Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
October 1, 2002

MIT OpenCourseWare Pilot MIT's much talked about open courseware project launched in pilot form yesterday and became the lead in just about every elearning newsletter today. I spent several hours yesterday browsing through the site and learned - among other things - that MIT's Introduction to Philosophy course as taught in 2002 is exactly the same as the one I took at the University of Calgary in 1981 (same textbook, even - except that it's now in the eleventh edition (why a collection of historical articles needs eleven editions is beyond me)). My overall impression of the site is that, first of all, it is exactly what was promised, but that secondly, from MIT I somehow expected... more. By Various Authors, MIT, September 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Instructional Design in Elearning Nice overview of instructional design theory and practice with some definitions (with links) and (short) descriptions of and links to the major theories. The article concludes with a list of reasons to use instructional design. By George Siemens, elearnspace, September 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New Models for Higher Education A study released yesterday by the Association of American Colleges and Universities argues that higher education runs a grave risk if it won't adapt. This article highlights key features of the study (but doesn't provide a link - most annoying - but you can find it here). I generally agree with this: "A 'practical liberal education' is not a 'utopian dream' for institutions of higher learning." I think I would want to reshape the definition offered of "a practical liberal education" to include multimedia and media literacy, logic and critical thinking skills, and an understanding of global cultures and political organizations. I also agree with this: "Higher education isn't responding nearly fast enough to such profound changes, critics say. Yes, a few freshman-year programs have improved learning and retention. Still, most freshmen take large introductory courses. Professors lecture. Students take notes and tests." Yeah. Education for the eighteenth century. By Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor, October 1, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Macromedia Flash MX: Serious Instructional Authoring Tool? It reads like an advertisement - and hey! it's on the Macromedia site - but this article is a nice introduction to the use of Flash MX for educational applications. The author touts especially the ease of use of the developer tools: "The interface is more intuitive, and makes seeing the big picture while authoring easier (big plus). The application comes with excellent integrated "getting-started" tutorials (yahoo!) and learning objects, like multiple-choice and drag-and-drop interactions." OK, but I will wait until somebody sends me MX to play with before commenting on that (hint hint). In the mean time, do take the tour of samples offered later in the article if only to help move your thinking beyond the world of printed text and page-turners. By Patti Shank, Macromedia, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New Technologies In Education This article highlights four new technologies likely to make an impact in education. The first, everybody's favorite, is wireless access. Enough said. Portable computing devices, everybody's second favorite, is also on the list. The third is a bit of an oddity - new projecters. Yeah, OK, I suppose. But that will hardly be revolutionary. Finally, flat video screens. I have flat video screens (less than an inch) and they're nice, because I have more desk space. But revolutionary? Hardly. What would be revolutionary is a desk the entire surface of which is a touch sensitive computer interface. That's what I want. Why can't people predict one of those? Hm? By John Fleischman, Converge Magazine, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

European Treasury Browser Scheduled for launch October 7 (the site is somewhat slow and empty at the moment), the European Treasury Browser - ETB - is intended to help teachers and students find quality teaching and learning resources, publishing and sharing learning materials, and to establish new tools and standards for resource discovery. The ETB provides European learning resources for schools via a metadata-based network of national collections. This is a significant development and a step forward for sharing learning resources on the internet. By Various Authors, European Schoolnet, October 7, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Keeping Your Intranet Healthy and Effective Good article on the practical steps needed in order to maintain an effective - and used - intranet. I would probably have added a note about ensuring ease of access, but I say that only because I find our own corporate intranet inaccessible (fancy urls, passwords, proxy servers, oh my). By James Robertson, Step Two Designs, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Self-Publishing Electronic Newsletters This is a great article (far better than the Nielsen piece on the same topic yesterday). Nicely written, clear and straightforward, this article will tell you almost everything you need to know about publishing your own electronic newsletter. By Carolyn Kotlas, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, September 20, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes