Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
October 15, 2002

The Widening Rift Between Corporations and Society I think there are some good lessons here. This interview with James Maxmin Shoshana Zuboff, authors of The Support Economy, bluntly acknowledges widespread consumer distrust of large corporations and points the way toward a more successful model. "We no longer trust large organizations to serve our needs. On every level, we are experiencing a divisive 'us vs. them' mentality. Now, after decades of being forced to put up with the consequences of corporate indifference... [we] want to be treated as individuals, not as anonymous transactions in the ledgers of mass consumption... [we] want corporations to bend to [our] needs. [We] want to be freed from the time-consuming stress, rage, injustice, and personal defeat that accompany so many commercial exchanges." By Martha Lagace, Working Knowledge, October 14, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Preparing Students for Elearning We're only four weeks in but I think that to judge by the quality of the materials produced, George Siemens's elearning course. A case in point is this material on preparing students for elearning. Not too deep (it is, after all, an introductory course), the material is nonetheless fairly comprehensive and also avoids the trap of supporing that online learning is just like taking a class online. What is unique and valuable about this course material is that it isn't something that was created by the instructor to teach the class - it is something that was created by the class in course of definining its own instruction. By George Siemens, elearnspace, October 14, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open IT: Govt to Rewrite Source Code in Linux The Department of information Technology in India has come up with a plan to make open source operating systems, and Linux in particular, the standard for all academic institutions in the country. The reason is cost: a large and developing country like India simply cannot afford Microsoft's prices. By Sudha Nagaraj, The Economic Times, October 9, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Low Maintenance This has nothing to do with online learning but it's related to education, it's a great read, and it makes us think about our place in the world. I came away from it thinking that the thoughts expressed should never have seen the light of day, but that I'm glad they did. The article raises the question (in me at least) of how we relate to other people in the world, particularly people who may be regarded as 'below' us in status or education. We forget that we may be the most important influence in people's lives, their best and perhaps their only access to anything wider than their own narrow circle. With capacity comes responsibility, not in a strict legal sense, but in an ethical and moral sense. Can I say that I was the most important person in anyone's life? Can I say that my life and my work helped add meaning to someone else's? It seems to me that all the education in the world still leaves you stupid if you do not grasp this fundamental truth, that each person matters, and that they matter only if they matter to you. By Anna Collins Trest, Faculty Shack, October 15, 2002 2:13 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Price Wars on Campus One thing I hear a lot is that life will go on as usual in the university sector. When I visit the large campuses and ponder the enormous investment undertaken by the sector, it's hard to disagree. But change is coming. Consider this article. True, it doesn't even mention online learning or alternative education. Yet it seems hard to square the problems universities are having attracting students with the fact that the bulk of the echo boom is now attanding college. Yet, since 1997 some 30 colleges have closed their doors and the others are engaged in what is described by this article as a "brutal" struggle for enrollments. A crisis, almost by definition, appears suddenly. But most crises are years in the making, their sudden appearance the result more of willful ignorance than lack of knowledge. Be ready. By Albert B. Crenshaw, Washington Post, October 15, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Perspective: The Copyright Conundrum Review of the ongoing battles over copyright. The author sums it up in a nice nutshell: "The problem is simple: Copyright law has diverged wildly from what the average Internet user and DVD owner believes it is reasonable to do. This can result in a dangerous and unstable situation, where the police have the legal authority to toss so many otherwise law-abiding people in prison. It creates contempt for the law and the courts. It's a throwback to Prohibition, when booze was illegal, but bootlegging was common." By Declan McCullagh, CNet, October 14, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Running Schools Like Business Nice ironic commentary responding (finally) to the oft-repeated mantra that public services, such as schools, should be run like a business. "After months of hearing the 'scandal de jour' from insider trading to shredded documents to doctored accounting and audits to phantom partnerships to lavish stock options and the like, I havenít heard anyone suggesting lately that schools need to pattern themselves after business.... It isnít all about money; it is also about values and human dignity. It shouldnít be about greed; it should be about goodness." By Paul D. Houston, American Association of School Administrators, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Learning Page New (I guess - the site has no 'about' page), The Learning Page is an initiative of the Library of Congress to provide teacher support for the giant American Memory online collection. This month's feature (November) is immigration, an appropriate topic for the month of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. The site itself, despite its unfortunate lack of archives, is a good idea: providing a themed access to a collection like American memory makes it a lot more accessible to teachers and students. So long, that is, as the themes don't follow cliched 'holiday of the month' approaches. By Various Authors, U.S. Library of Congress, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Colleges Could Face Lawsuits Over Illegal File-Sharing More coverage of the content industry's attempts to lean on university administrations to prohibit file sharing by students over university networks. This article covers a presentation by Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology (but conveniently omits to inform readers that ACT is closely allied with Microsoft, representing the Redmond position on such issues as anti-trust issues, digital rights, software copying, and privacy). The presentation was the usual "your students are thieves" message - oddly ironic, given the source. By Katherine S. Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 14, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Know a friend who might enjoy this newsletter?

Feel free to forward OLDaily to your colleagues. If you received this issue from a friend and would like a free subscription of your own, you can join our mailing list at

[ About This NewsLetter] [ OLDaily Archives] [ Send me your comments]

Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes