Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
November 11, 2002

E-Learning: A Challenge for Universities Today's newsletter is coming to you live from Milan, Italy, where I am attending this conference for the next couple of days (disclosure: costs paid for by conference organizers). So far the content has been first rate with presentations from OU's Diana Laurillard, MIT's Steve Lerman, Cardean's John Kroper, and more. I have detailed notes, photos of Milan and much more coming over the next few days. By Various Authors, November 11, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

MIT's Superarchive Though MIT's Steve Lerman presented in Milan today, he didn't say a word about this. Too bad. This article is a detailed account of MIT's DSpace, an online archive for scholarly material produced at the university. It's a good accounting of some of the issues, but I'm really getting peeved with MIT's claim to have invented all of this. "MIT’s attention to the needs of its faculty, the open architecture of DSpace, the federation design, and its decentralized nature comprise 'a genius stroke.'" Well, yes. But not MIT's. There is a world out there and in that world a lot of the stuff that MIT now claims is its "genius" has already been invented many times over. By Sally Atwood, MIT News, December, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Publikationspflicht für Professoren im Netz gefordert The opposite of censorship doesn't seem any more appealing. This story cites a German Green party proposal to require that all academics provide open web access to their research articles and publications. The Greens cite the OAI, BOAI, and SPARC in support of their position, but fail - I think - to take into account the nuanced status of academic publications. A varied distribution system, not a forced march into single mode distribution, would far better reflect the reality of contemporary academia. I applaud the Green's intent, but this is not the right mechanism for the job. In german. Google translation By Stefan Krempl, Heise Online, November 10, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

1037037111 A National Academy of Sciences report predicts that technology will dramatically change the research university: "an academe dominated by freelance instructors selling their services to many institutions, which in turn compete for students who buy courses a la carte from many different colleges." And, "The faculty member of the twenty-first century university could thus become more of a consultant or a coach than a teacher, less concerned with transmitting intellectual content directly than with inspiring, motivating, and managing an active learning process." These are old predictions, of course, but now they bear the weight of authority. By Vincent Kiernan, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 8, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Beyond Selfishness When I read about things like the need for copyright protections (otherwise nobody will produce content), about questionable e-learning marketing (because you must maximize profits this quarter), about this or that dynamic leader or guru in the field, and even about making learning companies more efficient (even if that involves layoffs), I often have thoughts of the sort echoed - finally - in this article. If you read anything in today's newsletter, read this one. "We do have a tradeoff to make, one crucil choice facing each of us as individuals. We can live our lives obsessed with getting ever more, with keeping score, with all that constant calculating and scheming. Or we can open ourselves to something else, engaging ourselves to engage others, so as to live our lives in balanced harmony." This is the unedited version of the paper that appeared (in part) in last June's Fast Company. By Henry Mintzberg, Robert Simmons, and Kunal Basu, June, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A New Lesson for eLearning Programs: "e" is for Entrepreneurship Listening to John Kruper of Cardean University today, I was fascinated to hear him list, among the four essential components of an e-learning development team, "marketing and Sales." Now this may cause true academics to run for the hills, but - in this talk at least - the focus of the marketing department was to provide evaluation and feedback. Which brings us to the present article. Entrepreneurship (a vastly over-used term), argues the author, is "about planning and taking calculated risks based upon knowledge of the market, the available resources or products in a usable or close-to-usable form, and a pre-determined measure of the potential for success." Now I am the last one to suggest that professors start shilling their courses like sidewalk vendors or used car salespeople. But understanding the market, broadly understood, should inform the development and delivery of online learning. By Evan T. Robinson, Syllabus, November 1, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Handheld Devices: Toward a More Mobile Campus This article advises of a deluge of interest in e-learning delivered over handhelds, citing interest, for example, in medical applications. It also warns of a dearth of handhelp e-learning applications. I wouldn't worry too much. First, well designed web applications display nicely on handhelds - OLDaily shows up fairly well, for example (in my own tests, at least). But more to the point, handhelds are and will be a niche market. Much of their allure is based on wireless access, and the rest of their allure is based on their portability. The new tablet computers should match them on both counts. Yes, sometimesyou need ultra portable web access, and then handhelds are the tool of choice. But like I said, a niche. By Mary A.C. Fallon, Syllabus, November 11, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes