Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
October 9, 2002

Design Principles for a Distributed Learning Object Repository Network These design principles are intended to govern the development of an architecture for a distributed learning object repository network (DLORN). The purpose of the principles is to guide the description of the components employed, the standards followed, and the principles governing the operation of the network. Your comments are encouraged and appreciated and will inform the final draft of these principles. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, October 9, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Write I've had this link on my desktop for a few days, working my around it. I wanted to write something that comes at the same topic from my perspective, but it wasn't to be. So I'll just pass it along: "Some people would like you to believe that, without proper financial incentives, music, literature, and computer software would disappear. After all, who would make music if they canít make money on it? Who would write? Who would program? I know the answer. The answer is that musicians will make music, not because they can make money, but because musicians are the people who canít not make music. Writers will write because they canít not write. Iíve been programming for 16 years, writing free software for 8. I canít imagine not doing this. If you can imagine yourself not doing what youíre doing, do something else. Do whatever it is that you canít not do. Writers will write because they canít not write. Repeat that over and over to yourself until you get it. Do you know someone like that? Someone who does what they do, not for money or glory or love or God or country, but simply because itís who they are and you canít imagine them being any other way? You do now." By Mark Pilgrim, Dive Into Mark, October 1, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Making the Grade "Boring lecturer, the leading cause of sleepy-headed attendees to class," reads one review. "Even if you might like math, you won't after this class," reads another. "Many excellent writers have had their self-respect and their GPAs destroyed by this petty man," reads yet a third. These online sites provide ratings of professors by students... and many professors are not happy with the concept. They undermine more formal evaluations. They are unfair and unbalanced. "We have relatively new teachers out of grad school teaching here. One of the fears is that they get stigmatized in some way. They get a couple of bad reviews and their career is over." Maybe. But online rating is here to stay. By Paul Eng, ABC News, October 9, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New Copyright Law for Distance Education: The Meaning and Importance of the TEACH Act Awaiting the president's signature in the United States is a revision of U.S. copyright law, the TEACH (Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization) Act, now passed by both houses of congress. Though the law would greatly improve access to copyrighted materials on the part of distance educators, "qualified educational institutions will need to meet the law's rigorous requirements. Educators will not be able to comply by either accidental circumstances or well-meaning intention... each educational institution to undertake numerous procedures and involve the active participation of many individuals." I'm not sure this really qualifies as an improvement... what's the point of saving five dollars on an image if you have to spend a hundred dollars of staff time in order to use it? Anyhow, this article describes in more or less clear language the details of the act. By Kenneth D. Crews, American Library Association Washington Office Newsline, October 4, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Hypertext Links: Whither Thou Goest, And Why Sccording to the author, hyperlinks provide semantical relationships for users. That is, they add to meaning, suggest or refer to supporting evidence, organization by category, and the like. The author thus approaches the classification of different types of hyperlinks by semantical category rather than (as in previous work) grammatical (or syntactical) category. And so, quoting Burbules, it is worth examining "the subtle and not-so-subtle implications that links make through association." The taxonomy of links provided is a good one and I agree with the paper's intent and overall conclusion. By Claire Harrison, First Monday, October 7, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

218 Plates-formes E-formation, Plates-formes E-learning Thinking of building an LCMS? Perhaps you may want to consult this list before you start - as the title suggests, 218 of them are already out there (more, because there are some Australian products that did not make the list). Sixteen of the LCMSs are open source. The site is in French, but that should not hinder navigation for anglophones. 'Suite' means 'Next' in French and takes you to the second page of listings. By Denys Lamontagne, Thot, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The 1 Percent Solution? I linger on the issue of charging for content because so many people believe that there is great money to be made producing online learning content. This story looks at four very popular and respected sites, each of which tried to convince its readers to pay, and each of which saw only one percent actually take the plunge. The conclusion should be clear. "Most [people] won't pay for traditional content shoveled online. A tiny jolt of subscription revenue may temporarily make publishers feel good, but walling content behind paid barriers drives most consumers to competitors." By Vin Crosbie, ClickZ, October 8, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

University Backs Down on Link Ban The University of California at San Diego has retreated from its plan to require student groups not to link to what it calls terrorist groups. Hosting articles written by such groups, however, remains against the rules as UCSD will ask the Che Cafe Collective to delete a collection of files on university computers that included political statements by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). By Declan McCullagh, CNet, October 8, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Siren Song of Structure: Heeding the Call of Reusability Good article about the concept of - and value of - structured content. This is the thing people overlook when they decide that a content management system is the thing for them. Yes, it will do a lot for you - but you have to begin to look at your content differently. You may need new tools - such as an XML editor - to create new content. Some good advice in the last section of the article: do a lot of hand-holding and especially show people how their content can be re-used if it's structured - people haven't had this capacity before. Be ready for fluid content structures. Don't structure content that doesn't need to be structured. By Tony Byrne, EContent Magazine, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Teachers: Program Violating Law Here is one of the wrong steps you can make when you deploy e-learning. In this case, a teachers' union is charging that a school's practice of using a computer to teach students is "illegal" because the students are no longer being taught by a certified teacher. The key seems to be the fact that some teachers signed off on grades for students they had never actually met and who had actually been evaluated by computer. It doesn't help that there were "glitches" in the deployment. Take this one as a cautionary tale. By Robert A. Frahm, Hartford Courant, October 4, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes