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March 13, 2002

Research Group to Release Technical Standards for Its Free Course-Management Software You can almost feel the online learning community leaning forward in its collective chair, waiting to hear from the the Open Knowledge Initiative as the organization prepares to release a set of common services specifications, standards that will be required for interoperativity between their open source learning management system and third part applications and content. As of press time, the OKI specifications page http://web.mit.edu/oki/dsgn/specs.html contains only placeholders, but all indications are that we'll see them with a few days. By Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 11, 2002.[Refer]

A Mythic Perspective of Commodification on the World Wide Web This article proposes that the increasing commodification of the web is reflected in the change of the foundational mythology of the web as described by Wired in three articles between 1994 and 2000. I cannot believe that the author overlooks my own essay, The Rise and Fall of Wired, in this discussion which is, to my knowledge, the most detailed analysis of Wired's shifting orientation in the first six years of its existence. I come to much the same conclusion, but draw from a much large list of articles and identify a number of themes exemplifying this shift (jump straight to the conclusion if you want to get to the god stuff). By Glendal P. Robinson, First Monday, March 11, 2002.[Refer]

Copyleft vs. Copyright: A Marxist Critique Marxism may not be popular in, well, anywhere, but this essay raises some useful points of discussion in the current debates on copyright. One of the major contributions is the explicit linking of the copyright debate with the commodification of information. The author also observes that the "rigged debate on intellectual property in the mainstream media" and "the rhetoric of 'piracy'" have not changed social norms as the failure to curb copying continues (correctly) to be associated with low prices and innovation. The article also raises the concern that surveillance will be employed to enforce copyright (with a host of other, um, useful applications waiting in the wings). By Johan Söderberg, First Monday, March 11, 2002.[Refer]

Evaluation of Web-based Flexible Learning There's a lot going on in this interesting and informative study looking at the evaluation of online course materials from the standpoint of the interactions between teachers and students. Some surprises - when the sum of possible interactions is considered, videoconferencing is ranked quite low (see the chart on page 22). The report reaches some expected conclusions, though: "The picture that emerges is that the technology and arrangements for flexible learning is being used to extend traditional teacher-centred approaches to off-campus learners, rather than providing for new approaches to teaching and learning. Nevertheless, independent student engagement,linked more to adult learning principles than to traditional classroom methods of learning,is also occurring. This independent learning is associated with rich teaching and learning interactions. The findings have two main implications: firstly, the uptake of technology in flexible learning gives new life to traditional teacher directed learning; secondly, technology also provides alternative approaches by encouraging and supporting more independent learning with greater active engagement..." The HTML link provides a summary; the full report may be obtained by following the PDF link. By Charlie McKavanagh, et.al., NCVER, 2002.[Refer]

Campus Campus is an open-source intranet solution for educational institutions. It provides groupware features such as messaging and scheduling and also hosts functions such as homework assignments and a gradebook application. Third-party developers can develop new applications for Campus or create plugins to extend the underlying functionality. Campus is distributed under the terms of the GNU GPL license. By Anders Feder, SourceForge, February, 2001.[Refer]


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