Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
May 4, 2002

IFIC, CIFP Partner on Distance Education Web Site I find this very interesting - the Investment Funds Institute of Canada and The Canadian Institute of Financial Planning are creating a new online distance learning education institute (which you can see at Now of course what is interesting about this is that neither agency is an educational institution, and yet are in a position such that their online learning offerings will be credible. They provide the learning and another organization handles the certification. By IE Staff, Investment Executive, May 1, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

A Guide to Accepting Donated Computers for Your School This may change by the time you read this (it has changed a couple of times already, but this version was live as of 12:04 a.m. May 4 Atlantic Time), but according to Microsoft, "It is a legal requirement that pre-installed operating systems remain with a machine for the life of the machine. If a company or individual donates a machine to your school, it must be donated with the operating system that was installed on the PC." You know... it just makes me want to delete my operating system and wait for the police to come... yeah, I want to see that. By Anonymous, Microsoft, May 3, 2002 11:59 p.m. [Refer][Reflect]

Beyond Awareness... Moving Towards Migration Follow-up from a story posted on OLDaily a week or so ago. As reported here, Microsoft has been leaning on schols, demanding that they pay a flat fee per computer or face an extensive audit in the next month. After the publication of an article in the Oregonian last week, Microsoft has changed its tune. This post from the Simple End User Linux (SEUL) list documents that. "The Portland Public School switchboard was jammed for two days with calls from Linux users volunteering to come to PDX from all over the west coast to help with software migration. MS was hit with many angry calls from all over the place. I can only imagine the content of those conversations. Having Duin's column posted on certainly helped get the word out about what MS was doing." This story is a long way from over. Microsoft may find itself doing a lot more damage control. By Paul Nelson, SEUL-Edu, May 3, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

The Value of Online Media Today's prestige publications in academia are still print publications, but if trends in other fields are any indication (and I argue that they are), this could change. Think public relations, as described by this article. Is it better for your press release to cycle through the weblog community, or are you better off getting coverage in the Journal of Whatever. Arguably, the online form has more impact. By Sam Whitmore, ExpertPR, May 2, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

If You Build It, They Will Come: Building Learning Communities Through Threaded Discussions Before I disagree with this article, let me say that it is quite a good article and that educators interested in incorporating discussion into their online course should read it. To a large degree this article looks at the assessment of discussion contributions in an online course and proposes an assessment metric. OK. But this is also an article that asks, seriously, whether students should even be told they are being assessed before they make their first post. It is an article that proposes that "promptness and initiative" - essentially the speed and frequency with which a person posts - ought to be included in the assessment. Another criterion would penalize students for spelling and grammatical errors. Another penalizes the student for not staying on topic. In other words, the criteria take defining characteristics of typical internet conversations and penalize them. I don't agree with that. Indeed, I'm not sure that I agree with assessing discussion posts at all - the failure of students to use discussion areas is to me a design issue, and the use of marking to force students to take part in discussions seems to me to be a way of using a power relationship to make up for flaws in the course.

Disagree with me? Click on [Reflect] and post your comment. No grades will be assigned. By Susan Edelstein and Jason Edwards, eLearn Magazine, May, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

University Systems a Haven for Hackers Coverage of a presentation by David Dittrich at the CanSecWest security conference. The gist of thie talk is that university systems are especially vulnerable to hackers because they tend to be less secure. But Dittrich conflates the use of university systems for hacking and the use of university systems for file sharing, which casts considerable doubt on his numbers. The article ends with a threat that if a university system is used to attack a company, the university may be liable. But a different sort of threat is implied. By Robert Lemos , CNet News, May 2, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes