July 27, 2004
OPEN CONTENT: Friends of the Creative Domain
The Friends of the Creative Domain - a UK activist group created to foster free culture, free software, and open content - has put up a Wiki for gathering and organizing materials related to its campaigns. Its first project is to help the BBC win the right to put its archive of TV and radio programming online in the next version of the BBC's Charter, which is currently being negotiated.
(link via BoingBoing)
COPYRIGHT: This Song Is My Song
It was only a matter of time... the JibJab brothers, creators of the seemingly ubiquitous "This Land" parody, have been threatened with a lawsuit by the holders of the copyright to Woody Guthrie's classic song, who apparently fear that the parody will somehow corrupt the song's message. This is a particularly interesting development, considering Guthrie's standard copyright notice:
"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."(link via EFF)
July 26, 2004
COPYRIGHT: Fair Use & Academic Publishing
July 23, 2004
COPYRIGHT: Stop Thief!
In CogDogBlog this week, Alan Levine saves me some trouble and addresses this common student question:
"what code can I use to prevent people from viewing/stealing the source code of my web pages?"
July 22, 2004
COPYRIGHT: Illustrated Story
The Illustrated Story of Copyright by Edward Samuels, now out of print, is available online. With many examples and most (but not all) of the illustrations from the original text, this is an interesting and lively read (well, at least for a book about copyright).
There's a low-bandwidth version that contains thumbnails of the illustrations, as well as the high-bandwidth version. (Unfortunately, in both cases the formatting and layout are a bit bizarre, making the pages confusing and hard to read...You might be better off printing out sections you're interested in from the thumbnail version and looking at the images online.)
July 20, 2004
REGISTRATION: Should You Lose the Log-in?
One big question for educators who post free content on their site is whether or not to require users to register and log in to the site in order to access the content.
You can make a very good case for requiring login in exchange for access to free content....For example, for newspapers and other reputable for-profit enterprises, information gathered this way is generally used to target advertising or services to users or to compile marketing data. For nonprofit and educational organizations, it's often used for evaluation and reporting purposes.
But while an exchange of personal data for free content seems like a fair deal to some users, to others it's an invasion of privacy and an invitation for increased email spam.
The latter position often leads users to submit phony information and email addresses - or increasingly, as reported in this Wired News article, to turn to services such as bugmenot.com, which provides username and passwords for popular sites that require registration, or to use email addresses from sites like Mailinator or spamgourmet, which allow users to create single-use email accounts.
I don't give out my own email address or personal information unless I trust the site not to spam me and have a pretty good reason to believe I'll become a regular site user... instead I register using a few free email accounts I use only for this purpose and a fake name and address (which, like most of the addresses on Law & Order, would land you somewhere in the middle of the East River). While the ethics of giving out incorrect personal information might be questionable, based on the volume of spam in my free mail accounts, this has been a wise decision.
Required registration is an annoyance that most users would prefer to avoid, and some have reported that as many as 75% of Internet users have left a site at one point or another to avoid site registration.
However, as foundations and other funders increasingly require organizations to provide hard data and demographics, developers who need to collect information as part of a grant or to justify the expenditure of organizational resources on online distribution may feel that they have few other options for gathering information about who's really using their educational materials.
Log analysis can provide only limited information about users, and users rarely fill out surveys and other online requests for information when they are not required - for example, one very well-known and respected nonprofit organization I worked with didn't want to compel registration and went so far as to offer to send a gift to any users who filled out a survey during an evaluation of their free educational materials (at potentially considerable cost), but they still received only a tiny response.
(Of course, if many users are regularly providing false information, then much of what you collect is likely to be useless, and by requiring registration you might just be turning away some users and annoying others for no good reason.)
In general, I believe that site registration should be avoided if possible, but if you must require registration, keep the following tips in mind:
- Make it worthwhile. Make sure you are giving users something of value by registering - such as access to a community of users, customization, or other special services - and let users know in advance what they'll gain through registration.
- Explain why you're doing it. Let users know what you'll use their information for, reassure them that you won't spam them, and make sure you have a privacy statement users can review.
- Keep your survey form short. Users won't generally fill out long surveys, so ask for as little information as possible, and keep required fields to an absolute minimum. Avoid asking for information that might seem too personal
July 18, 2004
RESOURCES: Project Management Tools
This "tool box" from e-LearningGuru.com contains a variety of downloadable worksheets and calculators in Word and Excel for tasks related to project management, evaluation, and cost-benefit analysis.
The site also links to a Flash-based calculator from Ernst & Young designed to help calculate the potential cost savings for large companies of moving some portion of classroom-based training online. While the reliability of the calculation achieved is definitely questionable, this is an interesting exercise for those trying to make a "bottom line" case for online learning.
July 17, 2004
RESOURCES: Free On-line Resources for Teachers
From TechLearning, here is an interesting list of free resources for teachers. Highlights include links to the Hot Potatoes suite of programs for building simple interactive tests and Mark Damon's modifiable PowerPoint games (Jeopardy, Who wants to be a millionaire, Hollywood Squares, and the Weakest link).
(link via Educational Technology)
July 15, 2004
RESOURCES: Instructional Design Workbook
This workbook is an interesting resource from the University of South Alabama that gives a good overview of ISD issues and would work nicely as a supplement to a more comprehensive text.
It also contains some useful interactive exercises for the user to work through (but it's a bit awkward in terms of page design and navigation). The type on the home page is so small that I nearly didn't attempt to go any further, but the rest of it is easy to read and graphically interesting.
The program is in Authorware, so you may have to download a plugin to access it, but it's worth the effort.
(link via the DEOS-L list)
July 13, 2004
COURSE DESIGN: Interactive module planning
Having trouble writing up your own online module plans? The Interactive Unit Planner can help. While this is a bit "clunky" as a development tool for seasoned pros, it does afford a nice step-by-step systems design approach for novice developers, as well as supportive materials and suggested readings.
The Saskatchewan Teacher's Webportal System is a similar planning product that also allows you to design a webquest activity, though I found the interface a bit less intuitive (and a bit more buggy).
(link via OLDaily)
July 11, 2004
COURSE DESIGN: Take the Challenge
In Ron Lubensky's new blog eLearning Design Challenge, readers are invited to respond to e-learning design challenges or to submit their own challenge for others to respond to.
July 09, 2004
RESOURCES: Other PlacesSample courses. The Open Learning Initiative is an interesting project from Cargnegie Mellon to provide online courses and to build a community of use. Check out the first courses available - introductory courses in Economics, Statistics, Causal Reasoning, and Logic - which include simulations and other interactive components (the logic course was unavailable when I looked at this).
(link via OLDaily)
Using Flash. A good introductory article from Learning Circuits on using Flash animations to author e-learning.
Plagiarism. The CBB Plagiarism Resource Site is a collaborative project by Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin Colleges to build a clearinghouse for resources and news on this topic, including an online quiz to test your plagiarism IQ.
(link via Kairosnews)
July 07, 2004
RESOURCES: Course Design & Development
These Web design guidelines from IBM provide a basic introduction to the topics of site structure, navigation, text design, and visual layout. On the same site, the section on Design concepts gives a basic introduction to the topics of user-interface and user-experience design, as well as some basic principles of good site design.
- This brief article by Stephen Downes provides a good definition and overview
- This tutorial from Webmonkey is a good place to start if you're new to IA, particularly the lessons on Site structure and Visual design.
- AIfIA (The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture) provides a host of resources, including a Design tools section that includes sample process maps, content development spreadsheets, wireframe templates, and other development tools.
July 05, 2004
RESOURCES: Articles of Interest
Some articles of interest from the June issue of the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks:
- (My) Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy. A very useful article by the winner of the 2003 Sloan-C award for Excellence in Online Teaching.
- Cost-Effective Distributed Learning With Electronic Labs. Investigation into the use of simulations as a replacement for work in a physical electronics labs.
- Solving the Laboratory Dilemma in Distance Learning General Chemistry. This paper describes introductory chemistry courses that feature laboratory experiments that students can do at home, using materials readily available from local grocery and hardware stores.
- Experimental Online Case Study for a Breakthrough in Student Engagement: Focus Group Results. Evaluation of a "real-time case" case study approach in which a case writer stationed at a real-life company published case installments weekly on the Web throughout a 14-week semester, allowing students to view and study the company-building process as it happened.
- Faculty Self-Study Research Project: Examining the Online Workload. Describes a project in which six faculty members teaching courses through the Penn State World Campus conducted studies of the comparative workload in the online environment.
RESOURCES: Costs of Course Development
July 04, 2004
COURSE DESIGN: What are Learning Objects?Learning objects (LOs) -- also called reusable learning objects (RLOs) -- are small, self-contained "chunks" or "blocks" of learning content designed to be used in multiple courses and course contexts.
Just as building blocks can be reorganized and recombined to create new structures, the individual learning objects stored in a database can be "mixed and matched" to create a variety of courses. Each learning object is tagged electronically with a description and key words (called "metadata") that allows for targeted searching within the database.
How is a learning-objects approach different?
Traditionally, course designers look at each course as unique -- tailoring content, objectives, and interactions very narrowly to suit the specific course purpose, context, audience and/or specific performance goals. Individual course elements are designed to flow naturally within that course’s structure and in accordance with a particular sequencing strategy.
When developing reusable objects, however, the goal is to create modular units of instruction for use in a variety of courses. This requires that each object be:
- Self-contained. Objects must be able to fit within a variety of sequencing strategies and contexts, so each object should make sense as a stand-alone unit of instruction.
- Standardized. The mix-and-match approach requires that each object meet preset requirements, in terms of both graphic design and content, so that different combinations of learning objects will combine seamlessly.
- Broadly accessible. Rather than targeting a very narrow audience for a specific course offering, the designer should target the broadest audience practicable for each object.
A learning-objects approach can allow an organization to standardize content common to multiple courses, standardize the "look and feel" of courses, and cut down on course development time while increasing ROI by amortizing development costs across a wider range of course offerings. However, this type of approach can’t be implemented haphazardly; it requires a clear, well-planned strategy for implementation and clear specifications for the type and "size" of objects to be developed, as well as for content, language, templates, metadata, etc., to be used.
For more information, you may want to take a look at some of the following resources:
- A Field Guide To Learning Objects (PDF). A practical guide from ASTD and SmartForce that defines different types of learning objects and their use.
- A Primer on Learning Objects. An article from the March 2000 issue of ASTD's Learning Circuits
- Three Objections to Learning Objects. A discussion of some problems with learning objectsfrom Norm Friesen of Athabasca University.
- LCMS = LMS + CMS [RLOs]. A useful set of definitions and explainations from elearningpost.
- Use and Abuse of Reusable Learning Objects. A useful article from Pithamber Polsani of the University of Arizona (from the Journal of Digital Information).
Just a reminder (especially for our large group of London-based students!) that NYU's administrative offices will be closed on Monday for the July 4th holiday. Normal telephone and connectivity services (phone, voice mail, e-mail, internet, Virtual College, and NYU-NET dialup) will be maintained.
July 03, 2004
RESOURCES: Assessing Readiness for Online Courses
A few people in the class have mentioned that they'd like to have some guidelines for how to prepare learners for the work involved in taking courses online. The following resource provide some helpful tips and student self-assessments:
- Online Learner's Guide. Attractive, interactive assessments from Northern Arizona University for first-time online learners. The program returns a list of suggested resources to review based on learners' answers to the self-assessment questions.
- Is Online Learning for Me?. An interactive self-assessment pretest from the eModerators website (you can access the entire student-readiness tutorial here).
- Becoming A Successful Online Student. Advice and tips from the Indiana College Network.
- Study Strategies for Online Courses. Useful tips from a past issue of the Learning Center Newsletter.
- Online Course Readiness Assessment. Concise list of assessment questions for potential online learners from the University of Montana.
RESOURCES: Blog Essays
Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs
This online, edited collection explores discursive, visual, social, and other communicative features of weblogs. Essays analyze and critique situated cases and examples drawn from weblogs and weblog communities. The collection takes a multidisciplinary approach, and contributions represent perspectives from Rhetoric, Communication, Sociology, Cultural Studies, Linguistics, and Education, among others.
July 01, 2004
COURSE DESIGN: Instructional StrategiesOnce you've waded through the course analysis tasks and defined your learning objectives, it's time to get creative! Designing instructional strategies is at the heart of the instructional designer's job -- in fact, it's right there in the job title. This is where you get to apply your theories about learning in concrete and (one hopes) measurable ways in designing interactions that your learners will respond to.
At this stage of course development, the focus on specific media should be at a fairly high level... you want to be mindful of the kind of learning interactions that are possible in your environment (in terms of communication tools, simulations, testing, etc.) so that you can be sure that you can achieve the learning outcomes stated in your objectives. (For example, you obviously can't have "group discussion" in a self-instructional course unless you also have access to a forum, synchronous classroom, blog, or other collaborative space!)
It's important for the learning - not the technology - to be in the driver's seat, however. While technology does limit some of what you can achieve in your course, with some thought and creativity, you can create engaging learning experiences even in fairly low-tech learning environments.
Stop and Reassess
Before you move on to more complex design and development tasks, it's a good idea to stop at this point and reassess your analysis findings and overall course goals. Ask yourself whether you can really achieve what you want to, given your resources, audience, and technology.
The time to make any significant changes to your overall course goals and purpose is now, before you've expended time, energy, and resources on creating content, designing interactive elements and graphics, or investing in specific technologies.
RESOURCES: Instructional StrategiesThe following resources may be helpful in thinking about issues related to strategy and media selection
- Designing Instructional Strategies for the Web. (Word file) A very useful template form for conducting training-of-trainers in instructional strategies that is designed to be used in a workshop setting along with content on Virginia Tech's Web-based Instruction page. (You may also want to take a look at their Teaching Models page for a review of some key issues related to teacher-centered vs. learner-centered models and strategies)
- Instructional Strategy Exercises . Interactive practice on choosing instructional strategies from Dr. Albert L. Ingram's course on Instructional Design
- Instructional Strategy lesson from the Instructional Technology master's program at Virginia Tech
- Developing an Instructional Strategy (Powerpoint slides), from Barry Williams of PSU, which contains some useful information on designing strategies for attitudinal objectives
- The Learning Strategies page from Big Dog's ISD resource, particularly the "Instructional Strategy Selection Chart"