Nov 27, 2007

OpenEd week 14 - Reflections on Hoshuang

I reflected on a post by Hoshuang, Random Stuff that Matters; a great post with lots of interesting ideas. I used Diigo (RECOMMENDED!!) to make notes, so if you have it as well, you can see them on his blog.


Random Stuff that Matters » Blog Archive » OpenEd: Week 13

  • the Swedish model, which is not radically different, but just the concept of only teaching one course at a time (half a year of anthropology, a year of psychology, etc - with enough breadth, depth and credits you get your BA - no majors or minors), which usually ends with a 5-8 hour exam, that often has two or three questions on it
    • I read about a similar model from New Zealand, where kids in some K12 schools get a subject for a month or a few months, and collaboratively create videos, websites, texts, drawings, pictures on the subject. Kids really enjoyed education, learned a lot, and applied their own ideas directly I loved the model!
  • Indian NGO that waged a campaign against accreditation in the first place.
    • Interesting... can I join? I have my doubts on accreditation as well... What's the name of it?
  • As the open source idea extends to ever more domains, people might be participating in Wikipedia, writing open source textbooks, composing music, shooting footages for a collectively produced documentary… All this could be part of a portfolio of skills. Or would we have certifications, like we have for certain professions now? Instead of a bar exam, would an English major have to write an English lit certification test?
    • Good point.. applying your knowledge! I think that is much better than accreditation.
  • In fact, what we want is for students to be in a creative learning environment, one that forces them to think and reflect, and rub shoulders with scholars and peers, for four years.
    • Don't forget apply knowledge and create new knowledge!
  • Instead, the TOEFL allows you to learn English any way you want, through any number of institutions, self-learning, getting a foreign girlfriend, watching Hollywood movies, working as a maid in England - and in the end, it’s wholly irrelevant. You don’t even put down on paper where you learnt English, because they trust that the test accurately shows your command of English.
    • Good point in favour of the Accreditation Only model, described by DW as well. My personal opinion is that accreditation exists because people need some trust mechanism. If you are qualified by that institution for those subjects, you are able to do this and that. (skills) If you are already trusted, and proved your skills in other settings, documented online in a trusted environment, accreditation becomes superfluous.
  • Right now, we are putting millions of people through first year courses in economics and history, with professors who have never learnt anything about pedagogics. I would love more peer-review in teaching, teachers sitting in on each other’s classes, giving each other feedback.
    • I hope I can introduce more transparance into my university. As I discussed earlier, I talked to the Executive Board of my Uni last week, and they mentioned a new kind of work process, with experts being experts, not teachers, and that the teaching and guidance is supported with people and technology: so more e-learning materials, and quality time with experts. (diving into the subject)
  • I remember reading about a professor of physics who recorded lectures especially for them to be put online, and then used the time he was allotted with the class to do experiments with them, having groups work and then circulate to help them. I would argue that this is a much more rational way of using the very expensive face time allotted with a professor.
    • Ha, exactly: that's what I mean with quality time. (see note above)
  • how this is financed is another chapter, whether through user fees or state sponsorship or exchange - I tutor you in something and someone else tutors me in something else
    • YES: Exchange! That is the system I hope to (co-)develop one day, maybe as PhD student. I describe this as a value mechanism, and someone told me a year ago that it was science fiction. He was not joking: I am not an expert in SF, but he told me it like a system that they have in Star Trek or Star Wars or something.

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OpenED.. I present: the NEW OpenED WIKI!

I made a wiki for cultivating your ideas, words, and motivations about Open Education. As described in my last post, I have made a wiki, because I think David Wiley's wiki is not suitable for future use. Dedicate all your Open Education efforts on this wiki, and post the link on your blog!

PS. The wiki is yours, is mine, is everyone's. I have not made it to make money or fame, just to let the course on Open Education become something bigger. Hopefully.

Current text on homepage:

  • This wiki is the result of the course "Intro to Open Education" by David
    Wiley. The objective of this wiki is to form a space for people interested in
    Open Education: you will find (links to) great resources here.
  • Educators wanting to create their own course on Open Education: you will
    find tips and experiences. Probably this will be a space useful for anyone that
    has something to do with education. Do not think that this is not your space,
    because it is! Please change it according to your own needs and viewpoints, but as in real life, respect other people and institutions.

Nov 26, 2007

OpenEd week 15 - Wrap up.. reflections and future thoughts

Week 15: Wrap Up

Wow. What an experience. I thought I knew something about Open Education, having read a number of papers, and reading on my blogs on a daily basis. But this course surely has been a great learning experience. Thank you David for the initiative, and my fellow bloggers for the content and comments.

New Wiki

I have been thinking about improvements since the start of the course, which, by the way, seems ages ago.. Still, rather than summing up all the criticisms, reflections, and positive notes, I will sum up all the criticisms, reflections, and positive notes AND make a wikipage that will serve as running document for everyone's reflections on the course. It might also serve as platform for next year's course, community place, and start page for Open Education offsprings worldwide. I do not intend to make money of the site, it will be just as much your site as David's as mine. I just do not see the "Intro to Open Education" wiki by David Wiley as a place where we will expand this subject into greater detail. Besides, I think people are hesitant to change the content or structure of his site, because it's David's wiki with HIS courses. On the "new wiki" the barriers will be low, because it belongs to no-one. I also think that this course, or rather subject, deserves a wiki on its own. David's blog and wiki will of course be mentioned on the wiki.

Please link to this wiki in your own blogs, if you agree with the fact that we need a new space to collaborate. I was thinking of starting a Connexions course on Open Education, but I doubt whether that has the collaborative and social possibilities of a good wiki.

The rest of the post includes the overall feelings about the course. I will comment on the content side, and on the process side.

About the content

I have a number of issues that can be subject to discussion:

  • You can either provide content to students, or let them search for it themselves. I think the latter is not done sufficiently. For the introduction to a new concept, it is mandatory that some basic resources are pointed out, but it can be more fun to see the reflections by participants on other resources, and let people add their own resources to the course. Maybe it could be stimulated a bit more?
  • I must admit that the resources were absolutely great, but it would have been interesting to read some contrasting views.
  • Especially in the beginning, we (me including) produced rather similar posts summarizing the papers and not applying it to our own place and space. Maybe this is just the downside of an introductory course...?

About the process

Maybe even more important: the process of learning...

  • Alessandro, a while ago, criticized the course, because there was too little feedback/attention compared to his efforts. There are different solutions to this problem, and I will not state them all. It would be good to aggregate these experiences and ideas on the wiki. We have seen one solution implemented during the course, a great example of flexibility! Other, more formalized changes can be implemented as well, depending on your specific ideas. Maybe a special role can be reserved for experts, such as David Wiley or others.
  • I don't know is people are inclined to put more sociability in the course, but who knows..? I don't. A stronger emphasis on applying the concepts on your own personal (educational) environment. It would be interesting to have some tangible results of people introducing Open Education philosophies and ideas in their own context, or, for example, using this course or other open courses in their own educational settings.
  • Include people related to an existing OER initiative, and take that initiative as course object for a week, letting people use (and contribute) resources to that initiative, and reflect on it. This is very interesting for both the responsible actor, being able to collect valuable reflections on the project, and for the participants, being practical and possibly adding value to a real Open Education project. The initiative has to be open enough, so an MIT OCW would not be the right one I think.

There are probably a million things to think about now, but I have the feeling that if I have to put some effort on the "idea generating and supporting infrastructure", rather than the ideas themselves, because they will pop up in case they are cultivated. And that needs ground.

OpenEd week 14 - Reflections on posts

I reviewed some posts today, and saw some interesting persectives. I am of for Thailand this week, so I try to finish off all assignments, 2do's etc before Wednesday.

Jennifer Maddrel has put some nice illustrations in an online video (@ so you can add voice and text comments). Still a draft, but worth looking at.

Jessie focuses on the Chinese education system and says:

I feel like it is too difficult to change the traditional system of higher education.
I feel that too, but rather than changing an existing system, I think in creating a new system, which might replace existing ones. Think about what you need for learning: materials, support & guidance, and a reason. I think at least part of the reason will be the future ability to get a job and earn money. With flexible employment mechanisms built in a new system of learning, people may be willing to put effort in that system in building up a reputation that can be used in order to get job opportunities.

Rather than expliciting these ideas in more depth, I rather focus on the opportunities for new forms of education created by the Internet: these are almost endless. If existing structures are too rigid and bureaucratic to surf new waves of learning and education, well... it's their problem right?

And for culture: I think that if a country has broadband and sufficient mobile coverage, the more successful new and open education initiatives will be copied instantly, with a little cultural twist so it fits in.

Karen talks about the opportunities of informal learning being increased (in quality and quantity) by OER. She says that even when
“formal” OER community (higher ed courseware projects, Hewlett funded projects, etc.) implode under their own weight, there are a number of other open efforts that cannot be stopped.
She refers to Wikipedia (and related projects), YouTube, TeacherTube, Facebook, etc. And then she asks a very valid and interesting question. Great question:
One question I have is whether all of these resources and the learning opportunities they present will at some point decrease the value of a traditional higher education degree? Especially as formal education gets even more removed from truly relevant content (critical thinking, collaborative skills, higher order thinking), will industry realize that a solid informal education and demonstration of real-world competencies outweighs a piece of paper from a university?
That really depends on the formal educational reform: will they reform fast enough, or not? I think that traditional universities, funded by government, such as the university where I study, will receive funds until the end of time, because of tradition, name, reputation, etc... Still, they feel the pressure of change. I talked to the university's Vice-Chancellor and Executive Board Vice President about open education last week, and one thing they mentioned is that we are only starting to see some of the benefits of IT. The need to keep on investing in IT related projects remains unabated in order to keep up with trends and technologies. They even mentioned new structures and processes for accreditation and evaluation, and explained a new division of labor at the university. So, my point is that some universities recognize not only the potential of IT, open education, informal structures, etc. but do indeed link that to organizational change. The way that change is brought about, and the speed, will determine the value of the university of tomorrow.

But, I must say that this question is one of the most important questions that need to be asked at universities. I have drafted a paper describing this new learning/working system, and might start developing it when I finish my thesis. Someone interested?

Another interesting issue is the following, which was not mentioned by David Wiley in his interesting future history of OER.
What an empowered Africa and Asia will contribute to the world will make MySpace and Wikipedia look like baby steps.
This implies also that one need to be able to learn from all those resources online. I think that we should not afraid of having not enough content online, but how to find your way? Anto refers to George Siemens' Connectivism Learning Theory, and whether it is a learning theory or a pedagogy, I think that Siemens provides a new and very interesting view on learning, which is more capable of handling the overload of information than current ones.

The Stupendous Man of Mystery aka Erik L. says that
I don’t think that OER will have that large of an effect in the next century, but in time I can see some of the things discussed in the readings coming to pass.
Clearly, OER alone will not have the impact that has been previsioned by David, but it will have the described impact in combination with other factors, such as social change and newer technology. OER might form the hubs around which some communities will come into existence, and different technologies will form the glue between people and content. New ecosystems will come into being, I suppose, and change, partly caused by OER, open source software, and their philosophies spreading into other corners of society, is eminent. Who says that you cannot make money from Open Source Software? Who says that you cannot make money from OER? Why not use this strong incentive to create better infrastructures, better education, and better content? I do see change happen at least partly because of these incentives.

Nov 24, 2007

Wiki in classroom.. Experiences and tips

Using a wiki for your course; an evaluation
This article is written after experiencing the use of a wiki for the course SPM9618 – (R)evolution in ICT Infrastructures. Hopefully it provides an overview of the positive and negative issues we encountered and will lead to a better system for setting up and successfully implementing this technology. It will have the following structure:

  • Explanation course and course objectives
  • Reason and intentions for using a wiki
    • What is a wiki?
  • Choice of wiki platform and reasons
  • Implementation issues - Technology
    • People
    • Tips and useful plugins
  • Implementation issues - Process
    • Get it going
    • Evaluation of TWiki use
    • Other problems and issues
  • Recommendations
    • Wiki environment recommendations
    • Process recommendations

Explanation course and course objectives
SPM9618 is a Mastercourse for students in the Master Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and Management, at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The course is usually taken by students that have chose to specialize in the ICT-domain. They are fourth or fifth year students. The course is 6 ects, scheduled in the second semester of the study year. In the study year 2006-2007 module manager Jolien Ubacht and ICT-colleague Jos Vrancken taught the course for the third time. In this edition, number of students taking part in the course has risen from about 15 in previous years to 23.

Reason and intentions for using a wiki
Several aspects of the course led to the inspiration to use a wiki instead of Blackboard as the learning environment (Blackboard is the official digital learning environment at TU Delft).
  • First of all, it is a course where students have to work collaboratively towards a final product: the design of an analytical framework for (R)evolutions in ICT infrastructures. There were no further specifications about the final form; the product could range from an essay, a website or Wikipedia entry, a seminar, a video… anything. This was done on purpose, because students were challenged to cope with unstructured problems.
  • Another reason was that in previous years it turned out that the Blackboard environment was too static for the groups dynamics, information added by students could not be adequately linked and that the freedom for the students to create contents themselves was limited.
  • The third source of inspiration to choose for a wiki was the fact that wikis become common tools in professional life and we wanted the ICT-students to once experience its possibilities during their studies.
What is a wiki?
A wiki is “a website that allows the visitors themselves to easily add, remove, and otherwise edit and change available content” (Wikipedia). It is increasingly used in business and educational settings to enable people to collaborate online (time and place independent). One of the major advantages of using a wiki rather than emailing different documents: there is one central place where individuals create and improve content.

Besides online editing of texts and other content, there are other important functionalities, including version management, the (hyper)linking of pages, and the possibility to use numerous plugins, such as a discussion forum and polls.

Choice of wiki platform and reasons
Two different wiki platforms were provided by the university; the MediaWiki, which is the same platform on which Wikipedia is built, and TWiki, another open source platform extensively used within companies such as Disney, Yahoo!, Motorola, British Telecom, SAP, and many more. Because of its success in business, its flexibility, and the wide variety of extensions, plugins, and
add-ons, we have chosen for TWiki. Although the interface of MediaWiki is much more familiar (same interface as Wikipedia), this problem was assumed not crucial.

Implementation issues – Technology
This section will deal with the setup of the wiki from a technological perspective. It discusses the people that were approached and the specific plugins that have proven useful on the website.

For setting up this wiki Thieme contacted the TU Delft section of E-Merge, an ICT consortium of several universities and academies. Besides Thieme for the process support, another person was involved in the technical support and setup of the wiki. He helped, after the initial setup, in installing several plugins that provided the students with several tools, and enhanced the website’s interface and preferences.

Tips and useful plugins
TWiki’s possibilities to enhance the functionalities and personalize the website are abundant. In this part a few of those possibilities are discussed, and some practical tips are described as well.

The functionalities that have proved most useful in the course SPM9618 are:
  • NatSkin – a so-called skin, which changes the interface of the website. Much more attractive than the original interface.
  • DiscussionForum – a rather difficult to implement discussion platform.
  • Polls – a plugin enabling the students to make polls.
  • EndNote – also called footnote. Puts text {{between brackets}} at the end of the page with a footnote.
  • WYSIWYG-editor
  • Variables: INCLUDE and HISTORY
Other crucial standard elements of the wiki are:
  • Statistics and Changes
  • Web Sidebar
  • SectionalEdit
  • Personal sidebar and personal preferences
  • Functions on top of page: edit… etc.
As said, the ability to personalize the wiki to your preferences are almost endless. There are more than 200 plugins and add-ons available on, addressing functionality, safety, tools, interface and many other subjects.

Some of possibly relevant other possibilities are tagging of pages, especially useful in large wiki-sites, the inclusion of the content of web-pages through RSS, making spreadsheets, presentations, sectional edit (editing sections separately), and many more.

Implementation issues – Process
During the first few weeks the results of use were quite disappointing. The students did not embrace the wiki platform as much as we expected, and wanted. This chapter will explain how we have introduced the wiki to the students, and what would have been a better approach. Some other issues that are specific in collaborative projects, such as the evaluation of individual efforts and the prevention of hitchhiker behavior are discussed as well.

Get it going
In order to get the process started, and explain everyone a bit about the workings and purpose of the wiki, a presentation was given at the first lecture. This was clearly not enough, and afterwards we thought it would have been a better idea to approach the introduction to the wiki in a more practical way, for example providing the students with some exercises on the wiki, with or without supervision. The first weeks students were given a couple of simple assignments to get started:
  • To get to know each other better, and to introduce the students to the basic use of the wiki, the assignment was to create a personal page, with relevant personal information, such as projects done, interests, domains, experiences, etc. The intention was also the let the students reflect on the types of knowledge and skills they could use during the team work of the module. This personal assignment was done by all of students, but some pages were limited to only the most basic information.
  • Secondly, the students had to make up their own process rules for the use of the wiki, and the course itself.
  • Thirdly, they had to find information about the use of wikis within education, and start a discussion about the specific use and value of it within this course.
  • Fourthly, we created regular assignments to be fulfilled via the TWiki, for example writing weekly reports on the meetings by 2 volunteers, uploading material to prepare guest lectures etc. or exploring a case study in innovation in ICT-infrastructures.
  • Fifth, the end report was a collaborative report written by several sub-teams, that wrote chapters for which we created specific websites within the TWiki.
Thus, we gradually moved towards using more functions of the TWiki, that gradually were more related to the contents of the course.

Evaluation of TWiki use
Some students were already used to using a wiki in other settings (e.g. own company as a brainstorm tool). These students turned out to be the most enthusiastic users at the start of the course. Less experienced students took a dislike to getting used to a new, innovative environment. We were disappointed by this reluctance to a new digital environment because we expected that students in the ICT-domain would experience less fear for new technology. On the contrary, we expected more enthusiasm as using a wiki is an innovation (the subject of
the course). The first weeks discussions on the interface and which editor to use distracted a lot and created a barrier to entry. Towards the end of the course, especially while writing a collaborative report, the use of the TWiki raised.

During writing the report, the students experienced the benefits of the TWiki more as they could quite easily reconstruct the process they went through in developing the end product of designing an analytical framework for (R)evolutions in ICT infrastructures. We must however mention that some groups of students used Google Docs first to write their chapter and then published it onto the TWiki where it could not be altered anymore. Google Docs clearly has better functionalities in editing texts and is better in case of collaborative writing.

The first enthusiastic users of the TWiki experienced a disincentive to continue putting a lot of effort into the TWiki when they realised that other students did not use it the same way. As coaches we had hoped these students to take up a pioneering role by showing the added value
of the wiki and thus inspiring others to adopt the innovation more quickly.

Although the TWiki provides every user with statistics on the use of it (user name, amount of changes performed by a user), the use of holding this against the students is limited as it does not tell you anough about the quality of the work done on the TWiki and because it can easily be manipulated (e.g. by just changing multiple comma's into exclamation marks). Moreover, we preferred to put more trust into the intrinsic motivation of ICT students to experiment with a new ICT-tool, but students seemed to be annoyed because of having to learn a new environment while having to rely on Blackboard for the other courses they took. This initial reluctance was strengthened by the discussions on the TWiki technology at the start, the students opinion that the design of the website was unattractive and the lack of a student manual. Regularly we inspired the students to have a central information manager who would take special care of the structure of the TWiki but this suggestion was not followed up by action. A next time we will make this a mandatory role.

Another reason was the inherent liberty a wiki gives to its users in combination with the vague course objectives and little direction from teachers. This was done on purpose, but the result of it was that most students just did nothing for a while. The students experienced too much vagueness at the start of the course because of its unorthodox form, so they had to invest in too many things: making a team effort, getting the assignment right, contributing to the TWiki, in
short: finding their way. We as coaches have learned a lot from this and will choose for a more balanced start next year.

At the end of the course we experienced a problem with uploading material to the TWiki,
the uploaded documents were provided with the details, but the links to the full documents did not work. This was a technological problem that was quite problematic, but there was no support from the persons who set up the wiki. We solved it by putting the material on our own server and providing the students with the links to the contents on the TWiki.

However, the students could no longer upload material themselves, which was frustrating after the effort to get it together.

Our enthusiasm for using a wiki in a learning environment remains unabated. The interactive nature of a wiki, the possibilities to continuously structure and restructure information, the opportunities for students to create sites and provide their own information and documents, etc. has great added value, especially in courses in which interaction is required. Therefore we hope that more staff and students at TU Delft will consider using a wiki for educational (and other!) purposes. In order to stimulate this, we have formulated a number of recommendations, dealing with technology and process issues. These recommendations are both addressed to teachers or other individuals interested in using a wiki in a course context, and for the TU Delft itself.

Wiki environment recommendations
The technical support of e-merge was fine at the beginning. When asked to install a number of plugins, they did it on time. As mentioned, there was no support in the end, when it was needed, because the responsible person was unable to offer support. This was unfortunate, but since it was the first project of its kind within the university, some initial frictions could have been expected. Hopefully, in the fuure there will be more experience and institutional structures are set in place to fully support wikis at the TU Delft. Therefore, also from the perspective of increased use of wikis in the future, the recommendation to set up a specific wiki portal for anyone at the university (student, teacher, researcher) interested in using a wiki. This
portal would include
  • A standard wiki package;
    • standard interface, implemented and well
    • standard WYSIWYG editor (NatEdit)
    • standard web preferences
    • standard plugins
    • support when needed
  • List of plugins; as mentioned in a previous section, there is a number of plugins that should be implemented to make the wiki an attractive and useful tool for collaboration. A strong recommendation would be to lower the barrier for teachers, and to include a description of the most important plugins and options on the TU Delft wiki-platform (hopefully to be implemented in the future).
  • The ability to have a more attractive wiki domain, such as
  • List of options/plugins for persons who want a wiki for their course/project (indicate the options you want xx then implement the desired preferences by installing the relevant plugins and change the web preferences. And for the future: make this process automatic.)
  • A clear explanation of how to use a wiki in a certain context, with examples.
  • A wiki forum where people can discuss problems and ideas.
  • A list of persons to approach in specific situations.
  • A list of students who can serve as student assistants in setting up, maintaining, and supporting a wiki
  • A manual for students including exercises to get started.
At this moment an efort is done to create a central wiki environment for the University of Technology that includes the needed support. It will be integrated with A-Select, meaning that you can access the wiki from Blackboard without an extra login (lower barrier). Attractive URLs will be integrated in it as well, as is done with the weblog initiative.

Process recommendations
As for the procedural part of using a Wiki, we have formulated the following recommendations, based on our experiences. These recommendations are based on the assumption that a standard TU Delft wiki environment is created, including the manual as mentioned in the section on Wiki environment recommendations above!
  • Choose a wiki for specific reasons within the course: the Wiki has to fulfill a function in the course, this should not be limited to just serving a goal of merely using a Wiki, a real integration between goals, contents and learning environment has to be designed;
  • Set clear goals, especially in the beginning. When some progress has been made, the people will probably be able to cope with more liberties;
  • Provide students with reasons for using a Wiki instead of Blackboard, make them aware of the added value;
  • Formulate the role of information manager: one student or students taking turns, who is responsible for keeping structure on the wiki and translating users' wishes into structure;
  • Start with simple assignment for students to get used to working with the wiki, make a plan to work towards more complex assignments that require the use of more wiki functions (and that demonstrates the added value of the wiki);
  • For coaches: be active in using the Wiki yourself. E.g. participate in discussion forums, comment on the information provided by the students, etc.;
  • If possible: test your ideas for using a Wiki in your course with potential students in the course or at least test the Wiki with other users before the course starts on structure, user friendliness, clarity of the assignments;
  • Make use of a student assistant or class representative to play a part in the management and setting up of the wiki. Most teachers will not have time for that, and an experienced student assistant can probably do a lot in a short period of time. This person can also help students in their initial steps in using the wiki.
We are convinced that using a Wiki is a great experience in learning environments (and beyond). We hope that we inspire more staff and student at TU Delft to join this next phase in experimenting with new ways of interactive information sharing towards innovative knowledge generation!

This text has been written by Thieme Hennis and Jolien Ubacht (TU Delft). We hope we have provided some ideas about difficulties in process and technology of using a wiki in an educational setting. Any additions, links, ideas, comments, criticisms, etc. can be posted below.

Nov 20, 2007

OpenLearn 2007 - Panel session about the future of OER (day 2)

Research Panel Toru Iiyoshi, M. S. Vijay Kumar, Andy Lane, Diana Laurillard & Stuart Lee: Opening Up Education: Removing Barriers, Fostering Participation, and Promoting Sustainability.

Currently, there seems to be an abundance of ‘open’ educational initiatives, many with the potential to radically transform the ecology and economics of education. These initiatives address various pieces of the educational landscape, including infrastructure, tools, resources, practices, and knowledge. Yet, despite the availability of tools and resources, we risk missing the ‘transformative’ opportunities from a wide range of perspectives—from improving teaching and learning in a single classroom to creating the necessary educational capacity for nation building. As a global educational community, we can benefit from a deeper understanding of how open educational tools and resources are being created and used, what local educational innovations and challenges are emerging, and how we can learn from and build upon each other’s experience and knowledge.

The panel starts with advertising a new book, published by MIT Press, which addresses the open education movement. They say it will be available on PDF, but I have not found it so far. The main pillars of openness relate to technology, content, and knowledge. Would like to see a definition of all, but since the book is still unavailable as OER, I cannot tell anything about it.

Throughout the panel discussion, a number of examples or initiatives are mentioned, such as

Keep Toolkit

The KEEP Toolkit is a set of web-based tools that help teachers, students and institutions quickly create compact and engaging knowledge representations on the Web. With the KEEP Toolkit you can:

  • select and organize teaching and learning materials.
  • prompt analysis and reflection by using templates.
  • transform materials and reflections into visually appealing and intellectually engaging representations.
  • share ideas for peer-review, assessment, and collective knowledge building.
  • simplify the technical tasks and facilitate knowledge exchange and dissemination.

LAMS International (Learning Activity Management System) (pretty similar to OU's Knowledge Mapping Tool called Compendium )

LAMS is a revolutionary new tool for designing, managing and delivering online collaborative learning activities. It provides teachers with a highly intuitive visual authoring environment for creating sequences of learning activities. These activities can include a range of individual tasks, small group work and whole class activities based on both content and collaboration.


ENCORE is an Educational Network and Community for Open Resource Exchange. It is created, managed, and maintained by volunteers from within the learning sciences. Our goal is to support researchers as they exchange open source or open content materials, including relevant support documentation, constraints to implementation, and contact info. ENCORE is implemented in an enhanced wiki format, allowing for easy maintenance of small thematic spaces and collaborations. Researchers may find great materials here, and get support from colleagues to embed or intermingle those materials effectively and appropriately. Instructors or students in learning sciences courses may find and contribute reviews of papers, technologies, or other resources. Small groups can form "Collaborations" to support their efforts to exchange materials or develop new ones.

PHOEBE Pedagogic Planner

The aim of the project is to guide practitioners working in post-compulsory learning (FE, HE and ACL) in designing effective and pedagogically sound learning activities. To realise this aim, the project team proposes to:

  • Develop a prototype online planning tool that will offer users both flexible and guided paths through the planning process and enable them to access a wide range of models, research findings and examples of innovative learning designs, intended to encourage them to explore new approaches and tools in their pedagogy;
  • User-test the planning tool for functionality and usability; and
  • Investigate the feasibility of further development and the integration of the planning tool into pedagogic practice by embedding use of the planning tool into a specific context for piloting and evaluation: namely, initial practitioner training and/or continuing professional development.
The London Pedagogy Planner
The London Pedagogy Planner is a prototype for a collaborative online planning
and design tool that supports lecturers in developing, analysing and sharing
learning designs.

Andy Lane explains that the value of OER is determined and influenced by

  • Availability (how many and in what forms)
  • Accessibility (where found and by whom)
  • Level of use (degree of participation)

The influence for teaching and sharing concern the following factors:

  • Granularity of offerings (size & interdependence);
  • Resource-based learning, stand-alone;
  • Tuition and support separated from content;
  • Versioning & localization.

On the conference blog, Anesa further mentions the implications for learning:

  • Judging the appropriate mix between (i) pedagogic support (built into content), (ii) personal support – self reflection and guidance, (iii) professional support – expert reflection and guidance;
  • The importance of new social computing technologies in facilitating support and interaction;
  • Co-creation of learning experiences in a dull partnership of being a learning broker for self designed programmes;
  • Assessment only or ApL (Applied Learning) courses.

The talk ends with the question whether higher education is ready for open education, mentioning two things: inertial frames (scarcity vs abundance/pundit-pupil vs peer-peer...) and enabling structures (sense making/accountability/accreditation). An interesting panel discussion with some informative slides.

OpenLearn 2007 - TESSA and an interesting typology (day 2)

Peter Bateman delivered an excellent talk about his typological approach for OER. Why such an approach, he asks? Well, a typology provides an analytical framework for investigating OER initiatives, and can provide a basis for devising an OER strategy. Quite useful, wouldn't you think?

'Knowledge' is becoming an increasingly important commodity in the economic, social and cultural development of a globalised world. As centres for innovation and the creation of knowledge, higher educational institutions in Africa must continually and progressively set the pace and direction for this development. Yet educational institutions and the ministries that support them struggle to enact the policies and processes that would facilitate Africa’s participation in the global ‘knowledge’ discourse. This paper suggests that, in the context of the limited resources available to Higher Education and Training institutions in Africa, evolving a Participatory Open Educational Resources Architecture has immense potential.

I will shortly sum up the main factors that make this typology. Peter describes four higher categories or components that constitute the OER evolutionary process. Each categorie is constituted by a sub-category, which has proporties, and these properties have dimensions. I desccribe the four main categories with their respective sub-categories... have a look at the paper or slides if you want to have a better understanding of it all.

  1. Creation; Authoring original OER/Interoperability & compliance to support remix/Collaborative processes for OER creation
  2. Organization; Governance & Management systems/Storage & Portal mechanisms/Institutional development/Sustainability/Research
  3. Dissemination; Sensitization/Delivery methods/Technical infrastructure/Packaging
  4. Utilization; Mechanism for updating & accessing OER/Using existing OER/Re-authoring & Re-purposing OER/Quality assurance mechanism/Accreditation of materials/Pedagogical models

He further explains a strategy for Higher Education in Sub Saharan Africa addressing 7 key components: research, pedagogy, technology support, sensitization, collaboration, capacity enhancement and training, and a policy framework.. Would this also count for Delft OCW or are other factors more important?

OpenLearn 2007 - OLI: accelerated learning with @ CMU's OLI (day 2)

Candice Thille and Joel Smith from Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative, explained their very interesting findings on the OLI's impact on learning. They measured the effectiveness of OLI statistics course in accelerating learning, and interestingly: students learn faster and better! And they are able to articulate in their answers, not just calculate them in statistical terms. I have discussed OLI more from a sustainability perspective here, but the approach of impact on learning is very interesting. And the findings even more so! Very promising.

A primary goal of the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon is to provide free access to high quality post-secondary courses (i.e., similar to those taught at Carnegie Mellon). Previous evaluations of the effectiveness of OLI courses have shown that our online courses teach students as effectively as existing instructor-led courses. Two such studies have found this result for the OLI-Statistics course. This report describes our current study of OLI-Statistics in which we are evaluating the accelerated learning hypothesis – that learners can learn a semester’s material in half the time, while still achieving the same or better learning outcomes.

The courses offered by CMU OLI are, as I have explained before, not ordinary open courseware materials. They mention the following about the learning material:

  • based on learning theories
  • use driven design
  • transforming instruction, not transposing it
  • scaffolded
  • predict: immediate feedback through AI systems and cognitive tutors
  • (expensive to make)

There are four feedback loops based on student learning data; science of learning, instructor activities, course design, student performance.. The initial assumption that the open courses would not be used at university appeared to be wrong: they were better than the normal courses, and quickly became a prototype to be used. The interesting thing is the research done on the learning outcome of students following the normal course, and students following the online course.

  • Statistical literacy: The first research was set up between two groups of students: one group did the online version, and teachers were not allowed to guide them, only answering their questions once a week. The second group did the classroom version, and interacted in a classroom setting once or twice a week. One of the first outcomes was that there was not a statistical difference between the groups online and classroom learners.... but the application of the knowledge in real settings, or answering more applied questions was done better by the students doing the online version.
  • Better and faster: The second research was done with a slight but important difference: the online students were allowed to interact in-depth with teachers twice a week. They would normally have prepared the questions, and had one or two hours of interacting with the teacher. Regarding the experience, both teacher (great! quality time with students!) and student (fantastic! I am learning!) were very contended. Concerning the outcomes, even better results were presented: the students were not only able to do it twice as fast, but their results on tests were significantly better as well.

Nov 19, 2007

OpenLearn 2007 - From Boot Camp to Holiday Camp? (day 2)

Patrick McAndrew had a nice presentation called: From Boot Camp to Holiday Camp? Some issues around openness, Web 2.0, and learning.

"Open Educational Resources were initially seen as a way to exchange and exploit content. For example, the MIT OCW material can be adapted as acurriculum plan and set of resources for use in another institution.

What has also emerged is that there is also direct use of the material by learners. OpenLearn has a configuration that more clearly reflects this by offering a ‘LearningSpace’ designed to allow users to pick units to work with and use them within their personalised learning environments and alongside other learners. However, these learners will not be part of any registered course, won’t be focused on compulsory assignments and will not get a qualification at the end of their work.

The ‘Boot Camp’ elements of education, where learners are organised and coerced into performing necessary learning practices, has therefore disappeared. So a question is whether these elements should be replaced with features that are more in line with a ‘Holiday Camp’, where learning is loosely structured and ‘fun’, but is still relevant and valuable. This talk will explore these metaphors as lenses that can help us to design for learning practices that share their landscape with huge-scale media-rich interaction and radical publishing in the context of open technologies and Web 2.0."

Patrick explained motivation using the metaphors of carrots and sticks. Carrots are teasers for students to perform better, such as grades and diplomas.. sticks are a metaphor for punishments to threaten students used for increasing their performance. These are the principle motivators for learning in schools today. With freely available learning materials, openness enables another learning driven by motivation and enjoyment. There is a transition going on from straightforward to open learning: abundant choice and driven by motivation and enjoyment.

We are all part of the web, which allows democratic and collaborative media creation, sharing and consumption. But how do we come from interest to learning? Patrick mentions Confucius, who said:
I hear and I forget,
I see and I remember
I do and I understand
a long time ago. The web allows to actually do (see keynote JSB). But in order to embrace it, we need to reconceptualize learning.

Formal education has the following motivation factors:
  • Assignment deadlines
  • Examinations
  • Tutors who call
  • Qualifications
  • Progression
  • Peer approval
Learning at OpenLearn is motivated by
  • Professional development
  • Interest
  • Hobby
  • Job progress
  • Job change
We need to focus on supporting learning for fun, and Patrick mentions the rise of learning clubs. Tools are important for this, and the term ambient learning design is brought up, with examples of learning tools, such as digital dialogue games as the InterLoc tool. This brings in the issue of scaffolding, something that John Seely Brown should be approached with care, because kids nowadays want to create everything themselves. We need to find out from an anthropological angle to find out what is going on between the students in these dialogue tools as he raises the issue of World of Warcraft where he thinks a scaffolding tool would be laughed at. He says that we should be careful with building mental models or projectories.

OpenLearn 2007 - Learning Design as a framework for supporting the design and reuse of OER (day 2)

Somewhat interesting presentation which describes how adopting a learning design methodology may provide a vehicle for enabling better design and reuse of Open Educational Resources (OERs).

Design is creative and messy... a tool such as the Compendium tool, which is easy to use, has good support and documentation, is flexible and adaptable, and enables linkages to be made between entities, may be able to provide creators of learning content with support. It is a means of representing design and facilitating reuse. It can be used at the start of design process, to balance a set of activities, and to critically deconstruct sets of activities. The benefits that were mentioned by the people using it for learning design were quite positive, mentioning thinking differently about the learning design, visualization, communication, collaboration. Drawbacks are level of granularity (low), the trade-off time investment/benefit, and novice vs. expert uses. I have installed and used the free tool a year ago, but I did not like it that much. There is vizualization, yes, but it is not great. Quite some space left for improvements.

The slides:

Nov 15, 2007

The Blog Readability Test... mm

I did the blog readability test. The Blog Readability Test. What level of education is required to understand your blog?

cash advance

Maybe. I. Need. To. Write. More. Simple.
What. Do. You. Think?

Nov 13, 2007

OpenEd week 13 - The OpenCourseWars

The OpenCourseWars (13 pages) is a short story depicting a possible future for open education from a historical perspective. Written by David Wiley, it is both highly entertaining and informative. It not only has given me more insight in some problematic issues of open licensing and consequences, but also shows interesting and appealing futures of learning with in an open education landscape. After an overview of the most important issues, and some personal reactions, I describe my personal ideas about the future of open education, from a slightly different persective than David's.

2005 – 2012: The OpenCourseWars

The initial beauty of open education quite rapidly turns grey with problems of the NC license again, with public opinion turning against OCW. Problems with defining Non-Commercial quickly becomes not only a theoretical problem, but a real problem indeed:

Creative Commons’ own publicly posted discussion draft of Proposed Best Practice Guidelines to Clarify the Meaning of Non-Commercial in the Creative Commons Licenses suggested we approach the meaning of the term noncommercial from the “Nature of the User”. To put it simply, the guidelines asked if the would-be user of the noncommercially-licensed material was an individual or non-profit institution. If so, everything was kosher. If not (if the would-be user was a for-profit company), then they were not permitted to use materials. Seems very straightforward, right? MIT OCW, however, saw things in a very different way. They provided their own definition of Noncommercial, in which they said, “Determination of commercial vs. non-commercial purpose is based on the use, not the user”, and that as long as you’re not trying to make money off of their materials, they were cool with whatever else you did.

So on the one hand you had Creative Commons suggesting that Noncommercial should be determined by the nature of the user, and on the other hand you had MIT OCW defining the very same clause of the very same license in the completely opposite way. I had known about this problem for years, and had email discussions with a number of people at both Creative Commons and MIT hoping to get it fixed. But the problem was extremely thorny politically, and nothing had happened yet.

The publishers, clearly not very happy with the whole open education movement, follow with a brilliant strategy attacking the NC clause, and win in court: the NC clause is struck down, and all the content that used to be licensed only for non-commercial use, suddenly became available for commercial use. After this apparent success by the publishers, they could now use and commercially distribute the OCW content, which they did. Still, they would be obliged to mention the Creative Commons license, and share the (now commercial) content under the same open license (Share-Alike). Surprisingly, they even ignored this clause, and they did not Share-Alike, because the publishers thought they could attack and bring down the SA clause as well... but to no avail, and to their own demise.

This lack of judgment started a great new movement in open education, led by students, who happily participated in creating a vast infrastructure of open content. But... another licensing war mounted the surface: CC versus GFDL. This was settled as well, finally, and then there was the dawn of a beautiful period in open education: power to the people, in this case students. David uses the following quote to explain that younger university faculty started to ignore the standard opencoursewares altogether in favor of working:
Putting professors’ lecture notes and things on an university website where students can’t trib test questions and photos and things makes about as much sense as using email. It’s for old people who just don’t get it. I mean, even this eBook reader thing I just got from my sister (who finally graduated, by the way) is pointless. Why would anyone use a device that won’t let you trib
Tribbing is contributing, as you might expect. On the other hand, the opencoursewares are R/O, or read-only, and is "associated with the kind of “authority” young folks want to rebel against, and embodies an entire generation’s frustration with top-down, un-democratic, un-participatory approaches generally."

Following the pandemonium concerning licensing, opencoursewares, and learner participation, a new kind of university emerged: the competency-based university, where students only had to pass a test or exam to be accredited. One of the first universities adopting this model, a traditional online university, started an IBM/Linux like collaboration with the largest site for open content educational materials, creating an enormous synergy; increasing the quality of learning materials, and cost savings for the university itself. A spin-off of the university provided an additional service, where students could approach experts worldwide through Skype for personalized support, paying a certain fee. This service initiated a kind of e-lance economy in itself, because anyone could be an expert. These experts, most of them students, were not inclined to give bad service, because they would be rated by the user, and bad ratings lowered their future chance on flexible employment.

NB.Despite the beauty of the above depicted future, I have an extra note about the accreditation-only model: it will only be valuable if the diploma itself represents value, which depends on the type of assessment: if it is personal, competency-based, and practical, I think these universities might have a chance for survival. If they don't, and assess students with normal exams and tests, I see little future in this model.

An important quote in the postlude represents the most important difficulty with current OCW initiatives:

Generally speaking, OCWs were difficult-to-sustain R/O endeavors that relied on relatively small numbers of university employees and outside funding. As important as they were, they could never scale and were unsustainable in the ways their original funders wanted them to be. On the other hand, OER projects were generally democratic remix projects that lived and died on the quality of the trib’ing.

Embracing the trib culture, David says, opens up opportunities for new business models and new ways of learning, something I totally agree with. He created a very interesting future history of open educational resources, going through different transitions, mentioning important problems in licensing, student contribution, and describing great opportunities in learning, competition, and creating value in society. In all, the end depicts a very similar look on the future as I have described earlier (and just posted on this blog), about "How I want to wake up one day...".

Criticisms and additions

I will provide some additions and criticisms to the very interesting view on the future of open education, by using the same narrating style David uses.

The shift from a teacher-centered university, with professors standing on a stage and transferring knowledge, towards a learner-centered university happened slowly but steadily, when experts are no longer able to transfer knowledge any better than high quality video and multimedia learning materials. In addition, traditional classes turned into some kind of open (and closed) discussion groups in an online virtual world, and face-to-face interaction started to happen in smaller groups for brainstorming and praxis, and large groups in conference like gatherings, organized by students.

Decentralization started to spread into all facets of the learning process, including curricula: students were more and more able to follow learning tracks personalized for them. When the point was reached that faculty and university educators were no longer able to make personalized tracks for each and every one of them, this process is finally decentralized and students were able to make their own learning profile and track, changing and adapting it along the way. Any student could make any track he or she wanted, by aggregating courses, and finding experts to help him (gain knowledge, get employed). These experts were initially paid by universities to do this, but later on another mechanism started to mount, replacing this financial incentive with another one. Lifelong learners got involved in this process, and learning networks came into existence where different facets of society are represented: industry, university, and lifelong learners (including students as we know them today).

Facing quite some opposition, the replacement of normal faculty by these learning networks (ranging from a few to thousands of people) took some time. Learning networks gradually overtook the role assumed for so long by universities: they started to accredit the people in their networks, and were responsible for creating meaningful resources for learning, including challenges and prize competitions, something that became very popular in these learning networks. Universities changed their business models, and flexibly offered hardware (rooms, technology, labs, etc.) and services (creating high-quality materials from bare content, catering, human resource management, etc.) to these learning networks.

New diplomas and certificates were popping up everywhere online, and it seemed that any group was able to give out diplomas, creating quite a disturbance and call for the past. It was not long before a standard appeared, a kind of Netiquette, applying to these diplomas. Diplomas were still given in abundance, but the information relevant to the diplomas were instantly available and linked to the diploma. A group of open source software developers, linked with the group responsible for the diploma Netiquette, created software that aggregated the information of different online diplomas and certificates, automatically scrutinizing them with a number of criteria. Their site,, became the number one portal for certification quality check. In the years to come, they developed an advanced technology that could provide anyone with advise on career and learning, based on all the aggregated information.

When trust in diplomas and certificates was restored, other facets became more important. Since any learner was putting their learner results directly on the web, data about their added value was much more consistent and valid than any diploma, which soon assumed a decorative role, a kind of achievement award, only to be given to persons really having shown something, and usually in combination with some kind of research fund. Someone's online ID, being aggregated by more and more advanced machines, took over the role of certification, and after the students, the companies and industry quickly became aware of this. For persons in a learning network, this created another incentive to add value to a network, because added value would return to you in employment opportunities, and/or access to expertise. Adding value clearly happens not just personal social networks, but merely in professional learning networks. A person's online ID, combined with the social and professional "tacit" contacts, provided everything a person needed. If someone was not inclined to help anyone in his or her learning (and, by now employment network), (s)he was probably not helped either.

How I would like to wake up one day...

I wake up at noon, because I had to finish this last-minute assignment for a regular client of mine late last night. He pays well for it, so the fact that I could not attend an interesting online seminar this morning on Web 3.0 technologies doesn't bother me so much. I will watch it back later online. I start up my computer, and go to my personal site on, a website connecting communities of every interest and profession, where I have my friends, colleagues, employers, teachers, and peer-students, and where I am a friend, colleague, employer, teacher, and student. I see that there are some questions and remarks on an online article I just posted, and comment on them. My teacher status on this subject now increases, which may result in being employed. I post a text on my weblog about some problems I encountered during my last employment, hoping that some people read it and respond to it. Usually this takes no more than a day or two. Another employer has urged me to finish a certain job, and I tell her that I will most probably get the results of an essential research I delegated at the end of the week. I check my balance, and see that I made quite some money last week, which is also good for my credibility. People tend to have more trust in me now, when I have made some money, than before, when I just started living my life through this portal.

I sit back, take a sip of my coffee, and decide on what I want to learn today. A week ago, I really got stuck in a school project on e-government solutions for municipalities, so I type in the tags e-government, municipality, online voting, and corruption. Two communities, a dozen persons, and even more resources pop up. I see that a specific community is quite popular, has a high rating and quite some people involved, and I decide to enter. This is what I am looking for, I was thinking, when I browsed through their collection of free resources. I contact someone online, Susan, and tell her about the problems I encountered. She does not know the answers herself, she is new in the community, like me, but she directs me to George, someone who did a similar project and has a lot of experience. George says he is willing to talk to me for $45 an hour, which I think is reasonable considering his status. He also promises me an assignment, which, if I do it correctly, will earn me $120. In the end, George sells my results to his employer for $200 and earns $90 dollars for teaching me some very useful information. George was helpful, also in recommending me some free online courses and papers, so I make some comments on his public profile. I spend two hours learning from an expert on e-government and put this knowledge directly into practice, creating me a lot of understanding, practical and theoretical, and earning a little money ($30). Besides, it improves my online portfolio, increasing the trust it transfers to other people. Because of my specific knowledge gained in another field, which might be useful in this community, I decide to share this using freely available educational software.

OpenED week 12 - Review of blogposts on LO

Jennifer Maddrell created a nice overview of the shift from learning objects to open educational resources, explaining the differences in form, intentions of reuse and setting, types of systems and licenses, learner focus and interaction, design objectives, technology, sustainability, and extent of use. There clearly are great differences, and the latest version of providing reusable educational resources (OER) show much more promise than the earlier one (learning objects). Still, she emphasizes some of the problematic issues that need to be solved in order to be able to overcome the problems that are related to learning objects.

Even though costs associated with elaborate proprietary systems may be eliminated, OERs are not cost free. Therefore, sustainability continues to be a concern. In addition, availability does not equal use. I'm not sure we have a good handle on either the extent of OER use (by teachers or learners) or the best ways to facilitate use of OERs by users. Further, I think there is a lot to be learned from an instructional design perspective about both open educational practices, as well as OERs as instructional content.

I agree, it is too early to be able to speak about fixing problems with learning objects. By the way, I haven't got any experience with them either, and after consuming some of the literature provided (by one person, so not really objective), I suppose should be happy not to. I do agree with the arguments mentioned against the original idea of learning objects, and think that most of them are sound. Still, regarding OER, we have discussed in length the related difficulties, so we must not think that OER are sacred and good and "fix" problems. We must first fix our own OER problems, before we can be considered a solution for something. A great number of challenges is awaiting us, but I think we are on the right track.

Rob Barton uses the framework proposed by Souza & Preece (2004) about online communities. There are 2 points by which an online community can be assessed: sociability (people, purposes, and policies) and usability (software).

In their framework, these two components have to be aligned to produce success. Any community (whether online, offline, or a hybrid) will have sociability factors that change as the people (or purposes or policies) in the community change. For any online community, the software has to work with those people, purpose, and policies.

Clearly, these two are not aligned in the learning objects community, because educators for example do not embrace the provided metadata formats that are needed for reuse in traditional learning objects systems. Erik Duval, one of the persons responsible for the creation and adoption of the LOM metadata format, acknowledged during a talk on the OpenLearn conference that educators just do not use the format. Instead, he said, they use collaborative tagging and other simple options to describe their learning objects. Quite a statement by someone responsible for a widely adopted LO metadata format. The alignment between people and technology is most easily done when taking technologies already used by people, by leveraging their existing behavior instead of imposing or asking to change their behavior.

My go: learn from the past, and follow the free... :)
Another go: not all giants deserve to be stood on, especially when they face David;)

Nov 12, 2007

OpenED week 11 - Open Education & Learning Objects

Do open educational resources "fix" the many problems concerning learning objects?
Wiley discusses some of the main difficulties concerning learning objects in one of his papers on it called "Learning objects, difficulties and opportunities". Before exploring these difficulties and opportunities, it might be better to define a learning object. This, in itself, already represents a problem, but in this post we'll take the definition used by David in a short presentation on this year's BC Net conference. The first thing I noticed about this presentation, which is about openness, localization, and the future of learning objects, was his ironic humor. I usually like ironic humor, and David's good at it. The second thing I noticed were his "Lessigan" (is that a word?) slide style, which I like as well. Thirdly, I was happily surprised, because I had seen this presentation before and had lost track of it. I now found it again:)

Defining a learning object
Well, to get back to the definition question:

"A learning object is characterized by the following four components;
  1. It should be a resource;
  2. that is used to mediate learning (helps learning happening);
  3. in a digital format; and
  4. is freely reusable and adaptable."
In the same way, he explains why he does not care whether learning objects are dead or not;
"as long as people are willing to (1) openly share (2) educational materials that will (3) render properly in most web browsers, and they also (4) provide access to the unobfuscated source for the materials (especially for Flash files, Java applets, Photoshop images with many layers, and the like)..."
Also, after all, if the definition is disputable, so would its death.

He further discusses the fourth component in more detail, explaining the difference in reuse between copyrighted materials and open content:
  • (c) copyrighted materials can only be reused "as-is"
  • open content enables "frictionless adaptation"
Difficulties concerning learning objects
We have now seen the way how a learning object is defined by David Wiley, what about the problems concerning learning objects. In an earlier paper (which hence assumes his earlier definition of LO; without adaptation) some difficulties and opportunities are mentioned. These issues become more important when climbing up the so-called Bloom's taxonomy, which explains the different levels of cognitive skills (from lower-level remembering, understanding, and appllying towards higher-level analyzing, evaluation, and creation). The difficulties concerning learning objects include the following:
  • A focus on decontextualization, which is economically sensible, but at the same time counterproductive from the standpoint of student learning.
  • Forgetting the fact that learning objects do not "contain" learning, but it merely becomes a learning object when it is part of action, which I take as engagement.
  • Forgetting the social aspect of learning, which happens more and more on a social basis.
    • Still, I think we should not forget the advances being made with these technologies: advanced search and metadata machines may be able to find exactly the information you need and accustomed for you (for language, level, other contextual issues). In addition, cognitive tutors (Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative), intelligent robot like machines etc. may sometimes be better able to mediate learning than humans do (i.e. they don't get annoyed, are always available, can retrieve online data, student data, etc. much faster than we do).
  • The oppressiveness of traditional (or mainstream) learning object approaches, of of automated selection
    and delivery, because it completely precludes discourse or dialogue.
  • Incapability of automatic reusing (majority of) learning content, because LO systems are designed to reuse (and sequence) only a specific type of learning object, and the web consists of a multitude of different types and sizes of resources that can perfectly be used for learning.
    • In addition, personal reuse of learning objects is in many cases just forbidden because of copyright protection (set by default, see earlier postings week 6 and 7).
  • Reusability paradox: A content module's stand-alone pedagogical effectiveness is inversely proportional to its reusability (Wiley, Recker, & Gibbons 2001).
  • There is no "Educational Objects Economy" thinkable: despite rights management attempts, digital content will make its way into free distribution. As Wiley explains in his presentation (discussed below), giant music and movie corporations are fighting 13-year olds from Finland, and the latter are winning. In a blogpost, he sarcastically questions why not all the money spent on creating this learning objects economy, had been put in better understanding the process of evaluating reuse and creating tools for reuse:
" Of course, there’s very little market for these processes and tools, because when you’re talking about supporting people who have been unable to exercise their right to education, you’re obviously talking about “poor people,” and how would you make any return on products developed for “poor people?” I mean, after all, how are they supposed to pay? "
BTW. I don't think that these tools and processes are only useful for poor people; if it increases learning and education, which happens at companies as well, a business model can be built around it, I suppose. It might threaten the incumbent e-learning corporations, or might not be according to their current business model, so that might be a reason for not focusing on it, not the reason that only poor people can make use of it, and that they cannot pay.

The TAO for learning objects: openness
In his presentation, David argues that "OPENNESS IS THE ONLY FUTURE FOR LEARNING OBJECTS". To support this statement, he sketches an interesting overview of education compared with everyday life.


In italic, the state of today's e-learning is shown, with the few exceptions of course. With that in mind, the basic argument for openness is as follows:
  • There is no monetary incentive for an economy based on learning objects; in creating learning objects we should rely on other than monetary incentives;
  • Openness enables adaptability, which is crucial in learning. You cannot take one course or learning object or teaching material and take it "as-is" in another setting.. it needs to be transformed and changed into something that is more suitable to that situation/ context/ culture/ learner... etc.
  • Because it not only provides access to the resource, but to its "source code" as well, it enables creativity by the user, being able to be active and contributing to it. Tools are important in stimulating this creativity.
Other opportunities for learning objects
Openness of resources is just one of the opportunities mentioned by Wiley (2003) in his earlier paper. Besides problematic issues concerning (traditional thinking about) learning objects, some opportunities for learning objects are recognized in this paper:
  • Learning objects as entities without content, but rather indicating a kind of strategy or teaching technique, enabling different types and sizes of content to be used (by the end-user).
    • I see this as a kind of learning context, but can you design a learning context better than a learning object?
  • The "Educational Objects Commons" or, as we would call it, the open educational resources commons.
  • Interactive web tools, and blogs and wikis, providing the social support for learning objects use.
  • Supporting problem-based learning: Assuming an instructional design other than direct instruction opens doors to extremely interesting learning object use cases.
Important, also for OER: "What everyone does"
In his presentation, an interesting part is when David ironically criticizes the attitude of "What if everyone just would ... do x", meanwhile proposing an attitude more like "What everyone does". He then explains what everyone actually does, and states a number of trends and issues and compares them with relevant "What if everyone just would" issues in the learning objects landscape:

Repositories Google
IEEE LOM (etc. 70-80 fields to fill in)Tagging
IMS-CP (Content Packaging) / SCORM (for LO systems)HTML/JPG/etc. (sufficient for rendering in webpages)
LMS Wikis & Blogs
Learning ObjectsResources
COMPLEX (little uptake)
SIMPLE (tremendous uptake)

David eloquently explains that simplicity wins: something that would be happily acknowledged by Philips, the Dutch electronics multinational, whose slogan is "Sense & Simplicity". We should not try to change the behaviour of 99.9% percent of the world, convincing them that they should fill in 80 fields of metadata according to a certain predetermined ontology. Rather we should leverage and utilize the behavior of people they already show.

Acknowledging and understanding the discussed problems and opportunities, including the behavior of people (above list), I have made an overview of the problems, and indicated whether it would be solved by OER (defined as educational resources and open source technologies enabling reuse/remix).

Most OER provide are highly contextual, which may increase the value for learners and educators.
EngagementOER, like learning objects, do not contain magical power, although I think that highly advanced OER may actually increase learner engagement.
Social aspect of learningJust OER is not sufficient. If OER providers do not acknowledge the benefits of Web 2.0, and do not try to intertwine the functionalities offered by online tools and technologies, the value offered by these OER will be sub-optimal.
Oppressiveness Idem.
Reusing The intrinsic openness will enable reuse. Still, better compatibility between licenses is desired.
Reusability paradox/Costs of reuse The paradox remains, but the more findable resources on the web, the better the recommendation tools, the more likely there will be something of your likings, and the less effort it will cost you to adapt them.
Educational Objects Economy/Business modelsOther business models can be thought of, more suitable for the web, and actually creating value than costing money

Nov 8, 2007

OpenLearn 2007 - Learner generated contexts (day 2)

The concept of learner generated contexts (LGCs), without knowing exactly what it was, directly interested me. Many discussions are about user-generated content, distributed development of OER, etc. but, although acknowledging the importance of the learning process, little focus has been on learner generated contexts. The first session after John Seely Brown's inspiring keynote speech focused on LGCs, which was defined as

"a context created by people interacting together with a common, self-defined or negotiated learning goal. The key aspect of Learner Generated Contexts is that they are generated through the enterprise of those who would previously have been consumers in a context created for them."
The emphasis on contexts is clear: learning is a social process occurring across a continuum of contexts, and learning must be “fit for context”. The generation of context is characterised as an action on tools where a user actively selects, appropriates and implements learning solutions to meet their own needs (Bakardjieva, 2005). In their paper they introduce the concept as follows;
The rapid increase in the variety and availability of resources and tools that enable people to easily create and publish their own materials as well as to access those created by others extends the capacity for learning context creation beyond teachers, academics, designers and policy makers. It also challenges our existing pedagogies. Another challenge is that of finding ways in which technology can support learners to effectively create their own learning contexts and how this contributes to sustainability of open education.
The following are key issues emerging from this concept:
  • learners as creators not consumers
    • learning: from regulation and practice towards participation
    • co-configuration, co-creation, co-design of learning
    • changing roles of educational participants or “agile intermediaries”
  • pedagogy (teaching of children), andragogy (teaching of adults), heutagogy (self-determined learning)
  • needs or questions which enable new relevant learning contexts
  • learning design allowing learners to create their own context or space
    • learner needs to participate in the control of how their environment feels and works; however,
    • the ‘preferred’ and ‘best’ learning context may not be the same: understanding purpose in learning design
    • environment as physical, social and cognitive
    • the role of narrative in learning
Changes in learning and teaching should not start with embracing new technologies. Rather it is about contextualising learning first before you support it with technology. Still, these ideas have their roots in the affordances and potentials of a range of disruptive technologies and practice; web 2.0 and participative media, mobile learning, learning design and learning space design. John Seely Brown's participative architecture (or ecosystem) was brought forward here again, but there are a lot of obstacles/issues, such as roles, expertise, knowledge, pedagogy, accreditation, power, technology, participation and democracy.

LCG glasses for curriculum, organization, and administration
An "Ecology of Resources" model of context was depicted with the following characteristics, viewed with LGC glasses;
  • Knowledge and Curriculum
    • learners have agency and are pro-active in identifying a social learning need and/or a knowledge gap;
    • learners work is published and accessible outside of institution/school and 'visitors' or experts are brought into the dialogue via physical meetings or virtual spaces;
    • learners are generating content and meta content that is recognised by others, thus validating the organisation of their contextually generated knowledge; and
    • learners can understand the relevance of their knowledge gap to the rest of their lives, beyond their current environment.
  • Resources and Administration
    • available to learners to appropriate them to meet their needs; and
    • learners can understand the functionalities and affordances of the resources that make up their environment and how these match to their recognition production gap.
  • Environment and its Organisation
    • loose frameworks and freedom of choice; and
    • learner ability to understand the elements that make up their environment in terms of multiple perspectives, such as physical, social and communication so that they can marshall them into symbiotic relationships. This activity might operate from scratch or may simply mean the tailoring of existing relationships and interactions.
  • Learning process
    • personally meaningful for the learners;
    • facilitated in some way by their environment; and
    • ever widening boundaries of dialogue with and between multiple participants across multiple locations.
World of Warcraft
John Seely Brown argued that World of Warcraft fosters the creation of Learner Generated Contexts, and other, more specific educational games might be even better appropriate for fostering the creation of LGCs. He made the notions of considering the dialectic between institution and learning, and the vocabulary which impedes considering certain environments as learning environments. I remember something I read online, about the work processes within the IT company Geek Squad in the USA. An IT manager in that company tried to implement a certain technology to make the employees collaborate better, but concluded that they already found their own platform and context for collaboration: World of Warcraft.

And what about the relation with OER?
Maybe we will will see a shift from OER to OEC (Open Educational Contexts). I see great potential in learner generated contexts and open learning designs that can be remixed by the learner. I understand the concept as something that lets the learner free to make his own learning environment, solo or in collaboration with others. This requires quite a significant change in institutional design of current educational institutions, but one that may be needed. Of course, students may create their own content, but I think that in a world where so many different opportunities for learning exist, an institution cannot define the exact learning environment or context for each learner. A learner may find his/her own, but to what extent are guidance or formal rules needed? What about tacit knowledge? I think an important issue to address in creating a LGC relates to content: how can relevancy be determined and the right resources be linked, and in that way make a learning context, consisting of many different people, types of content and media, possibly environments, etc...

I hope that this research will provide some answers on these questions, because it might be very relevant for decisions on policies about learning and learning environments within institutions.

Some links