From: Willard McCarty <firstname.lastname@example.org> (129)
Subject: Learning on the info highway
Learning on the info highway:
IHAC report urges more electronic publishing
University Affairs / Affaires Universitaires
November 1995, p. 17
Association of Universities and Colleges in
Canada / Association des Universite/s et
Colle\ges du Canada
Re-published by permission of the editor.
If Canada's Information Highway Advisory Council has its way, the
university professor of the future will be more likely to cruise
the Internet than to leaf through the pages of a scholarly
journal for an update on research results.
The council, which released its final report to the federal
government at the end of September, says lifelong learning is a
key design element of the information highway. Among the
council's 300 recommendations are many which could bring far-
reaching changes to the way academics communicate their
scholarship and research, as well as transforming the way
students in Canadian schools learn, and teachers teach.
"Innovation in information technology and networking can extend
access to education," the report states. "It can improve learning
and help institutions control spiraling costs by removing time
and distance as a cost factor."
In order to effectively use technology in education, however,
IHAC says one factor is paramount: federal support for the
introduction of special reduced rates for educational use of
The 29-member advisory council was appointed by the federal
government in April 1994 to examine 15 broad policy issues set
out in a government discussion paper on the information highway.
Chaired by David Johnston, former principal and now professor of
law at McGill University, the advisory council had members from
the telecommunications, broadcasting and cultural industries,
labor groups, the education and research communities, and a
number of artists and creators.
The IHAC report concentrates not only on the technology Canada
will need to build its information highway, but also on content.
In fact, it notes, past Canadian public policy has tended to
focus on infrastructure while allowing funding for content to
dwindle. The report cites the example of SchoolNet, a program
aimed at encouraging Canadian schools to link to the information
highway. At the same time as SchoolNet was being created in 1993,
a government funding program to develop courseware fell victim to
budget cuts. "The unintended result is that SchoolNet may well
become a conduit for providing American learning products to
Canadians," the report warns.
To avoid this, the council says Canada's history and heritage
resources must be digitized. And, it adds, in today's fiscal
climate that means collaboration, not new government funding.
The IHAC report recommends a number of pilot projects in the
areas of digitization, electronic publishing and document
delivery. But even though electronic publishing is faster than
traditional publishing and can cut costs involved in production
and distribution, some problems still need to be resolved, the
report notes. IHAC calls on the academic community to examine
such issues as ensuring adequate peer review and scholarly
recognition of electronic research papers; testing the
willingness of academic authors to forgo copyright; finding ways
to effectively present, index, preserve, distribute and archive
electronic publications; as well as looking at ways to use
security technologies to authenticate and verify documents.
To further encourage electronic publishing of scholarly material,
IHAC says the government should provide "strong incentives" to
Canadian universities, research institutions and agencies to
facilitate electronic dissemination of and access to research
results. And it says that the three federal granting councils
have a role to play in encouraging electronic communication,
urging that the councils adopt "effective policies and
procedures" to recognize and encourage the electronic
dissemination of research results. The IHAC, reports
recommendations are also reflected in a recently released
discussion paper prepared by a joint Association of Universities
and Colleges of Canada/Canadian Association of Research Libraries
task force on scholarly communication. The discussion paper calls
for an overhaul of the existing system of academic communication,
with support for the development of electronic journals and new
partnerships using networking technologies. Another issue
addressed by IHAC which is of vital interest to the university
community is copyright.
IHAC says copyright law in the information age must maintain a
balance between the rights of creators to benefit from their
works and the needs of users -- including the education community
-- to access and use works on reasonable terms.
The report says that guidelines on fair dealing should be
provided in the Copyright Act, including an explicit
clarification that fair dealing does apply to electronic copies.
It also says that what constitutes browsing, which IHAC defines
as "temporary materialization of a work on a video screen,
television monitor or similar device, without the making of a
permanent reproduction of the work", should be clarified in
copyright law. It should then be left to the copyright owner to
determine whether and when browsing should be permitted on the
information highway, and owners should identify what part of
their work is appropriate for browsing. Universities are key to
the development of the information highway in their teaching
efforts, the report adds. It says that new entrants to
professions such as teaching, training, librarianship and school
administration should -- as a condition of their graduation from
university -- be required to become proficient in the use of
technology. Moreover, the report adds, reform of accreditation
procedures should be accelerated to facilitate mobility of
students across Canada, with full transferability of credits
within all levels of learning and all modes of learning delivery.
Throughout its report, IHAC sees the information highway of the
future as "market driven", built and operated by the private
sector. Its vision for education is no different. IHAC urges
educational institutions to form new partnerships with technology
developers to create Canadian-based courseware and software for
electronic learning at all levels. And, it says, technology-based
learning tools may well be more effective, efficient -- and
perhaps most importantly, cheaper -- than traditional teaching.
Copies of the IHAC report, entitled <t>The Challenge of the
Information Highway</t>, are available from Distribution
Services, 208D, East Tower, Industry Canada, 235 Queen St,
Ottawa, Ontario KIA OH5. Copies of the AUCC-CARL task force,
entitled <t>Towards a New Paradigm for Scholarly
Communication</t>, are available from AUCC Publications, 350
Albert St, suite 600, Ottawa, Ontario KIR 1B1 or can be accessed
Watch for next month's issue of <t>University Affairs</t>, which
will contain a special report on new technologies in higher
education [To be published on Humanist if I can again get the
gracious permission of the editor --WM].