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Mailing Number 38 - 5 July 2004

201 subscribers on publication date. 12007 page-views since publication.

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 grills the Chair and Chief Executive of HEFCE - video coverage. On 23 June the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee called David Young (Chair) and Sir Howard Newby (Chief Executive) to give evidence about the closure of UKeU and events leading up to it, concentrating on:

  • identifying the factors that caused the UK eUniversity to fail;
  • the viability of the business plan;
  • the role of HEFCE;
  • the future of e-learning.

The Committee showed much interest in the scale of the bonuses paid to around 30 of the UKeU's 70 staff ("the linking of bonus to performance was relatively loose"). Responses to questions show HEFCE to now be rather sold on "blended learning" as compared with wholly on-line provision; and HEFCE's view that UKeU had to develop a new platform (this is what consumed a large proportion of the UKeU budget), because none of the at-the-time available commercial offerings could be run on a big enough scale for UKeU's expected learner numbers, were unconvincing. It will be interesting when and if the Committee calls the ex Chair of UKeU's Board (Anthony Cleaver), the ex Chief Executive (John Beaumont), or the key PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant (Quentin Thompson) whose work was influential in the original establishment of UKeU. [10/7/2004 Note. The Committee will call Anthony Cleaver and John Beaumont as witnesses at 9.30 on 21/7/2004.] Notwithstanding the interesting business practice issues discussed by the Committee, I think this article from the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education remains the best assessment of what went wrong at UKeU.

Read the uncorrected transcript [100 kB HTML] of the meeting. Review HEFCE's Memorandum of Evidence [30 kB HTML] to the Committee. 21/7/2004 Note. You can no longer view the session on the Parliamentary TV web site because only around one month's worth of committee reports appear to be archived.

Strong support amongst primary schools for Northern Ireland's Classroom 2000 project. Classroom 2000 (C2K) is one of the world's biggest e-learning initiatives, with involvement from several organisations including HP, Hyperwave, and SX3, and the large-scale networking of ~50,000 PCs and lap tops, mass provision of centrally managed email accounts for pupils and staff, and centrally managed supply of several hundred educational software titles. This 2 July article in the Belfast Telegraph on a survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers reports that the nearly 1000 primary schools covered are pretty satisfied with the support they are getting from the C2K. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of C2K is the involvement of the Munich company Hyperwave, whose corporate knowledge management software takes the place typically occupied in similar projects by a "conventional" learning enviroment. For an overview of the whole of C2K see this article on the Hyperwave web site. According to Hyperwave's web site, universities and colleges can make use of the Hyperwave Software (unlimited user licenses) at no cost when the software is used for non-commercial purposes.

DfES Study of Impact of e-learning on participation, retention and attainment in Further Education. Over the last few months I've had some limited involvement in a scoping study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) on this subject. DfES has now issued a call for expressions of interest from organisations wanting to tender to do the full study, with the ITT due to be issued by the end of July.

A cautionary tale about mailing lists. Caroline Kotlas, from the University of North Carolina, edits the absolutely outstanding long-running email newsletter Infobits. Caroline reports, in commendable detail, on how her mailing list recently distributed a virus-infected message. (For the record, and more by accident than design, Fortnightly Mailing uses slightly different technology from Infobits. This requires each posting to the list to be validated prior to it being distributed, which adds an additional layer of protection for subscribers.)

CoolWebSearch is winning Trojan war. Depressing article in The Register reporting that Merijn Bellekom has abandoned developing software that removes one of the nastiest "browser hijackers" - CoolWebSearch - a trojan that converts your PC (if it runs Microsoft Internet Explorer) into a source of revenue for fly-by-night porn sites, installing dozens of bookmarks to porn sites, adding a toolbar to Internet Explorer, and changing your browser's home page without asking.

eGIF Accreditation Authority. The Office of the e-Envoy has awarded a contract to establish and operate the so-called e-GIF Accreditation Authority Programme to the National Computing Centre (NCC) and its subsidiary the Institute of IT Training (IITT), according to the NCC press release, which says:

Ensuring adherence to the Government's standards for IT interoperability, the e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF), has become more realistic with the establishment of the e-GIF Accreditation Authority. The mission of the Authority is to reduce risk to public sector IT projects. It will do this by certifying e-GIF Practitioners as having the skills needed to meet the requirements of e-GIF compliance and accrediting teams or organisations as having the processes to deliver e-GIF projects effectively.

The Authority's services will be available from Autumn 2004, and will include accreditation of organisations, and certification of skills.

Resources [back to top]

Moodle at Bromley College. New report on the FERL web site about Bromley College's extensive use of the open source learning environment Moodle.

Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. The June 2004 issue contains 10 diverse, practically focussed articles, from universities and community colleges, mainly in the US.

New White Paper about Open Source from Epic Group plc by Donald Clark. The latest White Paper - Open Source and e-learning is worth requesting as a PDF from Epic, though I do not think it is quite up to the high standard of many of the other White Papers available from Epic. Its weaknesses include:

  • poor editing, for example The holy war is now between those like Microsoft and Sun and the Open Source movement who see free operating systems as a threat to their future;
  • questionable claims, for example that the internet is far more important than the invention of the printing press and moveable type because the consequences are immense;
  • quirkiness, in particular its section on Open Source e-learning content, which was strangely silent on, for example the Creative Commons content license, and on the threat posed by Open Source e-learning content to the content creation industry itself.

On the positive side:

  • the fact that influential writers on e-learning from the commercial world, like Donald Clark, are taking Open Source seriously is of real value;
  • Open Source and e-learning is written in the usual accessible style, and has a really excellent, wide-ranging and eclectic, (apparently randomly ordered) Appendix with the URLs of around 80 Open Source e-learning projects. (When viewed on line, the URLs in the PDF are designed to function as active hyperlinks, though they failed to do so with the version of Acrobat I use.)

Finally, the document would be much more useful (and get much more attention) if it was freely available on the web as HTML, with active hyperlinks from the Appendix and the body of the document, rather than only being available as PDF to people requesting it.

Noodle Heaven. Developed by Josh Portway, Cesare Ferrari, Simeon Portway, Tom Riley, and someone called Tree, Noodle Heaven describes itself as a way for musicians and game designers to come together and create interactive music the way we've always wanted to, but never been able to..... it's the first system we know of that allows artists to create interactive music tracks with full 3D graphics, hundreds of channels of audio and 100% accurate timing.

Department of Constitutional Affairs - excellent legal resource site. Whilst dealing with a rather intimidating claim from a business that a resource on this web site was defamatory - it wasn't - I came across this excellent index to the English Civil Procedure Rules on the Department of Constitutional Affairs web site.

Oddments[back to top]

Fuel cell for PCs - getting closer. Toshiba says it will release a tiny methanol-driven fuel cell for hand-held devices in 2005. Previous Fortnightly Mailing reports on bike, fuel-cell, and petrol engine driven PCs.

Senior vice-president of All Nippon Airways welcomes chihuahua to Japan. I kid you not.

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Last updated - 21/7/2004; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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