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Mailing Number 30 - 9 February 2004

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Towards a Unified e-Learning Strategy. 31/1/2004 was the deadline for responses to the Government's Consultation Document. Responses from e-learning organisations are gradually becoming available on the web, for example from:

National Learning Network Materials Development - Round 4. The official procurement process for the NLN Round 4 Materials Development Programme began on 2/2/2004, with 9/3/2004 set as the closing date for expressions of interest to be returned to the British Educational Communications and Technology Agence (Becta), which is managing the programme. e-learning materials procured under the programme will be for the Adult and Community Learning sector, in the following subject areas.

  • English for Speakers of Other Languages.
  • Family Learning.
  • Learning to Learn.
  • Making Learning Work for You (sic).
  • Modern Foreign Languages (generic materials).

According the the call, materials "are not required in the form of courses, but must be packaged as small, self contained episodes of learning (Learning Objects) approximately 15-20 minutes in duration", with each Learning Object focussing "on a maximum of 2 learning objectives".

Details of the programe, including of a briefing meeting in Birmingham on 18 February. Notice published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Some predictions for 2004. eLearn Magazine has some predictions for e-learning in 2004. Here are two non-US ones which caught my eye.

  • "The benefits of learning objects in courseware development will come into scrutiny. Particularly, the much publicized benefit of reusability through learning objects will be questioned, leading the discussion to the ill-defined concept of learning objects, which is convenient for talking about them but of little use for developing real-world courseware." - Kinshuk, Associate Professor and Director, Advanced Learning Technology Research Centre, Massey University, New Zealand.
  • "Learning objects will come to the fore in 2004, but not as cogs in a centrally packaged learning design. Learning objects - or, as some will start calling them, learning resources - will begin to reach their potential outside the mainstream. The demand, and therefore the production, of learning objects will increase dramatically for people who use informal learning - as much as 90 percent of learning, according to some estimates." - Stephen Downes, National Research Council, Canada.

eLearn Magazine also has an interesting piece by Kathryn Gillroy of the Otter Group about how Howard Dean's use of the internet in his campaign for the Democratic Party nomination has been "extraordinarily successful at creating a high-performance learning community"... with "enormous lessons to be learned ... for designers of e-learning programs for corporations and universities".

Living and learning: ePortfolios and digital repositories. ALT (for which I work half-time) is running a Conference and Collaborative Research Seminar on 22 and 23 April 2004 in Edinburgh, with an interesting line-up of speakers and contributors from the UK and the Netherlands. Details.

Resources [back to top]

Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Bibliography. Long-standing, extensive, well-used, and regularly updated bibliography of well over 25,000 HCI resources, maintained by Gary Perlman. The basic goal of the site is to put an electronic bibliography for most of HCI on the screens of all researchers, developers, educators and students in the field through the World-Wide Web and anonymous ftp access. An outstanding example of the value of open access resources on the World Wide Web.

Becta publications. Complete current list of ~100 publications about ICT in learning from the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency.

Critical and interesting papers about Learning Objects. Thanks to Dick Moore for drawing attention to Who Forgot the Learner? [77 kB DOC] by Tomi Jaakkola and Lassi Nirhamo of the Educational Technology Unit at the University of Turku in Finland. This led me to Digital Learning Materials Do Not Possess Knowledge - [68 kB DOC], by the same authors which is also worth reading. Both papers, by people who are active in the e-learning standards world, express caution about learning objects and the scope to generate effective learning materials simply by linking learning objects together. Lassi Nirhamo's page in English.

Learning Object Design Assistant. Clive Shepherd has recently published the Learning Object Design Assistant (LODA). LODA is available as a book (the format I have reviewed), as an e-book, and as an online tool for instalation on a corporate intranet. The LODA definition of a learning object is "a small, reusable digital component that can be selectively applied - alone or in combination - by computer software, learning facilitators, or learners themselves, to mee individual needs for learning or performance support". The purpose of LODA is to help content developers decide how to structure a learning object so that it does its intended job, from a learning rather than from a technical perspective.

The approach Clive takes is firstly to decide whether the object is:

  • a tutorial (i.e. a self-contained chunk of learning, in any area of knowledge, skill, or attitude), or
  • an information object (such as a case history, a summary, or a procedure), or
  • a practice object (such as a scenario, a test, or a simulation).

See LODA object types supported.

LODA then analyses each type of object according to its main purpose, and provides very detailed and comprehensive, if rather prescriptive, guidance on how any particular category of object could be designed, depending on what it is that the learner using it is supposed to learn. For example, if a tutorial is intended to change a learner's attitude, it should start by raising the issue of attitude change with the learner, then stimulate a reassessment by the learner of his or her attitudes, then provide opportunities for reflection and discussion, and finally assess the extent to which use of the tutorial has changed the learner's attitude. The book concludes with screen-by-screen illustrations of 7 seven different objects.

Is this the kind of guide I would use? Certainly not as a rigid guide to designing learning materials. But as a background resource, and as a means of learning about different approaches, then LODA will be of use. Its lack of references or pointers to other resources is a weakness. A major strength is its "neutrality" as to learning model, and the fact that it makes no assumptions about the bandwidth, multimedia capabilities, software tools, or other technical facilities available to the user.

What documents can be accessed from a web site? Sometimes you need to find out in one go what documents are linked-to from a web-site, without being constrained by the navigation structure of the site. Google's "site:" command gives you a way of doing it, which you can combine with the "filetype:" command to focu on specific file-types. Thus filetype:PDF shows all the linked-to PDF files on my site, including Word for Northerners, which more recent subscribers will not have seen, and filetype:doc shows all the linked-to DOC files on Ufi's.

Making long URLs useable. Julia Duggleby highlighted the Tiny URL site, which gets so much traffic that it is sometimes down, and which enables you to "convert" long complex URLs into a shorter one, expecially useful when you want to send someone, say, a map reference in an email. Thus this long complete URL:
can be reduced to this neat small one:

Tiny URL web site.

Nominet domain disputes. Nominet is the UK is the registry for .uk internet names. A not-for-profit company, it manages the authoritative database of .uk domain name registrations. In September 2001, when I worked for The Sheffield College, I used the Nominet Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) to get a particular domain name transfered to the college from the person who had registered it, and who was using it improperly. This was the fourth case handled under the rules currently in force. Since that time nearly 1400 cases have been handled under the Nominet DRS. The full list of decisions will be useful for anyone contemplating using the service since you can use it to look at the sorts of grounds and evidence needed to win or defend a case. There is also an informative statistical summary, and a graphical representation of the statistics.

Oddments[back to top]

Computeraid - why send your old PCs to landfill? Computer Aid International is a UK Registered Charity which refurbishes computers from the UK for re-use in schools and community organisations in developing countries. It accepts donations of any Pentium 100MHz or better (or Pentium 100MHz equivalent) computers plus any colour monitors and all related peripheral equipment. It wipes hard disks, if necessary to US Department of Defence standards, with individual sign off by a technician. A bit of intervention from the Government departments which fund education, and/or from socially committed staff, could surely encourage colleges and universities to dispose of their old PCs in this way.

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Last updated - 23/2/2004; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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