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Mailing Number 41 - 13 September 2004

215 subscribers on publication date. 11727 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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Multikulti wins Global Ideas Bank award. I featured Multikulti, a UK web site which supports citizenship through the delivery of culturally appropriate and accurately translated information about welfare law, including debt, employment, health, housing, immigration and welfare benefits, in Fortnightly Mailing Number 37. Multikulti uses MKDOC as its content management system because of MKDOCs sophisticated support for multilinguality, right to left, and non-Roman alphabet languages. Last year Creative Commons won the Global Ideas Bank's "Communications Social Innovations Award". The 2004 award went to Multikulti.

Merlot links up with Blackboard and WebCT. Merlot is a free and open repository of over 10,000 peer-reviewed online learning materials, created and supported by a community of several thousand members. Here, for example, is DNA from the beginning, an animated tutorial on DNA, genes, and heredity. Both Blackboard and WebCT have recently announced partnerships with Merlot to make it easier for Merlot resources to be used within either learning environment. Announcements:

GCSE English Online - 2004 results. For the third year running students on the Sheffield College's one year Online GCSE English course, have produced outstanding results, with 83 candidates achieving the following (national average comparisons are given in brackets):

  • A*/A - 40% (14.7%);
  • B - 47% (18.6%);
  • C - 13% (26.6%).

The retention rate this year was 77%, which is 5% better than for the equivalent face-to-face course. Of the 25 who did not complete the course, 10 now plan to do it in the coming year. Alongside Online GCSE English the college is also running an exceptionally successful "blended" pre-GCSE English course - expect awards to be won for this - and, this year, will be piloting an Online AS English Language/Literature course. In addition, staff from the Belfast Institute (the largest FE college in Northern Ireland) will be teaching a version of the Sheffield College's course, hosted in Sheffield, but with an Irish prose section which has been written by staff from Belfast Institute.

The Debate on Internet Governance: What's at stake? Esther Dyson, Founding Chair of ICANN (which coordinates the assignment of the domain names, IP address numbers, and the stable operation of the Internet's root server system), Markus Kummer, Chair of the Secretariat of the UN working group on Internet Governance, and several other internet luminaries will speak in London at a free afternoon discussion-meeting on 24/9/2004, organised by the Oxford Internet Institute and the Internet Society. Here are fuller details, including the Agenda, and booking arrangements.

A Google browser, and Mozilla makes progress against Internet Explorer. Interesting piece by Jason Kottke about whether Google may be thinking of launching a browser based on Mozilla, via Rafat Ali's daily PaidContent newsletter. To see how Mozilla is gaining a real foothold, here are some figures showing monthly changes in the share that different browsers have amongst users of the stunning W3Schools web site. (This is partly a roundabout way of highlighting once more this excellent, vast, free, regularly updated, learning resource about everything to do with web-development.)

BBC to outsource its whole IT function, and Economist article on outsourcing to India. Interview from Computing with Bill Varney, the BBC's Chief Technology Officer, about the BBC's plans to sell off its entire IT operation to Siemens for £2bn, and an article from the Economist about the growing tendency for IT departments as well as call-centres to be outsourced to India (let me know if this link becomes inaccessible).

Resources [back to top] Stuart Sutherland, who had a big hand in it, sent me details of a global online cancer care learning site developed by UK charity Nurse Learning ( in partnership with oncology nurses and specialist health professionals. Impressively, CancerNursing now has 4,500 registered learners.

JISC e-learning frameworks site (ELF). The ELF describes itself as an initiative by JISC, the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training, Carnegie Mellon Learning Services Architecture Lab and others "to build a common approach to Service Oriented Architectures for education". Plenty of background material on the site, including Scott Wilson's, Kerry Blinco's, and Daniel Rehak's Service-Oriented Frameworks: Modelling the infrastructure for the next generation of e-Learning Systems [863 kB PDF]. This aims to explain, to policy makers, the benefits to the e-learning community of adopting a service-oriented framework to infrastructure development - i.e. (so it seems to me) designing a system down as a set of interlinked services, which are aligned to the educational or business processes which are needed, and which dovetail with each other, in such a way that a particular service can be removed and replaced without the other services needing to be altered, and so that one service can, say, be shared by several others. A technically fluent policy maker's comments on (critique of?) the document would be make interesting reading.

Understanding cryptography. Without cryptography, there would be no e-commerce. RSA laboratories (named after the three academic mathematicians - Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman - whose understanding of how difficult it is to factorise the product of two large prime numbers back into its component primes led to the development of RSA public key cryptography) maintains this comprehensive Cryptography FAQ site.

What Works Clearinghouse. The What Works Clearinghouse (a U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences site "to provide educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a central and trusted source of scientific evidence of what works in education") currently has systematic literature reviews about:

  • Peer-Assisted Learning;
  • Middle School Math Curricula;

with reviews due "soon" on:

  • Adult Literacy;
  • Behavior;
  • Character Education;
  • Dropout Prevention;
  • English Language Learning;
  • Reading.

eCornell. eCornell is a subsidiary of Cornell University that offers executive education and professional development online. The eCornell research blog gathers some of the research that eCornell staff collect about online learning. It is well structured, frequently updated, broad, with no interpration or judgements, and with a large number of links to e-learning resources world wide.

Change detection service. Years ago a useful free service called Netmind - since discontinued - enabled you to set up an alerting service on a particular web page and be sent an emailed update if the page changed. Changedetect, which I found through Michael Fagan's excellent and already widely publicised URLinfo tool, now offers a completely equivalent service.

Review of synchronous communication tools. This 50 minute presentation by Robin Good, implemented using Macromedia Breeze, gives a thorough and current overview of synchronous collaboration tools and their use in the academic world.

Oddments[back to top]

Glen Gould did more than play Bach. Glen Gould is best known for his interpretations of Bach and Haydn, especially the former. But he also produced and narrated innovative, funny, and pretty extraordinary radio programmes with distinction, as these examples on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation web site archive show.

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Last updated - 17/9/2004; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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