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Mailing Number 34 - 3 May 2004

188 subscribers on publication date. 7380 page-views since publication.

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News/comment

UKeU. Reading between the lines in HEFCE's latest carefully worded (and rather obscure!) 23/4/2004 press release about UK eUniversities Worldwide Limited it seems clear that UKeU will not survive much longer. Meanwhile UKeU's own site projects a rather "business as usual" image, with staff who have left still listed (3/5/2004). Someone recently on the inside of UKeU sent me a 23/4/2004 article from the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, describing it as the most accurate commentary on UKeU to date. If you work for a member-organisation, the article is accessible directly from the Observatory, in which case it is quick and easy to get access to it. For others, I have also posted an extract from the article on my web site. It deserves to be widely read.

BBC introduces Creative Archive online trial. I featured the BBC's Ashley Highfield's address to the March 2004 Financial Times New Media & Broadcasting Conference in Fortnightly Mailing Number 32. According to the Independent, 500 BBC staff will trial the system for three weeks starting later this month, prior to a 1000 user external trial later this year. Eventually, viewers will be able to scan an online guide and download any show. Programmes would be viewed on a computer screen or could be burned to a DVD and watched on a television set. Alternatively, programmes could be downloaded to a PDA. The Independent quotes Ashley Highfield as follows.

If we don't enter this market, then exactly what happened to the music industry could happen to us, where we ignore it, keep our heads in the sand and everybody starts posting the content up there and ripping us off.

Indian hand held finally launched. PicoPeta Simputers, in Bangalore, India, has finally launched three versions of the Linux-based hand held Amida Simputer, at 120 USD to 240 USD. With various innovations including USB ports, an accelerometer so that the device can detect hand-movements, and Indian language support - currently Hindi and Kannada, the Amida Simputer also features a (currently) small range of educational content. The Simputer is not yet available outside India.

Research in Learning Technology. The Association for Learning Technology, for whom I work half-time has re-launched ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology under the Carfax imprint of the Taylor and Francis Group. From Volume 12 onwards, this means that the contents of ALT-J, will be accessible on-line, albeit at 25 USD per article, and without casual visitors being able to view the abstracts of articles, which to my mind is something you would want to do before deciding whether to purchase. Here is the Volume 12, Number 1, Table of contents, with two articles particularly catching my eye:

  • Quality assurance for digital learning object repositories: issues for the metadata creation process, by Sarah Currier, Jane Barton, Rónán O'Beirne, and Ben Ryan;
  • Building communities for the exchange of learning objects: theoretical foundations and requirements, by Rob Koper, Kees Pannekeet, Maaike Hendriks, and Hans Hummel.

Resources [back to top]

Detecting parasite software. It is not that easy to stop your PC (if you are using one...), especially if Microsoft's Internet Explorer is your browser. Parasite is a shorthand term for "unsolicited commercial software" - that is, a program that gets installed on your computer which you did not ask for, and which does something you probably don't want it to, for someone else's profit. This link from doxdesk will check your PC for parasite software (if you are using Internet Explorer, and explains what parasites are, where they come from, and what to do about them.

Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign. The Center for Academic Transformation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute aims to be a source of expertise and support for those in higher education who wish to take advantage of the capabilities of information technology to transform their academic practices. With funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Center has conducted a Program in Course Redesign the purpose of which has been to encourage institutions, including community colleges and universities to redesign their instructional approaches using technology to achieve quality enhancements as well as cost savings. The Center has awarded USD 6 million in grants to 30 projects in three rounds of ten projects each, concentrating on large-enrollment, introductory courses, which have the potential of impacting significant student numbers and generating substantial cost savings. The Center's web site contains several different views of the key conclusions of the programme. Perhaps the best starting places are:

The site also contains an interesting range of planning and analysis tools, for example a tool to compare the elements and costs of a traditional course with its redesign implementation, and a set of criteria to help in identifying those institutions and courses that are good candidates for large-scale redesign. A summative document by Carol Twigg, Programme Director is also available: New Models for Online Learning [350 kB PDF].

e-Learning Centre's Guide to e-Learning. I've featured Jane Knight's downright wonderful e-learning Centre in Fortnightly Mailing Number 27. Jane has now published a new edition of her online Guide to e-Learning. Be prepared to be amazed at the extent and thoroughness of the Guide, which describes itself as being suitable for those who want an introductory, structured, no-nonsense, practical approach to e-learning, aiming to provide easy-to-read explanations of e-learning topics, links to great examples and key resources as well as some practical guidance on how to get started with links to useful tools and systems.

New Anne Frank web site. According to Sybilla Poortman, the official Anne Frank site has been re-launched, opening on April 25th, with a large number of previously unpublished pictures of Anne and her family, plus about twenty small films of historical value, and a 3D-version of Anne's room to look around in.

The Glass Wall. If you've ever wondered about what could/should go into the design of a really big, culturally important, world-class web site, then The Glass Wall - Homepage Redesign 2002 [8 MB PDF] will be of interest. The Glass Wall is an 86 page graphically rich description of how the ~20 person team who redesigned the BBC web-site's 2002 look and feel approached the task, will be of interest. Until I read it I'd never even noticed how the colours in the lead picture on the BBC home page influence the page's whole background colour scheme, nor any of the site's many other subtleties. I'm not sure what the standing of the document is, nor who owns its copyright. [23/5/2004. Blow me down if a few days after issuing this Mailing, the BBC introduced a much simpler, less subtle home page.....]


Oddments[back to top]

Does colour exist? We think of colour as an objective thing: Red is red and can't be seen in any other way. But that's not so. The colour we perceive depends on things like the words we have in our language (our culture) to describe it, the other colours surrounding it and what the brain is expecting to see. So says Juan C. Dürsteler in the fascinating, well illustrated Does Colour Exist?.


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Last updated - 23/5/2004; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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