Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
September 4, 2002

Find The Experts In a survey we did of municipal officials in Alberta we found that when most managers need to learn someone, they just call someone who is likely to know. Aside from the logistical challege that creates for knowledge systems (can you imagine online learning as easy to access as a phone call? No? then how will it compete?) this solution recognizes one practical reality often overlooked by discussions of learning objects and learning content: that the knowledge often resides in the person, not the resource. Now this article talks about a system of expertise management, a way for people in an organization to identify experts or just people who know. But why build a separate (poorly organized) system as this item advocates? Do it this way instead: experts (or even just people who know) are learning objects. Oh sure, they don't have learning objectives and who knows how to index them for granularity. But the best way to provide access to human based and content based learning through the same system is to represent them in the same way. Then online learning CAN compete with the phone company. By Michael P. Voelker , Transform, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Of PowerPoint and Pointlessness More and more teachers are using PowerPoint, according to this article. But why? It's good for the visual learner and you can (sometimes) read the text more easily. But if you add to many bells and whistles you can distract the learner. "To critics, PowerPoint serves largely the same role in the classroom as pre-processed snack food does in the lunchroom: a conveniently packaged morsel that looks good but doesn't match the intellectual or corporeal nourishment of, say, a critical essay or a plate of steamed spinach." By Joanna Glasner, Wired News, September 3, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Doing It Right: How Some Universities Encourage the Creation of Prime Research Web Sites Interesting article that looks at what prompts universities to provide outstanding online resources. The author found a few - the University of Michigen, for example and asked what they had in common. Such work, it became clear, is frequently more that the work of one individual. Typically such a resource comes about as result of strong internal collaboration and technical support dedicated to a particular research project (the online collection, some add, is a useful and happy byproduct of the real work, which is the research itself). By Marylaine Block, Searcher, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Usability Toolkit From the website: "The Usability Toolkit is a collection of forms, checklists and other useful documents for conducting usability tests and user interviews. The material may be used as is, or adapted for specific needs." The description undersells the resource: there is a lot of useful stuff here. Now you too can create your own usability consultancy. By Various Authors, Society for Technical Communication Annual Conference, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Infrastructure One major project I am working on is the the creation of a distributed learning object repository network, or DLORN. The intent and purpose of DLORN is to create a learning object marketplace. The idea here is to build an underlying infrastructure that all players in the learning object economy can take advantage of. Of course we have partners in the public and private sector and of course the standard refrain is that you can't make money from open source. I try to explain that while nobody makes money off the infrastructure itself, everybody can make money from the resulting activity that rides the infrastructure. Still fuzzy? This slide show by Doc Searls (author of the Cluetrain Manifesto) makes the concept a lok clearer. It's 62 jpg slides, so make your way through the story near the beginning to get to the good stuff. By Doc Searls, OSCon, July 25, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Know a friend who might enjoy this newsletter?

Feel free to forward OLDaily to your colleagues. If you received this issue from a friend and would like a free subscription of your own, you can join our mailing list at

[ About This NewsLetter] [ OLDaily Archives] [ Send me your comments]

Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes