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Mailing Number 44 - 31 October 2004

222 subscribers on publication date. 12578 page-views since publication.

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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Patent dangers to e-learning. 30 June article in Wired by Daniel Terdiman describing the 10 patents which the Electronic Freedom Foundation would most like killing off. Number 7 on the list is a patent owned by an online testing company Test Central, which Test Central believes covers, for example, the fairly common situation in which a school or university provides "to students, for a fee, access to Internet based tests (and practice tests) where such tests are provided from a third party" and where the school or university "pays the third party for access to such tests".

Online European Survey about e-learning quality. Thanks to Dave Cotton for sending details of this 20 minute online survey, in French, English, German and Greek into how the quality of e-learning can be improved, and seeking out details of quality strategies, and instruments already in use. Organised by the European Quality Observatory (sic).

Resources [back to top]

Cognitively informed online education. It is worth spending plenty of time looking at Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative (OLI), which is developing "cognitively informed" online courses, that is, according to OLI, courses whose design is:

  • theory- and data-based, i.e. not based exclusively on the intuitions and classroom experience of the content expert developer;
  • formatively evaluated, using more than simple end of course user-satisfaction surveys;
  • iteratively-improved.

So far four courses have been developed, which are to replace large lecture format courses in Economics, Statistics, Causal Reasoning, and Logic, using sophisticated techniques like:

  • cognitive tutors;
  • virtual laboratories;
  • group experiments;
  • simulations.

Each course is offered in an open and free version, without the user being able to obtain certification, or without the support of a tutor, and in an academic version, in which users can access the end of course exams, and obtain tutor support.

A comprehensive report on OLI by Joel M. Smith, Vice Provost for Computing Services & CIO at Carnegie Mellon, and Candace Thille, Project Director of the Open Learning Initiative is available for download from the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education to people who have or know someone with an email address with an organisation that is a member of the Observatory (this includes many readers of Fortnightly Mailing - find out here).

The report goes into plenty of detail of the OLI design methodology, which is strongly influenced by human computer interaction theory, and it outlines, with concrete illustrations and references, the following 8 design principles:

  1. learning is an active process - provide frequent opportunities for students to learn by practising the target concepts and skills;
  2. provide instruction in the problem-solving context and give immediate feedback on errors;
  3. build on prior knowledge and connect informal & formal knowledge;
  4. promote coherence - give learners an explicit organisation for their learning, a big picture of the domain;
  5. promote applicability and flexibility through providing multiple examples and through supporting students to develop an abstract understanding of the problem-solving knowledge;
  6. promote relevance by situating the learning in authentic contexts and providing examples that are relevant and authentic
  7. provide activities that support reflective, meta-cognitive processes;
  8. limiting cognitive load.

Nearly all the organisations which subscribe to the Observatary receive public funding, so it beats me why reports such as this are not in the public domain, or at least available cheaply for download to individual users.

Standards and Intellectual Property Rights: A Practical Guide for Innovative Business. This 83 page 480 kB PDF by Matthew Clarke gives a UK commercial perspective on standards and IPR. Published earlier this year by the National Standardization Strategic Framework, the guide "is directed at businesses, large or small, which develop ideas into innovative technologies, services, products and processes", and "provides guidance on how to develop and use standards and intellectual property rights (IPRs) in order to increase the profitability and competitiveness of the business". Contains plenty of discussion about open vs. proprietary standards, but makes no mention whatever of Open Source software, which on the face of it is a major ommission.

Buddyspace. Developed by the UK Open University's Knowledge Media Institute (KMI), BuddySpace is an instant messenger with, according the KMI, four novel twists. Specifically it:

  1. allows optional maps for geographical & office-plan visualizations in addition to standard 'buddy lists';
  2. is built on open source Jabber, which makes it interoperable with ICQ, MSN, Yahoo and others;
  3. is implemented in Java, so it is cross-platform;
  4. is built by a UK research lab, so it is 100% free with full sources readiily available.

Clark Aldrich's Six Criteria of an Educational Simulation. Via Stephen Downes, this 11 page 200 kB PDF puts forward, with reference to Simulearn, an award-winning business skills simulation platform developed by Aldrich, a 6 component model for describing and developing educational simulations. Stephen was more convinced by the piece than I was!

Google. Informative non-reverential article about Google, its origins, technology, and systems.

Ibiblio. Ibiblio is a collaboration between the University of North Carolina and the Center for the Public Domain, with several others, including IBM, which describes itself as "the public's library and digital archive". You can see from the what's new page, and the top-level index, how eclectic the collection is - from Pacific bulbs, to Linux documentation, via Tibetan culture.

Oddments[back to top]

Eben Moglen. Not many academic lawyers start off as programmer/analysts with IBM, and then switch to law. Eben Moglen is now Professor of Law and Legal History, at Columbia Law School, and pro bono General Counsel to the Free Software Foundation. For interesting samples of Moglen's views, see The dotCommunist Manifesto and Freeing the Mind: Free Software and the Death of Proprietary Culture.

On the edge of the ice.....A compound word is made when two words are joined to form a new word. For example newsstand or eyebrow. The Estonian language, which like Finnish and Hungarian survived the influx (onslaught?) of the Indo-European languages uses 14 cases, and has 4 tenses, and 3 degrees of comparison. Estonian has many vowel-only words, and makes extensive use of compound words (e.g., in English: newsstand or eyebrow). Hence:

  • kuuuurijate töööö jäääärel - a moon researchers' work-night at the edge of the ice, or
  • kõueööaimdus - anticipation of the thundery night.

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Last updated - 9/12/2006; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

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