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Mailing Number 43 - 18 October 2004

219 subscribers on publication date. 14686 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.

Please send me feedback directly about these mailings, concerning content, design, or material I ought to feature in the future. You can also send me anonymous feedback using the radio buttons at the bottom of this page. If you think others will find these mailings useful or interesting, you can use this form to tell them.

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Creative Commons UK. This Mailing is published under a Creative Commons Licence, which permits people to copy, distribute, alter or reuse its content for non-commercial purposes, provided that:

  • the original author is given credit;
  • if the content is altered, built upon or redistributed, then an identical licence should be used.

In the case of a newsletter such as this one, the licence is somewhat academic, and I am bothering to use it partly so as to publicise the existence of the Creative Commons Licence, which I believe should be widely used for material, such as educational material and the results of research, which has been developed with public funding. The Creative Commons Licence was developed in the US and is probably unenforceable under the UK legal system. For this reason it would not be useable by, say, the BBC when it launches its Creative Archive. Creative Commons is now working with partners - in the UK's case, Oxford University's Centre for Socio-Legal Studies - on a wide range of country-specific licenses. As can be seen from the discussion archives associated with the UK activity, there is a clear BBC angle to this work. Current version of the UK Licence.

Google Desktop Search. Google has launched a new service called Desktop Search. It works for people with PCs running Windows 2000 or MX and is a small programme you can download from Google. Once installed, the programme spends several hours indexing Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files, your browser history, and, if you are using Outlook for email, your email archives. Once the indexing process is complete you can then use a Google-like search window to either search the web, or search your own PC, or both at the same time. First impressions are that Desktop Search provides a far quicker and more efficient way of finding files than the standard Windows tools. From Danny Sullivan's 14 October article - A Closer Look at Desktop Privacy and Search - you can see that there are some privacy issues with Desktop Search even if you disable the feature that causes Desktop Search to send "non-personal usage data and crash reports" to Google.

National Learning Network. For English readers in Further Education there is now a page on the NLN web site which summarises the recent changes to the NLN management arrangements, and which promises that updates on progress will be posted over the coming months. Worth keeping an eye on.

New QAA Code on distributed learning. The UK's Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has published a new edition of its Code of practice on collaborative provision and flexible and distributed learning (including e-learning). [I was a member of the Working Group which was consulted by QAA during the drafting process.] I feel a vague sense of responsibility for the Code's single diagram:

Diagram from QAA Code of Practice

which envisages a space "within which a student's experience of learning at any one time could be represented as a function of the size of the group of learners, the location of learning, and the mode of learning".

The sections of the Code which are specific to e-learning are in Part B.

One Canadian's Wireless Neighborhood Network Could Someday Serve Us All. For readers who are interested in how the wireless and Open Source technologies, along with "Voice over IP" have the potential to change the way citizens access and pay for digital content and other internet-based services, this 30/9/2004 article by Robert X. Cringely, via Rafat Ali, is worth reading.

Resistance limits e-learning growth. Interesting 12/10/2004 article by Jennifer Foreshaw summarising a recent report from the Cape Group, an Australian human resources consultancy, which claims that resistance to change is the biggest challenge to e-learning, followed by IT issues such as bandwidth, firewalls and infrastructure.

Resources [back to top]

E-Learning in Museums and the Tertiary Education Sector. This extensive, current, looks-like-a-labour-of-love, E-learning knowledge base by Nadia Arbach of Mackenzie Ward Research has an attractive look and feel to it. It could do with a search tool.

ALT-J special issue on computer-aided assessment (CAA). The September 2004 issue of the Association for Learning Technology Journal, for whom I work half-time, is devoted to CAA. You can access abstracts of the main articles from the contents page, with full text accessible online if you work for an organisation which subscribes to the Journal. Alternatively, you can join ALT for UKP 47 per year and have the journal posted to you 3 times per year.

Mastery, Mystery, and Misery: The Ideologies of Web Design. Jakob Nielsen's August 2004 Alertbox, though it says nothing new, reiterates clearly that from a user's point of view the simpler a web site is, and the more it sticks to established standards (such as the underlining of hyperlinks), and the use of plain language to describe options, the better. For a contrasting critique of Nielsen's approach see Bitching Like Elvis.

Text to speech conversion. The UK's Department of Culture Media and Sport web site claims to be the first Government department website to be made available by telephone to people without access to a computer, using a telephone key-pad for navigation. UK readers can try out this process - which takes a lot of getting used to - by ringing 0845 3330850 (local rates apply).

Meanwhile, the capability of text to speech conversion software is improving generally, as you can hear if you type some text - up to about 40 words - into the field below (in English, French, or German), and select a speaker using the drop-down menu. Press the SPEAK button and a .wav file will arrive on your PC, which, with luck, will launch your default player and speak the text. Alternatively, if you select the check-box, prior to pressing the SPEAK button, a new page will appear with a link to the audio file. This is in place of the usual redirection to the sound clip. The link is good for about 5 minutes, after which the .wav file is deleted from the server to save disk space. There is more detail about the research behind this system on the AT&T Labs web site.

Text:   (Enter text, choose a voice, then click the SPEAK button.)


Display a link for the audio file.

Oddments[back to top]

Reporting for the Wall Street Journal in Baghdad. This gripping email from Farnas Fassihi, working for the Wall Street Journal in Baghdad, provides a bitter insight into the Western news-gathering process in Iraq.

How to kill a web site with one email. Article in The Register describing a Dutch investigation showing how, under new European e-Commerce Directive, ISPs are getting very touchy about allegations - even false ones - that a hosted site breaches copyright. Link to 1/10/2004 lecture by Sjoera Nas [242 kB PDF] describing the full investigation.

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Last updated - 31/3/2005; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

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