By Stephen Downes
August 8, 2003

Syndicating Learning Objects With RSS and Trackbacks
This session was the highlight of the Merlot conference for me, and as I looked around the audience I saw about half of them stunned at what they were seeing and about half nodding enthusiastically. The three authors put together a smooth story of how two university instructors can use RSS in a practical, day-to-day, manner with a minimum of work. They demonstrated some subject-specific resource pages and showed how RSS could enable cross-domain resource sharing. We need to talk a bit about trackback - while the idea is sound, there are better ways to approach this. Their presentation, available here, contains a lavish selection of links and examples. Linger, and enjoy. By Alan Levine, Brian Lamb, and D'Arcy Norman, August 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Merlot RSS Feeds
I heard from several sources today and over the last few days - including people placed in Merlot and in a position to know - that Merlot will be launching RSS feeds "within a week or two". This link is to Merlot's current RSS page, though the feed displayed is the infamous "faux Merlot" feed, not the real thing. But with EdNA earlier and Merlot through the week contemplating RSS feeds, it looks like the major barriers to a distributed network of learning object repositories are falling away. Anyhow, check back at this location in a week or two and if you don't see RSS feeds, send them a note. ;) By Various Authors, Merlor, August 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Elsevier proposes PRISM module for RSS 1.0
This is significant because of the source. "PRISM, Publishing Requirements for Industry Standard Metadata, defines a vocabulary for syndicating, aggregating, post-processing and multi-purposing magazine, news, catalog, book, and mainstream journal content." Elsevier is, of course, a major publisher of academic journals and other publications. By Edd Dumbill, xmlhack, July 17, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Build It, But Will They Come?
This article looks at learning object development projects such as Merlot and MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) and asks whether the effort and expense is worthwhile. According to the author, the massive quantities of objects being made available have not been assessed and that efforts should instead be focussed on providing only those materials that have been shown through research to improve outcomes. That sounds fine, if you believe research will actually yield such results. But the research only deals with the aggregates (such, for example, is the result of the example provided in this article), and not with individual students. The fact is, a resource that is useless to the majority of students might be exactly what some particular student needs. Assessing online resources in a manner appropriate for classroom instruction is not the way to make content selections. By Carol A. Twigg, The Learning MarketSpace, July, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

If I Wanted to Make Money in Elearning...
George Sioemens offers this light look at potential business models in e-learning. Some of the ideas are better than others. I'm not sure how much money there is to be made creating a portal, for example. But what's useful about this article is that it explores the many ways the e-learning font may be tapped, showing that there is rather more opportunity in the new economy than one might at first suspect. By George Siemens, elearnspace, August 4, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Welcome to Murry Christensen
This is an interesting use of a blog - Mark Oehlert uses the comments area to conduct an interview with Murry Christensen, e-learning specialist for Goldman, Sachs & Co. The discussion ranges from William Gibson to the future to learning objectives, and more. Writes Christensen, "At a very simple level, the idea of "Learning Objectives" needs to be re-thought. The objective of a program--perhaps better thought of as the justification ('why is this worth spending time on?')--may be different at different times and for different people in different contexts." It would be interesting to know how many people in this field have actually read Gibson. If they haven't, they should. By Mark Oehlert, Mark Oehlert's Research Blog, July 31, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Netscape and Powered, Inc. Collaborate to Launch New Online Education Service
I don't really know what to make of this. A couple of weeks ago, Netscape was essentially dead. But here today we have Netscape lunching an online learning service. The courses, each four to eight hours long, are accessed through Netscape's learning portal and cover subjects ranging from computers to business to astrology. By Press Release, Netscape, August 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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