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Mailing Number 57 - 11 September 2005

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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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Hurricane Katrina. Up to 250,000 students have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. By 10 September over 200 US universities and community colleges had signed up with the Sloan Consortium to offer free online degree-level courses to students from institutions closed by Hurricane Katrina, and to students serving in the US National Guard whose studies have been interrupted by being called to active duty in the aftermath of the hurricane. Meanwhile Blackboard Inc. is providing affected academic institutions an online home for their autumn 2005 e-learning programs at no cost.

Epic plc to be taken over by the Huveaux plc. Epic plc is a major and successful UK e-learning company. I've occasionally reviewed Epic's often useful e-learning White Papers in Fortnightly Mailing, and some readers may have read an online interview with me which appeared in Epic's July Newsletter. Over the past few months Epic has had a friendly "suitor". At the end of July the boards of Huveaux and Epic announced the terms of a recommended share and cash offer [68 kB PDF] for Huveaux, to acquire Epic, with approval to be sought for the deal from Huveaux's shareholders at an Extraordinary General Meeting, on 7 September. (Huveaux was formed in 2001 with the objective of "building a substantial publishing and media business focused on the creation and delivery of "must have" information across both the public and private sectors".) On 12 August, Futuremedia plc, another UK-based e-learning company, just round the corner in Brighton from Epic, also announced its interest in buying Epic, but by 18 August, Huveaux had gained control of Epic, rendering Futuremedia's interest irrelevant. Donald Clark, Epic's Chief Executive, will stand down from this role, and become a consultant to Huveaux.

Open University threatened by new fee regime. Interview in the 12/9/2005 Financial Times with Brenda Gourlay, Vice-chancellor of the OU in which she argues that the new fee regime will have a particularly bad effect on the part time adult students which make up the bulk of the OU's intake.

Online GCSE and now AS Level English - results. Students at The Sheffield College, where I used to work, continue to get exceptionally good results when taking English courses by on-line distance learning. The English GCSE Online results were the best ever, with, yet again, a 100% A-C pass rate [61%], and over 61.5% achieving A* or A grade [15.1%], 34.5% B [19.5%], and 4% C [26.5%]. [National average figures are in square brackets.] Meanwhile the first cohort of students on the college's AS Level English course achieved a 100% pass rate [96.5%], with 31% achieving A grade [16.5%], 34.5% B [21.1%], and 27.5% C [25.9%]. English GCSE Online. English AS and A2 Online.

Launch of CMALT. Last week the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), for which I work half-time, launched CMALT, its certification scheme for learning technologists, with strong support from key UK stakeholders, as well as several individuals who have already completed CMALT. You can download the CMALT prospectus, guidance for applicants, and the CMALT portfolio template, from the CMALT area of the ALT web site, from where you can also join an opt-in low volume mailing list to keep you in touch with CMALT.

Exhibiting at BETT....... ..... is tricky if you are not a business but a group of school-teachers wanting to promote Moodle, the Open Source VLE. BETT is a huge, exhausting, 4 day UK educational technology exhibition, attended by tens of thousands of (mainly school) teachers, several hundred exhibitors, government ministers, and the staff of government agencies. HelpUsGetToBETT is raising the 3000 needed to (just about) cover the costs of exhibiting. Conceivably a big Linux business like Redhat might give them a hand.

IMS Compliance Program. The IMS Global Learning Consortium, which "develops and promotes the adoption of open technical specifications for interoperable learning technology" has launched a compliance programme, with support cited from organisations like Ufi and JISC in the UK, Advanced Distributed Learning in the US, the Department of Education, Science and Training in Australia, and Microsoft. The programme, which is run for IMS by the Wisconsin Testing Organization "enables vendors to receive an 'IMS Conformant' mark for products that support IMS specifications for interoperability".

Resources [back to top]

Personalisation of work. 20 page testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions [368 kB DOC], given by Tamara Erickson of the Concours Group on 26 May. Contains hard-hitting and interesting data and summary narrative about:

  • the changing demographics and attitudes of the workforce in the developed world;
  • the way in which technology is changing the way in which businesses are operating.

Argues that employers chronically underestimate the importance to workers of stimulating work, and that very few have a realistic sense of how many workers feel "dead-ended" and why, or any idea what to do about it. Suggests that one way forward is the "personalisation" of work: workers differ in what they want from a job, so management's role is to gear work around individual workers' needs. Fanciful? Possibly. But an interesting angle nonetheless.

New version of the World Wide Web Consortium's Markup Validator released. In August W3C released Version 0.7 of its excellent Validator. You can now validate HTML from the same interface in any one of three ways: by URL, by file upload, or by copying and pasting the HTML directly into a form. Try it.

Interesting interviews by Derek Morrison. Derek Morrison is Director of e-Learning at the University of Bath. He edits Auricle, a well-respected HE-oriented blog about e-learning. The blog contains several "podcasts" - that is MP3 files which you can download onto your PC or an MP3 player. The most recent is a 27 minute interview with Morag Munro of Dublin City University about that institution's experiences of migrating from proprietary systems to the open source Moodle virtual learning environment. Auricle Podcasts.

RDN Virtual Training Suite updated. Many of the 70 or so free tutorials in the Resource Discovery Network's Virtual Training Suite have been updated for the 2005/2006 Academic Year. The tutorials are designed to be used as part of taught courses, either as a resource to base a session around, or as a free-standing tutorial.

Keynote presentations from the 2005 ALT Conference. One reason for Fortnightly Mailing's recent gap in publication (the other was a holiday) has been my work involvement in the ALT Conference, which finished last week in Manchester. Over the next few weeks a large number of papers will be uploaded to the ALT-C web site by presenters, to go with the abstracts that ALT put on the site in advance of the conference. For the moment you are limited to the presentations used by Etienne Wenger and Carol Twigg in their keynote speeches. An overview of the 2006 conference, to be held in Edinburgh, between 5 and 7 September, co-charied by Terry Mayes and Ron Oliver, has also been published, with four themes centred on the "next generations" of learners, learning, technology, and institutions.

Free on line courses from HP. Via Kate Butler from Stephen Downes, details of HP's free, mainly instructor-led online courses, with a wide range of topics. The six steps to computer security "quick course" is worth a look, and would be worth encouraging home-based online learners to do. If any reader has direct experience of HP's on line courses I'm keen to hear from you.

Yotophoto - a source of copyright-free images. Again via Kate Butler from Stephen Downes, Yotophoto is "the first and only internet search engine for finding free-to-use stock photographs and images".

Oddments[back to top]

Guardian launches in "Berliner" format. Astute comparison by David Jennings of the newly designed Guardian newspaper with a strange waterproof and tear-proof "10 years hence" prototype that the Guardian published in 1994.

Clever Flash animation. Despite the "faux infantile" handwriting, I was quite taken by the "book" interface in this web-page, which promotes a music video to a song by a band called Nizlopi. Thanks to Barry Phillips for the link.

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Last updated - 12/9/2005; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

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