Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
March 18, 2003

Where the Market Is: IDC on E-Learning I spent the day at an Enterprise Network forum in Fredericton today. Hence the late newsletter. The idea of the forum was to promote the technology and e-learning cluster forming in New Brunswick. Of wider interest, though, was this presentation by IDC's Julie Kaufman. When asked answer what I thought of it, I described the presentation as "IDC atoning for past errors." That's a bit harsh. But the presentation did summaries significant revisions to earlier, boom-based predictions. But the overall message is positive, if conservative. E-learning is still growing. The biggest winners? Synchronous learning and collaboration. The losers? Packaged content and learning management systems. OLDaily readers should not be at all surprised. MS Word format - sorry about that, I'll have an HTML version on my main website shortly. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, March 18, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Do Productivity Increases Generate Economic Gains? During today's presentation I began thinking about how we measure success in e-learning. IDC talked a lot about spending, which makes sense from a provider point of view. But from my perspective, e-learning would be a success if I spent less on learning. This theme is echoed in Jakob Nielsen's column from today. Increased productivity, he noted, means decreased expenses. Even small time savings, he writes, add up. It's old knowledge, of course: a one minute time saving per day multiplied across 10,000 employees adds up to a significant chunk of money. But doesn't this eventually result in layoffs, he asks? No: the lower the cost of a unit of production, the more units will be produced. It should work the same way in learning, and indeed, this is the whole point. By lowering the cost of learning, we greatly increase the amount of learning that takes place. So while we should perhaps simply rely on raw spending figures, we can measure growth in the industry. By Jakob Nielsen, AlertBox, March 17, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why You Need Your Very Own Taxonomy This frustratingly short article makes a good initial case for personalized taxonomies, but fails to develop it in any detail, opting instead for a quick description of facted search. Via elearningpost. By Tom Smith, The Other Media, October 15, 2001 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure for Scholarship in the Digital Age This article has generated a flurry of debate in the open archives discussion lists. The author points to the rise of institutional repositories and in particular the role played by MIT's D-Space. Such repositories represent an "organizational committment" to the preservation and sharing of academic resources. Additionally, institutional repositories relieve individual staff from the burden of "content curation." And they can encourage the "exploration and adoption of new forms of scholarly communication." The author also raises several cautionary notes. Institutional repositories should not be used as tools to exercise institutional control over academic work. By the same token, faculty wishing to challenge traditional publishing should not impose constraints either. Cumbersome gate-keeping policies restricting access to instutional repositories are counterproductive, he argues. By Clifford A. Lynch, ARL Bimonthly Report 226, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

College Media Group Cautions That 2 Copyright Laws Could Collide These tensions were evident before this group sent their letter. As the article notes, "What worries the media centers is that colleges might not be allowed to bypass copying protections even when they need to do so to use materials from CDs and DVDs for distance education, as permitted by the Teach Act in certain circumstances. The problem arises when digital materials are not also released in non-digital formats that the colleges can fall back on, such as print." By Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 18, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Project RoMEO The RoMEO Project (Rights MEtadata for Open archiving) investigates rights issues involved in the self-archiving of research in the UK academic community. It has just release a list of journal publisher copyright transfer agreements, highlighting those that support self-archiving of either the pre-refereed and post-refereed submissions. Click on the 'Copyright Policies' to access this lengthy list. By Various Authors, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Computers Idle in Public Schools This author reports having seen thousands of computers unused in schools and - like Larry Cuban, who has already written of the same phenomenon - suggests that schools change their approach to technology. Once place he might have looked (but didn't) is Maine. That said, his suggestions make sense: make it easier for students to take advanced placement courses online, encourage innovation, use E-Rate funding as venture capital for e-learning research, and subsidize the use of educational software in the home. By James Guthrie , USA Today, March 18, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

From XML to Storage and Back If you are used to working with relational databases and are wondering how to store XML data, this article is worth reading (if you don't work with databases, don't bother). For a variety of reasons, XML doesn't store well in relational databases and as a consequence companies are coming out with XML databases. This article from Oracle describes their solution. But don't think of it as an advertisement. Think of it as a good overview of what to expect from an XML database, which it is. If Oracle is a little steep for you, you could start playing around with the Exist database, an open source alternative. By Mike Lehmann, Oracle, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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