By Stephen Downes
August 4, 2004

Growing Virtual Communities
It is impossible to ignore IRRODL, and the current edition is no exception, containing work on blended learning and interaction. And although the content are well chosen, this issue is a bit choppier than usual. Take, for example, this article. a discussion of the development of online communities, that begins with section Xxxiv. The content, obviously part of a larger work, is generally reliable, but doesn't really advance beyond what we already know. "Social factors are central to the planning, nurturing, and life cycle of learning communities. Participation, communication, and interaction are at their heart." By Debbie Garber, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, August 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Interaction and Immediacy in Online Learning
The authors' key point is that "Interaction alone... is insufficient to create a positive social dynamic in the online classroom." An important mediating element, argue the authors, is "immediacy," which is "the extent to which selected communicative behaviors enhance physical or psychological closeness in interpersonal communication" and "immediacy is both a consequence of interaction and a contributor to it." The implication is that immediacy enhances interaction, but one would be hard pressed to draw this conclusion explicity in this paper. Indeed, neither this paper nor the next is very clearly written. At the very least, we could be provided with Figure 1, the diagram referred to, but not included, in this essay. By Robert H. Woods, Jr. and Jason A. Baker, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, August 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Peek into the Life of Online Learning Discussion Forums: Implications for Web-Based Distance Learning
Interesting article documenting through research what has been called in these pages "multi-threaded interactions. The author calls this "the Event Centre" and explains, "people participating in online discussion forums, or more specifically, discussion threads, are in fact taking part in various conversational events, which linked together comprise a discussion thread." Some great diagrams illustrating the principle obtained from actual discussions. By Mary Allan, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, August 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

BSA Explains its Ethos
Referring to Business Software Alliance studies that routinely inflate the cost of file sharing, the BSA VP Bob Kruger argues, "I haven't seen where anyone's pointed out anything about the methodology they disagree with." This despite numerous published complaints about exactly that point! There's a lot of slippery logic in this interview, an exposition of the software company point of view. By David Becker, ZD Net UK, August 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Copyright: Can it Hold Knowledge Hostage?
More of the same. "Aggressive copyright laws, often tied to companies' desire to protect intellectual property, are making the future of intellectual property precarious," said conference organizer Joe Turow, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication. "Horror stories abound about researchers unable to create innovative work under the idea of fair use." No evidence, however, that our elected officials are listening. By Corey Murray, eSchool News, August 1, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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