Online Ambiguities

In a letter to the editor (March 2000), Stephen Downes attributes the following statement to an online paper I wrote: "In a position paper posted on his own Web site, he [Mathieu Deflem] even goes so far as to say of online learning that 'This form of intrusion goes completely against our position as educators for which we claim sovereign rights and obligations'."

I want to clarify that my paper does not address "online learning" at all; instead it criticizes commercial notes companies that have been invading colleges and universities to buy and post lecture notes without instructors' permission. It would be foolish to categorize this specific practice as a manifestation of online learning without further qualification. My argument does not concern the online nature of certain practices presented as learning, but rather it addresses issues of control and representation of these practices. In my paper, the "form of intrusion" that Downes quotes clearly pertains to the following: "[o]n-line note companies do not ask instructors for permission but, at the same time, the companies explicitly post and advertise the notes with reference to the courses and the universities where they are taught, identified by the university's course title, section number, and/or professor's name."

Readers interested in my campaign against commercial note companies can visit my website campaign, "Free Education Now!" at this address:

Mathieu Deflem

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Purdue University