Putting stuff online not as simple as it looks

Ignore The Onion style headline. I just thought it seemed appropriate for the topic. Which is about a very interesting blog post from Derek Morrison which I found this morning which was largely about the attempts of the Newspaper industry to find ways of monetising the on-line news experience. There’s a lot of relevance for those of use working in learning technology.  I’ve taken a few quotations that piqued my interest and tried to see what relevance there might be for us in education. First up there’s a quote which really shows how  important it is to think differently when preparing on-line material for students.

Because the download of the Guardian is based on the printed version and because the specialist section is no longer in the printed version it’s only available in the online version! This is the same Guardian newspaper that trumpets its iPhone app and makes a charge for it. Some rapid rethinking of the business model is perhaps necessary here.

Well, yes. The lecture notes from a PowerPoint slide are not a lecture. (There I go making unconstructive remarks about PowerPoint again. Actually I think PP is a very  good presentation tool, but that’s all it is.)  My point is that just shoving such slides onto a VLE without any contextual information is largely unhelpful. We have to make an effort know what the students are failing to understand and tailor our material to correcting those misunderstandings.

If the press media wants to start charging for online content then it first of all needs to make it easy for us to know it exists and then make it easy for us to read it.

Oh Yes. Naming every link on the VLE  lecture 1, lecture 2, or worse “lecture notes from last week” is a very bad idea. Blackboard  certainly offers the opportunity to add metadata to virtually every content item, and if you’re using an open source tool like WordPressMU as a primary VLE, I’d urge that you familiarise yourself with tags.

We the end-users, the newspaper industry, and those developing smartphones would really benefit from some standards based approach to downloading such media content similar to what MP3 enables with audio.

Wouldn’t we though? Let’s face it, it took quite a long time for Universities to reconcile PCs and Macs on a single network. With students (not to mention staff)  turning up with all sorts of weird and wonderful devices I can see us looking fondly back on the Mac/PC thing as being but a minor skirmish.

my reading behaviour changed when using the iPhone in comparison to the paper product. By that I mean it was different rather than better or worse. One of the key advantages of the paper versions of newspapers and magazines is the ability to rapidly scan a relatively large information landscape and then focus on an item or article of interest. The visual real estate of a smartphone or device like the iPhone/iTouch is tiny by comparison.

Now that’s interesting. I used to  wonder if there is a difference between browsing a library shelf and searching a database. You could certainly pick up things from the books that were next to the book you were looking for. Yet, no library could possibly hold all the material a researcher needs, so you scan. If you do that with books and journals, I guess you probably do it with the documents themselves. So is there scope here for making documents scannable at a micro level. Is there something to be said for producing educational documents using some of the same principles that newspapers use to drag their readers’eyes to relevant parts of the page.

We should perhaps take note that when the majority of consumers are faced with such uncertainty their risk management strategies include “do nothing”.

Students too, I suspect!