Collaborative Learning

Martin Terre Blanche

This is a diary of my involvement in a project on collaborative learning in the psychology department at the University of South Africa. Most recent posts below and links to previous posts on the left.

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Collaboration standards

Standards aren't exactly a turn-on for me, but I've gradually been waking up to how they really are what makes it possible for people to cooperate in the first place. In Vasi van Deventer and my book-in-progress we call standards "packaging" and talk about packaging for humans (things such as how to present different kinds of documents, user interface design, and ergonomics) and packaging for machines (technical standards such as HTML, XML and other protocols that make it easier for information to be processed by automated systems). Under packaging for humans we also plan on talking about the uses of deliberate mis-packaging such as satire and "culture jamming" (e.g. the fake commemorative plaques put up in Paris - including one that proudly proclaims: "This plaque was affixed on December 19, 1953"). I'm not sure if there is any point in deliberate mis-packaging for machines - but there might be!

In the e-learning field more and more work seems to be focused on developing standards, but not yet with much success. These are, I think, some of the problems: So, anyway, for what it's worth here is another standards initiative I wasn't aware of: The Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) sounds far-reaching and important, but is in fact just another one of those (possibly over-elaborate, possibly overly-technocratic) efforts to make disparate systems talk to each other. The OKI aims to establish "an open and extensible architecture that specifies how the components of an educational software environment communicate with each other and with other enterprise systems". This means that they are framing a series of "Open Service Interface Definitions" (such as authorization of users and file sharing) so that programmers of e-learning systems can more easily exchange data with other campus systems (such as student management systems) and (maybe) with e-learning systems on other campusses. Very useful for IT managers battling with questions on how to integrate all those large, expensive campus systems (student management, content management, course management), but I'm glad it's not really my problem.

posted by Martin on Friday, May 16, 2003