Distance Ed conference

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Morning of the second day. Yesterday was interesting. I went to a workshop in the morning about Quality Assessment and Quality Assurance. I don't think I heard anything that I hadn't before, but it is always nice to hear about familiar things put together in a different way or in a new context. There was an example from the Open University of Hong Kong regarding their quality assurance process for their online courses. It was quite comprehensive, involving multiple levels of planning and review between the initiation of an idea for a new program to the delivery of the individual courses in that program. Looking at that, I found it hard to believe that such criteria could be implemented in the U.S., where instructors are used to having much more freedom to design and deliver bad courses. There was also an example from the UWMadison engineering program, where they have an online engineering business degree. It sounds very successful, probably aided by the fact that in engineering, there is already a community consensus (and much experience) on how to insure quality in their products. I have reservations as to whether such a model could be implemented in another field (such as education), in which there is no such community consensus.

A second workshop I went to was about ARGs (Alternate reality games). Unfortunately, I was no able to get much out of this one. The workshop started at 1 p.m. and by 2:45, I still had no idea what an ARG was like (my guess is that very few other people in the room did either). I knew things about ARGs, just not what it was like to play one. I wish we had started the session by playing a short ARG (which the presenter did have, but for some reason did not have us go through).

The talk this morning by Lee Crockett was very thought-provoking. I really enjoyed his message. There were a few things about his presentation that bugged me from a physics point of view, however.

(1) I don't think chips are ever going to get to $0.03 each, just on cost of raw materials.

(2) The Nokia phone that he mentioned as being charged by ambient radio waves also set off alarm bells in my head. It seems as if the idea came out in 2009, however, there has been nothing about it since. Probably the technology to do this idea is not there (and might not ever be there). The amount of energy in ambient radio waves is extremely small and non-directional. This is a physics limitation, not a Moore's law kind of thing. I think probably solar will turn out to be a much more practical and quickly realizable solution.

(3) The nano spiders that are 4 nm in size also "bugged" me. Well, not so much the idea, but the picture. Four nm is about the width of 40 atoms. There's no way you make something that looks like the picture he showed in 40 atoms. In fact, anything only 40 atoms wide is going to look like a blob or a stringy thing (what they actually look like). A good non-technical summary of the technology can be found at http://www.nature.com.ezp2.lib.umn.edu/nature/journal/v465/n7295/full/465167a.html
Fairly limited in function right now, but promising for the future.

Aside from these quibbles, I think his message is well taken.

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