Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
June 26, 2002

Interaction Online: Above and Beyond Requirements of Assessment Another look at the question of whether assessment is necessary in order to stimulate interaction on discussion lists in online courses. This article, a survey of two classes (and therefore by no means conclusive) takes the approach that interaction can be recognized by students to be of benefit to them. The authors provide a good list of the benefits, then conclude, "context we can expect that students will increasingly see the benefits to themselves of staying in touch with others and shaping their own understanding." By Meg O'Reilly and Diane Newton, Australian Journal of Educational Technology, June, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Blogs as Disruptive Tech I am currently typing as a guest expert in an online MA course in distance learning at Royal Roads and one of the things I said yesterday is that you have to look outside academia to see where the innovations are coming in online learning. This article is a case in point, predicting, as it does, the demise of the large scale content management system industry. This nice, sharp analysis points out that blogging tools - available for free or just a few dollars - provide all the functionality of a CMS without the five or six figure price tag. It's no surprise, then, that blogging is growing at the rate of 25 percent a month. Now insofar as an LCMS is nothing more than a specialized CMS, the same must be true for the online learning content management system industry. Are we close? Yes, we're that close. By John Hiler, WebCrimson, June 20, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect] OK, this has nothing to do with learning and everything to do with obsessiveness. That said, this site is a marvel of data organization and representation. Try not to spend too much time here. After all, it's just the contents of some guy's house. By Matthew McClintock, December 31, 200-31 8:33 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How MIT's OpenCourseWare Will Change E-Learning Useful article tracing the implications of the MIT open courseware project, now in its second year. The 'effects' section of this paper is a bit weak: so there will be a reduced content bottleneck, increased demand and increased innovation. So what? Of much more interest is the latter part of the paper outlining what educational institutions can do once they realize there's no great income to be derived selling content. Pland suggested include: increase interaction; tailor, assemble, and repurpose content; become certification authorities; and innovate with technology or pedagogy. By William J. Salter , Learning Circuits, June, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Lightspan Signs Contract To Deliver Online Assessments The significant news here is not so much that the testing is being conducted on-line, but rather, that it is being conducted by an independent entity, a private company called Lightspan. If this project succeeds, can it be long before students can be tested no matter where - or how - they obtained their learning? By Press Release, Lightspan, June 24, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Deep-linking Flap Could Deep-six Direct Links to Relevant Content for Students This item, a couple of weeks old, is now being circulated in e-learning newsletters. Beware, warns the article, of controversies that may affect whether you can 'deep link' to external resources. Piffle. The Dallas Morning News and Runner's World cases are even older than this article and amounted to nothing. The most recent instances of the deep linking debate centre around the National Public Radio's acceptable use policy prohibiting deep linking (now being revised after a storm of protest) and a Danish court case currently being heard. Not one judgement has ever prohibited deep linking. And its not going to happen: to prohibit deep linking is to to put sites like Google and Yahoo off the internet. So, this story notwithstanding, don't worry about it. By Corey Murray, eSchool News, June 11, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

International Consortium Readies Ambitious Distance-Education Effort A high profile venture backed by a publishing company, Universitas 21 has garnered more publicity over the years than any other online institution still waiting to admit its first student. The corporate nature of Universitas 21, the faculty protests and the murky business plan make it a perfect paradigm of the demons faced by the authors at the Chronicle of Higher Education every time they look at online learning. Add a touch of the mysterious (and undemocratic) orient and you have the makings of a feature article. I'm not a fan of Universitas 21 for many reasons, but still, read this item with a grain of salt. By Michael Arnone, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 28, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Moving From Here to There Without Getting Lost First, let's curse the marketing people for taking a perfectly good name and substituting something meaningless. That said, this interview loks at some of the background behind the development by a Vancouver company of pliable display technology, a way of zoming in on certain data while keeping the context in view. If you are not into data representation, this is a pretty dry interview. By Unknown, Ubiquity, June, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Leaders-to-be Disdain Summer Jobs, Lose Empathy OK, I spent many years in the food services and related industries so I have many opinions about this condescending little piece. The premise is, as the title suggests, that students of wealthier parents are opting for summer schol rather than service level jobs. This is a bad thing, sucggests the author, because these elite students - our future leaders - lose the empathy they would otherwise gain. Well. We may well be on the way to acquiring leadership by inhertiance, but I'm not ready to grant that yet. That said, the last thing people in the food services industry needs is a flood of low paid students who don't really need the income coming in and forcing wages lower. But most of all, this story emphasises the need for an education accessible to all so that people are not forced to chose between working and studying. Perhaps then we can address the not-so-subtle disadvantage faced by students of lower income parents who believe that they, to, can become leaders. By Laura Vanderkam, USA Today, June 25, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Competition for CliffsNotes Arrives on the Scene In Print An online competitor to CliffsNotes, SparksNotes, is taking is product to the print world. This is not as unusual as you might expect - think of it as blended publishing. The online user base of 2.1 million registered members is expected to translate into offline sales. And since being purchased last year by Barnes & Noble, SparksNotes not has some cash to work with. By Staff, Christian Science Monitor, June 25, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes