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Mailing Number 51 - 10 April 2005

265 subscribers on publication date. 9655 page-views since publication.

This opt-in roughly 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.   A useful source of market and academic information. Highly recommended. - Epic plc Email Newsletter, UK.

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News/comment

Ex-Chief Executive of UKeU to join QA plc. Until July 2004, John Beaumont was Chief Executive of UKeU. Following UkEU's demise, the UK Parliament's Select Committee on Education and Skills investigated UKeU. John Beaumont did not escape criticism, as can be seen from this short extract from the Conclusions and recommendations section of the Committee's Third Report.

We consider that for either the private sector or the public sector the bonuses paid to senior staff were wholly unacceptable and morally indefensible. The argument that they reflect private sector practice does not stand up to scrutiny. Any company which paid bonuses of this kind having underperformed in the way that UKeU did would face severe criticism from its shareholders. The non-executive directors who approved these bonuses through the Remuneration Committee cannot escape criticism. We are also unable to accept the view of the Chairman and Chief Executive that they were involved in a risk business which made such bonuses appropriate. The company was involved in a new and relatively untried sector, but it carried no market risk. It was backed with £50 million of public money; the risk was to that public investment, not to the company.

QA plc is a large commercial training company. According to its web site - good, incidentally, on conformance with W3C standards - QA is "the largest provider of technical training to IT professionals". QA had a turnover of ~£30m in 2003, and crept back into profit in the second quarter of its 2004 financial year. According to this regulatory announcement, to which there is a link on the QA plc website, John Beaumont took up a new post as Chief Executive Officer designate of QA on 4 April 2005, with a view to him joining the QA Board as a Director and becoming Chief Executive Officer from 3 May 2005.

Six figure salary for e-learning job in Sheffield. Maybe some readers will be interested in this intriguing e-learning job in Sheffield (where I live), for which "candidates will be experienced business leaders who can seize the opportunity to impact (sic) the development of e-Learning." The closing date for applications is 18 April.

Philadelphia will become the largest U.S. Internet "hot spot" next year....    ....at half the cost charged by commercial operators, accccording to this report from Reuters.

JAWS plug-in for Firefox. According to Freedom Scientific, "JAWS for Windows works with your PC to provide access to today's software applications and the Internet". Thanks to Canadian reader Karen McCall for telling me about this JAWS screen-reader adaptation for Mozilla Firefox, which enables JAWS to function with Firefox in a similar manner to how JAWS functions with Internet Explorer. Incidentally, Karen is running a workshop "Creating Adobe PDF Documents Optimised for Accessibility and Usability" in Dundee in Scotland on 23 August 2005 at the Accessible Design in the Digital World conference.

Poor sales for India's Simputer. Last year I described the handheld Simputer from Picopeta. Thanks to Stephen Downes for reporting this article about the Simputer, which opens with "Four years ago, a low-cost handheld dubbed the Simputer was touted as a way to give villagers in poorer countries access to computing power. That dream remains elusive." This squares with analysis in the Economist's 15 March Edition arguing, with evidence, that poor countries don't need more PCs, but instead, more mobile phones.


Resources [back to top]

JotSpot - the "Application Wiki". JotSpot is a commercial service, currently open for free trial. The people behind it have a very strong track record in both for-profit internet companies and in the not-for-profit sector. You create an account and can then experiment (using a WYSIWIG interface) with a growing range of applications, especially ones to support collaborative working, project management, helpdesk operations, bug-tracking, and so on. Currently JotSpot does not produce code conforming to W3C standards, but the company says that this issue will be resolved quite soon. The subscription prices look low enough for small organisations with few core users, but potentially steep for organisations which want to give accounts to a larger number of peripheral users. For an example of something implemented using JotSpot, see the site Lawrence Lessig is using to support the collaborative updating of his 1999 book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace.

John Naughton's diary and archive - worth keeping an eye on. John Naughton is a veteran journalist with the UK's Observer sunday newspaper, for which he writes a regular column, typically with a strong emphasis on things like software patents and the open source world.   Memex 1.1 - John Naughton's on-line diary.   Footnotes - an archive of Observer articles.

Jane Knight's e-learning bookshop. A wide range of e-learning books are reviewed by Jane Knight in the Bookshop area of her site, which is worth a) browsing, and b) bookmarking for future reference.

IMS Global Public Dispatch. The IMS Global Learning Consortium is now issuing a monthly Public Dispatch, to which you can subscribe. There have been two editions so far, each a PDF of ~6 pages. HTML would have been better, and I guess may follow. Definitely worth at least scan reading, if you want to (attempt to!) keep abreast of developments in the arcane world of e-learning standards, talking of which, the dense, acronym-laden EU funded CEN Learning Technology Standards Observatory web site may also be of use.

Migrating to Linux at the Desktop - a guide to the possibilities and issues. According to a review in The Register, this free 20-page report, based in part from several thousand responses from Register readers, "has some solid balance for one of the IT world's more controversial subjects". Summary of report and online order form on Quocirca web site.

EU Web Accessibility Benchmarking Cluster. Web site giving onto 3 related newish EU funded projects concerning web accessibility. These are:

  • European Internet Accessibility Observatory, which will "assess the accessibility of European web sites and participate in a cluster developing a European Accessibility Methodology";
  • Support-EAM, which is "supporting the creation of an e-Accessibility Quality Mark";
  • BenToWeb which will provide "new software modules and methodologies that satisfy some of the accessibility recommendations of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which are not analysed by existing tools due to their inherent complexity".

Oddments[back to top]

Storebjørn. On 15/3/2005 I went on skis from Krossbu to Leirvassbu up over the Leirbreen and down the Bjørnebreen glaciers, in Norway's Jotunheimen National Park, climbing Storebjørn en route. About as good a skiing day as it is possible to get. The 7 day trip was organised by Norway's excellent DNT, which runs - through a lot of volunteer labour - a massive network of staffed and unstaffed huts, all over Norway, without which long trips of this kind would be impossible.

N to Saksi, 2189m, Jotunheimen, Norway, 15/3/2005, by Inge Rimstad
From the Leirbreen glacier, N to Saksi, 2189m, by Inge Rimstad.

SE towards Storebjørn, 2222m, Jotunheimen, Norway, 15/3/2005, by Else Kveinen
From above the Bjørnebreen glacier, SE towards Storebjørn, 2222m, by Else Kveinen.

N from top of Storebjørn towards Kniven, 15/3/2005
N from top of Storebjørn. Veslebjørn in the forground, Smørstabbtinden, Kniven, and Saksi in the background.

Looking S from top of Storebjørn, 15/3/2005, by Inge Rimstad
Looking S from top of Storebjørn, by Inge Rimstad.


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