TeleCon 2000
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Report on a Conference

Highlights of TeleCon 2000

March 1-3, 2000, Washington, D.C., Marriott Wardman Park Hotel

 Concurrent Sessions and Keynotes

For me, the most astonishing theme that runs through my convention notes is the IMS, an initiative to make indexed, usable, low-royalty or royalty free "learning objects" available to teachers who want to develop multimedia and web lessons, as well as to companies who market educational software.

Plans and Feasibility

As conference coordinator Carla Lane (Executive Director for The Education Coalition) explained it, this initiative was launched by the White House in 1997, which caused development of standards for such learning objects, as seen at--

Theoretically, one of the enabling steps for this project would be to use metatags in html coding more than they currently are used. Metatags would allow coding of each picture, each video, the text of each online or multimedia lesson, each sound file to indicate

bulletits medium
bulletits educational level
bulletits original context
bulletits author
bulletits royalty status (free or fee and maybe the rate of payment and recipient or authorizer or terms of use)
bulletpossibly which learning style an object might appeal to, though this data seems to be falling by the wayside [since it's probably superfluous--guess which learning style would be coded onto all photos and all soundless videos--duh! Visual learning!]

The goal of the project would be to provide the means to search the Web for "learning objects" suitable to your subject and to integrate them into your lesson, Web page, presentation, etc., seamlessly. Unfortunately, the project depends on a massive cataloguing and data-entry effort using software that hasn't even been invented yet.

The IMS project promises to foster more self-directed learning by students as more and better software is developed for students and teachers to use. Ideally, the library of learning objects could be reviewed by users, but also updated by those who maintain it and even accept contributions of new objects from the field.

Such learning objects could foster more interpersonal interaction among students [such as during collaborative projects] and even development of virtual reality environments.

Logistics and Support

Joanne Acconero, who works with Carla Lane in The Education Coalition, learning objects are defined as up to 20 minutes of instructional material. [So most of the 27-30 minute presentations on the History Channel and most videos of the same length used in telecourses would be a bit too long to be learning objects but include footage that would be dandy learning objects if they were excerpted and repurposed. For instance, the segment I saw today on the history of the parachute might be cut up into various segments. The few seconds of film that show the first person to ever use a ripcord to open her own parachute in 1914 might be included in a lesson on women who made history.]

The author or a paid indexer would do the meta-tagging for format, publisher, metadata creator, technical properties, and rights.

Who supports this White House initiative?

bulletOver 200 colleges and universities have signed on [and some are working on cataloguing methods]
bulletATT, Peat Marwick (?), MS, UNYSIS, Sybase, IBM, Apple, Oracle, and Asymetrix, among others are working on the technical side. Some of these are creating management software to fetch learning objects from a database and allow authors to click and drag them into an authoring interface. Even Blackboard currently includes space for meta-tags.

IMS as One Element of the Changing Higher Education Market

Patrick McElroy Executive Director for Marketing in Oracle's Higher Education Division, sees several forces that will help to solidify the now fragmented college market.

He notes that the cost of "content" worldwide is now about $200 million, which is mostly the cost of faculty salaries and academic support.

He suggests that the following trends will make the higher education market less diverse:


"Low bandwidth objects" will disappear.


Higher education institutions will budget for [electronic] content as a line item.


Less content will be exclusively in one proprietary format [e.g. Toolbook or Quest, viewable only via Internet Explorer, etc.].


Intellectual property issues [will begin to sort into patterns.]


Standards will emerge for software and hardware.


Enabling technologies will emerge, e.g.

bulletDatabases, especially in non-proprietary formats and non-print formats
bulletConsistent platforms will emerge.
bulletStreaming video standards will be settled.
bulletContent will be managed in pieces.

Can Oracle contribute to minimizing fragmentation in the educational market. 85% of the Fortune 1000 businesses use Oracle, which is already enhancing browser video, working on a virtual database to handle learning objects, and working on an I-Learning platform product for handling "granular" content.

The Future

McElroy sees 3-5 years in the future that the currently "inefficient" higher education market will be reduced by "aggregation." Content will be "seamless," and the current layering and fragmenting of content will be merged. Part of the seamlessness of dealing with educational products will include handling the pieces of transactions--managing copyrights, getting royalties to each developer of instructional content, but by then a decreasing impact on overall product price for these transactions.


If there was a theme among vendors, it was video. Many vendors provided closed-circuit video or bridging equipment for such systems. The good news is that the unit price has come down to $5k instead of $50k that colleges used to pay for a closed-circuit TV set up in a classroom and associated wires and switches.

Many other vendors showed on-screen video, streaming video, often associated with other windows. For instance, multipoint video conferencing software that is used with computer cameras can show 4 windows or more of various sizes, as well as allowing sound as the group confers.


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