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Sunday, August 29, 2004

e-Learning Blogs This Month: Part I

by: Susan Smith Nash

This is part 1 in a series which profiles the content, scope, and orientation of e-learning blogs that catch my eye. These largely unheralded resources are absolute treasure troves, mainly due to the insights and comments of the blog owners, who create open communities of practice with their willingness to share, exchange, and (sometimes) rant. I've noticed a disturbing trend, however, inasmuch as fewer blogs link to other blogs, and syndication is, in some circles, becoming a thing of the past. Why? That might be worth exploring.

Stephen's Web OL Daily recent articles, "Assessing Discursive Writing" and "Barbarian Inventions" keep readers on their toes. What differentiates Stephen Downes from other bloggers is the way he does not shrink from probing the underlying ethical and epistemological issues as he deals with topics as diverse as online registrations, grading and evaluating essays, and the way the mind processes signs and symbols. Although they may seem disparate, the thread that holds these together is a concern for how the small things impact the big picture. Further, Downes follows a clear sequence of cause and effect to demonstrate how something seemingly as inconsequential as an online registration may trigger an entire series of events, with negative impact. The rubric proposed in "Assessing Discursive Writing" seeks to re-establish consistency and fairness in what is often viewed as an utterly subjective enterprise. It might be useful to take a look at how MY Access and other automated essay scoring programs develop rubrics for hand-scoring and thus "training" the program via artificial intelligence. Great links, great feeds, pithy and provocative comments.

Opossum stuff from Opossum, located in Quebec City. Some of the items are "Les ENT dans le monde" is a very valuable article, a great example of how future collaborations can take place, particularly across borders and between lesser developed and more developed nations. An example could be with the World Bank-financed education initiative (ties with the Chad-Equatorial Guinea trans-Africa pipeline), sharing could take place. Other examples in Francophone Africa could include cooperatives to facilitate the establishment of online educational initiatives in re-opening nations such as Libya.

Jay Cross -- Internet Time Blog A good mix of personal reflection on the Internet, online education, and new trends, as well as homages to important moments; the passing of Cartier-Bresson, for one. My favorite article in the last few months was an absolutely fantastic article delineating the differences between Furl and Spurl. This article cleared up questions I had - and, made me a bit surprised to find it was such a straightforward issue. Extremely useful, with lively tone and engaging writing.

George Siemens - elearnspace -- and eclectic blog, with insightful commentary by Siemens. The website, is a very valuable resource with respect to evaluation, assessment, and strategic planning of one's online courses and initiatives. Siemen's view is holistic and integrative, with a view toward future developments and practical-level implementation. He has a particular talent for putting together effective diagrams.

Ray Schroeder - Online Learning Update -- Schroeder is a professor of communications and director of OTEL at the University of Illinois, Springfield. Unlike other blogs that tend to focus on instructional technology, design, and administration, Schroeder incorporates a view of changing demographics and the underlying dynamics that are resulting in the widespread adoption of online learning, despite misgivings. Clear presentation, but would be nice to see a more complete index.

elearningpost - is one of my favorite e-learning blogs. It's amazing how many articles editor Maish Nichani manages to incorporate, with pithy and useful descriptions. According to the site, elearningpost provides daily links to articles and news stories about Corporate Learning, Community Building, Instructional Design, Knowledge Management, Personalization and more. This is quite true - the feature articles are good, too, but I wish there were more of them. Some tend to be quite specialized, which is good, but doesn't quite correlate to the level of the discussions (very lively!) and the articles and news stories.

Learning Circuits - is a wonderfully provocative article on having a portal. This is a timely discussion, coming as it does, on the heels of vociferous discussions on the ethical, privacy, and access problems associated with requiring users to register through a portal. They are willing to tackle issues that will undoubtedly influence the future of instructional design and useability; namely semiotics, approached through Wittgenstein. I was hoping for a more robust discussion - something from the grammar of visual design - but, it's a start.

The Learned Man! -- unique perspective is provided by focusing on the Indian e-learning community. This is an area of great potential, with amazingly fruitful discussions and linkages available. Needless to say, the notion of open source and shared innovation is pushed to the limit here. A recent discussion addresses the shortage of trained instructional designers (and, in parallel form, the shortage of robust instructional design training overseas). The uncomfortable reality is that most formal ID programs are 3 - 5 years behind the times. Granted, fundamentals do not change; but in my opinion, it is pretty irresponsible of educational institutions to offer instructional technology and design courses that do not incorporate the latest research, trends, evolving needs, or software/systems. As in the case of video game designers, the best ones tend to be multi-disciplinary and self-taught, or receive training within the development company itself, which is an issue fraught with its own intellectual property & ethics dilemmas.

What Ralph Knows -- Poole knows a staggering array of things - it helps, too, that he's been in the instructional technology, information technology industries for more than 30 years. His blog touches on almost all aspects, with a heavy emphasis on the technology side of the equation. I'm intrigued by his articles and reviews of internet telephony. Back in the late 90s, internet telephony was supposed to change our lives. What happened? His article makes me want to investigate. The links to Barbara Poole's online gallery are stunning. Her series of oil paintings are riveting -- my favorite is the "Saint" series. Brilliant narrative & reflexivity in the composition, the palette is evocative of Commedia dell'Arte.

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