Think about Algorithmic Test Proctoring

Read Shea Swauger’s article, Our Bodies Encoded: Algorithmic Test Proctoring in Higher Education. It identifies deep concerns about algorithmic test proctoring. Right now, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing everyone to quickly adapt to different ways of doing things, students are facing their final exams. Within universities, I know many people at all levels that are working incredibly hard to find ways to support students and help them successfully complete what they set out to do. Students ought to inform themselves on this issue and listen carefully to all of the options, which the university is providing them.

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Creative Commons Certificate Program

If you have an interest in learning more about the Creative Commons and open access licensing issues. This year, the Creative Commons began offering an online certificate program, which helps you learn about all things CC. It started as a sort of beta offer but has matured. The certificate originally targeted educators and librarians, which got my interest so I signed up certificates.creativecommons.org

I went into the course feeling like I knew a lot about the Creative Commons. But I want to recommend it because it turned out that not only did I learn a fair amount, I got a better understanding of what I thought I knew.

I’ve put a few of the things that I worked on during the program on this blog.

The course spans ten weeks and has regular assignments and discussions. I wouldn’t say that the assignments were especially difficult but they require some reflection, creativity, and time. I decided to use/learn different tools or applications for each one so that probably made it a bit more difficult than necessary but it was also fun to try.

The Creative Commons has opened up the course to more people and is accepting applications for the start of 2019. You should look into it if you have any interest in open access issues and the Creative Commons.

Open Access Week 2018

International Open Access Week spans 22 – 28 of October this year. It’s a great time to find out more about open access initiatives that you can both benefit from and participate in.

Open Access enables people to learn from a much greater commons of research and knowledge than would otherwise be possible. It’s a movement very much inline with the missions of libraries and with the research life cycle. Without open access we’re left with a scholarly ecosystem dependent on a few powerful commercial interests. Those commercial interests tend to control or prevent access except for the parties able to pay the most. A detriment to access-to-knowledge and research.

At Concordia, my colleagues and I have been organizing a screening of the film, Paywall: the Business of Scholarship.  We’re following it up with a discussion/Q&A session so that people can get a better sense of what’s happening at Concordia.

Here is a nice article about OA at Concordia. More about our event here, it’s on Tuesday evening, doors open at 5 (film starts at 5:30) and it’s FREE, so come. I’ve discovered that a lot of other universities are holding a similar event so if you miss it at Concordia, you can probably find it somewhere else nearby.

Find out more about open access by following these links:

Paywall Is A Compelling Documentary, Advocates OA

Last Friday night, I watched the new documentary, Paywall: The Business of Scholarship. If you’re involved in research, scholarly communication, or even just concerned with the availability of knowledge (especially as it results from public funding), then I recommend watching this film. You can easily stream it and, in-line with its subject matter, it will not cost you anything.

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Switch to a Mastodon Social Network

The Mastodon social network system is the most promising advance I’ve seen recently toward establishing a better, more compelling social networking system.

I’ll explain why I think it’s worth leaving closed networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc. for Mastodon. I’d also like to say a little about how Mastodon works and mention something nice for the academic community. Perhaps you use something like Academia.edu? Perhaps you’ve heard of ScholarlyHub.org? Then perhaps you should know about Scholar.social. But first, Mastodon. Continue reading “Switch to a Mastodon Social Network”

Try the Engineering Academic Challenge (Concordia Student Event)

The Engineering Academic Challenge asks students to figure out answers to a variety of interesting engineering questions by using databases with Engineering Village and Knovel. There will be an event at Concordia for engineering students to try the challenge (it includes food). Competing against universities from all over the world, you can also win some nice prizes.

On Monday, 23 October 2017 go to the Hall building, 7th floor student lounge area, between 11 and 1. Bring your laptop, use one of the computers there, or borrow one from the library.

Participating in the EAC is a great way to improve your ability to get effective search results out of Engineering Village, while also learning about interesting engineering problems.

Software Tools that are Useful for Students & Free

Completing your university work on time, collaborating with many people, and dealing with cost and other requirements of various software systems is a hassle, which I hope that you can eliminate using some of these tools. I’ve used these and I’d like recommend that people try them out. Following is a brief description of some Office Productivity, Time and Project Management, Mindmapping, Reference Management, Note Taking, and Transcription applications. I’ve included a link to access or download them (all cost-free).  Continue reading “Software Tools that are Useful for Students & Free”

Applications for Reading Ebooks

Usually when I read electronic books, I use my phone. In those cases it’s often through an app like Aldiko or if I’m forced to, then a monstrosity like Bluefire or Overdrive. Sometimes it’s better at a computer screen though and possibly easier if you need to see something larger or are flipping back and forth between documents. This brief article reviews a few desktop ebook readers for Linux systems. I learned about some options that sound like they’re worth checking out, in addition to my regular choice, Calibre.

Canadian Government WCM Migration Project Failed—It’s for the Best

Our former federal government (under Harper’s Conservatives) decided to migrate some 1500 government Web sites to a single content management (WCM) system. They chose Adobe’s AEM product and it looks like the project collapsed in failure. As a Canadian citizen, I’m glad the project has not worked out. I can see how such a project could have merit but the software choice was a bad decision in principle and apparently the project planning and management were not undertaken properly. Too bad it didn’t fail sooner to prevent wasting so much money. CBC’s article about the project is here and I’ll point out a few thoughts about why I think the choice of WCM system was bad in principle and raise some questions on project management.

In 2015, I was in a discussion with a group that was bringing consultants on board to work on the migration. Having had previous experience in this domain and with a large AEM migration, the project interested me but I chose not to get involved and so I do not know any details of what happened other than what I’ve read in the CBC article. There are a few things about the project that I always thought were questionable: namely the choice of software and the management of the project. I felt there was an anything-goes sense of desperation in the recruiting, which didn’t make very feel confident about how the project would unfold.

When I read the CBC news article, the following quote raised a flag for me in terms of questioning such a large project’s management.

“A government source with first-hand knowledge of the Canada.ca project, speaking on condition of anonymity, said IT government workers have been told that none of the government’s arm’s-length agencies have been moving their material over to the new site for some time.”

If people haven’t been migrating material for some time, I would want to ask what happened to lose their participation and throw the project off track?

When you have that many sites, involving a large group of people, they’ve got to understand and feel that their concerns are heard, respected, and involved out the outset of the decision-making. There ought to be things motivating them to move toward the project’s goals. Did they participate in selecting the system? Did they receive training and have the necessary support to comprehend the vision of how the new system and associated processes would work? Did they understand and buy in to the goals? Was it going to improve their work experience and outcomes? Were reasonable deadlines established with communication to keep people aware of the project’s movement as they succeeded with their milestones? I’m sure that one could ask a lot more in a post-mortem of the project..

Of more concern to me though is the selection of the most expensive proprietary WCM platform on the market, Adobe AEM, and the choice of hosting Canadian government sites through an American service provider, Amazon. AEM has many good qualities (as well as bad) but the good do not merit its cost.

First, the platform.

Government software selections ought to, by default, consider free/libre and open source software products first and then develop or select proprietary solutions only if no sufficient F/LOSS choice exists.

Some F/OSS advantages include the following. By definition F/LOSS choices result in greater transparency (and potential security) since the code can be audited. F/LOSS can result in large cost-savings due to an absence of licensing fees (though support incurs costs just like it does with proprietary software). In the future, migrating the systems, code, and data for preservation, archival, or shifting formats can be accomplished with more flexibility if the code is open and accessible rather than closed and controlled by a foreign company (which may or may not continue to operate).

F/LOSS does not lock a government into the control of foreign entities and better, it has the potential to involve communities of domestic businesses in support or customization that might otherwise be prevented.

F/LOSS choices align well with government initiatives in that they enable us to also control our own systems, foster our own businesses and communities, and master our own security. In contrast, Adobe AEM is a proprietary product controlled by a foreign company, with no transparency, and no requirement to give back to communities involved with it. Canadians are paying for something that we cannot control and which doesn’t contribute to the Canadian digital ecosystem. It enriches a foreign company.

Second, the hosting.

Government sites hosted by Amazon—a foreign (American) company? Even if the servers sit on Canadian soil, isn’t this a questionable decision? How does that intersect with American laws and American government agencies, which could demand information from Amazon? As I lack detail about this setup, I am certainly not well-informed and I would imagine that all sorts of precautions were taken in this arrangement. Nevertheless, why introduce this kind of a security and privacy risk? Shouldn’t we be critical about putting Canadian government information (not to mention potential personal information) on servers hosted by a company of foreign origin (using foreign proprietary software) when Canadian companies could have provided the same service (or the government could operate these itself)?

Regardless of how the remaining Canadian government sites manage their content, there can be an information architecture, design strategies, and style guidelines developed, which provide usable experiences and good aesthetics for people seeking information from these Web sites. The back-end system can certainly help improve the management, updating, and preservation of the content for the people developing or administering it but it does not necessarily dictate how the user interacts with the public web front. So even with today’s state of affairs on the WCM migration project, Canadian government Web sites can continue to serve their purposes and improve.