ICWL 2005 – International Conference on Web-based Learning

ICWL 2005, the 4th International Conference on Web-based Learning was held this year in Hong Kong (31st July – 3rd August , 2005). This event gives a very interesting perspective on Asia Pacific and eLearning with topics ranging from e-Learning Platforms and Tools, Learning Resource Deployment, Organization and Management Practice and Experience Sharing, e-Learning Standards, and so on.

Macromedia technologies made a big impact on the papers this year. The Breeze product has clearly made big in-roads into Asia Pacific university deployments – and cropped up in numerous folks work. Even the Keynote (and joint sponsor with Web CT) was from John Treloar (Macromedia Asia) who did a cooperative presentation using Breeze. Like many of the papers that followed, John emphasized the themes of live and interactive learning coupled with a vision of mobility. Some of the examples from National University of Singapore and Schools in Shanghai were also very interesting.

My own presentation, about Live, Interactive PROLEARN research also ended with the spotlight on Macromedia technologies, via our own FlashMeeting work which as hosted over 700 live sessions under the aegis of the Professional Learning Network of Excellence, Prolearn.

Indeed, Hong Kong itself is a striking case for the power of the mobility studies presented at the conference, with the streets, buses and trains crammed by people with mobiles pressed to their ears (as in many European cities). However, the smart phone is having a rather bigger impact – so many of those who completed their calls, then spent the next few minutes tapping on their phone&#39s screen with a stylus, and peering intently at the results. In HK, the tube (MTR) is the place to catch up on your email and be seen with the latest smart phone, doing something more interesting than the person next to you. Underground mobile reception here is very good.

But HK is also leaping ahead with the wide deployment of simple technologies, like widespread RFID systems. Grab an Octopus card (pictured) and this simple *cashless* credit-card size piece of plastic can be credited with dollars that will take you all around the city. Wave it at a reader on a minibus, bus, train, tube or ferry (or even a coke machine) and the card will be debited and the service smoothly and quickly paid for. Very simple of course; and done in lots of other cities… but in HK it is integrated and pervasive; and that makes a BIG difference.

Finally, when you check in your luggage at HK International on the way out, it is an RFID tag that is slapped on your bag, not a bar code (also pictured above). And the Airport authority was crowing publicly, during my visit, about the huge efficiency saving they had made from this simple deployment!

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