Monthly Archives: September 2005

UNFOLD meeting Valkenburg


Around 60 participants attended the latest UNFOLD community meeting in Valkenburg in the Netherlands. The meeting focussed on the recent publication of a JIME (Journal of Interactive Media in Education) special issue that concentrated on IMS Learning Design. The two day meeting was grouped into a number of topic areas. Unlike previous UNFOLD meetings there were no hands-on workshops.

1. Patterns and Reuse
The topic of the potential usefulness of pedagogic patterns within UoLs still produced useful discussions between veterans and newcomers. The University of Valladolid presented progress on development of their template approach of collaborative learning flow patterns that can be integrated into authoring tools such as their own COLLAGE. It was noted that Web behaviour is changing from merely consuming to doing things, and patterns could perhaps provide to LD a collection of (best) practice in education that can guide designers when constructing UoLs.

Apart from a discussion on the meaning of “patterns” there were also attempts of deductive and inductive derivation of patterns from existing practice.

2. Managing IMS LD
In this strand the institutional business case for uptake of IMS LD was questionned and the daunting task of “how” to implement and embed LD in an existing workflow and tools environment was highlighted. My suggestion was to direct current efforts into stimulating a bottom-up approach and teacher demand.

3. Tooling
The Reload LD editor has become a reference implementation of the specification. The development project has now finished, but ADL and HarvestRoad have taken on the code and it is hoped they will maintain and further develop it. Most of the discussion again focussed on authoring environments but the need for attractive LD players was also recognised on several occasions. Some rudimentary players are already around, mostly based on the CopperCore engine. The OUUK develoded SLeD using a service oriented architecture approach. A modified player engine that would even allow runtime adaptations was also envisaged which would reflect better the sponaneous nature of teaching.

4. Ontologies
Attempts were made to bring LD ontologies closer to the community. What stood out of the talk was the emphasis that XML may be limited in the description capabilities of LD relationships and that OWL could be an improved language for this purpose. Work on parsers in both directions and taxonomies of LD concepts is under way. The ALOCoM and LOCO ontologies are being developed with the aim to increase reusability by separating context related metadata from the abstract patterns and by decomposing the content.

5. Modelling
Mapping UoLs into a Moodle course structure was received with interest as was the extensive Alphanet experience in standards-compliant authoring of adaptive learning units using several IMS specifications simultaneously.

6. Pedagogic expressiveness
The flexibility and power of Moodle to deal with learning design was presented and it was hoped that usability of any LD player would rival its ease of use. Integration of LD in Moodle is expected to happen in the next major release.

Over all, another most stimulating event, which included “veterans” and “newcomers” showing that the community of practice has (a) grown, and (b) created loyal followers.

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Collaborative Cynicism


Stephen Downes impressed the ALT-C conference participants with his sharp deep-thinking cynicism that hit right at the heart of contemporary e-learning jargon. We all know how certain words become connotated with political and funding-body correctness. I just loved how Stephen mocked this on the term of “collaboration”.

In his review of the conference program strand on “collaboration” he noted that collaboration is used as “the joining up of things that don’t naturally join up, so we have to make them join up”. He underlined this with 6 theories of collaboration – or should he have said assumptions/hypotheses?

1) the common vision approach – if people share a vision then collaboration occurs
2) the common systems approach – this refers to the integration of diverse systems
3) the common language approach – if we would all talk the same talk then (miraculously) collaboration would occur
4) the common picture approach – working around the same model would cause collaboration
5) the common story/history approach – same assumption as above
6) the common environment approach – same assumption as above

He analysed the abstracts of the papers presented in this strand as coming to the following conclusions on collaboration:

– They would join, but are prevented from doing so (barriers to collaboration)
– They would join, if only they were all the same
– They are already joint (the anti-theory)

Highly amusing and very sharp, thanks Stephen!