Mailing Number 39 - 25 July 2004
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This opt-in usually Fortnightly Mailing summarises resources and news I come across in the course of my work which I think will be of value to others with an interest in online learning and the internet. An always useful guide - Stephen
Downes, Canada. There is something for
everyone in these mailings - Jane Knight's e-Learning
Centre, UK. Recommended reading - Caroline
Kotlas - CIT Infobits, USA.
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UKeU: Select Committee questions the ex-Chair and
Executive - audio coverage. On 21 July the House of
Commons Education and Skills Committee continued its investigation into
the the failure of the UK eUniversity, taking evidence from Sir Anthony
Cleaver and from John Beaumont. Cleaver, who had resigned as Chair of
the UKeU Board as soon as HEFCE announced its intention to restructure
coherent and confident throughout, and dominated most of the
Beaumont, whose employment as Chief Executive ended earlier this month,
rather unconvincing, both on the business and the e-learning issues, as
well as when put on the spot about his performance targets and about
the basis on which his £50k 2002-2003 bonus was calculated. The
general impression given is that until the end of 2003 HEFCE functioned
rather as a disinterested
"absentee landlord", leaving UKeU to get on with things, whilst
simultaneously putting too many of its e-learning eggs in the UKeU
basket. And I suspect that Cleaver's criticisms of the way the
review/closure process was handled may lead the Education and Skills
Committee to recall people from HEFCE for further questioning. For the
next few (3?) weeks the whole 2.5
hour session will be available in
audio from the ParliamentLive web site. You can also read the uncorrected transcript of the session.
DfES e-learning strategy update. The
Department has now published a 2 page
update on progress [95 kB PDF] in developing its unified e-learning
strategy. This sets out to explain the relationship between the
strategy and the
DfES's recently published overall 5-year strategy for education, which
- tailored learning or support for individual citizens;
- support to front line professionals, to assess and
monitor learners –
and to develop their own skills;
- integrated systems, to facilitate the exchange of
learning materials between institutions and sectors.
The e-learning strategy itself is now slated for publication
in Autumn 2004.
LAMS - the Learning Activity Management System invented by James
Dalziel of Macquarie University - is to be made available in November
2004 as Open Source Software by the recently established LAMS
Foundation, with LAMS undergoing trials in 100 schools in England, and
an evaluation by JISC.
Further details, including press
releases dated, strangely, August
2004, and an informative FAQ page, are on the LAMS Foundation
4 keyboards and monitors sharing one PC.
Interesting report by
Lucas van Grinsven and Bernhard Warner of Reuters about a pilot
project in South Africa that aims to provide a single computer that can
be used by four students simultaneously.
HP's unique Multi-user 441 desktop, uses Linux as its operating system,
with a single central processing
unit supporting four keyboards and monitors, would save schools up to
percent of their computer costs. According to the article, HP has no
plans to make the 441 available other than in underdeveloped countries.
Eduforge. Funded by the Tertiary Education
Commission in New Zealand, Eduforge describes
- a virtual collaborative learning and exploratory
environment designed for the sharing of ideas,
research outcomes, open source educational software, and tools within a
community of learners and researchers;
- an open access resource allowing anyone with an interest
in the exploration of teaching and learning to join the community,
which encourages cross-institutional collaboration among individuals
within an independent environment outside the normal boundaries of
organisational infrastructure and resources.
Plenty of interest including:
Guidance. The main trade union for teachers in English Further
and Higher Education has just published new guidance [450
kB DOC] for union members
and union officials on the main employment-related issues stemming from
the e-learning in colleges and universities. The document may also be
interest to institutional
managers and to policy-makers who may be unaware of the
relations impact of e-learning.
Timeline of the Open Access Movement.
I reviewed Donald Clarke's White Paper Open Source and e-Learning
in Fortnightly Mailing Number 38. I mentioned
the white paper's extensive and useful list of links. The Timeline
one of these, containing Peter Suber's regularly updated chronology of
developments in the open access movement, which Peter describes as the worldwide
effort to provide free online access to scientific and scholarly
research literature, especially peer-reviewed journal articles and
Semantic Web. The Semantic
Web is said by some to be the WWW's next big thing. This report
by researchers at HP Labs and at the University of Bristol contains
an informal survey of some 60 semantic web applications or proposed
applications, from which you can get a better sense (than from the
definitions, perhaps) of what the semantic web is about. For deeper
insights into the Semantic Web, the May 2004 edition of the Journal of
Interactive Media in Education, which is devoted entirely to the
educational semantic web, may be of interest.
Innovation: What Happened to E-learning and Why? Robert
Zemsky's and William Massy's June 2004 University of Pennsylvania
report tries to answer the question "Why did the boom in e-learning go
bust?". It is causing quite a stir in the US, particularly amongst
people whose e-learning programmes have not gone bust! You can
access the report and a short abstract of it from this page
on the OU's Knowledge Base, itself an interesting public resource
which you can search from here.
Cynthia Says Portal. Thanks to Paul Warren
for details of the Cynthia
Says Portal, which claims to educate users in the concepts
behind Web site accessibility
and which provides a simple, well-designed interface [that] puts
accessibility compliant code within the reach of all users, even those
with little or no knowledge of Web design. A key part of the site
is an interface
(provided by HiSoft, the commercial partner in the portal) which allows
a user to test whether or not a URL complies with the US Section 508
Guidelines, or with the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines. To encourage you to buy the commercial software, you are limited to one test per minute from any single domain.
Transport Archive. The Transport Archive tells
the story of Britain's transport system since the eighteenth century,
using several thousand images, with an emphasis on waterways, railways,
Mountains of the mind. We are at a Russian military base high up in Kyrgyzstan on the border with China, as part of a small and inexperienced climbing team.
At 6 a.m. on the morning of our flight, I pushed aside the tent-flap to see our pilot, Sergei, apparently Sellotaping the tail-rotor back on to the helicopter. He gave a cheery smile and thumbs-up. Half an hour later, when the ground crew seemed satisfied that the helicopter was in no way airworthy, fifteen of us were weighed - ominously - on an ancient set of abattoir-scales, and then ushered aboard. Also travelling with us, it appeared, were fifty watermelons, dozens of pallets of food and a dead goat. Finally, the ground crew heaved a 100lb red gas cannister into the cabin. It was placed between my legs as the rotor-blades began their slow build up of noise. 'In the case of a crash, hug it like your mother,' yelled the head mechanic through the helicopter door before he slammed it shut. It was clearly an exit line he had used before.
This is an extract from Robert Macfarlane's Mountains of the mind, a fascinating and often drily witty combination of meditation on, and history of, mountains and mountaineering. If you've any interest in climbing or hill-walking you will definitely enjoy it. The whole of the first chapter is currently available from the publisher's web site.
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Last updated - 26/8/2004; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed
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