Friday, May 30, 2008

Another Kick at the 'Free Content' Cat

From discussions on the WikiEducator mailing list:

Someone commented,
"MIT's OCW materials use the NC restriction and therefore do not qualify as free content under the free cultural works definition. The access may be open -- but they are certainly not free materials :-)"
I replied:

This is written as though it is a simple fait accompli. But there is a significant body of opinion (at least, to me) that says that materials may be 'free' and licensed as 'n on-commercial' -- and indeed, that when materials are used commercially (eg., sold) they are by definition *not* free.

I was asked, as a follow-up, by Leo Wong:
MIT OCW is something interesting for me coz they are doing some translation project here in Mainland China called OOPS , but don't know why they are translating the MIT "free content"

what do you think of the translation ? do you think it is a big of waste of time or just something they could invest the time doing something else ?

Still not sure I understand the meaning of NC , and why NC is not good for free content ?
My response:

I am aware of OOPS, I have met Luc Chu, who is based in Taipei, and I have been to visit them in Taiwan.

I think that the translation effort is well worth the time, as the OCW materials are high-quality materials, and the materials, which are made available free of charge, would be of benefit to the millions of people who speak Chinese who are studying those topics.

The OOPS project is a community-based project, where the materials are placed into a wiki and are translated by a community of volunteers.

To me, this is the essence of free content, and the model to be encouraged, since it is sustainable, and does not require a continual infusion of large amounts of money - public, private, or otherwise - to keep it progressing.

Just as an addendum, since you ask,
Still not sure I understand the meaning of NC , and why NC is not good for free content ?
This is a good example of why, in my view, the NC license is more 'free' for content.

Suppose OCW is licensed to allow commercial use. Some company comes along and spends a lot of money to translate the materials into Chinese. Then, in order to recover their investment, they sell the materials in China.

The result?

- this remains the only translation into Chinese, since people say there is 'no point' translating the materials a second time
- hence, for Chinese speakers, the *only* access to these materials is through purchase

I would add that if there is any danger of people producing free Chinese versions of the materials, such a company would have a significant incentive to block that effort. Such efforts are blocked in numerous ways:

- the company will 'lock down' the content it distributed (in., eg., proprietary formats, such as is used by the Kindle) so people can't simply copy it
- the company would raise doubts about the quality of the free translation
- the company would obtain exclusive distributorship of the material in Chinese markets, such as universities
- questions would be raised about the legality of the free translation
- if officials can be bribed, the people doing the free translation can be harassed or imprisoned
- technical requirements (such as standards compliance, or content registration, or digital rights enforcement) can be imposed on all content, which only the commercial company can afford

I could go on at length.

The end result is, if content is licensed under 'CC-BY-SA', the result is inevitably that the majority of people in the world must pay for access to that content. And that is not what I call 'free'.

Chris Harvey wrote:
I think he supports open access and perhaps open source and freebie software. Free software is a matter of freedom not price.

I am well aware of the distinction between 'free as in freedom' and 'free as in beer'. I support 'free as in freedom'.

My objection to commercial use is that it is a business model supported by denying access to resources. If a resource must be purchased before it may be used, then it is not free in either sense. A person does not have the freedom to use, modify, etc., something he or she must buy.

I appreciate that many of the other conditions of the free culture license - such as the use of non-proprietary media - serve to mitigate the excesses of commercial sales of open content. My belief is that the full set of such stipulations, crafted so as to close all loopholes, would be tantamount to the 'non-commercial' clause.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Content and Data

Responding to Seth Gottlieb, who argues that content is not data:

Each of the four things you say content 'has' are external to the content:

- Content has a voice... the person who created the content may be trying to communicate something, but content is inert, and does not 'try' to do anything

- Content has ownership... ownership is a social convention and not inherent to content

- Content is intended for a human audience... same thing as the first point - the intention is in the human, not the content

- Content has context... everything has context, not just content. Context is the environment in which content finds itself, both historically and in the present moment. By definition, context is external to content.

Significantly, if the things that distinguish content from data are all external to content, it follows that content is not inherently distinct from data, but becomes distinct only through out attitudes toward it and the history of its use.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Knowledge Mobilization and Knowledge Translation

Posted to the SCoPE conference, May 21, 2008.

One of the things I wanted to see Tom Carey explore in his talk today is the concept, suggested in this title, of knowledge mobilization.

From iisd, "Knowledge mobilization addresses how external knowledge (outside of the organization) is sought out and combined with internal knowledge to create new knowledge that meets the needs of target users/clients."

They continue, "Knowledge mobilization emphasizes purpose (meeting the needs of clients) and looks to how one brings in the knowledge of others. It recognizes that organizing one's own intellectual capital does not necessarily lead to innovation or change; implicit in the concept is the need for working relationships with others."

Knowledge mobilization is closely related to a concept that is gaining currency in the medical education community, knowldge translation. Here you have a similar idea of how knowledge isn't simply 'managed' but is rather put into action some way.

IDRC, for example, defines knowledge translation as "the exchange, synthesis and ethically-sound application of research findings within a complex set of interactions among researchers and knowledge users."

They continue, "In other words, knowledge translation can be seen as an acceleration of the knowledge cycle; an acceleration of the natural transformation of knowledge into use."

In both cases, it is clear that there is an interaction expected, that knowledge is not simply applied or transferred. From the IDRC paper again:

"There is a clear distinction between KT and knowledge transfer when the latter refers to a linear process through which research is first conceptualised and conducted, and the results are then handed over to the end-users. The unidirectional nature of knowledge transfer has often proved to be an ineffective way to ensure adoption and implementation of research results (Landry, Lamari and Amara, 2001)."

Also, "There is now a general trend towards increased interactions between researchers and users, and knowledge transfer strategies increasingly incorporate active processes and interactive engagement and exchange (Lavis et al., 2003)."

Both the concept of knowledge mobilization and knowledge translation recognize a relation between that pratice and knowledge brokering where "knowledge brokering refers to the active process rather than to the general concept/idea."

There's a lot to be said for this approach, obviously. It is a far cry from the days when people thought that knowledge could be simply 'captured' and stored in 'knowledge bases' that people would search in to find what they needed to know (much like the unloved and unread corporate 'knowledge' on the shared drives).

And it is a genuine improvement on the idea that knowledge can be simply 'transferred' from the originator to the person to whom it supposedly has some application. I think that in learning we have pretty much abandoned the 'transfer' model (haven't we?) and we would probably want to adopt another approach with respect to research and its application as well.

But it's not clear that knowledge mobilization and knowledge translation are (for lack of a better word) benign. If knowledge is incorporated into practice, then there is, in a sense, a mechanism whereby the person generating the knowledge obtains a significant degree of input into the practice.

We see this at work with knowledge translation. Consider how the Canadian Institutes of Health Research talk about knowledge translation: "Knowledge Translation, Commercialization and Industry Collaboration are all aimed at engaging stakeholder communities in the funding and translation of research for effective and innovative changes in health policy, practice or products."

On the other hand, knowledge translation initiatives can be useful and productive. The Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre, for example, provides "a searchable database for KT-related resources (including information and resources about stroke and how organizational and health systems resources affect an organization's ability to absorb and apply research evidence)."

Because knowledge translation initiatives can have such a significant impact on practice, the management of such initiatives is crucil. That's why lobbying organizations such as the Cochrane Collaboration are interested in promoting knowledge translation efforts. By defining what counts as knowledge, and by embedding knowledge translation in the workplace, they have a direct link to practice, bypassing and circumventing policy-makers and social scrutiny.

This, one suspects, is how the commercialization of our health and education systems is to be achieved.

On the other hand, if approached from a more open perspective, knowledge translation also has the potential to reform the decision-making process in a positive manner. Current research is aimed mostly at decision-makers and practitioners. Knowledge translation, by contrast, considers the sector as a whole.

As Davis, (2003) write, "kowledge translation... allows attention to be given to all possible participants in healthcare practices, including patients, consumers, and policy makers." It focuses not on the needs and interests of the practitioners, but on the well-being of the wider community.

There is similarily a source of tension in the research model inherent in knowledge translation. Despite its emphasis on holism and interactivity, it represents the domain as linear and causal, as seen by the model that "works in closing the gap between evidence and practice," usually through an 'intervention' and measurement of results.

Though on one hand this may appear to be a collaborative process, the reseracher, armed with 'evidence', in a certain sense 'knows' how the practitioner is deficient, and hence works not merely by increasing knowledge and skills, but by "promoting conducive conditions in the practice" and reinforcing the change in various ways.

Worse, the practice becomes some sort of club to be used against what might be effective - but less commercially profitable - technologies. Doherty (2005) cites an excellent example: ‘as with many interventions … the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation using randomized controlled trials’.

The problem is, when you limit practice to what can be shown 'using the evidence', you limit practice is ways that are unproductive, and possibly dangerous. The 'evidence' may not exist to support a practice we know, via other means, is effective. The 'evidence' may prescribe a 'cookbook' approach, by necessity oversimplifying what are in fact complex problems.

And worst of all, Doherty notes, "The final and often most scathing criticism of EBM is that it is a means to serve cost-cutters and administrators, that it is following its own political agenda and has created its own profitable industry. Is EBM a means to serve administrators or is it an attempt to improve care?"

Knowledge Mobilization, though it has a different history, adopts the same gap-based analysis. In his paper on knowledge mobilization, Peter Keen (2006) writes "what happens when there is a fundamental gap between these provider intentions and user choices? The answer is that user choices win out. That means that it is essential to fuse the institutional supply/management side of innovation with the individual demand/mobilization side of the knowledge and information investment/payoff equation."

It's all very well to say that user choices win out - and Keen makes the convincing case with discussions of Napster (which people used) and the semantic web (which people didn't). But there is a danger in an analysis that supposes that there is some fact of the matter about user choices that can be identified through some process of research and applied, as though it were some sort of glue (or "fusion") in practice.

But it is arguable - and I would argue - that there was no 'fact of the matter' about user preferences for Napster before the launch of Napster. Numerous factors operating one way or another played into the consumers' final response (the same is true of the semantic web, which despite being a big dud so far, is one gee-whiz invention away from mainstream acceptance). We can't draw the linear cause-effect relation here, no more than we can in medicine.

To be fair, it seems clear that Keen recognizes these limitations. He draws a clear distinction between an academically oriented knowledge regime and a business-oriented knowledge regime (what Lakoff might call a frame). And Keen writes, "from the perspective of user choice, the two different regimes of truth lead to two different domains of usefulness and awareness for information-seekers... Whose semantics should provide the base for the ontology and metadata choices?" Keen suggests we need to 'fuse' these different perspectives. I suggest they are incommensurable.

Another factor is important when one speaks of knowledge mobilization, and that is: he who controls the knowledge controls the mobilization.

Paul Capon, the president of the Canadian Council on Learning, for example, speaks of knowledge mobilization as though it will inform - evcn dictate - practice. "What do I mean by knowledge mobilization? I mean that the research will be used in order to identify the issues we think we actually need to know in order to move learning forward in this country so it is action research, not academic research; not pure research."

We heard from the Canadian Council on Learning yesterday, as John Biss presented. Concurrently was announced the release of a paper from CCL on international e-learning strategies. But we also learn that the paper was two years old! Is this what is meant by 'mobilization' - the selective releasing and non-release of data in order to motivate and move a sector toward a predetermined end? It is hard to draw any other conclusion from such a mismanagement of communication of research results.

The presumption that there is a privileged group that is in some way able to identify 'gaps' in the current state and some desired future state is, in my mind, flawed. It is flawed, not simply because any assessment of the current state depends on perspective, and is not therefore theory-neutral, and it is flawed not simply because there does not, and will never, in a complex system, exist a causal mechansism to move one from the original state across the gap to the desired state, but rather, because the articulation of the desired state, so crucil to the determination of action, is not an epistemological problem, but rather, one of power and authority.

And knowledge mobilization (and knowledge translation) is, in my mind, especially when practiced in an institutional setting, a legitimation of that authority, an authority that is just as likely based on the prejudices and desires of those in control, and not any objective, theory-neutral, or evidence-based statement of the desired outcome.

Social Media and Me

I was asked:

* How did you get started with social media?
* What was your introduction, and how did the journey unfold?
* What difference has it made in your professional practice?

Here's my answer.

My first experience with anything that could be called Social Media was in my Masters level 'Philosophy of Mind' course, offered by John A. Baker. I had to go to the computer lab in the department of Philosophy at the University of Calgary to gain access, but I participated in a lengthy discussion on the topic with the rest of the class (I still have the complete archive, on paper and bound).

My introduction to networking comes in the late 1980s with Bulletin Board Services (BBSs). It took me a lot to figure out how to configure the modem and connect to a BBS, but when I did, a world opened up to me. I took part in online chats, I posted to discussion boards, and I downloaded software.

I thought this was a great way to connect and I made some friends on the BBS systems in and around Edmonton. One of my favorite sites was run by the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC), believe it or not. Another was run by some guy from south of the city in a small town; I remember visiting him once and thinking that he was like my father, an older guy with an office filled with electronics and other junk (it's a certain character type).

I was so enamoured of this online life that I eventually built my own BBS, using the Maximus BBS system. I had to create my own batch files to run the server, something that took literally weeks of labour (I still have the code listing at home somewhere). My BBS, Athabaska BBS, was less successful - people had trouble connecting, just as I had. And as my interest was province-wide, long distance was an issue. As was the fact that it tied up my telephone line.

My next encounter with social media was the Multiple User Dungeon (MUD). This was also my first introduction to Internet (ie., TCP/IP) social media. I recall it clearly. We - the philosophy department - had finished losing another slo-pitch game and were recovering in Tom Daly's Chop House (and pub).

Two friends, Jeff McLaughlin (Kane) and Istvan Berkeley (Nomad) had already joined the MUD, Muddog MUD (based at the University of Florida). (Istvan and I shared a house in Edmonton for a while and explored connectionism together). They described how to join, and I figured I would. We discussed my character name for a bit, and I settled on Labatt - it was short, easy to type, and was suggested by the beer posters on the wall (Labatt is a brand of beer in Canada).

The next several years spent on Muddog were transformative. I worked my way up the ranks and eventually became a wizard, responsible for contributing to the MUD programming. En route I made a number of friends (one of whom I eventually married) and went through many shared experiences. It's the sort of thing that has been written about elsewhere, about other people (Sherry Turkle is the danah boyd of the MUD set). Muddog closed down in 1994.

Jeff, Ishy and I worked on some other projects together, most notably the 'Painted Porch MAUD' (Multiple Academic User Domain, which I coded from a Nightmare MudLib). We caught the attention of some other people, most notably Wes Cooper and Terry Anderson. While I was living in a cabin in Northern Alberta Jeff sent me an email describing the job at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, a job that my MUD experience uniquely qualified me for.

I made the jump from telnet to the web when I moved to Brandon in 1995. In Brandon, my first experience with social media was a site called The Spot. I was one of the original 'Spotniks' back in the days when it wasn't certain whether or not The Spot was real (it wasn't - it was launched and run by Fattal and Collins, an advertising agency. The Spot sort of drifted away before being eventually closed in 1997.

I remember visiting my family in Ottawa over the Christmas break of 1996. I spent most of my visit exploring a site called Firefly. Basically, it was a prototype social network, with friends and recommendations and many of the features we see today. When I returned back to Brandon, Conrad Albertson and I had long discussions about the site - and the sorts of things we could do online. Firefly was eventually bought by Microsoft, which killed it.

Around this time I picked up ICQ - as I recall, at the instigation of my father - which is probably the first genuinely social software I tried (in the sense that you have a list of 'friends' or contacts). ICQ is the original instant messaging software. It was launched in 1996 by Mirabilis, an Israeli company. My ICQ number, 1287181, was given out in 1997. My list of friends included mostly friends and family - work acquaintances never did take to it. Significantly, ICQ allowed my father and I to reconnect after many years, and we had a good dialogue in the last years of his life (he died in 1998) and with Andrea, who I married in 1998. ICQ was eventually bought by AOL, which cannibalized it to promote AOL Instant Messenger.

After I left the Spot I landed at the HotWired website and in particular the Media Rant discussion area. Here I came to know quite a number of people. I also started saving my online postings (having seen too many communities close - you can see them collected here, way down at the bottom of the page). This was prescient - the Threads part of the site closed in 1998, not long after I posted my lament for the once-great magazine. A bunch of us left the site in the fall of 1998 to form NewsTrolls, which continues to this day, but which, over time, has lost all its members.

Also around this time (starting in 1995, with my job at Assiniboine) I had my first real experience with email discussion lists, specifically WWWDEV, run by Rik Hall at the University of New Brunswick, and DEOS-L, run by Mauri Collins (among others) at the University of Pennsylvania. This connected me with the more academic community, and especially the Canadian community through WWWDEV. I attended a number of WWWDEV conferences and had many too many late-night beers with people like Rik, Terry Anderson, Rory McGreal, and the various other people the conference attracted.

In 1999 I was attracted from Assiniboine to the University courtesy of a job offer from Terry Anderson, who hired me to build an online community for the municipal sector in Alberta. My work in online community as well as my experience building websites and courses for Assiniboine qualified me for this job. I learned a lot creating MuniMall, not only about content syndication and community building, but about politics and communication. And I must say, I am very gratified to see MuniMall still alive and still using my original design, eight years after I left the University of Alberta. It's gratifying, and it tells me I got some things right.

While at the University of Alberta I started my email newsletter. I had launched my website in 1995, and in 1998 built the engine that I used to post news on my website and also on NewsTrolls (and a city of Brandon website, The Brandon Pages, which was beautifully designed, but attracted no community). But in 2001, while on a three-month visit to Australia, I decided I needed to expand my web presence - my job was coming to an end and I thought a newsletter might help me get paying work.

In the summer of 2001, Rory McGreal contacted me, telling me I should apply for this NRC job in New Brunswick. It was, again, another position for which my community-building experience perfectly suited me. And since taking that position in November, 2001, I have expanded my personal social network in two ways: first, by an ever increasing list of subscribers to my newsletters and RSS feeds, and second, by an ever increasing list of feeds in my RSS aggregator, the people I read on a regular basis. I now read about 500 feeds regularly, and I distribute my newsletter to 3000 email subscribers and roughly a similar number of RSS subscribers.

From there has been a proliferation of social networking tools. I have used Skype a lot and have a long list of Skype friends. My list of Orkut connections, by contrast, is small and silent. I have a long list of connections on Facebook, but my only real use of the site is to play scrabble (though I was invited to speak at a couple of conferences via Facebook messages). People follow me on Twitter, because my Facebook status update outputs to my Twitter account, but I do not read Twitter.

My main social network today is my own website. Mostly because I know it's the one site that nobody is going to close on me.

You work with these sites long enough, and you come to realize, if it belongs to someone else, it's going to die, eventually. No matter what kind of site - whether a MUD, a bulletin board, a discussion list, an online community, a communications app, whatever. Either it will shut down outright because it was no longer profitable (or no longer fit the 'funding mission') or whatever. Or it becomes so commercialized that it becomes useless, a cesspool of advertising, spam, and other detritus.

That said - if you follow this history, you will see that pretty much everything I have done in the last fifteen years has been the result of social networks one way or another. All of my jobs have come from the network. Most of my ideas, my work, and my thoughts and opinions have been shaped though the network. Even my personal relationships have been established through the network.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Terry Anderson's Proposal

I want to first state that I am sympathetic with Terry Anderson's plaint. I have heard him over these last few years making the case for research in e-learning in Canada. And I agree that there is a case to be made. But I would like to caution that it's not an obvious case, and that the result even of a successful petition is not necessarily what we might envision.

Here in New Brunswick, I made a case at the provincial level for the sort of program Terry envisions nationally - a Canadian JISC or EdNA, for example. The proposal was well-received and the audience - members of the e-learning industry here in New Brunswick, including members of the Canadian military engaged in overseas training - was receptive.

But it's not clear that the sort of presentation I made would be accepted as a national proposal.

First, for the benefit of our international audience, I should point out that Canada is a confederation of ten provinces and three territories. These provinces share power with the federal government. In the Canadian constitution, education at all levels is a provincial responsibility. This has not prevented the federal government from making substantial investments in the field over the years, through established programs financing, through Council grants, and through project funding. But there is the widespread belief in Canada that there should not be a federal *coordination* of education in Canada, which would include e-learning research.

Which leads to my second point. The provincial ministers of education, when they got together under the auspices of CMEC (Council of Ministers of Education, Canada) did launch a research program, funded to the tune of some $86 million, if I recall correctly. This resulted in the creation of the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) and this body *did* produce a research agenda.

It is not exactly what I would call a forward-looking agenda. Without having conducted a systematic review, I am hesitant to make specific criticisms, but much of the work seems to me to be less relevant than I would like and in some cases - such as the 'learning profiles of famous Canadians' series, outright frivolous. I don't agree with all of the presumptions underlying the development of the research agenda, and have openly questioned these presumptions in various forums.

CCL has launched a "21st Century Learning Agenda" which looks a lot like the 'school 2.0' stuff coming out of the U.S. and which has toiled in relative obscurity here in Canada. Their website, Change Learning, focuses essentially on the work of John Abbott. The site looks like an average edublog, is about as informed, and even has 'blogs', though an apparent absence of RSS feeds. If you were to join the discussion, started a half year ago, your post would be post number 6.

There is another major research path in Canada, one that has historically been dominated by a small group of people. It begins in the 1990s, with the Virtual-U project (TeleLearning NCE) based (mostly) at Simon Fraser University and led by Linda Harasim and other notables. Given the results of the project, which spent $14 million over 4 years, the criticisms in the student press seem prescient. There's more on Virtual-U here.

This was followed by the unlamented EduSource project. It was in a certain sense a carry-over from Virtual-U. Funded by CANARIE, it spend something like $6 million to produce a network of learning object repositories in Canada. Though the website is still extant, the federation (and associated initiatives, like GLOBE, limps along). This in turn was followed by LORNet, involving many of the same people, which is also a network of learning object repositories. The research themes combine to produce the "TeleLearning Operation System -TELOS."

This is a research program. One could argue that it is not a very good research program, in that it consists of attempting to do pretty much the same thing over and over, and inasmuch as it is mainly focused on replicating the university network online. One could argue that it's not enough money - though given what we've gotten for the tens of millions already spent, one could argue that more spending would be good money after bad.

You see - from my perspective, the problem is only *partially* that we haven't invested enough in e-learning research in Canada. The problem is also that our investments have been badly managed, and have gone to support projects that should not have been supported, or which though well-intentioned turned out to be less well managed. And moreover - since these projects continue to be a going concern - the best evidence is that the allocation of more money would end up in the hands of the same people, doing the same thing. I mean, after all, can we *really* imagine that the money wouldn't be absorbed by the CCL people and the LORNet people?

And all of *that* said, it is worth noting that the best research in Canada has taken place outside that sphere of well-funded influence. Projects like the Multiple Academic User Domain (MAUD) which was already doing what Virtual-U was funded to do when it was funded. Projects like WebCT, which came to define an industry. Projects like Alberta SuperNet. Like Canada SchoolNet. Like BC Campus. Like the Public Knowledge Project. And - dare I say - the loose collaboration that is the e-learning edublogging connectivist community in Canada.

My perspective is, though we have been very innovative in Canada, we have been inept at *managing* that innovation. And that this is precisely because we seem to always feel that it must *be* managed, that it must be coordinated, that we must align to a common 'research direction' because we're so small, that we must create the 'CanadArm' of global e-learning by focusing on our niche excellence (which we can then sell to the U.S. - or at least try.)

So when someone says to me, "we need a research agenda," I take pause. Because, my first question is something along the lines of: "What are the odds that a coordinated research program would in any resemble the work that I am doing?" And when I answer that question ("zero") my concern becomes that a coordinated research program would siphon what few resources make it my way as part of Canada's only *actual* e-learning research program (at the NRC) and redirect them to the CCLs and the LORNets of the world.

To be honest, I'm not interested in a research program or a research agenda. I have no real faith that such coordinated efforts at research, particularly in an undefined field such as e-learning, work.

My preference would be to see a network of supports put into place for an *uncoordinated* research effort. I would like to see the Canadian e-learning community provided with free (and easy to use) web spaces, free discussion areas, free applications and free online services. I would like to see support for a news exchange system - an aggregator of Canadian research blogs. I would like to see Canadian researchers publish in open journals and newsletters available to all educators. I'd like to see support for open content and open archiving - a genuinely free and open repository of learning (and other) resources.

Most of all, I'd like research in Canada to stop trying to create 'commercial applications' or 'commercial networks' - even when we succeed at this, we just end up selling them to the U.S. anyways. We need to think about the idea of 'research as infrastructure' - we need to conduct research by actually providing services to people, instead of conducting study after useless study of 14 graduate students and their online course.

Is this likely to happen? No.

So, while I am sympathetic with Terry Anderson's proposal, and would like to see something positive result, I am cautious and sceptical in that support.