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Mailing Number 52 - 1 May 2005

269 subscribers on publication date. 13666 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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Forthcoming government report to pave way for greater OSS use in UK schools. After the 5 May elections, Becta will be publishing a new "landmark" report which will say that schools could save significant sums by switching to open source software.   25 April eGov Monitor report.

New JISC Techwatch report about the Semantic Web. This 20 page report for JISC [1 MB PDF] by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory's Brian Matthews, who is Deputy Manager of the UK and Ireland Office of the World Wide Web Consortium, provides a clear, accessible, and current overview of the Semantic Web, which was envisaged in 2001 by Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler and Ora Lassila in this influential article in the Scientific American. The report, published on 29 April, "discusses the current state of the Semantic Web, and how it may impact on the UK Higher and Further Education sectors over the next few years", "introduces Tim Berners-Lee's initial vision for the Semantic Web, briefly discussing the technology and tools now available to support it", and concludes that the "the impact of the Semantic Web is likely to be particularly strong in distance learning, libraries and information management, and collaborative research".

Creative "Archive". Last month the BBC, Channel 4, the British Film Institute, and the Open University, launched the Creative Archive. "The Creative Archive is a BBC led initiative to provide access to public service audio and video archives in a way that allows the British public to find, share, watch, listen and re-use the archive as a fuel for their own creative endeavours. In other words, you can rip, mix and share the BBC." According to the 18 month project timetable, UK users will be able to reuse a limited amount of digital content from the 4 main project partners, for their own purposes, within the terms of the Creative Archive Licence, which is modelled on the Creative Commons licence. So far only the British Film Institute seems to have made any resources available, and a handful at that. So far, rather a damp squib.

Continuing uncertainty over LSC funding for JISC. For the last several years, all of the UK funding councils for Further and Higher Education have shared the running costs of JISC, enabling it to function on a UK-wide basis, with roughly equal access to JISC's services for universities and colleges irrespective of nation or sector. The Learning and Skills Council, which is responsible for funding and planning education and training for over 16-year-olds in England, and which has a budget of around £8 billion, has told JISC that it wishes to cut its funding contribution to JISC from August 2005 onwards. If this cut goes ahead it will adversly affect JISC's operation, and, in particular, it is likely to skew JISC's operations away from English Further Education, something which is difficult to reconcile with the unified cross-sectoral approach put forward in the Government's e-Strategy (for England). Obviously LSC has hard choices to make about what it funds; and with FE colleges currently unhappy about their own funding allocations from the LSC, "top-sliced" funding such as that which JISC receives from LSC requires clear justification. Personally I think that cutting its allocation to JISC will do long-term harm to English Further Education's use of e-learning, as well as being a set-back for the collegial way in which Higher and Further Education currently collaborate on e-learning development.

Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) now available as Open Source Software. LAMS is the brainchild of James Dalziel, Director of Macquarie University's E-Learning Centre of Excellence. "LAMS is a revolutionary new tool for designing, managing and delivering online collaborative learning activities. It provides teachers with a highly intuitive visual authoring environment for creating sequences of learning activities. These activities can include a range of individual tasks, small group work and whole class activities based on both content and collaboration." Earlier this month LAMS was released under a GNU Public Licence. You can learn more about LAMS from a slick Flash animation, available from the LAMS site. LAMS is being piloted in the UK by the Specialist Schools Trust, and is the subject of a JISC evaluation, which is due to report its findings in April 2005 (sic).

Association for Learning Technology (ALT) publishes learning technology research strategy. The ALT strategy (I am employed half-time by ALT), poses 11 research questions which, it asserts, are of common interest to researchers, developers, practitioners and institutions in the use of learning technology, and which could form the basis of common discourse. The research questions are presented in a loose order of increasing learning focus (and hence decreasing technology focus).

Resources [back to top]

Opera 8. Opera Software has released version 8 of its browser. The latest version of Opera, which is available to individuals free (with banner ads), or for USD 39 (without ads), seems to outscore Firefox (and Internet Explorer) on its accessibility features, as well as on the wide range of platforms, including mobile devices, for which it is available. In particular, for PC users with Windows 2000 or XP, Opera 8 supports voice browsing, claiming to be the first browser to do this. "The Opera Voice feature allows the user to control the interface by talking and to have documents read aloud." Free education site-licenses are available, through which the browser can be supplied, free, to students and staff.   Details of education license.   Download area of Opera web site.

Common Information Environment (CIE). The UK's CIE, which is supported by a range of public sector library and information organisations including JISC, The British Library, the BBC and The National Archive, aims to "help cement a collaborative, cross-sectoral partnership to build a common on-line information environment". Here, from 12 April 2005, is an interesting presentation by Paul Miller [10 MB! PDF file], Director of the CIE, which gives a clear sense of what the CIE is seeking to achieve. You may also be interested in a CIE-commissioned MORI study into trends in UK web use [0.5 MB PDF], published by CIE in February 2005. CIE press release about MORI study.

The Concord Consortium e-Learning Model for Online Courses. Via Kate Butler, this page on the US Concord Consortium's web site summarises nine key characteristics of effective online learning provision.

Ray Schroeder's Online Learning Update. Ray Schroeder directs the Office of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield. His Online Learning Update is well-judged, neutral, and frequent.

Becta guide to web site accessibility. Becta has produced a guide to web site accessibility. It covers "basic concepts through to detailed, practical guidance about how to assess and ensure that a website is accessible".   Guide home page.

ePortfolios. The report Developing and Implementing a Methodology for Reviewing E-portfolio Products [640 kB DOC] has just been published by JISC. The title is less promising than the internal blurb, which indicates that the report contains a "review of existing e-portfolio software applications in use in the UK, and a synthesis of literature reviews on e-portfolio systems". Written from a UK perspective, the report concludes that many organisations and institutions have adopted e-portfolio systems without addressing:

  • usability compliance;
  • data protection legislation;
  • the need for learners to be in control of their information.

The report includes reviews, done in varying degrees of detail it would seem, of around 12 ePortfolio systems including:

Oddments[back to top]

Magnetic poetry. Thanks to Bob Banks for sending me this link to some Javascript multiuser fridge magnets made by FN Jordy. Changes you make are left for the next visitor.

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Last updated - 1/5/2005; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

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