Here’s an interesting initiative: Science Commons.
Science Commons is a new project of Creative Commons and will launch on January 1, 2005.
The mission of Science Commons is to encourage scientific innovation by making it easier for scientists, universities, and industries to use literature, data, and other scientific intellectual property and to share their knowledge with others. Science Commons works within current copyright and patent law to promote legal and technical mechanisms that remove barriers to sharing.
Nicolas and Richard write about the start of our project about Blogs for Computer Science Tutors. We are still at the very beginning. In the first phase, Nicolas will be investigating which blog engine is best for this particular use. In the second phase, we’ll need to setup tools for information analysis and aggregation to support the community.
While this is a small, local initiative, we are doing something to push eLearning forward! If we can help tutors with blogging, then this will be a good step toward giving UQAM students blogs… (warning: this is blue sky thinking)
On a related topic, Nicolas (in French) talks about how he intends to learn about RSS even though he is not a computer scientist.
This tells me something: RSS is to Semantic Web (for lack of a better term) what HTML is to the Web. HTML was a technical format never meant for non-technical people, yet, designers all over the world have learned HTML and learned it well. HTML was simple and limited, but it was enough. RSS is the same: it was meant for a few Netscape engineers and now, everyone from the average lawyer to the sociologist is studying the RSS formats. RSS is simple and limited, but it is powerful enough for separating content from presentation on the Web.
I noticed a few weeks ago a feature in Word that allows you to request that important sentences be outlined. As it turns out, there is a free tool to do this called the Open Text Summarizer. My ex-colleague Peter Turney did related work and has a patent on such a technique.
I really like Yuhong Yan. She’s one of my favorite collaborator of all times. It is quite strange too because we were colleagues for a long time and never collaborated much at all. Then, I left my NRC job, I went to live something like 700 km away and since then, we’ve never been closer. Maybe this says something about how efficient technology has become.
In any case, if you are a graduate student or are thinking about becoming one, you should read Yuhong Yan’s Tips to Graduate Students. The mere fact that she put this page together is enough to make me like her! I find that very few schools care enough about their student to put together similar advice. It seems to be enough for many professors to just throw students into research and see who swims and who sinks. My advice to graduate students would be to seek supervisors who will give you such advice. I think Yuhong is probably a good supervisor.
She also posted a copy of an unpublished paper we wrote together. Myself, I tend to keep unpublished papers private, but at the same time, I keep arguing that researchers should promote their papers more agressively, so I’m not going to complain about what Yuhong did.
Those of you who have broadband and are interested in having more details about the SCTIC-CREPUQ Meeting I described earlier, you can get Stephen Downes’ slides and audio stream on Object Oriented Learning Objects:
Slides and the MP3 audio (English and French, 7 megabytes) of my presentation in Montreal are now available (the audio also includes the
presentations from other panelists, used with permission). In it, I present again the idea of “e-learning as dynamic, unstructured stream of learning resources obtained and organized by learners.” In this talk I extend the idea bit by elaborating on the community aspect of learning resources and outlining how the learning objects should be designed in order to facilitate this. More – much more – on this in the future.
By Stephen Downes, Stephen’s Web,
November 26, 2004
Here is a very important report:Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2003 and 2004
This study takes a look at online learning in American Universities. Here’s a few facts the study brings to bare.
Will online enrollments continue their rapid growth?
- Over 1.9 million students were studying online in the fall of 2003.
- Schools expect the number of online students to grow to over 2.6 million by the fall of 2004.
- Schools expect online enrollment growth to accelerate — the expected average growth rate for online students for 2004 is 24.8%, up from 19.8% in 2003.
- Overall, schools were pretty accurate in predicting enrollment growth — last year’s predicted online enrollment for 2003 was 1,920,734; this year’s number from the survey is 1,971,397.
Are students as satisfied with online courses as they are with face-to-face instruction?
- 40.7% of schools offering online courses agree that “students are at least as satisfied” with their online courses, 56.2% are neutral and only 3.1% disagree.
What about the quality of online offerings, do schools continue to believe that it measures up?
- A majority of academic leaders believe that online learning quality is already equal to or superior to face-to-face instruction.
- Three quarters of academic leaders at public colleges and universities believe that online learning quality is equal to or superior to face-to-face instruction.
- Three quarters of all academic leaders believe that online learning quality will be equal to or superior to face-to-face instruction in three years.
In light of these facts, recall my earlier prediction:
I predict that in 5 years, students all over the world will learn Calculus with little input from from instructors (but a lot of input from other students!). They will use sophisticated on-line laboratories and on-line testing, and on-line support. The technology is already here, but we still don’t know how to use it properly.
It looks like it might happen even faster than 5 years! But my prediction is bold enough as it is, so I’ll keep it in its current form.
From Slashdot, I learned that for $3k, one can buy a 1.6TB hard drive similar to normal PC hard drives:
IO Data Device’s new ‘HDZ-UE1.6TS’ exemplifies the recent trend towards demand for higher storage capacities — it’s an external hard drive setup offering a total capacity of 1.6TB. Not much larger than four 3.5″ hard drives, the HDZ-UE1.6TS goes to show that any (rich) consumer can now easily have a boatload of storage space. (At current conversion rates, this would cost nearly $2,900.)
Maybe $3k seems like a lot but I bet that in 5 years, these beasts will cost under $1k and fit inside a normal PC.
The consequences of so much storage (nearly infinite) are still not well understood, but I believe it could bring about new killer applications we can’t even imagine right now.
Edd Dumbill has a cool post on what the future of the Web is.
- Intellectual property and privacy law. If exchange and manipulation of data is key to the future web, then we need to understand that and be the ones in control. If corporations have too much control of data, as they are striving for, that’s the equivalent of API lock-in, and we’ll all suffer. But on the other hand, we want to tightly control the data about ourselves. An interesting conflict, about which I’d like to write more in future.
- Transformation and annotation. Nobody’s going to own a unique hold on the form of expression of the data flying around in “web 2.0”, but they’re certainly going to want to transform between those forms. From the crude “emergent keywords” of del.icio.us to the intensive but scope-limited integration done by Google and A9, there’s going to be a lot of value in joining together previously isolated data islands.
- Network engineering. Dumb, happy protocols that give quick results are on the rise. Look at the RSS madness, servers being pummelled. And RSS isn’t even mainstream yet, though it’s about to get that way. It gets messier before it gets better.
- Complicated web service standards. Forget the WS-I lunacy. Web applications for computers were happening before the web services standards junk. Amazon would still be providing their interfaces with or without SOAP, WSDL and UDDI, and indeed all the evidence is that their users prefer to use the simpler HTTP/XML APIs anyway. As far as the web is concerned, the WS-* work is about sprinkling XML pixie dust on a failing idea.
- Frameworks and silos. Don’t believe anyone who claims to have a wonderful new framework that’ll solve your problems if only you’d migrate everything you do to it. The web is all about separate pieces, loosely joined. The really clever businesses know how to manage uncertainty, they’re not looking to eliminate it. Circling the wagons will not integrate you into the web, neither will it promote web-like innovation inside a business.
Looks like GPL is an ever expanding world. Through slashdot, I learned that there is GPL IDE for C# called SharpDevelop. Given that there is nothing wrong, apparently, with C# as a language, maybe I’ll need this one day. It is also being ported to Mono so it should eventually run under Linux too.