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Japanese universities to make their teaching materials freely available. In cooperation with MIT, 6 Japanese Universities have launched the Japan Open CourseWare Alliance, to "provide a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world".
IBM encourages employees to use Firefox. IBM is one of the first really big multinational companies actively to encourage and provide helpdesk support for the use of the Open Source browser Firefox. C|Net News.Com article.
Becta's landmark report on Open Source Software in schools. Becta has now published:
Dutch universities make research output freely available on-line. The DAREnet Search Engine allows searching in the repositories of all Dutch Universities and related academic organisations, through two related interfaces, both of which can be tried below - in a slightly cut-down form - on one or more unrestricted names and/or keywords. Alternatively, and as a better long-term option, you can access the search interface directly from the DAREnet website. At the bottom of the search results a link is usefully provided to a Google Scholar search on the same search term.
Cream of Science gives access to "25,000 top-quality publications by over 200 top scientists in the Netherlands", with about 60% freely available, and the remainder with copyright restrictions.
DAREnet gives access to a broader collection that is freely available. As of May 2005 DAREnet consists of 47,000 digital objects. The freely available publications in "Cream of Science" can also be found here.
Virtual Learning Environments: Practitioner Perspectives on Good Practice. This new report by by Professor Clive Holtham and Dr Nigel Courtney, Cass Business School, City University, London, examines the benefits and disadvantages of VLEs, and argue that whilst VLEs have value-added potential, they also represent a high risk strategy. To encourage you to get hold of it, here are the "10 fundamentals" from the report's conclusions.
1. The concept of e-learning is probably now close to or just past its sell-by date. Indeed, continued over-focus on this as a concept, especially in isolation from other important parallel considerations, may actually hold back the future trajectory of technology-supported learning.
3. Typically a VLE implementation can be perfectly valid for a specific pedagogic strategy and corresponding tactics but may be invalid for other strategies and tactics.
4. The over-emphasis in the UK on the VLE, which arguably has as much to do with managerial as with pedagogic values, runs the risk of 'crowding out' other types of technology-enhanced learning and of other types of non-technology innovations in higher education teaching and learning.
5. Significant indirect or hidden costs arise if the potential benefits of a VLE are to be achieved. These include:
upgrading of physical classrooms and learning space generally;
re-organisation of the administrative workflow procedures (as opposed to the centralised record systems) that are so crucial to the actual detailed student experience;
re-thinking both pedagogic strategies and pedagogic tactics;
re-skilling virtually all staff, including institutional management, academics, administrators and IT/library staff to support the re-thought strategies and tactics.
6. For institutions advanced in their VLE thinking, there is a tension between the single standard monolithic VLE and a 'best of breed' approach that enables plugging in or replacement of various software components.
7. Alternatives to the 'monolithic' VLE, including public domain and open source VLEs, are emerging strongly. Some, such as 'blogs' and 'wikis', are completely different avenues to electronic publishing and collaboration and can be relatively inexpensive. Although UK universities seem to be surprisingly reluctant to spend less rather than more money on technology solutions, one can envisage a point where universities can 'afford' to dramatically reduce the space and budget allocated to on-campus computer laboratories, for example.
8. Emerging educational technology standards such as IMS are worthy of support but proprietary vendors should not be allowed to use these as barriers to block more innovative software suppliers.
9. The long-term intellectual and practical viability of designed and indexed 'learning objects' in higher education and within VLEs has yet to be proven, despite the massive effort and energy of some very high calibre academics and support staff. The culture of higher education remains amenable to assemblies of learning
assets that are much more informal in nature and akin to 'bricolage'.
10. The national governance arrangements for technology-supported teaching and learning remain fragmented between several bodies, notably JISC and the Higher Education Academy, and this is often reproduced within individual institutions. JISC has carried out some excellent recent work on VLE implementation that deserves wide circulation and promotion.
Demystifying e-learning technical frameworks. These two guides - "An exploration of the technologies underpinning the e-learning framework (ELF) for the non-technical among us" - by Sarah Holyfield, may help people who, like me, are sometimes (usually?!) rather mystified by discussion about the "correct direction" for e-learning technology.
George Galloway and Jeremy Paxman. The video of George Galloway being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, in the small hours of 6 May 2005, after the UK General Election, provides a strong insight into the personalities of both men, particularly Galloway's.