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August, 2012:

Prezi Adds New Features

Have you tried Prezi yet? An old favorite of Learning Technologies, this online presentation tool is quickly growing in popularity as an alternative to linear slideshow programs. Just last month, they added three new features to the presentation mode that are quite exciting:

  • Screen Blackout – Need a break from visuals for a moment? While in presentation mode, users can now simply press the B key to temporarily black out their screen. Moving the mouse or pressing any other key will return to the presentation from there.
  • 3D Backgrounds – Users can now add layers to their presentation, creating a 3D effect. Watch the video below to see the feature in action:

  • Fade-in Animation – Content can now be faded in and out within frames. This is great if you wish to add a hide-and-reappear effect to your presentation. Here’s another video to show you how:

If you’d like to keep up with Prezi as it grows, check out their new feature log, which will be updated when new features are added.

Thanks to David Andrade at Educational Technology Guy for bringing this to our attention!

Back-to-School Apps for Instructors and Students

In the spirit of back-to-school season, onlinecolleges.net recently published lists of recommended smartphone apps for students and instructors. We’ve decided to share a few of their favorites–as well as some of ours–with you here:

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SkilledUp: The Search Engine for Online Courses

With so many online courses out there, it’s hard to know where to start when looking for one. As of now, most people are hopping around to different content providers like OCW Consortium, Coursera, or CMU Open Learning Initiative to learn something new. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to search all online courses in one place?

While SkilledUp may not be all the way there yet (it’s still in beta), they’ve got the right idea. On the site, users can search for online courses by keyword, or they can choose to browse the courses by topic. Additionally, search results can be filtered by price and duration of the course.

Currently, SkilledUp seems to have the most courses on computing, design, and technical skills, but hopefully will expand into traditional academic areas in the near future. Having a search engine like this would save many online students time–possibly making sifting through Google and course provider after course provider a thing of the past!

What is a MOOC?

The recent announcement by a number of universities on offering online courses for free and open to anyone heralds what some call as the beginning of a wave of MOOCs, or massively open online courses. Just what exactly is a MOOC and how does it differ from a typical distance learning course? The video below gives a good summary of how MOOCs work and why they are different from other models of distance learning.

 

Amazon Now Offers Textbook Rental Service

Amazon introduced its new textbook rental service today, just in time for back-to-school season. Similar to other rental sites like Chegg and UW’s University Bookstore rentals, Amazon offers students the option to pay a fraction of the book’s cover price to borrow the book for 130 days (one semester). Students then send the books back, free of return shipping, in like-new condition. This service is a great idea for students who have a difficult time paying full price for textbooks, but need them for a course.

Textbook rental is nothing new, but a company like Amazon joining the market may change things for it in the near future. Amazon also currently offers eBook rentals, available for reading through their Kindle devices and apps.