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Mailing Number 20 - 11 July 2003

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Towards a Unified e-Learning Strategy. On 8/7/2003 the UK Secretary of State for Education and Skills launched the consultation on an e-learning strategy for England. The launch took place at the Annual Policy Meeting of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), for whom I work half-time. The consultation document has a broad take on e-learning, covers pre-school through to university education, and is very ambitious in its scope. It also has a refreshingly strong emphasis on the "teaching and the leadership sides" of e-learning. It features a number of short case studies, at least one of which will be familiar to several readers of this mailing. I've had some slight involvement in the development of the consultation document, and from the dealings I have had with the team which created it, I believe that responses to the consultation will really be worth making: the DfES e-Learning Strategy Unit is in listening mode, and the current Secretary of State for Education is strongly supportive of the direction taken in the consultation document. The closing date for responses is 30/1/2004. Presentations from the launch, including one from Diana Laurillard, who is Head of the DfES e-Learning Strategy Unit, can be accessed from the home page of the ALT website.

Brian Sutton of Ufi's presentation, available from the same URI, albeit in a 5 MB download, has some interesting slides about how demand for bandwidth is likely to outstrip supply over the next few years, whereas the cost of local storage is likely to fall greatly, with the capacity of storage devices rising hugely. Some people are now arguing that the consequence of these two changes will be that forms of e-learning will emerge in which high bandwidth content is downloaded to local servers, or networked devices, slowly (overnight, say), rather than having content accessed by learners directly from a remote "virtual learning environment".

Open Source Advisory Service. I mentioned in Fortnightly Mailing Number 19 that the Joint Information Systems Committee had appointed the University of Oxford as the host institution for the JISC Open Source Advisory Service. The Service seems to have hit the ground running, and now has an interim website, from which you can subscribe to a mailing list, as well as suggest priorities for the Service to cover.

SPAM. US anti-spam laws 'will legalise spam', according to this article in The Register, which explains that legislation which may come into force in the US early in 2004, supported by the major US bulk e-mail companies, would make "opt-out" emailing lawful. Since 90% of spam is said to originate in the Florida, the effect of the law will be further to increase the volume of spam. Far preferable would be a requirement that e-marketeers must get consumers to "opt-in" for commercial emails. Meanwhile, Derek Wyatt MP, Chair of the All Party Internet Group, has set up Endspam, to mobilise consumers against the menace of spam.

Resources [back to top]

Microscopy online. Molecular Expressions is a truly remarkable, vast, website, comprising mainly galleries of photographs made with optical microscopy. Particularly impressive is Powers of Ten, a javascript animation which takes you in around 40 steps from 10 million light years from Earth down onto the surface of a proton.

More on the Semantic Web. In Fortnightly Mailing Number 15 I publicised the (then) forthcoming W3C European Semantic Web Tour. The presentations from the 12 June London meeting, are on the newly established W3C UK and Ireland Regional Office site. Ora Lassila's presentation [3.5 MB PDF] was, I felt, particularly helpful for gaining a top-level grasp of what the Semantic Web is about. Also on the site are some interesting looking primers on W3C recommendations, written by Bob Hopgood from Oxford Brookes University, who previously ran the W3C UK Office.

RSS. Dick Moore recommends Syndic8, a site with plenty of resources (primers, guides, etc) for people wanting to learn more about RSS, a technology which enables web-publishers to feed content of a particular kind to people who've signalled their interest in content of that kind.

Open source courseware. Kate Butler highlighted Open Source Courseware - Evaluation and Rating an April 2003 article by Bob Reynolds which assesses 19 open source courseware systems according to 6 features, on a 1-5 scale (with 5 the best, and below 3 described as "not quite ready for prime time" in the category concerned). For convenience, though this is no substitute for reading the article itself, I have tabulated Bob Reyolds's assessments below:

Colloquia 3 3 4 3 3 3 19
CourseWork* 4 3 5 3 3 3 21
eConf 3 4 4 3 2 3 19
eLedge 3 4 4 3 3 4 22
MIT OCW* 4 3 5 3 3 4 22
CHEF 4 5 5 3 3 4 24
ATutor 3 5 4 4 4 3 22
Claroline 3 5 5 3 3 3 22
ClassWeb 3 4 4 3 2 3 19
eLecture 2 4 3 3 2 3 17
Moodle 4 5 4 4 3 3 23
Segue 4 4 4 4 3 3 22
fle3 3 5 4 4 2 4 22
KEWL 3 4 4 3 3 3 20
Bazaar 3 4 4 3 3 3 20
LON-CAPA 5 5 4 3 4 3 24
MimerDesk 3 4 4 3 3 3 19
WeBWork 3 4 3 3 3 3 19
.LRN 4 5 5 3 2 3 22

Note that * signifies that the courseware system is not currently distributed.

Synchronous interaction. Thanks to Mike Morris for Distance Learning and Synchronous Interaction from Michigan Virtual University's Technology Source, which covers video conferencing, telephone conferencing, chat, application sharing, and business-oriented groupware.

Quizmaster. I featured Mike Capstick's Quizmaster, a free (donation-ware?) web-based tool to create online quizzes, in Fortnightly Mailing Number 5. Thanks to Barb Lesniak for highlighting the rapid development which Mike has made to Quizmaster, which has since won a 2002-2003 "Golden Web Award", and is also available as a standalone Windows version.

BBCi. Dick Moore highlighted the BBC's online language courses, for example Spanish Steps, and French Steps. Worth looking at both of them as they each take a different approach.

Oddments[back to top]

Much better than the bin. Fifteen year old Fergus Ferrier has set up Cartridges4charity, a new UK-wide Web-based recycling scheme that recycles printer consumables and mobile phones in aid of three charities.

A not for profit online computer shop. I recently bought a cordless mouse from After Hourse Computers, an online store which sells a wide range of devices, at reasonable prices, with profits going to the West Kent Neuro Rehabilitation Unit. Fast and friendly service, even though you cannot pay by credit card.

Use your laptop for 40 hours between refills. According to Reuters, NEC and other manufacturers are developing hydrogen or methanol powered fuel-cells to replace rechargable batteries in devices like laptops, and hope to have these on the market in 2 years time. Perhaps a better solution than the tiny petrol-engine driven generator featured previously.

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Last updated - 13/7/2003; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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