Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
September 2, 2002

Sixteen Steps to a Renewed Corporate Intranet Don't let the term "corporate intranet" throw you off. This article contains (mostly) good advice about the design and maintenance of any information system (I would include most online learning applications in this definition). I like the way the article looks at the problem of upgrading an old, out of date and largely unused information system. Some of the steps are a bit odd: it is important to conduct usability testing after the system is designed, and not merely before, for example. I also wonder about the advice to "create an intranet style guide" - this is just the sort of thing that promotes disuse (as much as possible, use the CMS system to manage style). By James Robertson, Step Two Designs, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Bringing Affective Behavior to e-Learning Today I'm pleased to present four items from a particularly strong issue of The Technology Source. This first article looks at the need for and techniques for creating immediacy in an online classroom. Of most interest is the description of what the author calls a "unibrowser" - a four panel website allowing for streaming video, slide presentation and interaction. The idea "was to duplicate what a "real" instructor does to motivate and orient a student." The author also raises the interesting question of whether it would also be useful to create immediacy by giving the computer a personality. It seems to me that it could be, but care should be taken not to give the computer a personality which (like the Microsoft paperclip) everybody hates. By Michael M. Danchak, The Technology Source, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Next Killer App in Education: An Interview with Michigan's Carl Berger It is always best, they say, to keep your eye on the final objective as you slog your way through the jungles. Today, our foliage consists of WebCT and Blackboard, SCORM and IMS... but the objective is to see all of this come together to create WINWINI online learning - "what I need when I need it." This interview with a firm eye on the objective is worthwhile reading for those who wonder where this all leads and for those of us who are helping to build it. By James L. Morrison, The Technology Source, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Extending the Pedagogy of Threaded-Topic Discussions During last month's Net*Working 2002 online conference I saw once again why I dislike threaded discussions so much. By fragmenting and sorting the comments, threaded discussions create a body of content that is almost impossible to read. I gave up on threaded discussions years ago; you may have notice that the discussion area on this site is not threaded. This article provides a good overview of the problems with threaded discussions and describes a range of alternative approaches to online collaboration. The title is a bit misleading, as the use of shared documents is only one way to create a readable forum. Well worth reading. By William R. Klemm, The Technology Source, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Free Online Scholarship Movement: An Interview with Peter Suber For an excellent overview of the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) movement check out this interview with Peter Suber, author of the FOS newsletter. While the article doesn't go into a lot of depth, you could spend the rest of the afternoon following links to FOS discussion and software. Suber also makes an important point: it's not so much that publishers are preventing free online scholarship - "we could do it without them." Rather, according to Suber, "The more we succeed, however, the more we can expect them to follow suit or lower their prices. Our goal is to create open access, not to put anyone out of business, though we know that success will put competitive pressure on many existing publishers." By James Morrison, The Technology Source, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Information Architecture: Learning How to Classify I have come to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible to classify documents. This would come as a surprise to librarians, who have been classifying documents for years. But librarians, who handle larger documents, can manage with a relatively coarse system. What I have found to be more important that creating good categories is the writing of good descriptions - such as this one - that can be used as raw material for a dynamic clasification system. Still, for those who still wish to classify each document, this column contains good advice. By Gerry McGovern, New Thinking, September 2, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Category Index List of my knowledge base contents, sorted by category. If you would like to see another category added, send me a note (click on the [Reflect] link below). By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, August, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Interview with Bob Boiko Good interview with Bob Boiko, author of Content Management Bible. Worth reading especially is Boiko's discussion of "context management" - "I've often heard that a content management system destroys context, as its sole purpose is to create neutral information that is free of context. My response to that is—No. If you do that you are going to fail.... A content management system is doing as much to manage context as it is doing to manage content. It allows you codify and insert context parameters to the content so as to re-create the context for the publications it serves. Thus a content management system is not only managing a set of content chunks but it is also managing context." By Maish Nichani, eLearningPost, August 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes