing in the future to empower learners on the go and with bit-sized digital learning materials, as mentioned above. More recent kinds of wearable technologies such as smartwatches, eyewear, AR/VR headsets are being implements and researched for their learning potential such as in-situ and real-time learning, immersive and interactive learning, and learning anytime/anywhere.
Artificial intelligence (AI) provides us with new opportunities for creating videos. The variety of different types of video applications and features is rapidly increasing. One of the easiest ways of producing lectures or other video learning material is by generating virtual instructors, avatars, to present the content.
Is it sometimes inconvenient to make a video? Does it feel awkward to show up with your own face and voice? Instead of escaping and having an assistant to do the job, you can recruit an avatar. Or in fact create one with AI-based software like Colossyan, Synthesia, or D-ID. They may slightly differ in features, but all of them let you generate a realistic-looking virtual actor to give a talk with a preferred accent and tone. With some of the applications, it is also possible to make more fantasy-like characters or to customise an avatar with your own face and voice.
What is the video production experience like in practice? You can first look at the video below where the process is described, or sign up directly for a trial, type in a script, customise a character and background, add media, and generate an edited video. With a purchased plan you can tell a story through several scenes.
If you are struggling with visuals or even the script, you can ask AI to help you with templates, ideas, or a draft based on a set of parameters like context, goal of the video, audience, presenter, and tone of the presentation. This type of prompt-to-video feature may speed up your work and still let you customise everything. We asked Colossyan to create a video about the features of the text-to-video generators, and here is the result (unedited):
How do learners regard avatars as teachers? A lot more research will be needed, but some studies have already indicated positive impact. For example, it was found in MIT that a virtual instructor can increase students’ motivation towards learning, cultivate positive emotions, and boost their appraisal of the AI-generated instructor. Since a student’s relationship with the instructor can have a significant impact on attitudes, motivation, and even learning results, an avatar resembling a person that a student likes or admires – or maybe a favourite cartoon or movie character – may inspire and even improve performance. (Pataranutaporn et al, 2022.) – After all, wouldn’t you like to be taught by Einstein or Bill Gates? 😊 Well, of course we must respect everyone’s privacy and ask for consent to appear as an avatar.
Pataranutaporn, P., Leong, J., Danry, V., Lawson, A.P., Maes, P., Sra, M. (2022). AI-Generated Virtual Instructors Based on Liked or Admired People Can Improve Motivation and Foster Positive Emotions for Learning. Published in 2022 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, pp. 1-9.
Introduction: The Global Campus of the University of Helsinki is committed to exploring innovative methods for enhancing educational experiences. As part of this ongoing mission, our recent “AI methods in course material production” presentation at the university’s Learning Adventure showcased the potential of cutting-edge AI technologies in creating engaging and dynamic course materials. While our primary audience was the university community, we believe these insights hold value for all EdTech enthusiasts.
In this blog post, we’ll share key takeaways from our presentation, which encompassed five sections: Text, Images, Audio, Video, and Q&A.
Text: Harnessing ChatGPT’s Potential. Kicking off our presentation, we introduced ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI. By delving into the concept of prompting, we unveiled various techniques, including Chain of Thought (CoT) methods. Highlighting the effectiveness of role prompting, we showcased ChatGPT’s self-criticism and self-evaluation features as a means to generate meaningful responses.
Images: Visualising Ideas with Midjourney. Transitioning to text-to-image (T2I) generation, we presented Midjourney as an exemplary case. Demonstrating seamless integration between Discord and Midjourney, we revealed the process of creating images through prompting in Discord. For a deeper understanding of the Midjourney case, we invite you to read our earlier blog post here.
It’s worth noting that in addition to Midjourney, there are several other AI-based applications that allow for the creation of images through text. One notable example is DALL-E, which uses a transformer-based neural network to generate images from textual descriptions. And let’s not forget about StableDiffsusion, a new AI-based technology that allows for the generation of high-quality, realistic images by leveraging the power of diffusion models. With so many exciting applications available, the possibilities for creating images through text are truly endless.
Audio: Bringing Text to Life through AI. Our third segment explored the realm of text-to-audio conversion. We shed light on AI tools and techniques capable of generating lifelike speech from written text, making course materials more engaging and accessible to auditory learners.
Video:Creating Dynamic Learning Experiences with AI. In the penultimate section, we investigated AI’s potential in video production. Discussing the role of artificial intelligence in crafting compelling and informative videos, we emphasised the importance of delivering course content in a visually engaging manner. In addition to Synthesia and Colossyan, there are several other noteworthy applications that are worth exploring. One such application is D-ID, which is a deep learning-based technology that allows for the anonymisation and replacing of faces with natural or fantastical looking options in videos using AI-generated imagery. With the increasing demand for video content in today’s digital landscape, these and other AI-based text-to-video applications offer opportunities for teachers and students to create high-quality videos quickly and easily.
Q&A: Encouraging Audience Interaction. To wrap up our presentation, we engaged the audience in group discussions, addressing questions and concerns stemming from the event. This interactive session fostered a deeper understanding of AI’s role in education and promoted collaboration within our university community. Participants were interested in for example if it was possible to produce materials in Finnish language with these new tools and yes, usually that is also possible.
Conclusion: Embracing AI-powered tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, and other text-to-audio and video production solutions is revolutionising the way we develop and deliver course materials. By adopting these innovations, we can create more engaging, accessible, and dynamic learning experiences for students across the globe.
AI is not taking away your job, it’s the person that adopts AI that is taking away your job!
Greetings, avid reader! Allow me to introduce you to the delightful world of ThingLink. Where the only limit is your own imagination! If you’re looking to add a touch of finesse to your images and videos, look no further than the humble tag. These interactive buttons bring your multimedia content to life and they’re the secret ingredient of ThingLink. In this blog post, I’ll give you a quick rundown of ThingLink in the form of a video. BTW we used ThingLink for our very first project. You can read about it in our blog entry called Message from the future.
First of all, let’s define what ThingLink is. Simply put, ThingLink is an online platform that allows you to add interactive tags to your images and videos. These tags can include text, images, audio, and video, making your multimedia content much more engaging and interactive. Whether you’re a teacher, a student, or simply someone looking to add a touch of sophistication to your social media posts, ThingLink is the tool for you. Check out the following Miro board where I have put together a very simply yet effective sequence of slides to highlight what ThinLink is.
Now, why is this relevant for our context which is higher education and Edtech and at the end of the day the learners? Well, for one, it is a very intuitive tool and it gives students control over their own learning journey. No more dull lectures or tedious presentations. With ThingLink, students can interact with the material in multiple ways, truly grasping and internalising the information. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a bit of control? According to Yarbrough (2019) “more visuals are not only learner preferred, training and educational professionals have identified that visuals support efficient teaching.”
A ThingLink can be considered a version of an infographic. There are ample studies supporting the claim that infographics are very powerful tools. What makes infographics and in an extended way ThingLink too, so useful? Visuals tend to stick in long-term memory, they transmit messages faster and improve comprehension to name a few (Shiftlearning).
Here is a roughly 7 min video walking you through all the tags and how to create them. In Edit mode tags can can be dragged around the base image – you can even pull a line from under a tag and anchor it to a specific point.
In a next tutorial blog post with video we’ll have a look the settings and dive into the immersive world of 360° images and videos in ThingLink.
In conclusion, ThingLink is the tool you didn’t know you needed. With its interactive tags and multimedia-rich approach, ThingLink empowers students to take charge of their studies and reach their full potential. So what are you waiting for? Give it a go and see the magic unfold!
BTW when storyboarding the video I had a clear vision of how to implement text to speech (TTS) with an AI voice – little did I know how NOT easy this was Stay tuned as at some point I will write a how to post about the process of producing the above video.
As an example I use Midjourney. Generating images using artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as Midjourney on Discord has the potential to revolutionise the field of visual content creation. Midjourney, an open-source platform, utilises machine learning algorithms to generate images based on user input. In short so called Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) create artistic imagery by separating and recombining image content and style. This process of using CNNs to render a content image in different styles is referred to as Neural Style Transfer (NST). This technology has many practical applications such as in graphic design, digital art, and scientific research. However, the ethical implications of AI-generated images must also be considered, more on this in a bit.
When using Midjourney on Discord, users can input a variety of parameters to generate images. This can include text, numbers, or even other images. The algorithm then processes this input and creates a unique image based on the parameters provided. This allows for a high degree of customisation and creativity when generating images. Additionally, Midjourney also allows the user to generate versions of those images, enabling thus a set of variations of the base image.
Here is a short video on how to use Midjourney via Discord.
One of the key benefits of using Midjourney on Discord is the community aspect of the tool. Users can share their input and generated images with others in real-time, allowing for a collaborative and interactive experience. This is particularly useful for designers and artists working on a project together, as it allows them to quickly and easily share ideas and feedback. Additionally, the Discord integration allows for easy sharing of the generated images, making it easy to share the final output with others.
Are there any issues?
One major advantage of using AI to generate images is its ability to produce a high volume of unique and varied content. This is particularly beneficial in fields such as advertising and graphic design where a steady stream of fresh and engaging visuals is essential. Furthermore, the use of machine learning algorithms in image generation allows for a high degree of customisation and creativity in the final output.
However, there are also valid concerns regarding the ethical implications of AI-generated images. One of the main concerns is the potential for AI-generated images to perpetuate harmful stereotypes and biases. For example, if an AI model is trained on a dataset that contains a disproportionate number of images of a certain race or gender, it may produce images that reinforce these stereotypes. Additionally, the use of AI-generated images in fields such as journalism and news reporting raises concerns about the authenticity and accuracy of the content.
A good example of what consequences training on a specific dataset can mean came up in a recent class action lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco, USA filed by a group of artists – the case is still on-going. Apparently
“text image generators were trained off of a data set called LAION, and they basically are billions of images that help to train the generators. And where artists take issue with it is that our images were put into these data sets and then used to create the generators without our consent.”
It is important to note that these concerns are not unique to AI-generated images, but rather are issues that have long been present in the field of visual content creation. However, the use of AI does amplify these concerns, and it is crucial that proper measures are taken to mitigate these risks. This can include using diverse and representative training datasets (with consent?), implementing robust ethical guidelines, and providing transparency about the source and authenticity of AI-generated images. In conclusion, the use of AI to generate images has the potential to greatly benefit various fields if implemented correctly.
Overall, Midjourney is a powerful tool for generating images on Discord. Its ability to process input from users and generate unique images, along with its editing tools and collaborative features, make it a valuable tool for a wide range of fields. Whether you’re a designer, artist, or researcher, Midjourney can help you create stunning visual content quickly and easily.
Midjourney uses prompts to instruct the NST what the image is suppose to look like. It always starts with a forward slash and IMAGINE (/IMAGINE) and your descriptive text eg. I used the following prompt line for the owl in the right hand side column:
[/IMAGINE logo, funky, scifi, bioluminescence, owl on transparent background]
which resulted in this 4 image square (below). I then chose to Upscale #1 and Version #2 and ended up with a 1024×1024 px sized image of the owl I wanted.