Friday, July 25, 2008

Google's new Knol service

This is something I want to check out: Google Knol. Not sure of it's place in education, perhaps something akin to Wikipedia without the crowdsourcing? We'll see...

From Google's official blog announcing the public launch of Knol:
The web contains vast amounts of information, but not everything worth knowing is on the web. An enormous amount of information resides in people's heads: millions of people know useful things and billions more could benefit from that knowledge. Knol will encourage these people to contribute their knowledge online and make it accessible to everyone.

The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It's their knol, their voice, their opinion. We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good.

With Knol, we are introducing a new method for authors to work together that we call "moderated collaboration." With this feature, any reader can make suggested edits to a knol which the author may then choose to accept, reject, or modify before these contributions become visible to the public. This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content. After all, their name is associated with it!

Knols include strong community tools which allow for many modes of interaction between readers and authors. People can submit comments, rate, or write a review of a knol. At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads from our AdSense program. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with a revenue share from the proceeds of those ad placements.

We are happy to announce an agreement with the New Yorker magazine which allows any author to add one cartoon per knol from the New Yorker's extensive cartoon repository. Cartoons are an effective (and fun) way to make your point, even on the most serious topics.

Everyone knows something. See what people are writing about, then tell the world what you know:

I do think this type of service would be cool in our huge university. Right now, you need to author a traditional web page, hosted within a traditional organizational structure. So, as an IT employee, I don't have a place to post my specialized knowledge about 14th century eating utensils. Our current institutional repository was somewhat designed for this purpose, but it's so 1999ish.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Learning and Technology Blogs list by George Siemens

George has compiled a very useful list of key learning and technology blogs. This list is great: not too long; not too short. There always is concern that a particular list will not be kept current. However, with blogs that is less of a concern. Just use this list to find new blogs and subscribe to their feeds.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Help build a girls dorm in Kenya

My friend and colleague, Renee Schuh, is working to raise funds to build a new girls dorm at Terry's Orphanage in Machakos, Kenya where Renee volunteered last year. They need to raise $15,000 by November 2008. You can help in a number of ways, including attending a benefit concert this Sunday in Madison WI. Check out the project's site or The Machakos Project cause in Facebook for more information.

I wouldn't promote a cause I did not believe in.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blackboard-Sakai Connector: Blackboard as Academic Hub??

Here's a report about a new Blackboard add-on in the works that will integrate Sakai and Blackboard via Bb's "Building Blocks" extension program.

In general, Syracuse is on the right track, figuring out how best to integrate multiple learning systems. However, the following quote by Bb's CEO reveals Bb's world view: Blackboard as the center of the academic universe.
“Students should not have to worry about whether different technology is powering their online learning environments for different classes,” said Michael L. Chasen, Blackboard’s president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “With a single login users should have access to all of their courses and course material. There should be one place they can go to get all of their course information.”

At Wisconsin, we agree in principle with Chasen. However, we have chosen to have our campus portal be that hub for course information. We have built an "Academics" tab within our portal where students can find links to their Desire2Learn courses, their e-Reserves, and even their Moodle courses. These systems send their data to our portal's "Resource Bridge" that connects the various system's data to the students and presents it in a single coherent module within the "Academics" tab.

Constructing a campus academic hub that is Blackboard-centric, increases complexity and risk during this era of CMS turbulence. However, like I've mentioned before, Blackboard deserves credit for playing in the open-source field.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Why aren't faculty using a Course Management System?

I just uncovered a previously unreported piece of data from a 2007 survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin System. In our 2008 Milestone Review of Desire2Learn at UW-Madison, I included much data from the "2007 UW System Web-based Teaching and Learning Survey". Somehow, I managed to overlook this particular item.

Over 500 UW-Madison faculty responded to that 2007 survey, and 138 of them responded to the question:
If you are not using any type of course management system (CMS) or learning management system (LMS), what are your reasons?

28.3% Not necessary / Not applicable
25.4% Not familiar with them / Don't know about them
21.0% Use other tools or my own website
11.6% No time to learn how to use
7.2% Not convinced enough about their usefulness
2.9% Disagree with their use
2.2% Lack of support
1.4% Will use in the future

The second-most common reason ("not familiar/don't know") jumps out at me. These respondents account for 7% of all faculty responses to the '07 survey. It seems reasonable to believe that our efforts to raise awareness of the course management system still seem prudent.

What fraction of our faculty will never use a CMS? A conservative approach would be to combine all these respondents less those who stated "not familiar/don't know" and "will use in future" and divide by the total respondents (517). This exercise shows that approximately 20% of our faculty might never be inclined to use a course management system at UW-Madison.

I very much hope that UW System continues to deliver this survey in the future. The 20% figure is one I want to track over time.