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October 31, 2001

Information vs. Experience Two views of the world wide web - the 'Structuralists' see the web as a vehicle for information and leave the presentation of documents up to the individual user, while the 'Presentationalists' believe that the web is a vehicle for conveying experiences and who want to maintain total control over the appearance of documents. Who's winning? The Structuralists, barely. Me? I'm a Structuralist. By Emmanuel King Turner, A List Apart, October 26, 2001.[Refer]

Cyber Schools Report has Holes A KPMG report on the state of cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania is coming under fire because of the lack of data from the state's largest cyber school, The Einstein Academy. Data from other cyber schools was self-reported, rather than independently audited, another source of criticism. Pennsylvania authorities are satisfied, saying that "cyber schools provide innovative education for children." But I agree with David Broderic, executive director of the state Senate Education Committee, who said, "Einstein's refusal to provide information speaks volumes about the need for greater accountability measures." By Eleanor Chute and Jane Elizabeth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 31, 2001.[Refer]

Testing Web Sites: Five Users Is Nowhere Near Enough This short, sharp paper refutes arguments advanced by Jakob Nielsen and Robert Virzi to the effect that only five users are needed to conduct an effective usability test. According to the authors, only 35 percent of the usability problems were identified by the first five users, suggesting that many more users would need to be tested to identify a majority of the usability problems. PDF file. By Jared Spool and Will Schroeder, CHI Conference Repor, April, 2001.[Refer]

An Empirical Study of Human Web Assistants: Implications for User Support in Web Information Systems Many educational institutions are considering the use of live assistance on their websites or in their online courses. This study provides a good evaluation of the technique. Live assistance adds to a reader's trust and confidence in the site. A text-based chat is sufficient for most purposes. Readers will wait for the assistant, but not long. Being an online assistant causes stress, and the most valuable qualities of an online assistance are patience, domain knowledge, social skills and fast typing. By Johan Aberg and Nahid Shahmehri, CHI 2001 Conference Report, April, 2001.[Refer]

McGraw-Hill Lifetime Learning and Monster.com Partner to Offer Career Seekers Unique Online Learning Resource There was some discussion of this at the Net*Working 2001 conference in Brisbane and so it's no surprise to see this initiative launched. The connection between learning and a careers site like Monster is a natural. What is most interesting is that the traditional intermediaries - universities - are left out of the picture. By Press Release, McGraw-Hill, October 30, 2001.[Refer]

Fifth Generation Distance Education Case study of development work underway at the University of Southern Queensland toward a full integration of computer mediated learning on a university wide basis. There is a lot to be learned from this paper (though I wish it were better structured). The models of first through fifth generation learning provide effective touchstones for progress. Also permeating the paper is a forward looking view encapsulated in the section titled "e-Learning: From Cottage Industry to Mass Global Access." Here, the authors recognize the constraints traditional university structures have been placing on online learning and map a route to an institutional - and not merely academic - focus on new technologies. By Jim Taylor, Journal of Instructional Science and Technology, Volume 4, Number 1, October, 2001.[Refer]

Columbia University's Fathom Seeks New Users Among Readers of The New Yorker From the deja vu department: signs that the online learning industry is approaching a reckoning. Just as the dot com industry seemed at its peak before the collapse, so to the online learning industry is going through a similar phase. Evidence: a recent Brandon Hall report talking about how rosy the online learning industry is, and this link, an extravagent advertisement by Fathom in the New Yorker. By Scott Carlson, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 30, 2001.[Refer]

Interactive Web-Based Instruction. What is It? How Can it be Achieved? Interesting paper that looks at aspects of Moore's and Laurillard's approaches to interaction and proposes a model for interaction in online learning. The definitions are still a bit too fuzzy for my tastes, but readers will be pleased to see a relatively detailed approach blending interaction with pedagogy in a planned manner. Definitely worth reading. By Anne Shortridge, http://www.usq.edu.au/electpub/e-jist/docs/html/sho_frame.html, October, 2001.[Refer]


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