Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
May 5, 2002

More Family Income Committed to College There are many ways to approach the issue of rising tuition costs. For example, it could be asked whether it is fair to ask students to be among the many contributors to the cost of a university's research program. It could be asked whether making it harder for lower income students to attend university is in the best interests of society (or even of the university itself). But I wonder whether the real story here isn't that universities' priorities are simply misplaced. "Among the factors that had sent public universities' costs spiraling upward, he said, were bidding wars for the best students and faculty members and ambitious plans to open research centers with marginal educational value. 'Everyone wants to be Harvard or Berkeley or Michigan,' Mr. Callan said. 'It's very expensive.'" By Jacques Steinberg, New York Times, May 2, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Smart Learning Objects Most people think of learning objects as being similar to dumb pieces of luggage flung from repository to learner through a more or less intelligent network. But perhaps the efficiency of the entire system (not to mention the efficiency of airports) could be improved if we increased the intelligence of both luggage and learning objects. Yes, this is my first of what I expect will be a regular contribution to the new Learning Place website just launched by Education Queensland. By Stephen Downes, Learning Place, April, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Too Much Information: Mind-Numbing Barrage or Better Living Through Media Useful overview of the debate between new media critics such as Todd Gitlin and David Shenk and supporters of new media such as Mitchell Stephens (I tend to fall into the latter camp). The critics, of course, argue that "society has reached its threshold and is overwhelmed by the media blitz." But proponents of new media say that the direct access into someone's point of view provided by, say, video allow us to "reshuffle" our world view. To me, new media provides us with direct access to information. This speeds our comprehension, a necessary countervail to the increasing volume of data sent our way every day. Of course, if you try to comprehend information in the old, linear fashion you will be overwhelmed no matter what you do. To comprehend new media you need to create in your own mind what may be called concept maps (or some similar graphical representation of textual data). By Amanda Carlin, ReadMe, May, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Information Design Using Card Sorting A low tech method of information design that I can recommend from personal experience. This article outlines a step-by-step approach to preparing and running card sorting sessions and provides guidelines on how to analyse and make use of the results. By James Robertson, Step Two Designs, April 1, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

California Universities Leverage Brands Online While I can't say I think much of the idea that students would pay a premium simply to study at a university associated with the Silicon Valley brand, I have to agree with this article to the extent that such branding works. Whether it will work in Australia, though, is another matter, but a venture called eWeb University is about to find out. By Vicky Phillips, Virtual University Gazette, May, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Confessions of an E-learner: Why the Course Paradigm is All Wrong More signs of a shifting paradigm as this article questions whether many features of the traditional course are relevant in an online environment. "Shorter, just-in-time, on-the-job, accessible learning modules are growing in popularity. Audiences will find ways to complete 10 to 15-minute modules long before they open a two-hour course." By Eve Drinis and Amy Corrigan, Online Learning Magazine, May, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes