Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Month: September 2006 Page 1 of 2

Today's knowledge climate – why Webfuse approach is better

George Siemens has a online presentation intended to introduce key concepts for a presentation he is giving at Online Educa.

The second slide attempts to characterise today’s knowledge climate. For me, each of these characteristics resonate with the ideas behind Webfuse and why a “LMS” implementation makes better sense implemented ateleologically, rather than teleologically.

The characteristics are

  • Continual suspended certainty
  • Connected specialisation
  • Complexity and co-creation
  • Continual
  • Chaotic

Slide 5 is a nice representation of how life needs to stop for learning and how it no longer represents the current reality.

Slide 7 talks about the problem with plan-driven approaches and its limitations.

What is online teaching

What is online teaching? asks

  • What is involved in online teaching?
  • Why is it needed?
  • What purpose does it serve?
  • Who makes the decsion to teach online?

My work has always had a diffusion basis, sort of. My interest starts with the people who make the adoption decision. Which in universities tends to be the academics. So I’d like to reverse the order of the questions.

I’m answering because I see it as an interesting exercise in “verbalising” my beliefs.
Who makes the decision to teach online?

Generally, it is the academics. But they are influenced by a whole range of influences including:

  • Student demand – I’ve seen aspects of online teaching added because of students seeing it in other courses and liking it.
  • Word of mouth – positive comments/experiences from others
  • Experimentation – All of these contribute to a desire to “put a toe in the water” and experiment
  • Organisational expectations – i.e. “all courses shall be online”
  • To address specific problems – my personal reason for starting in online learning was that I had distance students who I could not easily communicate with because of geographic distance.

I’m sure there are more.

I must admit that I have a lot of time for the perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use factors as strong contributors to the adoption of innovations, particularly IT based ones. For example, application to adoption of web 2.0 and elearning 2.0 and some local work on its application.

What purpose does it serve?

Initially, it’s to serve the purpose identified by the people who made the decision. For example, my purpose was to enable communication.

But implementation of innovations in a complex situation is not something you can easily control and it often ends up serving an entirely different purpose.

Why is it needed?

Continuing my strong problem driven perspective. It is needed, for many, because it solves a specific problem. It’s why I got started with it.

Increasingly I think that Web 2.0, specifically with its interesting enablers around social computing etc, might allow us to move beyond solving problems with existing methods and develop brand new methods.

What is involved in online teaching?

To me it is entirely contextual. That’s why I started with “who makes the decision”. The answer to who and why generates that answer to what is involved.

My reasons and purpose for online teaching drive what I will try to do and hence drive the requirements.

This is why I think most institutional approaches to eLearning, by starting with an evaluation of existing learning management systems, is the wrong way around.

You can’t choose the tool until you determine what you want to do. It is very hard to identify upfront what you want to do with online learning for a range of factors including:

  • Academics and their teaching demonstrate a great deal of diversity
  • We still don’t really know how best to do online teaching in a range of specific cases, let alone all cases.

FERPA as a barrier to open communication

A discussion on a mailing list indicates that government legislation may be a barrier to the Web 2.0 idea of making everything open.  In someway related to, or tied up with the issue of privacy etc.

In the discussion some are worried that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)  means that online discussions for a course can’t be made completely open.

I’m not a lawyer but reading the page I wonder if participation in a online discussion is actually part of the student record.

Either way the point is that having everything completly open is not always possible.

UC Berkeley already using Google Video

There are no new ideas.

UC Berkeley are already using Google Video to host course videos.

The content on this page —drawn from campus seminars, courses and events—is just one part of UC Berkeley’s commitment to the broadest possible dissemination of knowledge for the benefit of our state, the nation and the world.

Social computing

Jeremy Geelan has a
post about “Social Computing”: Oxymoron – or the biggest new thing since the web itself?.

A nice summary overview, with some good references. Including a Forrester report that includes the following quote

“To thrive in an era of Social Computing, companies must abandon top-down management and communication tactics, weave communities into their products and services, use employees and partners as marketers, and become part of a living fabric of brand loyalists.”

Web 2.0 – change in people and society

A long and interesting post from Dion Hinchcliffe about a bunch of Web 2.0 stuff.

The bit that caught my eye was the section title “Web 2.0 is much more about a change in people and society than technology”

This resonates with all those Web 2.0 naysayers that point out that none of the technology in Web 2.0 is really new. What is new appears to be how that technology is bundled and leverage to enable people to do different things, and that there are people who are actually ready to do different things.

The blogosphere and other “Web 2.0” communities show that there are people who have changed, who are ready to “be Web 2.0”. But I’m not sure how widespread those people/views really are.

The eLearning 2.0 crowd is a pretty small proportion of all educators. I know that most of the people at my institution have little or no idea about this 2.0 stuff and the ideas of openness, sharing, remixing etc would be very challenging.

Getting the technology working is interesting and fun. It’s also easy compared to using and introducing the technology in a way that a majority of people within an organisation will change their current practices and be “2.0”.

Adoption of Web 2.0

A post that looks at how/if the adoption of Web 2.0/eLearning will occur. Will they or won’t they?

The basic premise is that its usefulness and ease of use that will be the major factors. And that for Web 2.0 tools ease of use should be quite high. So it all comes down to usefulness.

It’s a reasonable assumption, but I am wondering how other factors will influence adoption rates. Is it just these two? Probably yes.

So this will be somewhat problematic for my idea of Web 2.0 course sites. What will be the perceived usefulness of this idea to individual academics. Not much. It’s more likely to appeal to management. It won’t even appeal to the sys admin type staff.

It will be a very challenging idea to encourage adoption of.

groups and networks

Must take a closer look at this. A video from Stephen Downes explaining the difference between groups and networks. Has some strong resonances with some of my vague thoughts about group work.

"Web 2.0" applications/services used by students

Obviously asking the students is an important task. Here’s a list of applications considered useful for college students. Includes a long list of comments.

Some additions

  • NoteMesh a wiki site per class for students to share notes about a class
  • skrbl – shared whiteboard

Web 2.0 for Designers – features of a web 2.0 site

A 2005 article outlining 6 main themes in designing a web 2.0 site

  1. Writing semantic markup (transition to XML)
  2. Providing Web services (moving away from place)
  3. Remixing content (about when and what, not who or why)
  4. Emergent navigation and relevance (users are in control)
  5. Adding metadata over time (communities building social information)
  6. Shift to programming (separation of structure and style)

Another post builds on this through examination of Movietally using the 6 themes.

iTunes U – and the call for DRM

Another piece of evidence about the problems of making all (or even most) University teaching content free is this piece about DRM being one of the top requests from Universities for the next version of Apple’s iTune U

Web 2.0 tools

Other lists

Albert Ip has started a list of collaborative type tools available on the web. One of many, but a good start.

Misc tools

Efficient, effective, empowered learning

Terry Anderson has a post that points to a meme about “The people formerly known as students and teachers”.

In it he expand on a list of demands related to efficient, effective and empowered learning.

Lot’s of good stuff here.

Conversation, not content, is king

Many people can’t see the benefits of making content freely available.

This post suggest that it is conversation, not content, that is of strategic value in the learning process.

This is in response/connection to a link to Yale making some of its courses online. An emulation of MIT’s open courseware project.

This is one argument in the Web 2.0 course site proposal.

UnAPI as a basis for Web 2.0 course sites

Background Problem

Everytime someone is introduced to Webfuse they wonder why we haven’t sold it, made it available to other organisations.

Apart from being lazy, the real reason doesn’t seem to be accepted all that easily. i.e. that the whole idea behind Webfuse is that it is the “glue” between the various bits of software and the CQU context and consequently very specific to CQU isn’t widely accepted.

Making it more general

So with the web 2.0 course site idea (must get a better name – Webfuse 2.0?) need to think about a way of making it more portable to other institutions.

One approach would be to support the heavy weight education standards – IMS, SCORM and the like. I have a problem with that approach. Similarly, web services.

Some of the lightweight service stuff might work.

A solution?

UNAPI looks like it might be a solution. From the UNAPI description

unAPI is a tiny HTTP API any web application may use to co-publish discretely identified objects in both HTML pages and disparate bare object formats. It consists of three parts: an identifier microformat, an HTML autodiscovery link, and three HTTP interface functions, two of which have a standardized response format.

The idea would be that obtaining all the institutional information (course codes, names, students? etc) would be done via an UNAPI service. So porting it to another institution would be implementing that API for that institution.

Enterprise Web 2.0

Making the rounds of the blogosphere, or at least the little part I’m currently following, is an Enterprise Web 2.0 blog – “examining leadership and people issues raised by next-generation of web technologies”.

It includes a post Top 10 Management Fears about Enterprise Web 2.0. It includes a long list of comments and various other folk are posting about it.

These are issues that will need to be considered.

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