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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Haiku: Web 2.0-Friendly LMS Encourages Interaction, Portfolio Development

While most learning management systems encourage interaction, very few incorporate Web 2.0 applications in a functional, easy-to-use, integrated way. The Haiku learning management system ( has built in Web 2.0 applications, which creates a friendly environment for users who are probably already familiar with the popular applications. Because Haiku has carefully selected applications that respond to learning preferences, a robust and solidly grounded instructional strategy is possible, as students and teachers incorporate audio, video, images, and other multimedia. The drag-and-drop feature makes it possible to share the resources in many places, including the discussion board. Finally, courses and schools that emphasize mastery learning and portfolios can combine the Web 2.0 applications, even using them in conjunction with Haiku's easy-to-use assessment, dropbox, gradebook, and calendar functions.

The platform is very attractive, and extremely user-friendly, which makes it appealing for young users in primary and secondary schools. In addition, the friendly interface makes the learning management system appealing for other organizations, such as not-for-profits and corporations, which may need to find platforms that appeal to users who primarily use their computers for the Web 2.0 applications such as photo sharing, videos, and podcasts.

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Ideas for Web 2.0 applications in Haiku:

Flickr: Allows students and teachers to create photo albums in Flickr and then to share them with the course. This is perfect for portfolio development, and encourages students to create and share files. In addition, it is possible to search with key words and to find photos that align with the course content.

Odeo: The teacher can subscribe to podcasts that illustrate and augment the course content. An example might be a course in social problems and/or the family, where numerous podcasts are available. An example might be This American Life (, where although the podcasts are not free, they are affordable.

Frankly, it is a relief to see an audio file-sharing application other than iTunes.

Here is an example of an Odeo feed:

YouTube: It is amazing what one can find on YouTube these days. I've been very impressed with some of the math videos. For example, Video Math Tutor has very clear and enjoyable basic math videos.

GoogleVideo: There are a number of videos that are available via GoogleVideo that are not available via YouTube.

Here is an example of a video from a creative writing course entitled "The Heart Journal."

Finally, it is possible to subscribe to services and to download and share video and audio from other sources, including repositories of instructional media, such as Learning Portal. Here is an example of a downloadable novel:

An example of a corporate training series is the "Basics of Customer Service," located here:

Have a Plan, Avoid Distractions:

Web 2.0 applications encourage interaction and help create conditions in which learning can take place. They can motivate and pique one's interest. However, they can also be extremely distracting if not incorporated as a part of an overall instructional design that clearly points to how the media will be used to achieve learning objectives.

The same can be said for discussions. Discussions can be very productive, but if the questions are not designed well, the discussion board can easily frustrate people as the students answer the same questions and/or respond with the same yes or no answer. Prompts should inspire sharing and rehumanize the elearning space. I'd like to mention that although is not incorporated in Haiku, it is a very easy way to add a podcast even if all you have is a phone. Today's podcast was recorded using my phone, and posted. The player html code is extremely easy to embed.

Final thoughts: I'd like to say that I believe that Haiku is an example of what we'll see in the future. Instead of having to swim through the huge number of Web 2.0 applications, Haiku simplifies the task by focusing on functionality and ease of use. Simplicity seems quite zen-like -- appropriate for this very elegant learning system.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Interview with Bill Hornbeck,

Welcome to an interview Bill Hornbeck, President and CEO of StreamerNet Corporation, headquartered in Leesburg, VA. They provide access to digital media, which can be used as instructional content in an online course.

1. What is your relationship to e-learning?

Although we are focused on the eLearning sector as a result of our development of a unique media distribution platform on the web, I have been involved in one form or another for the past twenty-three years.

2. What is LearningPortal? How did it get started? What is the core vision?

The implementation of is based on technology meeting opportunity, but with a certain twist. Our entire vision is based on enabling the creators of knowledge-based content to have access to a distribution platform where the creator can actually be paid for their offerings.

I find it fascinating that, in a country that professes to be the single largest home to capitalism, there is this generation of citizens who seem to believe that products and services should be free of charge. While I can appreciate the benefit to advertisers when they have the willingness to trade brand awareness for goods, I cannot yet foresee a time when we can walk into a grocery store and read an ad in exchange for a quart of milk.

As we analyzed the visible evolution of advertising-based distribution of content, we became more and more confident that there was a solid opportunity to enable content owners to be properly and directly compensated for the sale of high-value knowledge products.

So, we built the LearningPortal technology to serve as a powerful online media vending machine – a web-based platform that can host and distribute content in the form of streaming or downloadable pay-to-view knowledge products.

There is no charge for content owners to place their materials on and all revenue is distributed through a revenue-sharing model.

We can even sell additional physical goods alongside the digital format so that a content owner can offer side products such as Books and DVDs. We can even sell the hat and the t-shirt!

3. Please list a few key links.

The main URL is

Here's an example of an audio book:

Hey, that's my book! (Ophelia's Gold) -- thank you for mentioning it!

4. What does LearningPortal offer? Please give an overview and then one or two specific examples (with links).

It’s important to note that the LearningPortal platform is not designed to deliver interactive courseware. We are more like a movie theater. In that regard, we do not compete with Learning Management Systems. We prefer to see our technology as an adjunct delivery system which fits particularly well with space-and-time-shifting requirements that can best be met by remote desktop viewing or by enabling downloads to the iPod and similar digital libraries.

A great example is our offering of the Tom Marks Panorama series called

Nuggets of Knowledge. The audio series is a wonderful collection of tidbits of knowledge that are perfectly suitable for off-loading for anytime listening. Nothing too fancy. Nothing earth shattering. Just loads of fun.

But, relative to the more specific corporate requirements, we offer a distribution platform that enables web-based delivery of post-event “replays” of corporate presentations and webinars. We find these offerings to be particularly effective within the trade association industry.

5 How do you see people using LearningPortal now and in the future?

The LearningPortal is a continuation of the original Internet theme of “anytime, anywhere access to knowledge”. In our case, we are properly focused on the enablement side. That is, we enable content owners to utilize a ready-built online distribution system to generate the revenue stream that is deservedly theirs. In so doing, we enable countless seekers of high-value knowledge-based content to go directly to what we anticipate will become the best and broadest source of searchable eLearning content.

6. What books or ideas have inspired you lately?

I am a broad reader of multidisciplinary subject matter. Almost entirely non-fiction. I was most stunned recently by the latest work of Ray Kurzweil, entitled The Singularity is Near. If you find it satisfying to recognize that the rate of organ repair and transplantation could enable a longer life, consider Kurzweils’s theme that exponential improvements in the world of bio will enable us to back-up the human brain within the next forty years – an accomplishment that may provide for immortality. It’s a great read.

Interview conducted by susan

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Using Wimba: Innovative Applications from Michael Orey

Michael Orey, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology at the University of Georgia, recently chatted with Susan Smith Nash about the various ways he has worked with Wimba's voice and video solutions in his online courses. Dr. Orey is a pioneer of online education, having developed multimedia learning materials since the 1980s. He has used Wimba products since 2001. His insights and core philosophy of online education are valuable for all educators and administrators interested in motivating students and rehumanizing the online learning space.

Please be sure to enter a screen name to launch the player.

Another topic...

Information about online courses and programs:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Antivirus Programs and Web 2.0 Applications

Paden found out the hard way that going without an antivirus program can really throw a spanner into the works. Granted, she did not start out without antivirus protection. Her new computer came with a 6-month trial subscription to one of the most familiar programs on the market. After the program expired, though, the cost of renewing it seemed very high. So, Paden decided to download a version of the same program from the university where she was a student. The university had obtained a license to offer a version to its students. Although it was the same program, it was very slow, and Paden became frustrated with it and decided to take off the program. Within two weeks, her brand new computer had crashed.

"It was a nightmare!" said Paden, as she brushed her dark wavy bangs away from her face and grimaced. "I am taking two online courses, so you can imagine how difficult it was for me."

Without realizing it, Paden had encountered the two most common problems that organizations and individuals encounter in antivirus programs: high costs and big footprints. The reason that the program slowed down her computer was because the "free" antivirus program that her university offered was a clunky version that required a great deal of computing resources in order to run.

After she had her computer back up and running again, Paden decided to not go a single minute without a robust antivirus program.

"I decided to go with AVG Internet Security, version 7.5. It was about half the price of the other antivirus program, and it had everything -- antivirus, firewall -- you name it," she said. She decided to purchase it after reviewing one of AVG's websites at

In reality, the AVG solution that Paden selected had even more functionality, with the ability to remove viruses, spyware, adware, worms, and trojans. It also had a firewall and antispyware capabilities.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect was that AVG 7.5 was specially designed to have a very "light" footprint, which is to say that it does not bog down computing processes as it runs.

Ironically, a month after Paden purchased AVG for her computer, her college switched to AVG. The college purchased enough site licenses to provide a copy of the program to administrators and faculty members which helped protect the school avoid having virus-infected files uploaded into the course management system.

Potential malicious codes and malware embedded in Web 2.0 applications have added to the need for a solid antivirus solution. Wherever there is code, there is the potential for malicious code. AVG recognizes patterns and can eradicate the malware before it has a chance to affect computers.

Two new popular applications are expected to face growing challenges with malware in the future.

Truly Viral Videos: The first, malicious code in flash players and in embedded script for YouTube videos can wreak havoc. In this case, a highly popular and rapidly spreading "viral video" will disseminate bad code instead of the expected good cheer.

Web 2.0 Malware Vectors: The fact that people can embed code into their blogs, MySpace, Facebook, iGoogle, Bebo, or other spaces and enable unique functionalities makes the Web 2.0 environment truly unique. The openness and ability to share also makes it truly scary, since any of the applications could potentially be tainted. If malware is in the embedded code, what is it making your computer do? The possibilities are truly frightening.

AVG is aggressively and proactively addressing Web 2.0 vulnerabilities. While other antivirus programs are doing so as well, the light footprint makes AVG more flexible and nimble.

Another advantage for individuals and organizations is the availability of 24-7 local support. Walling Data Systems, at, the largest distributor of AVG software, makes sure that clients have several ways to obtain support. Clients can call in, send an email, and obtain live online assistance.

While Web 2.0 applications and the newly robust abilities of online courses have led to a more dynamic experience and extreme openness, they are also increasing user vulnerability. No one should stop using the web because of scary applications, but everyone should definitely keep antivirus programs up-to-date.

Visit information about online courses and programs:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Moodle and Elluminate: Powerful Webinar Functionality

Users of Moodle have reason to celebrate as yet another powerful tool which enables instructors and students to participate in live webinars and then to archive them for ongoing access. Elluminate, a provider of live e-learning and web-based collaboration tools, has made their products Moodle-friendly.

Instructors and online learning administrators often shy away from using Moodle because they believe that to add synchronous functionality will require extensive and costly programming and support. As is often the case with open-source course management solutions, developing functionality can be a challenge, especially if the product undergoes numerous updates or requires numerous plug-ins.

The difficulties of integrating open-source solutions with synchronous functions is one reason that Moodle users have not plunged headlong into trying to weave Second Life,, or other role-playing collaborative interfaces into their Moodle room.

Granted, Elluminate is not a virtual world. But, the potential for collaboration, role-playing, and innovative interaction are definitely there. Further, Elluminate seems to have taken a lot of the pain, expense, and guesswork out of live collaboration.

Here is how Elluminate describes the process:

Moodle For users of the Moodle open-source course management system, Elluminate Bridge for Moodle™ enables you to easily and seamlessly integrate live, synchronous distance learning and collaboration into your coursework. Developed in conjunction with Elluminate by Moodle partners and Open Knowledge Technologies, the integration module is available from the Moodle CVS repository.

The process appears to be very straightforward. Nevertheless, it would not be a bad idea to have good support manuals in hand. If you are an administrator of Moodle for your organization, it would be a good idea to provide instructor training, and also to have several demonstrations first.

As always, it is very important to look at what you're doing with the overall design of the course and to make sure that your activities and collaborations reinforce learning goals and objectives.

Symphony Kinematica

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sources for Information about Online College Degrees and Programs

Many readers often wonder how to get good information on college degrees and programs. One should make one's way very carefully through the labyrinth, since much of the information that you'll find has been sponsored, so the real gems are sometimes obscured by the sheer magnitude of the ads and informational emails of some of the most prominent and/or aggressive schools.

Taking your time to research well will pay off in the long run. Be sure to research not only the structure and cost of the programs, but what others have to say. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the number of success stories from students who have found distance learning (elearning and mobile learning) to be an ideal fit for their needs and their lifestyles.
This is an excellent searchable database, ideal for on-campus programs because it allows one to search by zip code as well as by program. You can search by major, or by 2-year, 4-year, or career program. The results provide information on tuition, fees, admission, financial aid, and more. However, it does not have a separate category for online programs. Looking for online programs or courses could be a needle in a haystack.

Information on College from Social Networks

Start your own social network on online courses or programs, or visit already-established programs.
Search for testimonials and ideas about online colleges, or start your own lens.

Non-Matriculated Students

Taking general education courses as a non-matriculated students to then transfer them elsewhere, or to apply them toward a degree in a program you can enroll in at the same college.'

Here are a few colleges that will welcome you as a non-matriculated student:


University of Washington - Bothell: /

Pace: Can take up to 24 hours as a non-matriculated student

Take courses from one university and transfer them to universities with whom they have articulation agreements:

Take courses that apply toward a certificate program

Herkimer County Community College
Through the HCCC Internet Academy, there are one-year certificate programs and 18 full degree programs that are offered completely on line.

Online Independent Study

University of Utah

Bakersfield College

Independent Study Courses (correspondence courses and online)

Adams College

Brigham Young Independent Study course

LSU Independent Study

Mississippi State Online Independent Study

Portland State Independent Study

Snow College Independent Study

University of Oklahoma / Independent Study

Degree Completion CollegesAggregators of Credit (accredited colleges that can accept courses from other colleges for up to 100% of the course requirements):

Charter Oak

Excelsior College

Thomas Edison State College

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Online College Rankings Expand, Encourage Transparency

OEDb's "Online College Rankings 2008" provides valuable information and insight into established and emerging online college programs. More importantly, OEDb ( is causing a serious re-evaluation of the way that colleges are assessed for quality and ranked. Their methodology goes into the heart of the educational experience provided by online colleges in ways that the US News and World Report's college ranking system cannot.

This is not to say that people will stop trusting the US News and World Report's "America's Best Colleges" report. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings mentioned the report's popularity and impact: "If you ever doubt the need or appetite for your mission, consider the U.S. News college rankings. It's been called the "swimsuit edition" of postsecondary reporting. Within 72 hours of its release, the U.S. News website was viewed 10 million times."

For many reasons, their rankings will continue to be a guideline for most people who are trying to compare colleges. The rankings are especially effective for colleges with large on-campus presences and a tradition of residential living, as well as active alumni.

However, the OEDb addresses a world that is largely overlooked by the US News and World Report's rankings OEDb focuses on he changing world of online colleges and online education masters, and the growing acceptance of, and even preference for, 100% online and/or hybrid (blended online and face-to-face) instruction. The OEDb Online College Rankings reflect today's realities, and they give a glimpse of a technology-enhanced future, in which computer-based distance programs (which includes wireless technologies, smartphones, digital devices, as well as internet functionality and new Web 2.0 applications).

OEDb also responds to many of the criteria used by important and influential sources of online college information.

In many ways, the criteria used by OEDb respond in a positive way to the remarks made by Secretary Spellings, on December 17, 2008, when she called for more transparency in assessing colleges and universities in address to the semiannual meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI).

Instead of focusing primarily on acceptance rates, endowments, graduation rates, and student satisfaction, the OEDb ratings use the following inclusion criteria:

1. The college must be accredited
2. The college must be listed in the College Navigator.
3. The college must offer more than one undergraduate degree-granting program online.
4. The college, if campus-based, must offer at least 50% of its undergraduate degree-granting programs online.

OEDb ranking metrics include:

Acceptance rate
Financial aid
Graduation rate
Peer web citations
Retention rate
Scholarly citations
Student-faculty ratio
Years accredited

Obviously, in the rapidly evolving world of online education, any ranking metrics are a work in progress, since technology advances may undermine certain core assumptions about the validity of a particular metric. Further, the recent sub-prime mortgage crisis has reached into the credit market for student loans, which has had an impact on all student loan lending.

Neverthess, or because of this, OEDb is blazing an important and refreshing new path in the area of ranking colleges. It also responds to recent critiques of well-established ranking systems, including the U.S. News and World Report's "America's Best Colleges" reports.

A recent online debate, "Throw the Book at College Rankings" at ( calls into question the U.S. News and World Report college rankings. At the heart of the debate is the perceived desirability of Ivy League schools and "Ivy Plus," and the fact that their perceived desirability encourages many more people to apply than for whom there are spaces. The resulting acceptance rate is, in essence, a distortion, and reflects public opinion and marketing efficacy as well as the number of highly qualified applicants and acceptances.

Further skewing the statistics are ones based on faculty productivity. In "The Dangerous Wealth of the Ivy League," authors Anthony Bianco and Sonal Rupani point out that the "Ivy Plus" (Princeton, the seven other members of the Ivy League, plus Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology), have made an effort to dedicate funds to building a base of prestigious, high-recognition faculty members.

Accused of "stealing stars," Ivy Plus institutions have found ways to hire the brightest-shining stars away from budget-pressed public and private institutions. Budgets dedicated to "At Harvard, compensation and benefits accounted for 49% of its $3.2 billion in operating expenses in 2006-07. Although salary gains have consistently outpaced inflation, it is the addition of new teaching positions that is chiefly responsible for driving up the cost of instruction." (, 2007, p. 2)

Are the faculty members and the bearers of endowed chairs actually working now, or were most of their publications and their seminal research produced before they were hired? The authors of the article suggest that many of the most productive faculty members in Ivy League institutions published the bulk of their work while they were at other colleges. Later, when the professors gained the recognition they had earned through their hard work, the well-funded colleges were able to make them a very nice offer and to achieve their stated objectives of improving the quality of faculty. The productive scholars and researchers deserved to be rewarded for their efforts. So, where's the complaint?

The problem is that when such numbers are used in college rankings, it does not give any recognition to the colleges who supported the faculty members during their formative years, and even into their most successful phases. The rankings recognize the affiliation as it is now. According to the authors of "The Dangerous Wealth of the Ivy League," such a system influences public perception (and thus contributions). The rich and the powerful become more rich and powerful.

In this situation, the OEDb's Online College Rankings is a welcome change of pace. One could argue that their rubric could be applied to face-to-face colleges as well as online, since many resources are online and many courses are delivered in a hybrid format, which combines face to face and online.


Bianco, A, and Rupani, S. (2007). The dangerous wealth of the Ivy League. November 29, 2007., accessed February 4, 2008. (2007). "Throw the Book at College Rankings" April 2007,, accessed on February 4, 2008.

OEDb. (2008). Online College Rankings 2008. accessed January 31, 2007.

Spellings, M. (2007). Secretary Spellings Encourages Greater Transparency and Accountability in Higher Education at the National Accreditation Meeting. December 17, 2007. accessed February 4, 2008. (2008). America's Best Colleges 2008., accessed February 5, 2008.

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