Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
March 4, 2003

10 Damaging E-learning Myths This is a good list of cautionary tales, a list probably more useful for e-learning purchasers than suppliers (who will probably continue to prey on the uninformed). It's not a list to make people feel comfortable: much of it has to do with discounting the illusion that e-learning is simple, that it is just the conversion of existing content matched to satisfy learning or performance outcomes. Now I don't want to discount either content or outcomes: I think we need them, if only to give us structure and scope. But these aren't all there is to e-learning, and indeed, they don't even form the heart of it. Look at it this way: would you consider a corporate training course to be the core (if not the sum) of learning on the job? Of course not. They have their place. But so does informal networking and coffee-room chatter. By Stuart Wood (?) and Maish Nichani, elearningpost, March 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Picking Apart Pick-A-Prof The author of this article asks whether the popular professor ranking service, Pick-A-Prof, helps students find good professors "or just easy A's." It seems to me that this is the wrong question to ask. If what motivates students in their selection of courses (and hence, the allocation of the bulk of their learning time) is "easy A's" then the system - not the student, who is just playing the ropes - is deeply flawed. If an "easy A" grants a student more prospects for success in the future than genuine (and sometimes hard) learning, then we need to rethink how we assess and value learning. Of course this article raises none of these issues, preferring instead to stay in the comfortable old online versus offline rut. By Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 7, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Collaborative Development of Open Content: A Process Model to Unlock the Potential For African Universities This detailed article looks at the need for and processes surrounding the development of open content for African universities. Of course, such an approach would help the cash-strapped everywhere, but it is particularly appropriate for developing nations. The model proposed is very similar to SourceForge, a tool (or website) to support the development of open software. There's a lot of really good thinking that has gone into this article and it is recommended for those thinking about an alternative to the digital rights enforcement model currently prevalent in the academic publishing community. By Derek Keats, First Monday, March 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Different Learners, Same Learning One thing leads to another, and... in this nice commentary, Clark Quinn calls on designers to think again about the concept of individualized learning. "I'll immodestly suggest that an approach we took about 5 years ago now (and UNext/Cardean was doing something similar) is a potentially valid approach. We provided a 'follow the bouncing ball' type of approach that led through the web pages, but we also provided a navigation mechanism that allowed individuals to navigate through the content according to the role of the type of content (e.g. concept, example, practice). The anecdotal results were that roughly half of the learners did as they were recommended, but another half used the navigation structure to direct their own learning." By Clark Quinn, Learning Circuits Blog, February 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Text Message Essay Baffles British Teacher "My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc." So began an English essay submitted in instant messaging format by a student in Britain. Translated, the sentence means, "My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York. It's a great place." Of course, the example has launched yet another round of complaints that students are becoming illiterate, which is completely ridiculous. By Reuters, CNN, March 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Model for Effectively Supporting e-Learning The authors argue in favour of a three point plan for effectively supporting e-learning but spend most of the article describing their call center proposal. The three points are: (1) technological infrastructure, (2) one-stop student services, and (3) faculty and academic development support. The call center supports the second of these, of course, and is modelled on the technology support help desk but offers assistance for all university services. It's a good idea that could be really badly implemented if you're not careful. For example, those awful automatic telephone menus ("Press 1 if...") should be avoided. And support should be available via the internet for those of us who hate telephones. By Leslie P. Hitch and Pamela MacBrayne, The Technology Source, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII): An Interview with EDUCAUSE's Carole Barone Interesting interview with Carole Barone, vice president of EDUCAUSE and head of the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII). Online learning, argues Barone, challenges our assumptions about the nature of education. "If academic leaders do not step up to guide the kind of transformational change required, students will make it happen." By James Morrison, The Technology Source, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Free and Open Source Movements: Part 1 - History and Philosophies This article is well worth reading as it provides a concise survey of the history of free and open software spiced with quotes from the major players - such as Stallman, Raymond and Torvalds - in the movement. As the article notes, "The climate in software development in 1984 is being mimicked in education today - closing doors, content as individual property, proprietary offerings, and for-profit challenges to the education environment." The second part of this article, due March 8, "calls for a similar revolution in the field of educational content and will announce the formation of an organization committed to fostering Open Source content development." By George Siemens, elearnspace, March 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.