By Stephen Downes
April 19, 2004

Scalability and Sociability in Online Learning Environments
This is a chapter from a book explaining the theoretical presuppositions behind the open learning support project. The argument is nicely laid out and clear, weaving, it seems to me, two strands of throught nicely together: first, that "the achievement of higher-order learning outcomes, such as those near the top of Bloom’s taxonomy, requires social interaction to be an integral part of the learning experience," and second, that "self-organization is, of a necessity, directed by its agent participants who make individual decisions based solely on the information available to them locally." These are simple ideas, but if true (and I am quite convinced that they are true) they strike at the heart of educational organization as we know it, and comment (unfavorably) on current approaches to the design of online learning. By David Wiley, autounfocus, April 19, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Educommons.org Hijacked!
You have to feel for David Wiley after his educommons.org domain was hijacked and used by a porn site operator. The site now features a disclaimer, so visitors aren't greeted with a fleshy foldout, but it is still frustrating. Visitors will not the same people running a hack of my Referrer script which, now that I've taken it offline for just this sort of reason, is thankfully neither sending nor receiving visitors from this site. Anyhow, as Dave says, remove your links to educommons.org right away. By David Wiley, autounfocus, April 9, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Less is More: Designing an Online Course
The message in this useful article is simple: "one needs to design an online course with an attitude that it is different from a residence course. Instead of piling on the assignments that instructors must grade and making irrational promises to answer all posts, the instructor must design a course with one thought in mind: less is more." What follows are five useful pointers: teaching experience is helpful, faculty should attend workshops before leaping into the fray, courses should be transformed and not merely transferred, online instructors should move to the side, and students should be assigned a good textbook. By R. Thomas Berner, DEOS News, April 14, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Thousands flock to download “Theory and Practice of Online Learning”
By all accounts, Terry Anderson and Fathi Elloumi's “Theory and Practice of Online Learning” has been a runaway open content success, chalking up 11,000 downloads in the first few weeks since its release. “There’s that sense that a public university and an open university has more responsibility to be public and open and share its resources,” he said, adding that Athabasca University benefits as much as anyone the exercise. “This provides exposure to the quality of work we do, and it helps us reflect on our own work, and the work of members within the institution. I learned a lot about AU just by reading this book.” Couldn't have said it better myself. By Press Release, Athabasca University, April 15, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Learning Objects 2004
You have to give them your email address to read this article, after which you'll receive annoying but thankfully infrequent suggestions that you subscribe. But the content is of good quality, so you may want to proceed to this overview of writings about learning objects. By Graeme Daniel, WWWTools, April 19, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Duke University Cuts 8 A.m. Classes
For some reason, mathematics and logic classes always seemed to be the ones scheduled before dawn, well before my brain was anywhere close to working order. Kudos, then to Duke, which is cancelling the 8:00 a.m. nightmares. Via University Business. By Associated Press, Yahoo! News, April 18, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Journal for Open and Distance Education and Educational Technology
The link hadn't started working yet when I tried it (talk about being on top of the news!) but this announcement tells you what to expect: "the Scientific Association "Hellenic Network of Open and Distance Education" intends to launch the publication of a journal in printed form and with a system of referees, entitled Open Education-The Journal for Open and Distance Education and Educational Technology”. Cool. By Antonis Lionarakis, April 19, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why the Sci-mag Barons are Right
Crispin Davis, chief executive of publisher Reed Elsevier, defends the industry in this article in the Observer. In an article unlikely to convince the converted, Davis writes, "There is a conflict of interest in a system where authors pay to publish. Potentially, financial pressure to accept more articles could lead to a lower quality of published research." One wonders how the publishing industry, which faces the same conflict of interest, is somehow magically immune. And, of course, it isn't. Nor is quality somehow improved by subscription barriers. Indeed, one suspects that the barriers are the only thing keeping the quality myth alive. By Crispin Davis, The Observer, April 18, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Future of Weblogging
BloggerCon was held over the weekend, and if you didn't notice, don't fret. This article summarizes some of the discussion with what seem to be calls from the mainstream for bloggers to be more, well, mainstream. Consider one speaker: "we need to encourage more people to be journalists. Journalism involves actually interviewing people, doing thorough background research on a subject, presenting a rounded and dispassionate overview, and reasoning through substantive arguments." All very fine, but this is the picture of an uninformed outsider coming in and trying to capture a story in eight graphs, in other words, a journalist. Bloggers write from the inside, though: they are the people who would be interviewed, who have already done research, who have already considered the arguments. Journalism is about a dispassionate intermediary; blogging is about impassioned first person views. Many people don't get that yet. By Nico Macdonald, The Register, April 18, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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