Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
October 31, 2002

How to Market E-Learning in Your Company This issue is a bit of a flavour of the month, having shown up in a number of places recently. It won't last, because there's not much to say, and most of it is said here. This article is a quick guide to marketing e-learning within your company. The author is unknown, but the source is Brandon Hall. By Unknown, e-Learning Magazine, October 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Points of Learning and Teaching Systems Drawing from the concept of 'point of sale' in business, the instant a person decides to purchase a good or service, the author describes the 'point of learning and teaching systems' (POLTS) in education, which is roughly the instant a person decides to access learning. Right now the POLTS is a mess, as anyone who has sought learning can attest. This paper outlines some of the major characteristics a POLTS should possess: simplicity of operation, appropriate rich content, self-contained content, multiple sources of input and output, scalability, personalization, and interaction. By M.O. Thirunarayanan, Ubiquity, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

CANARIE Provides the RACOL Project $1.3 Million Canadian readers will want to take note of this latest program announcement from CANARIE, funding for the Rural Advanced Community of Learners (RACOL) project, which "will allow students and instructors from separate locations to interact in real time using high-quality video collaboration facilities." The primary partners in the program are the Vermillion School Division, the University of Alberta, and the Netera Alliance. By Press Release, CANARIE, October 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Latest from AOL, MSN Represent Evolution of Digital Dinosaurs I don't cover AOL and MSN very much, precisely because I think that they are dinosaurs. But this article is worth a read because it identifies why they are dinosaurs, and there's a lesson for e-learning there. The author writes, "I see a clear trend toward 'unbundling' of online services... There's little room for all-in-one services such as AOL and MSN in this unbundled future -- although they won't disappear overnight; inertia alone will keep millions of subscribers under their big tents." Well, now, if we think of bundled services in the abstract, it is easy to see that today's education providers (and today's e-learning technologies) are some of the biggest bundlers of all. If you want a bit of learning, you need to sign up for a 40 hour course - or a 40 course program. If you want a few specialized learning objects, you need to subscribe to a 20,000 object library. If bundling doesn't work for AOL and MSN, then it seems likely that it won't work in learning either. By Mike Langberg, San Jose Mercury News, October 31, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

IBM Bets $10 Billion on 'On-Demand' Computing Just a quick note on this one: if IBM can offer "on-demand computing" how hard could it be to offer "on-demand learning"? Oh, I know it's not an online class... but it's more likely the future of learning than a streaming head-and-shoulders shot (Another report). By Eric Lundquist, eWeek, October 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Google: What's it Worth to You? Google yesterday launched a service after a six month beta test, the Google answer service, in which customers submit a question and specify how much they are willing to pay for a solution (and how quickly they need the answer). If researchers think the amount is worth their time (you don't get a lot of research for five dollars) they find out your answer and get back to you. Now what gets me is how the combined research brains of tens of thousands of professors at thousands of universities worldwide didn't stumble on this sort of service... oh yeah, they were too busy figuring out how to put their lectures online (or how to prevent this from being done). New tools, new services. By Colin C. Haley, InternetNews.Com, October 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Lack of School Discipline Rapped The OECD releases the strangest surveys sometimes. This report is one of those, in which it is noted that while Canadian students "have more access to computers, labs and libraries than almost anywhere on Earth," their classes "are noisy and disorderly, and nearly half complained students do nothing at all for more than five minutes at the start of every class." The survey also notes that Brazilians are more likely to get homework, Italians are the most inattentive (they must be quietly inattentive), and Britain's students get the best feedback on assignments. By Louise Brown, Toronto Star, October 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

"Should the Computer Teach the Student..." 30 Years Later An odd article. 30 years ago, the author presented a paper called "Should the Computer Teach the Student, or Vice-Versa?" at a Boston conference. This article revisits that paper. But it does so without any insight as to what is happening in online learning today. "The computer as tutor (then called CAI) is today limited to a few useful keyboarding tutorials and some drill-and-kill programs still inflicted on kids in mainly inner-city schools." So far as I can see, the whole field of computer mediated instruction and e-learning has been overlooked - perhaps it doesn't count, in his mind. The article then proceeds to a discussion of the teaching (or the failure to teach, as it turns out) programming languages in schools. Last week I heard Brandon Hall say nothing is happening in K-12 schools. Today I see this. I don't believe it. Perhaps U.S. schools are lagging behind Canada (where there is plenty of activity). But I refuse to believe that there is nothing happening, refuse to believe it because I know it is happening and cover it here (just click on [Research] and select 'Schools' for my coverage). By Arthur Luehrmann, CITE, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Bill Would Ease Copyright Limits For E-Learning Overview of the Technology Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act, considered likely to pass this fall. It's a good summary, listing the major improvements offered by the act, such as the extension of fair use to digital material, and also outlining the limitations, such as the restriction to techer-led classes at accredited institutions. There are also complex obligations, "obligations for educational institutions to uphold copyright protections, especially using technological means to prevent retransmission to other users," that the author accurately labels as "burdensome." By Andrew Trotter, Education Week, October 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes