Feb 8, 2007


This blog post introduces the concept on which I will be working on the coming period. Please join my project if you believe in it. Leave a comment, and I will contact you by the time the research website is ready.

Educational traditions, professional development, sociopolitical changes, and technological innovations do not match today and create a gap between graduated engineer and dynamic corporation. The Read/Write Web and numerous online initiatives, such as the Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative, have created endless possibilities for connecting to resources, sharing knowledge, and learning. Traditional learning structures are under great pressure because of these new opportunities. Besides, old-fashioned degrees do not match anymore with the needed competencies of the modern dynamic service companies. A shift is occurring from university as authority towards the network as an authority for learning. The Internet also provides numerous new ways for employment, through online marketplaces, and innovation, happening in open communities.

By combining these technologies and trends an environment can be created where people learn by increasing the value of their environment, by sharing resources and knowledge. By doing this they increase their value in the network, their online identity, which leads to job opportunities (a sort of personal ROI). Employers can connect to people using specific search terms, and judge a person’s reliability with its online identity, which in turn is the result of his/her online activities evaluated by others. Innovation in such an environment happens distributed and in an open way, partly shifting the subject of competitiveness from organization to person.

Although the information will be available for different competing organizations, and so cannot be the source of competition, the costs of innovation are distributed in the innovation network as well, creating possibilities for competing on other issues. Innovation happening within a certain closed environment as a company (or research on a university), is less advantageous because of the intrinsic advantages of innovation happening in a network, such as faster dissemination of knowledge, lower investments in innovation, and ‘more eyeballs' (making all bugs shallow). In such an environment, people will be the subject of competition, and sharing resources, helping other people, and enhancing the value of your network will be the activity. Organizations will compete by managing these people as effective and efficient as possible, and by being able to find and apply the information created in these networks as fast as possible. An example of this can be found within IBM, which is making billions of dollars from the innovation happening within Open Source Software communities.

An essential note regards the focus of the research. I am personally involved in the OpenER project of Delft University of Technology (DUT). This project, just like many of its fellow (OER) initiatives globally, lacks a model for sustainability. Almost all of OpenER projects around the world depend heavily on funding for setup, and this does not seem to subside after implementation (they still need significant funds to keep these projects running). Now here is the gap, and at the same time the research focus. By applying the above mentioned concept, but focusing on DUT, or maybe the whole IDEA league, a sustainable model for this specific OpenER can be created. More elaborate: an environment will be investigated/designed where students can interact with teachers and each other. They can also learn from the available resources, which they can alter the way they like, and improve. Of course, the question: why would I put effort in improving a certain course, in providing feedback on a student’s question, write an extensive review on a book, initiate a research, or make any other effort? Well, here economical mechanisms of the concept step in: organizations should be involved, creating financial incentives, employment, and ideas for research. Students, free in sharing knowledge, wanting to demonstrate and improve their skills, can do this by being active in one or more a communities. Companies want students to link up with students, have them do projects, investigate issues, and more. This provides for them a perfect environment to do that because it involves an online marketplace for flexible employment. All mentioned issues and assumptions need thorough investigation during the thesis research.

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