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Mailing Number 47 - 16 January 2005

245 subscribers on publication date. 10328 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.   A useful source of market and academic information. Highly recommended. - Epic plc Email Newsletter, UK.

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Open Source Software. JISC's Open Source Software Watch service is organising a free conference in London on 20/1/2004. The conference will explore UK government open source policy and its implementation in UK higher and further education. Details.

UKeU. "If you are going to apportion blame you should put it on me," says Sir Brian Fender, former Chair of UKeU's Holding Company, during 2.5 hours of evidence to the 12/1/2005 Parliamentary Education and Skills Committee. Personally I found the whole transcript worth listening to, especially the evidence from Leslie Stretch, VP, Sun Microsystems UK Ltd, and David Beagle, Sun's Account Manager for the UKeU project. This contained an interesting explanation by Sun of how its input into the project was valued, how it planned to secure long-term revenue through its involvement in UKeU, and how Sun owns most of the IP in the UKeU e-learning platform. According to the 14/1/2005 Times Higher Education Supplement, Sun is now "close to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with HEFCE that could allow the UKeU learning platform to be used free of charge by British universities".

Ruth Kelly Speech on e-Government. On the day she took up office as Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly gave a speech about e-Government [100 kB PDF] at a conference organised by IPPR. The speech does not refer to e-learning, but is explicit on what Kelly sees as the purpose of the "e" in e-Government. Kelly's schools-focussed speech at last week's BETT exhibition - totally silent on where things stand with the DfES e-learning strategy - is here [38 kB DOC]. Update: 28/3/2006. Ruth Kelly's speech is now on the Cabinet Office web site.

Predictions for 2005. These abound at the moment. eLearn Magazine's are from a wide enough range of people, including Donald Norman, Elliott Masie, Masaaki Kurosu, Kinshuk, and Stephen Downes, to be worth at least scan-reading.

Resources [back to top]

Publish or Be Damned. Transcript of BBC Radio documentary about open access publication. Broadcast shortly before Christmas 2004, it contains a thorough, business-oriented analysis of the economics and politics of open access publication, with interviews with academics, open and non-open access publishers, librarians, and politicians.

How much new information is created each year? Researchers at the University of Berkeley try to quantify it. "Newly created information is stored in four physical media - print, film, magnetic and optical - and seen or heard in four information flows through electronic channels - telephone, radio and TV, and the Internet. This study of information storage and flows analyses the year 2002 in order to estimate the annual size of the stock of new information recorded in storage media, and heard or seen each year in information flows." According to the study:

  • the World Wide Web contains about 170 terabytes of information on its surface - seventeen times the volume of data in the US Library of Congress print collections;
  • instant messaging generates five billion messages a day (750 GB), or 274 terabytes a year;
  • email generates about 400,000 terabytes of new information each year worldwide.

Adaptation, Personalisation and 'Self-Centred' Design. Interesting chapter by Dan Hill from the official DTI report, 'Innovation through people-centred design'. Dan Hill is Head of Interactive Technology and Design at BBC Radio and Music Interactive. His perceptive City of Sound site is mainly about design and music, but difficult to categorise. Adaptation, Personalisation and 'Self-Centred' Design attempts to "assess whether the companies we encountered - Volvo, BMW, Intel, IBM, Jump, IDEO, Adaptive Path, Microsoft, Nike etc. - were engaging with some of the principles around adaptive design, and to discuss the relationship between adaptive design, people-centred design, social software and design research". Complete DTI report.

E-learning is dead. Long live learning! Polemic by Teemu Leinonen on the Surf web site (via the ALT Fortnightly Digest). Extracts:

When implementing learning - with "e" or without it - the focus should be on building communities, offering people spaces and facilitating their advances in the community's area of interests. At the same time, the community should involve new generations, have them take part in its activities. Unfortunately in e-learning we too often pay most of our attention to such issues as technology, e-learning platforms, ready-made content, standards, management of learning and automated assessment.
In future we will see more companies and universities that will consciously terminate their e-learning projects. This does not mean that these organizations would not be interested in using ICT in their learning-related operations. The products and services offered under the term "e-learning" simply do not serve their needs.

Games. Thanks to George Siemens for spotting Game Theory for Managers, a course by David McAdams of the Sloan School of Management, with materials available from the MIT OpenCourseWare web site.

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for January 3. Interesting if slightly self-congratulatory review of the current deficiencies in how hyperlinks work, and outline of how Nielsen would like to see this change.

Business benefits of implementing a learning management system (LMS). e2train has published a white paper on the business benefits of implementing a LMS. According to e2train, "the white paper was inspired by work recently undertaken in partnership with clients, who have actively analysed the ROI on their Learning Management Systems".

Electronic performance support systems (EPSS). LearningGuide, a company with an interest in EPSS systems has published Sustainable learning and support in 21C enterprises - [450 kB PDF] . "This paper shows what EPSS mean for an organisation, where and when should EPSS (should) be used and why is an EPSS a functionality (sic) and financially well-considered investment. The paper is meant for everyone who is responsible, or feels responsible, for learning within organisations."

Open Source at the Core of a National eLearning Strategy. This new report by Ken Udas, Director of e-Learning at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, discusses the role of open source software as the organising principle behind New Zealand's national e-learning strategy, bublished by the Observatory on Bordlerless Higher Education (OBHE). [You need an email address within one of OBHE's member organisations to access the report, which I know several readers have.] Find out if you work for a subscribing organisation. Download the report - [465 kB PDF] .

Oddments[back to top]

Climate change

The polar bears stare forlornly at Hudson Bay. It's late November and they should be out on the sea ice hunting ring seals, but the ice hasn't formed and the bears are starving. Ursus maritimus doesn't hunt on land and normally fasts for months each summer. Now, however, the summers are growing longer across most of the Arctic, and the waters of Hudson Bay are ice-free for three weeks longer than they were thirty years ago.

From On Thinning Ice, Michael Byers's disturbing London Review of Books article about the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. The latter is the definitive study of the impact of global warming on the climate in the Arctic. Here is a further extract from the section of Byers's review which concerns the US Government's attitude to climate change.

George W. Bush and his advisers are so deeply embedded in the oil, gas and coal industries that even the most rigorous scientific analysis cannot shake their commitment to fossil fuels, or make them acknowledge that burning these fuels has serious environmental consequences. In April 2001, Dick Cheney said of his energy plan (a plan that Enron helped to write): 'Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.' The vice-president was wrong: switching the US car and truck fleet to currently available petrol-electric hybrid technology would eliminate the country's need for Middle Eastern oil. Contemporary corporate America and the politicians who serve it seem unable to think beyond next month's share price, or to understand the true price of oil.
The Bush administration's reluctance to address climate change can be partly explained by the tendency of right-wing Americans to see human relations in competitive, individualistic, game-theory terms. From this perspective, climate change presents a collective action problem ('the tragedy of the commons', as Garrett Hardin termed it) that simply can't be resolved. With hundreds of governments, thousands of stateless transnational corporations and billions of consumers relentlessly pursuing growth inside fossil fuel-based economies, the necessarily co-operative exercise of stabilising the atmosphere seems destined never to get going.
A more sinister explanation for Washington's resistance has to do with the centrality of military strategy in contemporary policy-making. Donald Rumsfeld and others like him have apparently calculated that climate change will enhance rather than detract from the country's long-term security. The US, with its flexible economy, temperate location, low population density and access to Canadian water, oil, natural gas and agriculture, would suffer less than other major countries as a result of climate change. 'With diverse growing climates, wealth, technology and abundant resources,' a report prepared last year for the Pentagon concluded, 'the United States could likely survive shortened growing cycles and harsh weather conditions without catastrophic losses . . . even in this continuous state of emergency the US will be positioned well compared to others.' (The report is available here .) In comparison, China and India would struggle to cope with severe storms, decreasing agricultural production, energy shortfalls and mass population displacements, while the EU is ill prepared for the Siberian climate that would follow the collapse of the Gulf Stream, not to mention the waves of environmental refugees from North Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East that would hit European shores. If the weakness of one's opponents is as important as one's own strength, the emissions generated in the US by SUVs and climate-controlled houses could be conceived as an insidious weapon in a ruthless struggle for power.

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Last updated - 28/3/2006; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

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