Category Archives: 2008/3-4


At the conclusion of the third year of publication of FormaMente, two outstanding international events in the field of distance education saw the participation of GUIDE Association. In fact, in the second half of this year, that celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 2nd ACDE Conference and General Assembly, “Open and distance learning for sustainable development” took place in July in Lagos, Nigeria and the ICDE Standing Conference of President took place in October in Shangai, followed by the ODE Global Forum. Both events, supported by the Unesco, expressed the shared intention of meeting the urgent need of equity in education, equal opportunities for all citizens, during all their lives, and acknowledged the crucial role of distance education for a sustainable development.

The Dictatorship of the problem: choosing research methods

It is relatively easy to investigate how to employ a particular research method in the social sciences. It is considerably more difficult to decide which to use. Which method to use is arguably a more important question than how to use that method. ‘Which method?’ is, at least, the necessarily prior question. One cannot look up how to do something until one has decided what that something is. Methodological innovation depends directly on methodological choice. Researchers continuing a tradition, or working within a paradigm can often avoid making difficult methodological choices. Researchers seeking to innovate cannot. The question ‘which method?’ is particularly important for selecting research designs, because design choice importantly shapes most of the other choices researchers make. Designs are most effective and have the greatest potential for innovation when they are dictated by the nature of the research problem.

Paper originally presented at the Social Research Methodology Centre, City University, London, 18 April 2007, and published in “Methodological Innovations Online“ V. 3 (2008), n.1. Reprinted with permission.

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Ontology of learning objects repository for pedagogical knowledge sharing

Ontology has been receiving considerable attention in the learning objects research community. This paper discusses the key concepts of ontology of learning objects repository and proposes an ontological model for pedagogical knowledge sharing. The ontological model specifies a generic organizational structure for learning objects repository based on pedagogical design categories. An ontology that actualizes such a structure allows the user of the learning objects repository to play an active role in pedagogical development through searching semantically relevant learning objects. An example of ontology for pedagogical knowledge sharing is used to illustrate the concepts of the development and use of ontologies of learning objects repository.

Article originally published in “Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects“ (formerly the “Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects“), V. 4 (2008), // Reprinted with permission.

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Making research and education cyberinfrastructure real

The Industrial Age transformed the world through the application of technology to research, practice, and everyday life. Technology revolutionized manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, and communications and created deep social and economic changes that continue today. In the last century, the explosion of information technologies ushered in an Information Age with similar transformative potential. In 2008, it is hard to imagine modern life and work without the ability to access, manipulate, organize, and understand a sea of digital information on almost every conceivable topic.

The driving engine for the Information Age is cyberinfrastructure (CI): the organized aggregate of information technologies (computers, storage, data, networks, scientific instruments) that can be coordinated to address problems in science and society. Fundamental to modern research, education, work, and life, CI has the potential to overcome the barriers of geography, time, and individual capability to create new paradigms and approaches, to catalyze invention, innovation and discovery, and to deepen our understanding of the world around us. However, CI in the academic sector often falls short of its remarkable potential. Comprised of dynamically evolving information technologies, CI is both a continuous work-in-progress and a stable infrastructure driver for invention and innovation. It is this duality, as well as the challenge of creating an environment that effectively supports both the invention and the broad use of CI for research and education, that is the focus of this article.

Article originally published in ‘EDUCAUSE Review’, V. 43 (2008), n. 4 (July/August 2008). – © 2008 Francine Berman. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution  NonCommercial – NoDerivs 3.0 License (//

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The Performative pull of research with new media

In this paper, the author tells the story of how the technology she used in her research reshaped her thinking about her research, as she reshaped the technology for purposes beyond its initial intent. Her research story provides a real-life example of the dialectical relationship between humans and technology. When she immersed herself in a multimedia authoring environment called Flash, in the process of her research, the experience led to the reorganization or restructuring of her thinking, and her research looks very different than it would have if she had used technology only as initially planned. She discusses the performative potential of new media and, in particular, a digital environment she created to store, organize, and represent her data, and she discusses the role of the digital environment in providing a meeting place for the participants and the researcher in the study. Thinking with new media on an ongoing basis in her study meant thinking about research data, analysis, and presentation through the lens of new media’s affordances: multimodality, multilinearity, and performance.

Article originally published in the ‘International Journal of Qualitative Methods’, V. 7 (2008), n. 2. ©2008 Hughes. Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License


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Dancing with meta-communication for distance educaton

Today, we are living in the knowledge society. The rapid technological changes and developments in science obligate us to update nearly all knowledge, even if it was achieved yesterday too. This obligation is strongly emphasizing itself, especially in educational environments, for delivering our educational materials to the learners. Communication is not a new concept in our daily lives, but it is an effective issue, and a concept used for designing our messages and up-to-date knowledge. As Robert S. McLean stated: ‘Knowledge building is a theory of learning, which emphasizes the collaborative construction of knowledge by a group of learners and teachers. Students [improve] their understanding through sustained inquiry that pursues collective goals of understanding; it is driven by student [and teacher] questions and explanations, in self-directed small groups’ (McLean, 1999, p. 383).

This paper suggests and defends the idea that the meta-communication concept could help the teachers and course developers better redesign and reconstruct knowledge for building educational materials, especially in the distance education field and its applications, according to daily developments in science and technology.

The major objective of this paper is to discuss the structure of knowledge building, according to knowledge-building theory criteria and principles, and its relationship with communication concept, which surrounds its development. Graphical symbols that enable interaction between the user and computer (scroll bar, button, etc.), signs, symbols or small computer programs that define the action of graphical symbols, designed according to knowledge-building principles, may help facilitate and articulate meta-communication, and the components of knowledge building. This is particularly so in distance learning, where the communication usually cannot occur outside the system, as it could in a face-to-face environment.

Received: 25th July 2008

Revised: 29th September 2008

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The UDHR Right to Education: how distance education helps to achieve this

This year 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the UDHR-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and six leading international journals in open and distance education have collaborated over the past two years to elicit papers from all around the world to discuss how well distance education has promoted the UDHR article 26 on the Right to Education. The six journals are: the ‘Asian Journal of Distance Education’,  ‘Distance et Savoirs’, ‘EURODL’, ‘IRRODL’, ‘ALN’ and ‘Open Praxis’. On achieving the universal Right to Education through distance education, the ‘Asian Journal of Distance Education’has contributed leading papers from Malaysia, from Japan, from China, from India, from Sub-Saharan Africa, and continues to contribute with papers from other regions, including the Arab States of the Gulf. This project has been officially recognized by the United Nations for celebrating this 60th anniversary. All the contributions now posted up online on a new dedicated Website are reviewed, and critically analyzed. The critical analysis suggests that distance education for developing regions should be initially through public money, followed by adaptation, and then local distribution, or initially created locally, which is far cheaper, but perhaps more difficult, due to lack in technological expertise. Another conclusion is that distance education providers should have an eye on the aging society, and the expected increase in older active but handicapped students. Also the analysis suggests more resources should be produced in the students’ own native language. Other findings are discussed.

Received: 25 July 2008

Revised: 30th July 2008

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Data management for prospective research studies using SAS® software

Maintaining data quality and integrity is important for research studies involving prospective data collection. Data must be entered, erroneous or missing data must be identified and corrected if possible, and an audit trail created.

Using as an example a large prospective study, the Missouri Lower Respiratory Infection (LRI) Project, we present an approach to data management predominantly using SAS software. The Missouri LRI Project was a prospective cohort study of nursing home residents who developed an LRI. Subjects were enrolled, data collected, and follow-ups occurred for over three years. Data were collected on twenty different forms. Forms were inspected visually and sent off-site for data entry. SAS software was used to read the entered data files, check for potential errors, apply corrections to data sets, and combine batches into analytic data sets. The data management procedures are described.

Study data collection resulted in over 20,000 completed forms. Data management was successful, resulting in clean, internally consistent data sets for analysis. The amount of time required for data management was substantially underestimated.

Data management for prospective studies should be planned well in advance of data collection. An ongoing process with data entered and checked as they become available allows timely recovery of errors and missing data.

Article originally published in ‘Welcome to BMC Medical Research Methodology’, 8 (2008), n. 61. – ©2008 Kruse and Mehr. Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (//

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Bridging the gap between academia and industry through user-centred training

Bridging the Gap is a project-based online track within TU-Towson University’s undergraduate curriculum that will provide industry and theoretical background through a module-based e-learning environment. Bridging the Gap will develop and enhance TU’s existing IT courses with the addition of self-paced e-learning modules and hands-on industry projects. The project will assist faculty members with developing and administering class assignments by utilizing modulated project repository and providing them with continuous real-time technology updates, required skill sets and knowledge of industry trends. The business community will also benefit from the User Centred Software Engineering and Web Technology Lab; the lab will serve as a test bed for industry applications. Active collaboration with industry will result in the development of new research initiatives for undergraduate and graduate students while, at the same time, helping them develop real-world skill sets to compliment what they will learn through self-paced e-learning modules. Bridging the Gap’s approach will lead to the development of a project-based course curriculum, which will benefit the students, TU and other universities, and ultimately the IT industry.

Received: 4th June 2008

Revised: 23rd September 2008

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ICT in education: facing a paradigm shift

Major changes are characteristic to educational systems of different countries. Two issues are often noted with reference to them: ICT implementation and the change of educational paradigm, i.e. when the paradigm of teaching shifts into the paradigm of learning or the paradigm of teaching evolves into the paradigm of interaction which, in its turn, changes into the paradigm of learning. Researchers have noted that the depth of ICT implementation in education is related to the educational paradigm change. How and in which areas this interrelation is manifested in practice? What role in this change is played by ICT?

The above questions will be discussed in this presentation. Its aim is to analyse the potential of ICT in education in relation to the changing educational paradigm.

Received: 4th June 2008

Revised: 1st September 2008

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New media technology, interculturalism, and intermediality

The author discusses the importance of new media technology and the concept of intermediality with regard to the relevance of interculturalism in today`s society. Intermediality refers to the blurring of generic and formal boundaries among different forms of cultural practices and in the field of pedagogy. The trajectories of intermedial spaces, actions, and processes of types of new media including the World Wide Web, hypertextuality, online publishing, blogs, interactive media, etc., suggest possibilities and potentials to work toward interculturalism. Interculturalism is understood as a practice of social life including government at all levels, education and pedagogy, as well as all instances of every-day life towards active recognition and inclusion of the Other and a commitment against essentialisms. In this process, the potential roles of new media suggest as of yet un-tapped resources and possibilities.

Received: 10th June 2008

Revised: 3rd September 2008

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Usage of OSS in multimedia courses: OUM experience

The paper will share the experience of using the Open Source Software (OSS) in teaching multimedia courses at Open University Malaysia (OUM). OSS has been introduced because of technology, costing and legal implication factors in which these aspects assist in reducing the digital divide among OUM learners, particularly in rural area. Three multimedia courses namely Audio Technology in Multimedia, Video Technology in Multimedia and 3D Animation had adapted the usages of the software started in Semester September 2005. Audacity, Anim8or and GIMP are some of the software integrated in the multimedia courses. The university had integrated these multimedia software to its own live DVD distro which was developed on Ubuntu platform. Issues and challenges such as the OSS function capability, comparison of OSS and proprietary software, costing, tutors expertise, technology variety and mindset change among instructors and learners will be discussed in this paper.

Received: 10th June 2008

Revised: 3rd September 2008

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Virtual Worlds: Moving Beyond Today

Donald J. Welch is the President and CEO of Merit Network, a non-profit corporation governed by Michigan`s public universities. Merit is America`s longest running regional research and education network.

The following excerpt is based on an interview conducted by Gerry Bayne, EDUCAUSE multimedia producer, at the EDUCAUSE Midwest Regional Conference held in Chicago, Illinois, in March 2008. To listen to the full podcast, go to //

Article first published in ‘EDUCAUSE Review’, 43(2008), n. 5, ©2008 Donald J. Welch. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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Marconi Channel è il nuovo canale mediatico della Università Telematica ‘Guglielmo Marconi’. Una Web TV, gratuita in streaming on demand, innovativa e interattiva che nasce dalla volontà di sperimentare nuove forme di comunicazione.

Un canale attraverso cui l’utente ha così la possibilità di vedere la TV ed ascoltare la radio direttamente dal suo PC;  uno spazio per fare comunicazione in digitale, che contiene strumenti innovativi diversificati per ogni settore, approfondimenti e video format, utilizzando linguaggi appositamente creati per una fruizione sul Web.

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El Campus Virtual de la Universidad del Salvador: espacio de encuentro de las II Jornadas Virtuales de Educación a Distancia: ‘Desafíos de la capacitación 2.0: ¿paradigma del futuro?’

El Programa de Educación a Distancia de la Universidad del Salvador (PAD/USAL), dependiente del Vicerrectorado de Investigación y Desarrollo, fue creado en 1997. Tiene entre sus objetivos principales promover la investigación en educación a distancia (EAD) y construir espacios tanto para la capacitación permanente de profesionales como para el intercambio de información y experiencias en el área.

En función de esto, el PAD cuenta con un equipo interdisciplinario de diseño didáctico de cursos a distancia (a nivel pedagógico y tecnológico). En este momento, el Programa ofrece en la modalidad a distancia 16 Talleres, 13 Cursos universitarios, 6 Talleres de posgrado y una Especialización en Enseñanza de Español para Extranjeros, recientemente acreditada por CONEAU (Comisión Nacional de Evaluación y Acreditación Universitaria, que evalúa las carreras de posgrado de las Instituciones Universitarias, considerando los estándares de calidad) y por el Ministerio de Educación. Asimismo, se encuentran en la fase de elaboración 4 cursos y una Maestrí­a en Educación a Distancia (presentada el año pasado ante CONEAU para su acreditación).

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Rassegna di informatica giuridica

Il termine ‘era digitale’ è frutto del quotidiano uso del computer e di internet in ogni campo di attività: dal lavoro, all’informazione, agli acquisiti, alla comunicazione, ai rapporti interpersonali.

Entrando a fondo nella routine quotidiana, non può stupire quindi che gli stessi mezzi tecnologici e informatici siano sempre più oggetto di analisi e di indagine sotto diversi punti di vista. Tra questi, un settore di grande sviluppo e di ancora non prevedibile definizione è lo studio dell’implicazione tecnologica nelle scienze forensi, sia sotto il profilo della commissione dei reati, con la nascita di nuove figure delittuose (cybercrimes), sia sotto il profilo delle tecniche di indagini in caso di reati, per la formazione delle prove e la ricostruzione dell’illecito.

Il fenomeno si è imposto con una tale rilevanza da determinare la nascita di una nuova e specifica disciplina giuridica: l’informatica forense.

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