Stephen Downes works with the Digital Technologies Research Centre at the National Research Council of Canada specializing in new instructional media and personal learning technology. His degrees are in Philosophy, specializing in epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. He has taught for the University of Alberta, Athabasca University, Grand Prairie Regional College and Assiniboine Community College. His background includes expertise in journalism and media, both as a prominent blogger and as founder of the Moncton Free Press online news cooperative.  He is one of the originators of the first Massive Open Online Course, has published frequently about online and networked learning, has authored learning management and content syndication software, and is the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily. Through a thirty year career Downes has contributed pioneering work in the fields of online learning games, learning objects and metadata, podcasting, and open educational resources. Recent projects include:gRSShopper, a personal learning environment; E-Learning 3.0, a course on new e-learning technologies; research and development in the use of distributed ledger technology in learning applications; and research on ethics, analytics and the duty of care. He is a popular keynote speaker and has spoken in three dozen countries on six continents.


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Coronavirus / Covid19 quick reference kit, to take your class or conference online cheaply and in a hurry:

Creating an Online Class or Conference - Quick Tech Guide

America Will Sacrifice Anything for the College Experience


I think this makes it clear why online learning (and skills programs generally) have always seemed like such a pale substitute for the real thing. "Quietly, higher education was always an excuse to justify the college lifestyle." The college experience, at least in the United States, as always about "access to opportunity, camaraderie, and even matrimony. Partying, drinking, sex, clubs, fraternities." Ian Bogost writes, "These rites of passage became an American birthright." But no, for most, they didn't. They - at best - entrenched the privilege of the privileged. The system won't change itself - not even in the middle of a pandemic. But at least now it is laid bare, the proverbial emperor with no ethics. "The pandemic has revealed that higher education was never about education." The internet might not overthrow U.S. colleges - but the people might.

Today: 1 Total: 1 Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, 2020/10/20 [Direct Link]

Amplify Your Virtual Classroom With AWS Educate


This is marketing content from Instructure advertising a partnership with Amazon Web Services to provide access to cloud services and content to students. "Educators have access to several no-cost features, including: virtual classroom environments; cloud learning content; AWS access; and Professional development." That's great, and part of an accelerating trend, but what I don't understand is why companies like Amazon focus these programs on traditional institutions and their students. What Amazon is doing here increases the divide between those with the means to pay tuition and access educational programs and those without the means. It would be better, to my mind, to just make these programs open access and allow anyone with the interest to take advantage of them.

Today: 10 Total: 10 Instructure, AWS Educate, 2020/10/21 [Direct Link]

Interface University and Other Scenarios for the AI Economy


In the scenarios here we have here an example of someone taking one element - in this case, AI - and projecting a future based on that element. In this case, one thing we get is 'Interface University', the idea for a new kind of higher education institution where students and AIs work together. "Learning would become a noisy affair," writes David Staley, "with humans and artificial intelligence engaged in continual conversations." But everything else, it seems, would be the same: majoring in individual disciplines, graded project-based assignments, and of course, AI-focused curricula. Posh! With AI-supported learning on demand, people wouldn't need to attend university at all. Learning would happen very quietly, with conversations happening in an internal monologue. And they wouldn't be conversations; the AI will stimulate all senses to provide a form of internal virtual (or augmented, depending) reality to provide background, play out scenarios, draw implications, and more. Via Helge Scherlund.

Today: 9 Total: 9 David Staley, EDUCAUSE Review, 2020/10/21 [Direct Link]

Building Relationships: How to Connect from a Distance


This is yet another article on the need to make connections and re-establish relations as an essential first step in responding to the pandemic (I won't list all of these I see, but I'm certainly seeing a trend). Crystal Wong writes, "the word 'connect' means different things to different people; for me, connecting with students embodies a model of care, such as treating students with respect, making them feel welcome, and responding with compassion. When students know we care, they are more likely to reciprocate, and when they do, relationships are formed." Learning online is not just informational, it's not just transactional. It's interesting how I'm seeing the idea of presence overlap with the idea of connection in these articles, even if the word isn't explicitly used.

Today: 8 Total: 8 Crystal O. Wong, Faculty Focus, 2020/10/21 [Direct Link]

Learning To Reach Out: Embracing New Ways of Connecting


This article describes briefly the response of an educational NGO, Pratham, to the onset of Covid in India. It didn't help that the lockdown happened during Holi, leaving many staff stranded far away from their work locations. "Village headmen or 'Pradhans' were called. Once the Pradhan understood what was needed, he or she sent phone numbers to the Pratham teams. Outreach to the representative of the village local government brought in awareness about the effort too." Once connection was established, the educational outreach was adapted to the circumstances. "We selected fun activities and learning tasks from this collection and started sending them via phones. The campaign came to be called ‘Karona: Thodi Masti, Thodi Padhai’. (The word Karona is a play on 'Corona but it means 'do it' in several Indian languages. Thodi = a little. Masti= Fun. Padhai = Learning)."

Today: 96 Total: 96 Rukmini Banerji, WISE, 2020/10/20 [Direct Link]

Study of a COVID-19 induced transition from Face-to-Face to Online Team-Based Learning in Undergraduate Family Medicine


From the well-structured abstract to the declarations of conflicts of interest and ethics at the end this paper is a model of clarity and openness. It's set in a context of online team-based learning (TBL) and the community of inquiry (CoI) framework. It describes the launch of a TBL pilot as a response to the Covid pandemic. The study size is unfortunately small, but the article does what it can to capture their experience, and to present it along the lines of the types of presence described in CoI. The authors conclude "TBL enables rapid transition to distance learning; it promotes analytical and self-directed learning even in extreme circumstances." This is too broad: they should say, "In this case, and viewed from this theoretical perspective, TBL enabled rapid transition...". But I guess if they had said that, it would never have been published. And so the paper models both the best and worst of education research.

Today: 81 Total: 81 Lisa Jackson, Farah Otaki, Leigh Powell, Ernie Ghiglione, Nabil Zary, MedEdPublish, 2020/10/20 [Direct Link]

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