By Stephen Downes
May 2, 2003

BlogShares just officially launched after a beta test of a few weeks. I've had a lot of fun with this game, and though I'm not (currently) in the top 100 players, I think I've shown that I have some knowledge of the blog market by parlaying my initial (play money) $500 into a $75,000 total worth. Too bad the real stock market isn't as easy to predict (or maybe I've missed my true calling - heh). By Seyed Razavi, May 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

SCORM Deployment Issues in an Enterprise Distributed Learning Architecture
This article is dauntingly technical, but it's a great read, clearly illustrating why SCORM cannot be deployed in a multi-domain environment. In a nutshell, the SCORM API interfaces (commonly known as the 'wrapper') require that the learning object and the LMS communicate with each other using Javascript or a similar technology. But security restrictions have for the last decade prohibited cross-domain communication between these scripts. So SCORM won't work across domains. As Stephen Lanahas comments, "More importantly though, the architectural aproach of SCORM actually prevents utilization of distributed content repositories across organizations / enterprises, more or less killing the B2B potential for the entire technology in question (Learning Onjects)." It's a rookie mistake and I'm surprised it got through the technical reviews. But the solution outlined in this paper is straightforward: as AICC does, use HTTP calls to establish communications between the learning object and the LMS. Simple. Too simple, apparently, for SCORM. By Jeffrey C. Engelbrecht, The eLearning Developer's Journal, February 18, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Overcoming the Presentation Mosaic Effect of Multi-Use Sharable Content Objects
Albert Ip expresses dissatisfaction with the solution to the SCORM cross-domain problem presented in the Engelbrecht article and outlines an approach which has been used in Australia that has successfully overcome this problem. The solution described by these authors proposes that "before the rendering of any content, a SCO should query the LMS for [namespace].session.style. SCO for the style sheet to be applied and write the style information to the client browser." This approach contrasts with the Dynamic Appearance model, proposed by the Canadian Department of National Defense, which requires that learning objects be written in XML (in my mind, a much more sane and portable approach). This paper is available as a zipped MS-Word file (which is what you'll get if you click on the link). By Albert Ip, Allyn J. Radford and Ric Canale, Date Unknown [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New-Model Scholarship: How Will It Survive?
Search through the Internet Archive and you get exactly none of my work. Mine is what is described as New-Model Scholarship, "the variety of Web sites and other desktop digital objects that faculty and graduate students are creating that fall somewhere short of 'published' but are worthy of access into the future." Yet it seems destined to disappear from view when my academic career ends. When this essay asks, "How will new-model publishing survive," it is not thinking in terms of financial viability, it is instead asking how this work will be preserved for future generations (here I work on the assumption that society might want my work preserved for future generations - heh). The examination that follows is a good analysis of the means currently in place and a look at what we need to do in the future to ensure that this content doesn't disappear forever. By Abby Smith, Council on Library and Information Resources, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What is a Learning Object, Technically?
Even if you find the conclusion unsatisfying (as I did) you will agree, I'm sure, that there's some really good reading before we get to the end of this paper. Taking on the much discussed question of the definition of a learning object, the author looks at the numerous approaches to education that could use such resources and observes that the term "'learning object' makes no sense to the education community." So, "Instead of trying to create a framework to enable interoperability and reuse of learning objects across different pedagogical paradigms, we focus on creating a supporting technical infrastructure to enable interoperability and reuse of resources within specific pedagogical paradigms." Right. Don't try to build the pedagogy into the objects themselves. Build the pedagogy into the systems that use the objects. By Albert Ip, Iain Morrison, and Mike Currie, WebNet2001, October, 2001 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Proceedings of the Fourth National Technology Leadership Summit: Open Resources in Education
This article - really a discussion summary - looks at the concept of open source software and explores ways in which it can be extended to a wider range of offerings, including educational content. The discussion resulted in "agreement that a General Public License for teachers could be useful to facilitate and encourage use of Open Resources in K-12 education." It just makes me feel so good inside to see this kind of discussion taking place - and just so, it must be tremendously worrisome to those publishers and corporations who have for so long made a handsome profit promoting the hoarding and scarcity of learning materials. By Glen Bull and Joe Garofalo, Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, May 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Students Settle in Lawsuit Over File Swapping
The students, of course, never really had a choice, the industry knew it, and the settlements - no more than $17,500 - prove it, each being less than that probable cost of mounting a defense against the RIAA's ridiculous lawsuit. There is no justice when capitulation is the only option available to you, when the instruments of justice - such as the courts and legal support - remain out of your reach because of your meagre means. From beginning to end this case is a travesty and while the RIAA probably thinks it won, it cannot possibly understand the deep, deep anger and resentment that such actions cause. By Dawn C. Chmielewski, San Jose Mercury News, May 2, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open Source Courseware -- Evaluation and Rating
This is a great resource - a listing of major open source courseware platforms, rated and evaluated (with a clear and rational set of evaluation criteria). The article also begins with a pragmatic and honest assessment of open source solutions in general, frankly admitting that they're not for everybody and clearly stating that they require a certain degree of expertise and committment to operate. If you are in the market for an LMS or similar platform, make sure you read this article before signing on the dotted line for a commercial (and expensive) enterprise solution. By Bob Reynolds, Explana, April 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Electronic Journals in the Field of Education
This site contains "only links to electronic journals that are scholarly, peer-reviewed, full text and accessible without cost." And having reviewed this list and scanned a number of the journals (which should all have RSS feeds - a great volunteer task for someone who wished to promote open access would be to create and maintain feeds for these resources) I have only to ask: what reason could anybody possibly give for supporting journals in this field that are not on this list? I ask you! By Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh, AERA SIG Communication of Research, April, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Curriculum of the Body in the Age of Electronic Mediation
I think that Norm Friesen is right to say that we need to look beyond the simple accounts of interaction offered by the early theorists of computation. But I do not agree that we should go so far as to say, with Friesen, that "computers cannot enter the world of obligation and concern that ultimately gives language its meaning." Pulling out the phenomenalism of Merleau-Ponty doesn't establish the case. When Merleau-Ponty says that emotions such as love and anger are "directly manifest" to us, rather than interpreted, he is, in my view, wrong: there isn't some sort of direct person to person interaction that does not go through the media of communication and interpretation. But where Merleau-Ponty is right - and where a proper criticism of Friesen's thesis ought to begin - is in the assertion that not all communication is accomplished through the mediation of signs or symbols representing a certain state, idea or emotion. When we perceive a tiger, we do not (necessarily) create a 'tiger' token in our brains; we infer immediately from sensation to perception via properties of the sensation itself, not through an intermediary language. Today's computers do require a translation to signs, and so are not able to emulate this human capacity. But there is no reason why the cognitivist paradigm ought to prevail forever in computational theory, certainly, no more reason than it would prevail in the psychology of perception. By Norm Friesen, Language & Literacy, Fall, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

David vs. Goliath
More discussion of the potential - and in my view, likely - move of the enterprise software giants like SAP and PeopleSoft into the e-learning market. This article predicts that the powerhouse vendors will garb 25 percent of the LMS market by the end of 2004, most of it from their existing customer base. It's hard for LMS companies to compete with that, and hard to match their research dollars - topped by Saba at $3 million per year - with the resources amassed by companies such as SAP, which spends $200 million a quarter. "By late 2005, 50 percent of today's independent LMS vendors will cease to exist." Is that a bad thing? No - I've been telling people for the last couple of years to get out of this market. It's old technology. Those that listened, survive. Those that didn't, don't. By Joel Schettler, Trainingmag, May 2, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

RIAA Messaging Gambit Faces Countermeasures
The RIAA's recent strategy of sending spam over file trading networks to discourage the sharing of music files is likely to backfire as hackers are now able to determine the origin of the annoying messages and strike back at these (previously) hidden servers. By Kevin Poulsen, The Register, May 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New Jersey Institute of Technology Prohibits File Sharing on Its Campus
Probably a sign of a trend, the move by this campus reflects the concern that administrators feel over the recent billion dollar lawsuits filed against students by the music industry. But look, this is a temporary solution at best, because what makes music downloads stand out today is the size of the file. As file sizes in general increase - inevitable as the use of multimedia rises - then it will be impossible to distinguish between legitimate downloads and those that offend the music industry. By Scott Carlson, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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