Week 5: Learning Online!

So we learnt about E-learning in class… If there is anything about the Internet that has benefited the world, its contribution to education is undeniable!

Internet has made it easier, more available and wider with knowledge through making information virtual in various kinds of media and searchable! It has revolutionised education and teaching in many ways and our Ministry of Education (MOE) and schools have to keep up with these methods!

In an article from 2011, schools like Maris Stella High, Ngee Ann Seconday School and even North Vista Primary Schools are  integrating technologies in creative ways to teach basic subjects like English and Math, Drama and even Physical Education and Fitness! They also learn to use many useful programmes like Microsoft Office, Garage Band, Dreamweaver, and tools such as Dropbox and Keynote in their learning, fostering them to be tech-savvy for the future. I remember my times in school when we were still using blackboards and OHPs, to big boxy computers then to flatscreens…… now it is an iPad, Macbook, Windows Slate for each student.

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The resources and outlets online to education is amazing. And the best thing is some of them are even FREE! In class, we learnt about certain universities offering their courses online, such as Coursera.com which offers 626 courses from 108 schools such as Duke University, John Hopkins, Yale, Stanford and even from our very own National University of Singapore! Some of these courses are also accredited and comes with its own verified certificate! I am glad to see that there is an increasing uptake of such courses!online courses

I just found one that is really cool from our very own NTU!

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While I was talking to my friend about this topic, she also introduced me to a really interesting website: http://www.codecademy.com/.

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It teaches you how to code (for free!) in a really fun and interactive way, but yet simple to understand! Even I could follow it easily! It does not only teach coding, but Javascript, HTML and CSS, Ruby and Python! As you can see above, there are many interesting projects for you to try, all concise and super easy to do. I strongly recommend you to try it, just for fun! I believe that it will be useful to you!

Education has taken on another level… mobile apps! Just a simple search on iTunes, and the result list is comprehensive, over 65,000! There are apps for a range of ages (toodlers to infinity!), subjects (language, math, history etc), audiences (teachers, students, special needs etc.) and even an iTunes U that has countless learning resources like lectures, videos, books, and more. Just a scroll to some of the applications, the games are designed in many ways appeal to learners and their styles. I would think that  many of these apps inculcate and educate the children in Bloom’s 6 categories of Cognitive Dimension. It works to develop higher and lower thinking skills through different activities.

Online-Learning-Pathways1 (1)

If I have the time, I really should try one of the courses or the apps. There really is not much excuse to stop learning new things… it’s free, it’s convenient, it is easy and it works to your schedule! We should learn to harness and make use of this wonderful resource to better ourselves and our knowledge!

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Week 4: Travel Preparations, the E-commerce way

I am an avid traveller, but not in the Chan Brothers tour packages way. I like to DIY my trips, preferring to scour the Internet to put together my own itinerary. This is ironic, because I actually work in a travel agency… but because I do, I know especially where to look!

So while we were learning about the different types of e-commerce, I thought of how I actually planned my trips and which websites I commonly use!

  • It always starts with booking an air-ticket. The first place I search would be the websites of the budget airlines!

Budget Airlines in South East Asia

These are all B2C models, where the company sells directly to the consumers through their website. I generally prefer these because I have more control and I don’t have to worry about too many mark-ups by intermediaries. It is now almost compulsory for companies to have at least some kind of web presence so that they are visible, able to reach more customers anytime anywhere, and  offer more services while maximizing profit by saving costs. Another advantage is that their service is then 24/7, which is good news for both the busy customers and the business.

However, there are third-party websites that offer good prices, some may be even cheaper than going direct! They are still B2C businesses. One of the websites I use is:

expedia

Expedia is the world’s largest online travel company. It basically is a travel agency without a physical store, thus saving a lot on rental space cost! Going virtual has also allowed them to reach a much larger audience; Expedia has special localised websites in the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, China and Singapore! Their wide audience has allowed them the bargaining power with suppliers to give them much lower prices, which transfers savings to us the consumers as well as profits for them!

  • Then it continues to searching for places to stay! I like to backpack and stay in hostels. It is slightly harder to search for hostels directly, so I use consolidators such as:

Accommodation Websites

These websites are great from a consumer point of view, because they offer lots of information, customer reviews and makes it super easy to search through its website tools like being able to narrow down choices based on budget, location, facilities etc. It is MUCH faster than googling hostels in the area and comparing everything by visiting each and every website. 

It is not only beneficial to the consumers, but for the suppliers as well!

booking.comFor hostelbookers.com and booking.com, properties sign up to put up a listing for free, and they will only collect commission for each booking. You only pay when the service pays off, literally! These websites are fantastic, working as brokers to bring the service/product to the consumers and likewise.

For Wimdu, AirBnB and Roomorama, they are designed differently. They are a Peer-to-Peer or C2C business, connecting people who have free houses/rooms for short-term rental to travellers. As a result, these people can earn extra income and meet new people, and these travellers have a distinctly different experience than staying in boring hotels and hostels, opting instead to stay in a loft, treehouse or even a small quaint cottage~~  It’s quite an amazing concept really, and only possible because of the reach of the Internet.

Well, these are the main 2 travel arrangements I make before I leave… and they are GREATLY enhanced by the Internet. Looking at e-commerce from an industry that I am highly invested in helped me to appreciate and understand it better! I hope that it has for some of you as well and also help you to make you travel plans!

Feel free to share any links to websites that you use!

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Week 3: Where did Facebook get US$19 Billion to burn??

FBWhatsapp

The biggest hoo-haa going on now is about how Facebook bought over Whatsapp for US$19 BILLION. Everyone is talking about the worth of Whatsapp, but I am thinking along the lines how Facebook had 19 Billion dollars to burn!

I use Facebook everyday, it has become an essential part of my life, my interactions and my reality. But I don’t pay a single cent for all that services that Facebook offer in my life. So where do they get all their money from?

ADVERTISING
In the first quarter of 2012, advertising made up 82 percent of the site’s revenue. Well, with 1.15 billion active monthly users, I would pay to advertise on Facebook too! I think more than anything, it is the scale and reach that makes the Facebook so valuable.

They have a few types of advertisements:

  • Self-service Ads that appear on the side
  • Engagement Ads which require users to do something like vote or the likes.
  • In-stream ads/Promoted posts that appear as users scroll down newsfeed
  • Sponsored Stories

What make it even more attractive to advertisers is that these ads are customized to appear to specific audience, based on their actions tracked by Facebook. This means that you are advertising to people who already have an interest and has a higher probability to purchase. It is a very efficient and effective way to target specific audiences.

GAMES

According to Neilsen, The average U.S. user spends seven hours and 45 minutes on Facebook a month. I cannot find the official statistics for Singaporeans, but I dont think we are that far away. What do you think all these people are doing? Games!

Top 20 Facebook Games

Top 20 Facebook Games.

and how can we forget….

Candy-Crush-Saga

So how does Facebook earn from games?

  • Collection of fees from game developers to put up their games
  • In-game advertisements
  • A 30 percent commission when players on Facebook buy digital goods e.g. extra lives

Before 2012, Facebook games were pretty much Zynga, now they have up-and-coming game developers like King and Pretty Simple, they are all set to go! Facebook earned $213 million in revenue from payments last year and that number will continue to grow.

Here is an interesting infographic of Facebook makes their money, to put things into perspective….

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Well, I can’t do anything about Facebook continuing to earn money or not, as long as it stays around for us to continue using it! As a consumer, I care about the service that it offers. Thus, I’m super happy to hear this from the CEO himself! Now… if only all companies can be like that….

Simply put: we don’t build services to make money. We make money to build better services. – Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

Here is a video about Social Networking… some of the facts are really pretty amazing!

Week 2: Keeping in Touch Online

With the onset of social media, it struck me that we now communicate very differently as compared to before! And as a communication student, what better way to combine both communication and Internet for my topic this week!

We learnt in class the Email was the most commonly used tool on the Internet. Coming from my experience in the office, yes it is still very widely used today as well! Common ones were: Pacific Internet, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Gmail etc. Even amongst the emails, Pacific and Yahoo are almost non-existent, Hotmail is uncommon, and Gmail, which was the latest to the game amongst the 4, is pretty much compulsory!

Instant Messaging then came around in the mid 1990s. In a time when you had to wait for the person to reply your email, instant messaging very quickly took hold in society due to its real-time communication. It is a lot more like a chat rather than an exchange of messages. The reputed first Instant Messaging began with ICQ in 1996.

ICQAfter the popularity of ICQ, many companies tried to tap into this market. Yahoo Messenger was one such programme. More importantly and I am sure much, much more relatable and close to the heart for us reading this post: MSN Messenger

MSN Messenger caught on really quickly amongst the society when it debuted in 1999, probably due to the fact Microsoft was a stronghold then, and everyone was using hotmail accounts. At first, it was just text messaging and contact lists, then it added chat statuses, customizing features like appearances, names, avatars etc and added services like group chats, file transfer, emoticons and winks etc. It became Windows Live Messenger and a staple in almost every computer. Eventually, it ran out of steam and closed down in 2013. Here are some links that show how much MSN Messenger has impacted our lives and how sad we are to see it go… Just for reminisce sake.

15 Things MSN Messenger Taught You About Relationships

15 Things MSN Messenger Taught You About Relationships

MSN TweetsIn the mid 1990s, VoIP calls were budding but not adopted by the public very much. However, Skype burst into the scene in 2003 with FREE calls. Regardless of where you were around the world, you can call and HEAR the voices of your close ones  and even SEE them via this freemium. They also offered a payable service where you use the computer programme to call directly to a landline or handphone number. Skype has also become popular for its additional features, including file transfer, and videoconferencing. Such services let you bypass traditional phone switching networks in favor of digitized, over-the-internet voice calls, instant messaging, and video conferencing.   I remember using it with my sister and friends who were overseas, and when I went travelling, that was how I kept in contact with my family. The connection was shaky but at least we could see  and hear them for a bit!

Using Oovoo to keep in touch across 3 continents!

Using Oovoo to keep in touch across 3 continents!

Following the popularity of Skype, many similar programmes came out as well! You can see the list of top 10 VoIP apps for desktop recommended here. I personally use very little of Skype, and more of Google Hangouts and Oovoo as I find them more stable and able to take more people in chat groups.Google Hangouts also enable you to merge other Google services into your conversation, so that collaboration is a lot more convenient! For example, I just used it to discuss a school project and work on the proposal with my group members online, using Hangouts and Google Docs at the same time!

These programmes have gone beyond the computer interface but have gone mobile as well!  Whatsapp, Viber, LINE, WeChat…. the apps are endless! They now combine VoIP with instant text messaging, with file-transfers such as audio, pictures, videos and even locations! It is needless to say that many of us rely heavily on these apps on a daily basis. These days, they are play quite a big role in my travels as I use these programmes to reduce my cost of telecommunications such as keeping in touch, working etc.

mobile communication apps

So our communication has gone from face-to-face, to email that is asynchronous, to real-time Instant Messaging with ICQ, to MSN Messenger that allowed personalization, emoticons and file-sharing, to real-time voice and video communication online with Skype and finally to a combination of ALL of the above anytime and anywhere in our smartphones through the rise of communication apps. What a journey we have come. These has many impacts on the way we communicate, some studies have discussed that we are now less comfortable with face-to-face than online! It is very much understandable, given the heavy role online communication plays in our lives. However, I feel that we must remember to use these technological advances to help us and not take away what is real and natural to us!

After all, if you think about it, online communication is still not exactly the same as real conversations. Just look at the video below!

Week 1:Internet Browser Wars: Internet Explorer out?

During class, we hear that the fastest internet browser is Mozilla Firefox. Why, you ask? Because the Fox is on fire!

Why Firefox is the fastest browser

Why Firefox is the fastest browser

No, but really, I used to swear by Mozilla a couple of years ago. Before that, I was using Internet Explorer and needless to say, Mozilla was a saviour. Nowadays, I only use Google Chrome and have not looked back since. I think this is common amongst many of the younger generation… (not counting the Apple users out there! I’m afraid I don’t have much experience with Safari, besides on my phone).

It is said that there were 2 Browser Wars. The first in the late 1990s when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) prevailed over Netscape’s Navigator. Since 2003, the second Browser War has been on as IE slowly battles and loses market share to the newer browsers. This is obvious because I see many pictures poking fun at the ‘Browser Wars’ like:

This shows how the 3 browsers were fighting it out first, and Google Chrome just pounced out of nowhere... trouncing the the competition perhaps? Either way, see how Internet Explorer is almost pushed off the 'battle arena' and is just hanging on for dear life.  Either way you see it, it is super cute~~

This shows how the 3 browsers were fighting it out first, and Google Chrome just pounced out of nowhere… trouncing the the competition perhaps? Either way, see how Internet Explorer is almost pushed off the ‘battle arena’ and is just hanging on for dear life.
Either way you see it, it is super cute~~

This just shows Firefox and Chrome fighting it out like kids. And Internet Explorer... eating glue? Well, it's clearly out of the competition, but also very cute :p

This just shows Firefox and Chrome fighting it out like kids. And Internet Explorer is… eating glue? Well, he’s clearly out of the competition, but still very cute :p

The latest joke poking fun at the browser wars also, about how Internet Explorer is just.... not working....

The latest joke poking fun at the browser wars also about how Internet Explorer is just…. not working….

So as you can see, the general consensus is that Internet Explorer is not that fantastic, as compared to the other browsers. So I was quite surprised to learn that it is still in the Top 3 most used browsers today. As of January 2014, from http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp :

  1. Google Chrome: 55.7%
  2. Mozilla Firefox: 26.9%
  3. Internet Explorer: 10.2%
  4. Safari: 3.9%
  5. Opera: 1.8%

What really surprised me was the small numbers of Safari users, in comparison to the IE users. In the last decade or so, it can be observed that the Mac has expanded beyond the artistic community and into the masses. The adoption of IPads and other tablets should have increased the Safari users and decreased the IE users significantly…

So I wonder who are the IE users???

I was pondering this until…. I went to my office and realised that more than HALF of my colleagues were still using Internet Explorer! I was hysterical, exclaiming to everyone (especially those in my department) to download and change to the new browsers, or rather specifically, Chrome. To their benefit, there was not much resistance from their end. They just wanted the Internet, and to them, the browser WAS the Internet. So when I downloaded Chrome(using IE, haha) and taught them how to use, there was no turning back for them either. It was faster, easier, more intuitive, and mostly faster, which saves A LOT of time for us because we pretty much spend the whole day on the Internet.

So I found out that it might be those who are unaware or unplugged from the IT advancements like my colleagues, who don’t know the existence of faster browsers. My office staff age range between 35-55 years old, and are not in an IT-related industry. They form a portion of the 10.2% and I can understand now why there are so many others. However, I believe that we should let them know and ‘convert’ them to the newer browsers where possible because it matters!

Funnily, I actually found a website: http://theie8countdown.com

http://theie8countdown.com/ - dedicated to drop support for IE8

http://theie8countdown.com/ – dedicated to drop support for IE8

One of the reasons mentioned by the founder is that it actually slows down the progress of Internet development, because designers have to spend extra time catering different versions for the browsers, and also it limits the features available to users when websites don’t adopt a new technology because IE users and IE compatible websites cannot use it. This is especially so when most of our Singapore government websites still run most compatible with IE instead of other browsers. Imagine if new, faster, more convenient tools can be adopted for e-processes like tax-filing, bidding, applications etc.

IE is simply blocking the development of the whole World Wide Web. – Josef Richter, founder of http://theie8countdown.com/

 I did a Google search just for comparison’s sake…

321 MILLION results in 0.28 seconds.  (The marvel of search engines is a whole topic altogether!) A simple scroll showed all kinds of websites discouraging IE

321 MILLION results in 0.28 seconds. (The marvel of search engines is a whole topic altogether!) A simple scroll showed all kinds of websites discouraging IE

203 million hits. As seen, not all the results advocate the use of IE, but are simply results that were against IE instead!

203 million hits. As seen, not all the results advocate the use of IE, but are simply results that were against IE instead!

I checked out the newest Internet Explorer 11. I am glad to see that they are improving their services and quality. PCMag reviews stated that the speed and simplicity is now better and they are leading in phishing protection. However, I tried it out myself, but still found it slower and most importantly, less intuitive than Chrome. So there lies my choice, and apparently PCMag Editors as well!

What about you guys?