Daily Archives: August 27, 2006

Patent fight over online schooling


The patent, awarded to the Washington, D.C.-based company in January but announced last month, has prompted an angry backlash from the academic computing community, which is fighting back in techie fashion — through online petitions and in a sprawling Wikipedia entry that helps make its case.

Critics say the patent claims nothing less than Blackboard’s ownership of the very idea of e-learning. If allowed to stand, they say, it could quash the cooperation between academia and the private sector that has characterized e-learning for years and explains why virtual classrooms are so much better than they used to be.

Why are universities concerned? Many use off-the-shelf systems sold by Blackboard already. But others use rival companies like Desire2Learn, or mix and match to meet their own needs. Because universities are decentralized and have such varied systems, one size rarely fits all, says Feldstein. Many borrow from open-source courseware programs with names like “Moodle” and “the Sakai Project.”

The fear is that universities, afraid of being sued for patent infringement, would stop that mixing, matching and experimenting — and that innovation would suffer. Feldstein notes most LMSs started out as university research projects — including Blackboard itself, at Cornell.

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D8JOUGO00.htm?sub=apn_tech_down&chan=tc

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Towards a universal online library of learning material

How much material has been lost through the years? Now the question is of course what do I mean by material. For example, do I mean the trivial stuff such as typed office memorandums or the less trivial—the missing live broadcasts of the early Dr Who. No, let me focus on what I consider to be the most important material of all, that which may have a positive effect on the next generation— the historical and educational material that helps our children form sophisticated models of the Universe around us.

What am I trying to convey is that we have an example of a Universal library and we have examples of potentially Universal content. What is missing at present is a link between the central repository of free educational material and the Individual learning systems. This is where free software players such as Moodle and Sakai can facilitate in this process by delivering tools that help export to the central archive. This would thus allow teachers and lecturers an easy root to agree to sharing. I’m not saying that these learning systems don’t have Scorm compliant tools. What I am saying is that we are missing a central repository. Perhaps not for the newest courses for commercial and competition reasons. However, what about the three year old courses waiting to be backed up one final time for prosperity. Surly educational establishments can give the courses away for the greater good if they are not already doing so.

http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/node/1732

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