Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Stephen Downes works with the Digital Technologies Research Centre at the National Research Council of Canada specializing in new instructional media and personal learning technology. His degrees are in Philosophy, specializing in epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. He has taught for the University of Alberta, Athabasca University, Grand Prairie Regional College and Assiniboine Community College. His background includes expertise in journalism and media, both as a prominent blogger and as founder of the Moncton Free Press online news cooperative.  He is one of the originators of the first Massive Open Online Course, has published frequently about online and networked learning, has authored learning management and content syndication software, and is the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily. Through a thirty-five year career Downes has contributed pioneering work in the fields of online learning games, learning objects and metadata, podcasting, and open educational resources. Recent projects include:gRSShopper, a personal learning environment; E-Learning 3.0, a course on new e-learning technologies; research and development in the use of distributed ledger technology in learning applications; and research on ethics, analytics and the duty of care. Downes is a member of NRC's Research Ethics Board. He is a popular keynote speaker and has spoken in three dozen countries on six continents.


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Coronavirus / Covid19 quick reference kit, to take your class or conference online cheaply and in a hurry:

Creating an Online Class or Conference - Quick Tech Guide

Virtual Reality in Education: How VR is Used in Immersive Learning


This is an overview article describing "what virtual reality is, how it works, ways that it can be used within education, and why VR is perfect for modern learning environments." That last point might be debatable, and trhe article makes no particular effort to support it, but there's no doubt that there is an increasing interest in the subject. It's a good resource to use for people who haven't really been exposed to the idea of VR in education, but should probably be supplemented with more critical assessments as well.

Today: Total: FutureLearn, 2021/08/06 [Direct Link]

Introducing Pearson+: The Most Student and Budget Friendly College Learning Experience


I may as well link directly to the press release because the media coverage doesn't really give us any additional insight. The Pearson+ plan gives students access to a 1500 book library for $US 15 a month. What's significant here isn't the model, but rather the price point, coming in at a bit less than half the $40 cost for access to online course libraries. And the key question for students will be: is one subscription enough, or are they going to need subscriptions from a half-dozen different publishers? Looking through the selection of 1620 titles, it appears these aren't going to take you much beyond a first year curriculum in any subject (excepting possibly computer science or teacher education).

Today: Total: Cision, Prnewswire, 2021/08/05 [Direct Link]

Uncover emerging trends and practices


This is just a conference ad, so you should ignore most of the content, and focus in on the diagram illustrated (large version here) on emerging software trends and innovations. I cover most of these topics in OLDaily; it's easier to say which ones I don't cover (specifically: anything to do with Java (just not interested), Rust (because I haven't learned it yet), WASM (ditto), eBPF and Kafka). That is not to say I am claiming to be an expert in the rest, or even to have any sort of detailed knowlege. No, it's just to say I'm interested in them and think that there's something in there worth watching. Pro tip: if you don't recognize something in the chart, take a couple minutes and google it.

Today: 2 Total: 2 InfoQ, 2021/08/04 [Direct Link]

Curriculum design for social, cognitive and emotional engagement in Knowledge Building


Though the authors are careful to state that improvements in student engagement cannot be attributed entirely to highlighting student voice, the bulk of the paper is devoted to the idea that refining course activities based on student resulted through successive iterations in an increase in the density of students’ reading networks. "They theorized more deeply, introduced more authoritative resources, and made greater efforts to integrate ideas within the community knowledge base." I don't think we can draw any quantitative conclusions or generalizations from a study of 23 MEd students; the best we can say here is that attending to student feedback can improve engagement. I am therefore quite sceptical about the theoretical structure imposed on this research (specifically, the assertion that "the design of Knowledge Building activities may influence the level of social, cognitive, and emotional engagement") and would say that it obscures, rather than clarifies, any conclusion that can be drawn from this work.

Today: 3 Total: 3 Gaoxia Zhu, Preeti Raman, Wanli Xing, Jim Slotta, 2021/08/03 [Direct Link]

What makes a difference for further advancement of engineers: socioeconomic background or education programs?


This is a detailed analysis of students studying engineering in Bangladesh, and the results are consistent with similar studies over the years: "we argue that socioeconomic status dominates prior engineering education to shape further academic and professional achievements. Findings also confirm that more years spent on engineering education fail to offset the influence of SES on academic and professional advancement." The authors consider the effects of prior education, GPA, signalling effects, and more. This sort of finding is important, as it makes clear that people cannot simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps; absent any intervention to promote equity, people of lower SES will continue to be constrained by policy, prejudice and privilege.

Today: 4 Total: 4 Gazi Mahabubul Alam, Md. Abdur Rahman Forhad, Higher Education, 2021/08/02 [Direct Link]


I like this article for a number of reasons. First, it draws on Randy Garrison's comprehensive model of self-directed learning (behind a paywall, but you can find it here). Second, it draws from people who have offered a variety of large and small MOOCs. And third, it offers concrete suggestions on how to support self-directed learning, rather than leave it to the learner's existing capacity and skills. These strategies include goal setting, time management support, providing flexible learning resources, clear navigation and navigation instruction. This is a rare open access article from this journal, and I address my appreciation to the author.

Today: 5 Total: 5 Meina Zhu, Distance Education, 2021/08/06 [Direct Link]

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