Way, way beyond OCW model…

I remember how thrilled I was to hear MIT’s announcement in 2001 regarding their OpenCourseWare initiative and their commitment to make nearly all course materials freely available on the Internet. I loved the idea of sharing and openness and thought that this might be a way to offer a “hand-up” not a “handout” to anyone unable to afford to participate in education. I recognized that access would still be an issue as not everyone can afford a computer and connectivity but I believed in the power of networking and hoped that those who didn’t have technology could find helpful people who did.

MIT OpenCourseWare resultsOCW has evolved and spread around the world; although the definition has broadened over time, at least 89 opencourseware projects were cited in a 2013 article from the Open Education Database site. In 2013, MIT’s OpenCourseWare blog, Open Matters, reported “Record traffic for OCW” with 22.3 million visits from 11.8 million visitors.

The criticisms regarding the limitations of the original provision of PDF files led to the addition of videos, image banks, audio recordings, etc. The search engines have improved immensely and the quality of the online learning experience expanded with the addition of OCW Scholar and similar initiatives.

Open Access logoA related movement, “open access“, has also been evolving. It’s all about providing access to the world’s scholarly research. After all, since so much of this kind of research is funded by public dollars, shouldn’t the results be accessible by the public? Huge strides have been made in this area and I’d be curious to find out if anyone is doing research on the impact of accessible research?

So what’s the link between OCW and open access?  OCW was one of the first major initiatives aimed at putting knowledge out there on the web in formats that would be accessible to just about everyone. PDF readers were ubiquitous even then and even older computers could access the OCW web sites. Open access sites followed a similar format – making research searchable, presenting it in formats that most people would be able to view, and putting it on an open web site. But that wasn’t enough.

Open Book Publishers in Cambridge is an open access monograph publisher, Open Book Publishers logostarted by two academics, Dr. Rupert Gatti and Dr. Alessandra Tosi, in 2008.  Open Book Publishers has made an impressive number of academic works accessible to many (all of its books are free to read online and some can be downloaded). They’ve seen a significant growth in readers from India, Nigeria and Ethiopia (Matthews, 2014) and now they’ve started making their open books available to people who don’t have access to the Internet (and can’t read their open books online).

Since May 2013, Open Book Publishers  has made four of its books available to mobile phone readers through a non-profit organization called Worldreader. More than 8,000 people from 113 countries have downloaded and read these books using Worldreader’s app. The publisher is also developing a partnership with Paperight, a South African company that makes online books available through a network of shops that allow people to pay to print/photocopy parts or all of the books (for those that might not have e-readers or phones).

Open Book Publishers may not be purely “open” in their approach to disseminating scholarly works (i.e., a mixture of free and paid access) but they are evolving a sustainable model that combines fund-raising, grants and creative partnerships with small business or non-profits to improve access to high-quality knowledge materials internationally.

Further reading:

Jump, P. (2012, October 11). Unbound possibilities. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/research/research-intelligence-unbound-possibilities/421432.article

Kwan, A. (2013, August 20). Open Access and Scholarly Monographs in Canada. Publishing @ SFU. Retrieved from http://www.ccsp.sfu.ca/2013/08/open-access-and-scholarly-monographs-in-canada/

Matthews, D. (2014, June 12) Open access publisher brings scholarship to developing world. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/open-access-publisher-brings-scholarship-to-developing-world/2013833.article


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Learning more about OERs…

ImageMy quest this week has been to find as many “how-to” open educational resources (OERs) as I can that are focused on helping people learn how to find, use, create, repurpose and reshare OERs. I had planned to build my own OER about OERs, based on the Lunch-and-Learn sessions I had done when I worked at the College, but realized that open content has moved on very quickly and expanded exponentially since then so it made more sense to scrape the Net.

The first resource I reviewed in detail, was an OER from “OSTRICH”, a JISC-funded project conducted by the University of Bath in the UK. Their OER   “Opening up the World of Learning” is intended for an academic audience and a face-to-face delivery format. There are four learning objectives and eight activities that are described in sufficient detail to allow for straightforward duplication of delivery OR make it easier to repurpose the approach and to reshare the edited structure. The resource includes: a workshop plan, a poster, a PowerPoint presentation, Getting Started handout, Finding and Evaluating OERs worksheet, Finding Open Content and Attributing Third Party Content handouts. A thorough coverage with a focus (of course) on UK projects and resources. I haven’t checked all the linked resources but I would probably use some elements of this if I were planning a face-to-face delivery.

I decided to refocus on Canadian OER workshops or tutorials and I was surprised at how many Canadian educational institutions participate nowadays (it wasn’t always the case).

Side Learning:  Even after the most cursory Google search (“OER workshop*” and “OER tutorial*”), I found lots to explore. I played around a little with Google filters to narrow things down to a more Canadian perspective and to keep it current. I found some interesting inconsistencies within Google search – if I went to Advanced search from the icon for Options, I couldn’t find a way to set a time frame. I could select four different options other than “any time” for the “Last updated” but not a time span I wanted.
On the other hand, if I looked at the menu options across the top of the seaImagerch page, I found that I could click on “Any time” and founImaged six other options including a “Custom” option that allowed me to narrow my search more effectively. Weird inconsistency. I’ll have to go back and do a side-by-side comparison as it seems the menu options across the top of the page provided far more granularity than the Advanced search page.

I found an interesting online OER Tutorial created and shared by Tessa Foster and Brad Fougere of Algonquin College that I’ve been working my way through and really like. There is lots of depth and possibilities for side explorations but the main body of the tutorial provides a solid grounding in the history of OER, issues of Canadian copyright and Creative Commons licensing, plus they’ve integrated interesting activities (social bulletin board, search-and-share) and summative unit quizzes in their screencasting tool . The layout is easy to jump around in and easy to read. Love the screencast tutorials for the different repositories. OER Tutorial - Algonquin College

I’d encourage you to go and try out either or both – lots to learn and share.

More OER learning next week…Sylvia

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Open Online Environments: Focus on P2PU

It’s been a while since I’ve focused on what’s up in open education. My interest was re-awakened through some of the discussions online over the last year or so from ETUG and SCOPE and the BC Campus supported Open Textbook project. Perhaps the government got stimulated by all the interest in MOOCs, or maybe the unproven idea that OERs can be used to reduce costs of developing and offering a greater diversity of educational opportunities?

I was also curious about a recent CIDER session that promised a review of research about open online environments with a focus on what has been learned by the P2PU (Peer-to-Peer University). As per usual, thanks to the efficient folks at CIDER, the recording and slides are available for viewing now! CIDER session recordings

Open Education: New Developments, Needs and Opportunities for Research
June Ahn, Asst Professor, UofMaryland, College Park, College of Information Studies, College of Education

While I love the idea of user-generated and controlled learning (which I’ve experienced in online communities like SCOPE), I was a little suspicious of the structure and intent of P2PU. When I first heard about them I went and signed up and poked into a couple of courses; they all seemed to be yet another iteration of online discussion. I’m happy to engage in that kind of learning, as long as I have some level of knowledge about the subject; otherwise, online discussions can seem like meaningless chatter or continual confusion. I had hoped P2PU would offer something more creative. From the sounds of things I will need to revisit to see what has grown.

Dr. Ahn is part of a group of educational technology researchers who worked closely with P2PU to try and understand what worked for the people who signed up and explored and what didn’t. They were given access to the backend of P2PU and have spent some time and thought in analyzing the data collected. The really cool thing is that they will share their work and the analytics and the data with other researchers – openly.

So, just some highlights of their findings that I found interesting (I’d encourage you to listen to the presentation yourself.

    P2PU has been exploring what works in collaborative or cooperative online learning in a number of ways:
    – set up a School of Webcraft with Mozilla (series of courses on coding)
    – explored different aspects of open badges in terms of credentialing or personal formative feedback for guiding learner efforts
    – governance of open education through Google Hangouts to facilitate open discussion of design to help learners design their own experiences
    – Mechanical MOOCs – a gentle introduction to Python

    While previous research on face-to-face cooperative learning found small groups to be most productive, online learning is a different situation. Dr. Ahn reported that the “sweet spot” was 30 to 40 learners. Due to the high dropout rate, you need critical mass of participants who contributre something to keep other learners engaged.

    What does data tell us about how we should design to keep learners engaged? For new members, design was critical. New members wanted clear page prompts, clear instructions and a clear sense of what they should do.
    To keep members engaged, page prompts were not as important as interactions. Although Dr. Ahn’s research did not differentiate between interactions between members or interactions between members and the coordinator, people kept coming back if there was something going on each time they returned.

    An interesting question for future research: If you interact more with the organizer would your learning outcomes be different? (Dr. Ahn suggested in response to Dr. Anderson’s comment)

My questions are: how often will members return and not see any activity before they give up and drop away? What’s the tolerance for this? And an even bigger question, is there a way that design or technology can support the organizer in keeping activity going? How meaningful does the activity have to be? Gaming research seems to indicate that even simplistic rewards will keep a learner engaged. Wonder how long that effect holds in a non-sexy learning situation?

As I said, it’s worth viewing the recording and perhaps keeping track of Dr. Ahn and his colleagues as they continue researching.


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Too bad I missed it…

Open Access Week at UBC

UBC Open Access Week

As per usual, I’m just slightly out-of-sync to benefit from some of the amazing events and learning experiences available in the Lower Mainland. I was down on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland during much of late September and October, but we had to head back home to Whitehorse to try and beat any early snowstorms so I missed UBC’s celebration of International Open Access Week and their simultaneous event, Celebrate Learning Week 325UBCCelebrateLrngon the October 22-23, 2013 week. I couldn’t even participate online as once you get north of Fort St John, traveling internet access gets a bit sketchy.

UBC celebrated International Open Access Week with an exciting line-up of speakers and topics. I hope some of you had the opportunity to participate. It’s really nice to see so many Canadian institutions participating in Open Access and Open Education week events.

And you can learn more about open education, access, learning, educational resources, and more at http://open.ubc.ca/



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“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” UK launches home-grown MOOC



This is a somewhat late consideration of the UK’s new MOOC platform/project – Futurelearn. It was announced  in mid-December 2012 amidst a flurry of managed announcements (dubbed an example of “churnalism” by several edubloggers).To review a list of the initial press coverage, check out OUseful.Info, the blog… post OU Launches FutureLearn Ltd.) The quote in my blog heading was drawn from Doug Clow’s thoughtful post about Futurelearn in Futurelearn may or may not succeed but is well worth a try.

I only tripped over it a week ago (thanks to George Siemens presentation video from last year) but I’ve been poking around because I was curious to see what their MOOC-model of delivery would be. After all, OpenLearn, the “open” (in the true sense of the word) learning arm of the Open University, has been offering a wide range of courses and learning tools for years. What might change with this embrace of the MOOC-model?

I have to say I was very disappointed when I went and explored the site. Just over three months since the flurry of articles, interviews, and social media coverage and there is nothing on the site yet.  If you check under FAQs, the answer to the question:

What is the launch date?

We anticipate that the first Futurelearn courses will be launched later this year.

So the initially cautious (and somewhat acidic) commentary in the blogosphere at the time of the original announcements in December 2012 is proving to be the correct response. Was the announcement simply to draw in additional supporters/partners and to raise investment capital? What kind of MOOC will it be? A for-profit model but with open access for some part of the content? Open access with a fee for accreditation or some kind of digital badging? Who will determine the course mix? Will it be cohort-based or will students set their own pace?

Where's the beef?

Where is the content? the model? the opennessm.

Despite the involvement of the British Council, the British Library and 17 UK universities, and Martin Bean, Vice Chancellor of The Open University, the initiative still seems somewhat empty. A recent (March 21st, 2013) Times article Futurelearn’s boss on breaking into Moocs reported on the vision of the team lead by “launch CEO” Simon Nelson:

In three years’ time we hope to be offering a level of online learning that we can’t dream about at the moment. ..rather than hanging out on Facebook of an evening, people will feel they can hang around in the Futurelearn product.”

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More about Open Education Week 2013…

open education week

explore openness

Didja know it was Open Education Week? Were you a little confused like I was? I remembered quite a few “open” events last fall. BC hosted an open conference in October 2012 – Beyond Content.

The Open Education Week web site calls this event (March 11-15, 2013) the “…second annual Open Education week). Yet, I found a notice of the “…10th annual Open Education” conference to be held in Park City, Utah (remember Utah is the home of Professor David Wiley – the big daddy of openness) during Nov 6-8, 2013.

So what gives?

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More About MOOCs

Is there no end to the conversation around MOOCS? MOOCS are for marketing.  The New York Times published a story by Tamar Lewin on Jan 23, 2013: Public Universities to Offer Free Online Classes for Credit. Wonder if this will be the success they expect?

MOOC2Degree is a simple idea. Offer potential degree-stream students a chance to test out a course from your institution, provide them with some kind of credit for completing it successfully and you may have hooked them into paying for the rest of their education. Academic Partnerships is the new edstartup that is partnering with Arizona State, University of Cincinnati and the University of Arkansas; the company will take care of recruitment while the universities will select the courses they want to develop in the MOOC-model.

The article is vague on facts. I couldn’t tell whether the MOOCs would actually provide a recognized credit(s) or whether the fact that they were free and online would be the draw. There were few details of the MOOC-model they would follow or on which platform they would share the courses. It’s not a new idea, offering a free sample in the hopes of generating sufficient interest for a student to put money down for another course. But the ease of access may make it more powerful than attempts that educational institutions have made in the past.

I’m curious whether this is going to undermine the inherent value of education at well-recognized institutions. There has already been lots of talk about whether the cost of Stanford or Harvard degrees can be justified anymore.

Anyway, another variation to watch. Life is sure interesting in higher education these days.

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