Wednesday, September 03, 2003


Governments have traditionally botched online services, but they're getting better. U.S. and Canadian governments have always published labour market information and career development advice, ranging from articles about how to write resumes to complex databases of occupation titles. Companies like Bridges have thrived because the government sites were so incredibly bad -- confusing interfaces, dry content, old data and unnecessary barriers. Schools have been buying commercial equivalents for similar information because they tend to be easier to use, more interesting and offer better functionality.

The government sites are improving, particularly in the realm of career development. This HRDC iQuizzes page includes some interesting new assessments that educators might find useful, especially the learning styles and multiple intelligence quizzes. They could be easily used with students to help them understand their strengths and weaknesses, offering teachers some guidance for how to teach for different styles of learners.

If governments continue to move into providing educational content and information tools for schools, where does that leave private educational content providers? Stephen Downes commented on the huge kerfluffle in the UK over the BBC's plans to introduce piles of new learning materials for free public consumption:
"Moreoever, these publishers ought to consider the fact that new media may damage their earnings no matter what. Finally, I think it's a bit much for commercial enterprises to be saying that the government should not be providing education."
It's hard to disagree with either point -- governments are in the business of educating citizens, so why shouldn't they "compete" with private providers of educational resources? And it's certainly true that the web drives the resale value of information toward zero anyway. But none of this is very comforting if you work for a company that employs people in your community and provides services that people find valuable.

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