Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
January 3, 2003

Three Tiers of Identity This article distinguishes between three types of identity: identity that is assumed by oneself, assigned that is assigned by a second party (such as a corporate profile or social insurance number), and identity that is created in an abstract manner (such as a profile created by a marketing company). Some of these identities are needed, but others create more problems than they solve (and some - like (faulty) credit ratings, fall into both categories). The point of this article is that in our discussions of identity we need to take into account all three types and to account for the relations between them. Quite so. Via eLearnSpace. By Andre Durand, Digital ID World, March 16, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Learning Management Systems: Seeking Paradigms for Collaboration Phillip Long's otherwise reasonable discussion of ways people can influence the development of learning management systems (LMSs) is scored with an unwarranted piousness. "We have an obligation to speak and write reasonably about new models for learning software." Well, yeah - but who was speaking unreasonably? Then I look back at the article and see that it is essentially about ways to commercialize open source software. So I don't know what his point is. But I think it's something like this: instead of fighting the commercial software companies, we should be trying to work with them in well-established forums (listed at the bottom of the article). Well, sure, but, but let's not forget that these forums are set up to promote the interests of the vendors and enterprises that created them. In such cases I would much rather be the unreasonable voice in the wilderness. That, too, is what sometimes saves a great nation. By Phillip D. Long, Syllabus, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Designing for Learning: The Pursuit of Well-Structured Content This short article contains several useful distinctions and definitions. For example, the author describes "well structured" in three ways: for the purposes of instruction, for the partular student, and for a given environment. The author also draws out the distinction between taking a course and studying a discipline. And finally, she provides a nice simple hierarchy of content: core concepts and principles, well-structured problems with known solutions, and less structured, complex problems without known solutions. All this leads to the idea that online learning needs several dimensions of structure, and that, she suggests, is where XML will play a major role in instructional design. Good enough. By Judith V. Boettcher, Syllabus, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Future of Higher Education: An Interview with Parker Rossman Today marks the release of one of the strongest issues of Technology Source I have seen, and with it, cause for more hope than I've had in a while about the potential for achieving the goal outlined in this first article, "the ways in which a global virtual education system can come into existence and to raise questions about needed research on learning, teaching, and overcoming the problems (such as hunger, bad health, war, and revolution) that stand in the way of providing education for everyone in the world." This is very much what I am working toward, and indeed, what OLDaily is all about. By James L. Morrison and Parker Rossman, The Technology Source, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Bazaar Online Conference System: Athabasca University's Alternative to Proprietary Online Course Delivery Platforms I had the opportunity last week to tour the entire Bazaar conferencing system described in this article. I like it a lot. What Bazaar is not is a content management system - it is designed to facilitate communication, not information transfer. That said, it contains many of the administrative and tracking tools found in more expensive LMSs. As the title suggests, Bazaar is free and open source. Bazaar is written in Perl (woo hoo!) and available for download on SourceForge. The article also makes some interesting (though vague) comments on Bazaar's potential use with CanCore, the eduSource project and RSS. By Susan Hesemeier, Mawuli Kuivi and Mike Sosteric, The Technology Source, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Knowledge Environment for Web-based Learning (KEWL): An Open Source Learning Management System Suited for the Developing World With recent price increases in LMS software, there has been a lot of talk about open source alternatives. This article describes one such, Knowledge Environment for Web-based Learning (KEWL). But though released under GPL, KEWL depends on Microsoft Active Server Pages (which virtually negates any advantage it might have offered). May I say, if you're going to develop open source software, especially server software, use an open source platform like Linus and open source languages like PHP or Perl; otherwise, you're not saving anyone any costs, you're just shifting them a bit. By Derek Keats, The Technology Source, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Evolving Role of Course Management System Providers in the Transformation of Education: An Interview with Blackboard's Matthew Pittinsky The title describes the content. Blackboard's strategy in a nutshell: "I think the next big leap is from CMS to OS. Systems like Blackboard will be viewed as platforms that unite a wide range of academic technologies that traditionally have been fragmented... I view course management systems as operating systems for education because I believe that their value lies as much in the standardized user interface and open architecture for third-party developers as it does in the particular tools with which they ship." From a business point of view, this is a good strategy. But if Blackboard adheres to common standards (as Pittinsky says it will) then we have to ask, what will distinguish Blackboard from the competition. By Jonathan Finkelstein and Matthew Pittinsky, The Technology Source, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Promoting Learning with Personalized Newsletters There is a lot to like in the learning model adopted by NCR Corporation and described in this article. The good bit starts about a third of the way through with a description of the "MyNCRU Personal Learning News" email newsletter. A sample newsletter is provided as a link in the article; it is well worth following. The newsletter design could use a lot of work. Still, be patient and scroll down through the sample to get an idea of the contents. Even with its awkward design, the newsletter format has been a success. By D. Verne Morland, The Technology Source, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Impact of Computer-Based Testing on Student Attitudes and Behavior This article describes the development of a proctored computer-based testing facility used to administer tests outside of regular class hours, thus freeing class hours for instruction. A cynic would suggest that this serves mostly to increase the number of hours in a class, thus creating class hours. No matter. The facility seems to be valued by students, but the article warns that students exchange information about the tests and recommends that faculty "take steps to reduce the impact of these conversations on exam performance." By Darrell L. Butler, The Technology Source, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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