ocw

OpenChem, Open Curriculum, and the Value of Openness

Cable Green, June 27th, 2013

I recently spoke with Larry Cooperman, director of OpenCourseWare at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Larry also serves on the boards of the OpenCourseWare Consortium and the African Virtual University. I asked Larry about UC Irvine’s new OpenChem project.

Why, in the middle of such excitement over MOOCs, would the Department of Chemistry and the OpenCourseWare project at the UCI unveil their CC BY-SA–licensed OpenChem project, a set of video lectures equivalent to four years of classes? Because they’ve designed OpenChem to focus on building out an extensive path to learning chemistry via an open curriculum rather than offering highly designed intensive course experiences like Coursera and EdX.

OpenChem is designed to be reused, revised, and remixed — by institutions, departments and instructors. This differs in the most fundamental way from the fixed-path, single-instructor model of most MOOCs. OpenCourseWare and MOOCs aspire to provide access to high quality, higher education learning to those unable, for a variety of reasons, to attend either an “elite” institution or any college or university at all.

For some time, Larry has been arguing that we are falling short of this vision. 80% of Coursera users are college graduates and most of the rest are advanced high school and current university students. There is no doubt that others, for lack of access to a basic internet connection, much less the bandwidth required for high-resolution video streaming, won’t share in these benefits. But there is a second reason, even more troubling than the bandwidth problem, which should concern us. The design of university-level courses, when they come from “elite” institutions, is for that audience — namely, “elite” students. Courses aren’t designed for students whose secondary institutions have left them with gaps in their education.

And that gets me back to the design of OpenChem — or openly licensed curriculum in general. If there is one thing that we can do to use open education to improve higher education, it is to allow existing colleges and universities that serve these students to improve their educational offerings through adoption and adaptation. That means that those who best know a specific cohort of students must be free to choose from easily integrated, openly licensed materials that match their curricular needs and objectives. The very first use of OpenChem occurred locally at Saddleback College, when an instructor used ten minutes of a UCI video lecture that offered an explanation of a very specific topic to use in his flipped classroom. And that’s really the point. An instructor may find ten minutes useful. A department may adopt a course that had not previously been offered. An institution may adapt an entire curriculum. Further, if the content is not exactly what an instructor wants, the open license allows her to change it to meet local needs.

MOOCs could also enable these opportunities, though they will need to make it simple for their course authors and their contributing colleges and universities to add a Creative Commons license to their course content. CC stands ready to help them do so.

Of course, chemistry is a lab science. Allowing students to virtually sit in UCI lecture halls for four years via OpenChem could never substitute for a local institution offering a complete education. By creating a full pathway from a course designed for those without adequate high school chemistry preparation to graduate electives, UCI is making its chemistry education visible. But the goal of OpenChem isn’t substitution — it is to enable both educators and students to collaborate with others. Just as UCI hopes to support science education, they also hope others will adapt and improve OpenChem courses, translate them into other languages, and distribute them far and wide.

Kenneth Janda, Dean of the School of Physical Sciences and Professor of Chemistry at UCI, invites institutions to use “a whole lecture or a series of lectures, free of charge, and without asking permission to advance your educational mission.” That’s a fairly good itemization of the key benefits of openly licensed resources versus public but read-only copyrighted resources; it is the difference between open and free.

UCI also anticipates important learner benefits that are derived from having an open curriculum, including the ability to go forwards and backwards at will. For instance, looking ahead, an advanced high school student can go past the level of AP Chemistry. An entering college freshman could study Preparation for General Chemistry to ensure their readiness. Or an enrolled student can view the typical coursework and decide whether to become a chemistry major. Just as important, a student having trouble with a class can review the prior knowledge — the building blocks that are required to succeed in their current class.

This last point is perhaps the most crucial. Openness in education is about visibility. UCI uses an entire open curriculum to let learners and instructors alike see how it all hangs together. UCI has a lot of work left to do to optimize OpenChem for learning, but is excited to point its university and other institutions in a new direction that brings us all a little closer to the goal of universal access to higher education.

Comments Off

Open Course Library releases 39 more high-enrollment courses

Jane Park, April 30th, 2013

OCLHowto1
OCL How-to Guide / SBCTC / CC BY

A year and a half ago, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released the first 42 of Washington state’s 81 high-enrollment courses under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). Now they have released the remaining 39 under the same terms, which means that anyone, anywhere, including the state’s 34 public community and technical colleges and four-year colleges and universities, can use, customize, and distribute the course materials.

The Open Course Library project is funded by the Washington State Legislature and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It adheres to SBCTC’s open policy, which requires that all materials created through system grants be openly licensed for the public to freely use, adapt, and distribute under CC BY.

For further background on the project, read our 2010 feature about the project when it was just beginning. All 81 courses are available at the recently redesigned Open Course Library website where each individual course is marked with the CC BY license to enable discovery through Google and other search services on the web.

Update

The SBCTC held a press call today bringing to light a new Cost Analysis report on savings for students where Open Course Library courses have been used in lieu of traditional course materials. For more info, please see:

Comments Off

Kazakhstan and Rwanda: Two more CC Affiliates for 2011

Jessica Coates, December 23rd, 2011

Early morning in Almaty by Irene2005 / CC BY (resized) Volcano by johncooke / CC BY (resized)

As CC headquarters starts to wind down for the end of the year, it gives me great pleasure to announce two new CC Affiliates from Kazakhstan and Rwanda.

Led by Rauan Kenzhekhanuly and including Almas Nurbakytov, Nartay Ashim and Balashov Talgat, the Kazakhstan team is supported by Wikibilim, a non-profit organisation which is devoted to expanding the availability of free knowledge in the Kazakh language, focusing on forums such as the Kazakh Wikipedia. Wikibilim is supported by the Government of Kazakhstan and personally by the Prime-Minister Mr. Karim Masimov. The members of Wikibilim have a great deal of experience in the open community, and are working actively to promote open knowledge and free culture values in Kazakhstan, with a particular focus on increasing the quantity of Kazakh-language material available under open licences. Those who attended the recent Global Summit in Warsaw may have met Rauan and Almas, who were enthusiastic participants on behalf of their team.

The Rwanda team, led by Jacques Murinda and including Fred Byabagabo and Prosper Birama, is working in conjunction with the Open Learning Exchange (OLE), an NGO supported by the Rwandan Ministry of Education, which aims to provide universal access to basic education by 2015. The Rwandan team has been active in the CC Africa community for some time and is particularly focused on promoting open educational resources (OER) and open courseware (OCW) initiatives in the region.

We welcome both these teams to our affiliate network, and look forward to working with them as they develop the CC community in their regions.

This brings the total number of official CC affiliates at the end of 2011 to 72, the highest level since the project launched in 2002. A good start for our tenth birthday celebrations next year — see you all there!

Note – This article had previously incorrectly identified Wikibilim as the official representative of Wikimedia in Kazakhstan.

1 Comment »

Gates Foundation announces $20M for Next Generation Learning Challenges; CC BY required for grant materials

Timothy Vollmer, October 11th, 2010

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $20M investment in the Next Generation Learning Challenges, an initiative to improve college readiness and completion through technology. The first request for proposals (RFP) was released today (PDF). The RFP specifically solicits proposals that address the following challenges:

  • Increasing the use of blended learning models, which combine face-to-face instruction with online learning activities.
  • Deepening students’ learning and engagement through use of interactive applications, such as digital games, interactive video, immersive simulations, and social media.
  • Supporting the availability of high-quality open courseware, particularly for high-enrollment introductory classes like math, science, and English, which often have low rates of student success.
  • Helping institutions, instructors, and students benefit from learning analytics which can monitor student progress in real-time and customize proven supports and interventions.

The RFP lays out the grant guidelines with regard to open licensing, and requires the use of CC BY:

So that the knowledge gained during NGLC-funded projects is promptly and broadly disseminated, all documents, written materials, and other content submitted to EDUCAUSE during the period of Grantee’s NGLC grant application and grant (e.g., website postings, pre-proposals, proposals, findings, and information generated by Grantee) will be made available to the community under a Creative Commons Attribution license. In addition, all open educational resources and related work product (manuals, integration formats, hosting environments, faculty development guides, or curricula, etc.) created in connection with the Open Interactive Core Courseware challenge must be made available under this license.

Adopting CC BY is precisely aligned with the overarching goals of foundation funding and initiatives such as the Next Generation Learning Challenges. Last year, the Berkman Center’s study on foundation copyright licensing policies said that open licensing “ensures[s] the broadest and fastest dissemination of the valuable ideas, practices, works, software code and other materials the foundation’s funding helps to create.” That report went on to suggest that the impact of funding is even greater when permissive licenses (such as CC BY) are applied, allowing the resources “to be freely tested, translated, combined, remixed, repurposed or otherwise built upon, potentially by many subsequent researchers, authors, artists or other creators anywhere in the world, as the basis for new innovation, discovery or creation.”

Proposals for the first RFP are due November 17, 2010. The Next Generation Learning Challenges are a collaboration between several organizations, including the Gates Foundation, EDUCAUSE, iNACOL, CCSSO, The Hewlett Foundation, and The League for Innovation in the Community College. Congratulations to the Gates Foundation and partnering organizations on this fantastic effort.

2 Comments »

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare

Jane Park, October 15th, 2009

The Center for Social Media at AU has released a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare. From the press release,

“OpenCourseWare, the Web-based publication of academic course content launched in 2002 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been lauded for making college-level courses available to anyone anywhere in the world for free. The movement has expanded to include offerings from some of the nation’s most selective universities including the University of Notre Dame and Yale University…

Now, educational organizations have a guide that simplifies the legalities of using copyrighted materials in open courseware—The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare. The code was developed by experts in media and fair use at American University and a committee of practitioners of open courseware from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, MIT, Tufts University, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, and Yale University…

The code aims to help OCW designers at U.S. educational organizations recognize situations to which fair use applies and situations that require they get permission from third-party rights holders.”

The complete code is available via CC BY.

Comments Off

BYU Launches OCW Pilot

Jane Park, June 10th, 2009

It appears that David Wiley’s move to Brigham Young University has already resulted in progress towards opening the university’s content. Long-time pioneer and academic of open education, Wiley reports that BYU’s Independent Study has launched its Open CourseWare (OCW) pilot with six Creative Commons licensed courses under CC BY NC-SA.

“The pilot includes three university-level courses and three high school-level courses (BYU IS offers 250 university-level courses online for credit and another 250 high school-level courses online for credit). The courses in BYU IS OCW are content-complete – that is, they are the full courses as delivered online without the need of additional textbooks or other materials (only graded assessments have been removed).”

The most interesting thing about this pilot is that it “is part of a dissertation study to measure the impact of OCW courses on paying enrollments.” So far, “the results are very positive – 85 of the 3500 people who visited the OCW site last month registered for for-credit courses… if this pattern remains stable, then BYU IS OCW will be financially self-sustainable with the ability to add and update a number of new courses to the collection each year, indefinitely, should they so choose.” Echoing Wiley, that is an exciting prospect. We look forward to seeing these results develop, in addition to other inquiries into the sustainability of general OER initiatives in the future…

Comments Off

Two MIT OCW Courses Reach Million Visit Milestone

Jane Park, October 10th, 2008

A long-standing provider of open courseware, MITOpenCourseWare reached a million visit milestone yesterday for two of their online courses: 8.01 Physics I: Classical Mechanics and 18.06 Linear Algebra. The courses are two of MIT’s most popular to date, taught by renowned professors Walter Lewin and Gilbert Strang. From MIT’s media coverage on Lewin:

Professor Lewin is an international webstar. He is well-known at MIT and beyond for his dynamic, inspiring and engaging lecture style. His courses are also among the most downloaded at iTunes U. 8.01 Physics I: Classical Mechanics explains the basic concepts of Newtonian mechanics, fluid mechanics, and kinetic gas theory, and a variety of interesting topics such as binary stars, neutron stars, and black holes.

On Strang:

Strang is a 50-year mathematics veteran whose teaching style is recognized internationally. Linear Algebra introduces mathematical concepts that include matrix theory, systems of equations, vector spaces, and positive definite matrices. “Everyone has the capacity to learn mathematics,” says Strang. “If you can offer a little guidance, and some examples, viewers discover that a whole world is open.

8.01 Physics I: Classical Mechanics offers lecture notes, exams with solutions, complete videotaped lectures and their accompanying transcripts under CC BY-NC-SA. 18.06 Linear Algebra offers (interactive) Java applets with sound in addition to video lectures and translations into Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish, also under CC BY-NC-SA. CC BY-NC-SA allows for these kinds of adaptations and derivations of material—and translation is a crucial step in broadening access to a global audience. 

There are other and more interesting ways to adapt material, however, and we are curious to know how the visitors constituting the 1,000,000+ hits of these two courses (and others) have actually used the materials. Since educational needs vary contextually, it would be beneficial to know what types of adaptations are being made beyond translation. Of the 600 visits per day that these courses average, how many of them result in derivations? These, and other questions (such as visitor demographic, global reach, etc.) are things to consider as the OCW project continues to expand and evolve. The future impact of OER lie in the ways information is conceptualized, organized, and related; simply offering up free content on the web is no longer enough—remember David Wiley’s quote from OpenEd 08: “If my students can Google it, I don’t have to teach it.” As progressive models of OER develop and evolve, it will be interesting to see how OCW’s scope and impact also grows.

Comments Off