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Created: August 9, 2003
Latest Update: August 9, 2003

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Index of Topics on Site Finding Ways Around Intellectual Property that Poses Barriers to Learning

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, August 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.

Much of distance learning is based on bottom-line profit. But if you search diligently, you will find a number of educators who are dedicated to good learning and teaching practicie within this environment. Unfortunately, most of them still refuse to enter into a free exchange of information, preferring to preserve their "intellectual property," which hardly makes sense when they so limit their audience. In this lecture I want to acquaint you with ways of getting around this stinginess of thought, and encourage you to share your own thoughts with the global community that might be able to make things better if we just stopped trying to grab a few pennies for our "wares," which are generally paid for anyway by educational employers. And if that is not so, then activate your union to make it so, and reintroduce honesty and ethics into teaching. Sorry, it's one of my pet peeves. jeanne

Thinking outside the circle in terms of face-to-face possibilities when our lectures and discussion questions are accessible over the web is one good piece to investigate. Although we only have access to the abstract, and abstracts don't really tell us much, especially not if someone wants us to pay for the article, we can still get an idea of where the new ideas in this area are going. For example, I know I want to spend our time in face-to-face transactions in amore exciting way than lecturing. Nor do I want videos or films to take up that time since they're readily available through the audio-visual department, and thye encourage neither interaction nor answerability.

One tentative answer I've been toying with is strongly encouraging you to attend class for the discussions. To that end, we've tried to make the discussion materials available way in advance. Through discussion we satisfy both answerability and illocutionary discourse. We've also been trying to use our offices for face-to-face interaction, but there we run counter to traditional "office hours." Compare this abstracted article and see if you can come up with any more effective ideas.

Cavenagh, R. (2002). Thinking Outside the Circle: the Design of Face-to-Face Collaborative Learning facilities. World Conference on E-Learning in Corp., Govt., Health., & Higher Ed. 2002(1), 174-180. [Online]. Available:

Thinking Outside the Circle: the Design of Face-to-Face Collaborative Learning facilities
Robert Cavenagh, Dickinson College, USA

"Learners working on collaborative assignments using computers (which may also involve blended/hybrid learning) must engage in social as well as intellectual tasks. Indeed, at the residential undergraduate level, the development of interactive skills is often one of the more important aspects of their collaboration. Many existing facilities support such interaction badly if at all. This writer has undertaken a continuing investigation of persons-computer-facility interaction and has developed a series of learning facilities that appear to strengthen the quality of learner interaction by increasing time on tasks. This report demonstrates the process of creating groupwork oriented class and study spaces, the challenges and variables encountered, and the first pedagogical results of this work-in-progress. It also explores pedagogical strategies for instructors using such arrangements."

I was attracted to this next article by the recognition that interpersonal activities need to be "authentic." We have this on the site in an earlier piece in which the author speaks of Dewey's emphasis of learning by doing. Now here the idea reappears in terms of web-based activities. The mention of "constructivist philosophy" is hopeful, as is the suggestion of a "radical approach." Unfortunately there's nary a clue to what the author had in mind. Buy the paper. I get it.

Designing Authentic Activities for Web-based Courses Jan Herrington, Edith Cowan University, Australia.

Influenced by constructivist philosophy and advances in technology, there is increasing interest in authentic activities as a basis for learning in both face-to-face and web-based courses. Whereas traditionally, activities have primarily served as vehicles for practice of skills or processes, a more radical approach is to build a whole course of study around authentic activities and tasks. This presentation will put the case that the value of authentic activity is not constrained to learning in real-life locations and practice, but can be analysed for the critical characteristics that help to enhance learning in online contexts. It will continue with a description of the theory, research, and development initiatives that provide the foundations for this approach. Finally, guidelines for the design of complex authentic activities for online learning and examples will be presented, together with the implications of this approach for teachers, students and designers.

So I went to a search engine and hunted for Jan Herrington, who seems to have a spouse or brother or whatever also involved in this endeavor. Lots of references, but nothing beyond abstracts. But along the way, I came across Strategic Approaches to the Implementation of Flexible Learning: A University of Newcastle Case Study which offers a full text in pdf format.

Discussion Questions

  1. Does the Internet make it easy to find articles and writings that will let you keep abreast of social theory as it is happening?

    Consider that in the days of Enron and the profit cartel, everyone has picked up the habit of charging for every "value added" piece he/she adds to any product out there. Remember I'm left radical and see the present situation from that perspective. Nonetheless, the big todo over "intellectual property," (and some people claim this about whom I have doubts whether they ever had an intellectual spark in their entire lives) means that for most of the American literate public social theory is available only through books which can easily run to $70 or $80, and I don't mean heavy technical books, I mean ordinary text books and non-fiction books on policy and social issues.

    Then, if we consider the publish or perish motivation that drives the present academy, every bit and parcel of the next book goes out as an "article" which the Journals then charge equally exorbitant rates for. So, of course, here's another product to be sold, not an idea to be shared on the great intellectual highway of the Internet. But because the journals want to sell their products, you can buy an article for I believe it was $25 that one journal group quoted to me. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about the co-optation of the academy as a "corporation," with students as "clients." I never saw a corporation give a client anything the client didn't pay for. But I have seen lots of "corporate" adminstrators take exorbitant shares of the profits for themselves.

    What I am describing is the general dominant discourse about the role of the academy in 2003. Not everyone agrees with it. Many of us are struggling to alter the competitive monologic greed of the "system" in which we find ourselves. It is to this end that the Dear Habermas site teaches the concerns and ideas of Habermas, Giddens, Bakhtin, Pia Lara, Nielsen, Fellman and dozens of other social theorists who share our concerns that the public, the whole public, all of us, be offered free access to the learning that fosters effective public sphere governance.

  2. How did I try to go around the barriers to access to the information?

  3. Considered that a search of the authors' names will sometimes turn up the authors' own sites on which they publish versions of their work for intellectual exchange. In this case that didn't work out, but other authors in the association to which the original authors belonged had put up full text articles on pdf. And so I