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Mailing Number 53 - 22 May 2005

274 subscribers on publication date. 11920 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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Japanese universities to make their teaching materials freely available. In cooperation with MIT, 6 Japanese Universities have launched the Japan Open CourseWare Alliance, to "provide a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world".

IBM encourages employees to use Firefox. IBM is one of the first really big multinational companies actively to encourage and provide helpdesk support for the use of the Open Source browser Firefox. C|Net News.Com article.

Becta's landmark report on Open Source Software in schools. Becta has now published:

Dutch universities make research output freely available on-line. The DAREnet Search Engine allows searching in the repositories of all Dutch Universities and related academic organisations, through two related interfaces, both of which can be tried below - in a slightly cut-down form - on one or more unrestricted names and/or keywords. Alternatively, and as a better long-term option, you can access the search interface directly from the DAREnet website. At the bottom of the search results a link is usefully provided to a Google Scholar search on the same search term.

Cream of Science gives access to "25,000 top-quality publications by over 200 top scientists in the Netherlands", with about 60% freely available, and the remainder with copyright restrictions.

Search in Cream of Science
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DAREnet gives access to a broader collection that is freely available. As of May 2005 DAREnet consists of 47,000 digital objects. The freely available publications in "Cream of Science" can also be found here.

Search in DAREnet
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Resources [back to top]

Virtual Learning Environments: Practitioner Perspectives on Good Practice. This new report by by Professor Clive Holtham and Dr Nigel Courtney, Cass Business School, City University, London, examines the benefits and disadvantages of VLEs, and argue that whilst VLEs have value-added potential, they also represent a high risk strategy. To encourage you to get hold of it, here are the "10 fundamentals" from the report's conclusions.

1. The concept of e-learning is probably now close to or just past its sell-by date. Indeed, continued over-focus on this as a concept, especially in isolation from other important parallel considerations, may actually hold back the future trajectory of technology-supported learning.

2. Much greater attention should be given to a specific e-learning framework, developed in the UK by Peter Goodyear, which has had nowhere near the publicity that it deserves at both national and institutional levels. Effective networked learning in higher education: notes and guidelines [800 kB PDF].

3. Typically a VLE implementation can be perfectly valid for a specific pedagogic strategy and corresponding tactics but may be invalid for other strategies and tactics.

4. The over-emphasis in the UK on the VLE, which arguably has as much to do with managerial as with pedagogic values, runs the risk of 'crowding out' other types of technology-enhanced learning and of other types of non-technology innovations in higher education teaching and learning.

5. Significant indirect or hidden costs arise if the potential benefits of a VLE are to be achieved. These include:

  • upgrading of physical classrooms and learning space generally;
  • re-organisation of the administrative workflow procedures (as opposed to the centralised record systems) that are so crucial to the actual detailed student experience;
  • re-thinking both pedagogic strategies and pedagogic tactics;
  • re-skilling virtually all staff, including institutional management, academics, administrators and IT/library staff to support the re-thought strategies and tactics.
6. For institutions advanced in their VLE thinking, there is a tension between the single standard monolithic VLE and a 'best of breed' approach that enables plugging in or replacement of various software components.

7. Alternatives to the 'monolithic' VLE, including public domain and open source VLEs, are emerging strongly. Some, such as 'blogs' and 'wikis', are completely different avenues to electronic publishing and collaboration and can be relatively inexpensive. Although UK universities seem to be surprisingly reluctant to spend less rather than more money on technology solutions, one can envisage a point where universities can 'afford' to dramatically reduce the space and budget allocated to on-campus computer laboratories, for example.

8. Emerging educational technology standards such as IMS are worthy of support but proprietary vendors should not be allowed to use these as barriers to block more innovative software suppliers.

9. The long-term intellectual and practical viability of designed and indexed 'learning objects' in higher education and within VLEs has yet to be proven, despite the massive effort and energy of some very high calibre academics and support staff. The culture of higher education remains amenable to assemblies of learning assets that are much more informal in nature and akin to 'bricolage'.

10. The national governance arrangements for technology-supported teaching and learning remain fragmented between several bodies, notably JISC and the Higher Education Academy, and this is often reproduced within individual institutions. JISC has carried out some excellent recent work on VLE implementation that deserves wide circulation and promotion.

The report has just been published by the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE), and is accessible if, like several readers of Fortnightly Mailing, you have an email address within one of OBHE's member organisations. Find out if you work for a subscribing organisation.   Download the report - [850 kB PDF] .

Clean HTML from Microsoft Word. Htmltag, by Jos Kingston, an old friend, is a VBA macro which runs from within Word to produce squeaky-clean HTML. Not for the feint-hearted: and very powerful. For example, it was used by Jos to create the full web version of Personalisation in Presentation Services.

Social (im)mobility. Thanks to Dick Moore for this elegant New York Times animation showing US social mobility.

Graph paper. Thanks to Jeremy Hughes for this top quality source of a huge range of free PDF files of different graph papers.

Demystifying e-learning technical frameworks. These two guides - "An exploration of the technologies underpinning the e-learning framework (ELF) for the non-technical among us" - by Sarah Holyfield, may help people who, like me, are sometimes (usually?!) rather mystified by discussion about the "correct direction" for e-learning technology.

Expect JISC's use of the term "e-Learning Framework" to soon change to something less specifically focussed on e-learning.

Backstage at the BBC. Via David Jennings I found, the "BBC's developer network to encourage innovation and support new talent". Below, for example, is a map from, which is overlaid with news from the BBC's web site.

map fragment map fragment map fragment map fragment map fragment map fragment
map fragment map fragment map fragment map fragment map fragment map fragment
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Amsterdam Gao Cork Rome Albuquerque Belize city An najaf Tallinn Murmansk Tromso Montreal Madrid Port harcourt Rio de Janeiro Guadalajara San Andres Nairobi Porto alegre Fort-de-France Cairo Agadir Ulyanovsk Soweto Karachi Atlanta Bucharest Port-au-prince

Oddments[back to top]

George Galloway and Jeremy Paxman. The video of George Galloway being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, in the small hours of 6 May 2005, after the UK General Election, provides a strong insight into the personalities of both men, particularly Galloway's.

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Last updated - 23/5/2005; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

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