Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
January 9, 2003

Where oh Where is Plug & Play? "A layman reading the sales literature from major suppliers of e-learning courseware, authoring tools, and LMS systems might be excused for assuming the industry already has arrived at plug-and-play... That layman, however, would be wrong." Yup, that's about the size of it. So what has gone wrong? Here's my take. According to the author, "The push for learning standards is often compared to earlier efforts to standardize things like the gauge of railroad tracks and the format for videotapes." So when the standards community delivered, they delivered a train. But they misunderstood the objective. What we want from things like railroads is the ability to get from point A to point B. That's fine, and in theory it should work, but what people really needed was a road. After all, a Volkswagen is a lot cheaper than a locomotive. And you can drive where you want, without having to pay for a ticket every time. By Jack Gordon, e-learning Magazine, December 1, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What's Wrong With Distance Learning? Let's start our look at this article in the middle: "The ultimate goal of our discipline is enhanced performance, not increased knowledge." What? Do you think learners have as their ultimate goal "enhanced performance" instead of, say, knowledge? or promotions? Or pay raises? Or maybe just something that makes their job easier? The same with corporations: it's not "enhanced performance" that corporations are after, but rather, improved earnings. University professors, meanwhile, don't care about any of these things: rather it's usually an appreciation of the discipline that they seek (or in some cases, appreciation of the professor - heh). Now I agree with this: "the biggest challenge to organizations today is managing the evolution toward a workplace that is much more worker- or learner-controlled." But the very essence of being learner controlled is to explicitly recognize (and cater to) the objectives of the learner. By Reinhard Ziegler, e-learning Magazine, December, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Adult Learning in Cohort Groups Short paper that describes the value of cohort groups in adult education and, more importantly, identifying some key practices: the need to spend time at the beginning developing group relationships, the need to balance both group and individual development, an environment that both supports and challenges, and a way to address tensions within the group. Nothing in this article suggests that cohorts cannot be formed online (though the first condition shows why an initial in-person meeting really helps online cohorts). By Susan Imel, ERIC, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Retinal-scans to Remove Social Stigma From English School There's nothing like announcing, "I'm poor!" every time you line up for lunch in the school cafeteria. But the use of a retinal scanning program will help students avoid the indignity by making the school "cashless." A similar system is in place to track borrowers at the school library. Yes, there are some applications in online learning, but it will still be necessary to ensure that the person completing the work is the person who's eyes are being scanned. By AP, USA Today, January 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Real Networks Announces Helix DRM This was announced as being in the works when Real Media released Helix and now is available: digital rights management (DRM) for multiple media formats. "Helix DRM enables a wide range of CE devices to support multiple secure formats by offering two models for integration: native support, or transfer to secure memory." How long, I wonder, before it's cracked? By Press Release, Real Networks, January 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Students Who Live on Campus Choosing Internet Courses As the title suggests, even on-campus students prefer online classes. Telling, though, is the account of why they prefer online classes: "I take convenience over lectures," she said. "I think I would be bored to death if I took it in lecture." Some professors, of course, are miffed. "People shouldn't be sitting in the dorms doing this rather than walking over here. That is based on a misunderstanding of what matters in history." One wonders, though, how being bored in a lecture is what matters in history. By Linda K. Wertheimer, Dallas Morning News, January 8, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Argali White & Yellow Though this directory serves only the United States, it's worth the time to download and instadd if only to get a grasp of the potential. Submit a name and it finds the address and telephone number. Submit a telephone number and it finds the name. Find everyone else who lives on the same street. Find businesses by phone number, address or business category. The search is a bit slow, but powerful. Oh yeah, it's free. A service like this raises considerable implications for privacy. But it holds considerable potential for information retrieval. By Various Authors, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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