OER

Invitation to an International Conference on OER

Jane Park, September 24th, 2009

Open Education and Open Educational Resources: Challenges and Perspectives,” an international conference on OER, is taking place in São Paulo, Brazil on Oct 29-30. Supported by the Open Society Institute and Direito GV, it will focus on “[bringing] together international and Brazilian OER projects and experiences [to set] the debate on policies to foster OER.” The conference is open and free to all, and simultaneous translations will be provided. From the invitation,

“As countries worldwide move to implement open education projects, and developing
nations in particular look to use the Internet to replace outdated and insufficient
educational systems, an examination of existing work is in order. It is important to provide
a map of lessons learned, and to understand how existing projects can be connected to
one another to create the largest possible impact for both educators and learners. Our goal
is to examine these broad issues within the lens of a detailed examination of the Brazilian
experience applying ICTs to education in policy, technology, pedagogy, and the impact of
the emerging concept of “open educational resources” in both theory and practice.

This conference will present results and discuss recommendations from the OER Brazil
Project, funded by the Open Society Institute. The conference aims to open the door for a
richer discussion focused on OER through sharing information on international and
national OER projects. The idea is to transform the conference into a working group and
draft recommendations for future public policy for OER in Brazil, in preparation for the 2010
National Conference on Education.”



En Brasil se hablará de apoyar Recursos Educativos Abierto (REA) en politicas públicas

Educación Abierta y Recursos Educativos Abiertos (REA): Metas y perspectivas, es un ciclo de conferencias que se llevará a cabo en Sao Paulo, Brasil el 29 y 30 de octubre financiado por Open Society Institute y apoyado por la facultad de Derecho de la Fundación Getulio Vargas.

Lo interesante de este evento es que presenta los resultados y pretende discutir las recomendaciones del proyecto OER Brasil financiado por Open Society Institute. Con ocasión de esta conferencia se reunirán proyectos brasileños e internacionales que tienen como foco de trabajo los Recursos Educativos Abiertos (REA, que son los OER por su sigla en inglés) y experiencias en este campo con el fin de poner sobre la mesa el debate en torno a las políticas públicas.

Con este fin se espera que los asistentes conviertan la conferencia en grupo de trabajo que proponga recomendaciones concretas de políticas públicas en la materia como preparación para la Conferencia Nacional de Educación que tendrá lugar en 2010.

El evento y sus resultados son importantes en la región pues de implementarse una decisión de este tipo en el sector público brasileño tendríamos un antecedente importante y relevante para apoyo de quienes creemos en los beneficios de una educación abierta y más accequible apoyada por las Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones (TIC).

Para quien interesen las conferencias y/o pueda asistir, el programa puede consultarse desde la página de la Fundación Getulio Vargas y la asistencia no tiene costo.

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Open Education: First meeting of CC leads in Latin America

Jane Park, September 23rd, 2009

Last year Latam Commons 2008: Public Domain, Creative Commons, and Open Education was the first meeting of CC leads in Latin America, and also the first meeting to focus specifically on open education and OER of its kind. Though I blogged briefly about its success in December, the fruits of the meeting have shown itself over time, as Latin America has been working towards greater openness in education and otherwise, with our very own Carolina Botero joining as a ccLearn liaison for that region of the Spanish-speaking world.

Now, the particular results of that first meeting are recorded for the first time, in both English and Spanish in the same report, Open Education: First meeting of CC leads in Latin America. The report was a joint production of CC Latin America and ccLearn, and is licensed CC BY so it can be further translated into other languages sans the hassle of a middleman. We urge you to check out the summary of the first meeting. As we continue to acquire better information about the open education issues in the Spanish speaking world, we hope to better facilitate communications within and beyond the region; for example, productions like this and translations of relevant CC blog posts should ideally reach interested people regardless of where they live or what language they speak (and read).

Speaking of blog posts, two more Back-to-School blog posts are now available in Spanish, Back to School: DiscoverEd and the Back to School Conclusion: The Open Trajectory of Learning. The translated versions are posted just below the English, and as more translations come in, we will add them to the original posts. All relevant blog posts will be tagged Latin America, so that you can see Latam open education news at anytime in one place.

And in Spanish, thanks to Carolina Botero and CC Latin America:


Educación Abierta: Primera reunión de líderes de CC en América Latina.

El año pasado tuvo lugar la primera reunión de líderes de CC en América Latina: Latam Commons 2008: Dominio Público, Creative Commons, y Educación Abierta. Esta fue también la primera reunión que se enfocó específicamente en educación abierta y REA (Recursos Educativos Abiertos, OER por sus siglas en inglés). Aunque ya se había blogueado brevemente sobre su éxito en diciembre, los resultados de la reunión se han ido mostrando con el tiempo, América Latina ha venido trabajando hacía una mayor apertura tanto en educación como en otros temas, al punto que Carolina Botero se unió oficialmente como enlace para la región hispanoparlante.

Ahora, los resultados particulares de esta primera reunión aparecen por primera vez, tanto en español como en inglés en un mismo informe titulado Educación Abierta: Primera reunión de líderes CC en América Latina. El informe fue una producción de CC América Latina (ccLatam) y ccLearn, se encuentra licenciado CC BY por lo que puede ser traducido a cualquier otro idioma sin intermediarios. Los invitamos a revisar el resumen de esta primera reunión. De otro lado, una vez tengamos una mejor idea sobre los temas de educación abierta que le interesan a los hispanoparlantes podremos concentrarnos en comunicaciones más efectivas, por ejemplo, en lograr que producciones como ésta y traducciones de entradas del blog de CC relevantes para esta audiencia puedan llegar a sus miembros.

Respecto a las entradas en el blog aprovechamos para contarles que hay dos nuevas entradas de la serie Regreso al Colegio están disponibles ahora en español: De Regreso al Colegio: DiscoverEd y De Regreso al Colegio, conclusiones: El camino abierto para el aprendizaje. Las versiones traducidas se agregan al final de la entrada en inglés y, a medida que otras traducciones lleguen las iremos agregando allí. Todas las entradas de este tipo en el blog serán etiquetadas Latin America, para que puedan registrar las noticias de América Latian a cualquier hora en cualquier lugar.

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Back to School: Legal Challenges for Teachers (Sharing Patient Health Data)

Lila Bailey, September 3rd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

For this post in my Legal Challenges for Teachers series, I will focus on challenges for medical education. Although copyright issues are a problem for medical education as in any other educational area, those who educate and train doctors face many additional hurdles.

According to Open University,

Ethiopia has a population of 84 million people served by fewer than 1800 doctors, most of these in private practice. People are suffering and dying because they cannot get access to a doctor when they need one.

To combat this problem, the Ethiopian government is planning to create 11 new medical schools and 8000 new places for medical students to obtain training. Open University is working with the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia to pilot open and distance learning medical training with students at the recently opened St Paul’s Millennium Medical School in Addis Ababa.

Given the desperate need for new doctors in Africa and around the world, and the distinct lack of trained doctors to teach them, many medical education programs are turning to digital technologies and distance learning for innovative means of educating new doctors. One interesting model being used is the Virtual Patient (VP). VPs are interactive computer simulations of real-life clinical scenarios, and may consist of many learning objects (e.g., text, images, animations, and videos). VPs are becoming recognized as highly effective training tools.

Yet while the use of distance education, such as via Open University, and digital technologies, such as VPs, have the potential to vastly expand the number of doctors with access to quality clinical training resources, it is not without its own challenges. Access to information about real life patients is necessary to develop VPs and other effective clinical training resources. VPs are very time-consuming and expensive to develop, so it is necessary to be able to share existing VPs in a manner that is adaptable to different cultural, linguistic and educational scenarios. Therefore, a prerequisite to the success of these projects is the ability to actually share and reuse the relevant digital content (i.e., the patient information). However, sharing data about patients is subject to numerous laws and regulations, including considerations of confidentiality, patient privacy and protection and control over patient data. This makes sharing data between institutions quite difficult, and even more so when the institutions are located in different countries having different legal requirements.

The Electronic Virtual Patient, or eViPs, program is a collaboration between nine universities across Northern Europe and MedBiquitious, which helped to develop the technical standards used in e-based healthcare education. eViPs has managed to compile a repository of 320 VPs which will soon be made available under a Creative Commons license. In order to share the health data that was used in the development of the VPs contained in the repository, full consent of the participating patients had to be obtained, as detailed in this report. It is wonderful to see collaborations such as this one that have been able to meet the challenges particular to sharing patient health data.

Unfortunately, the ability to share patient health data is still limited to specific projects and institutions. I wonder whether it is possible to develop even more robust legal tools that will allow medical educators to share patient data across projects and across borders, while still maintaining appropriate patient confidentiality. Many lives depend on our ability to do so.

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Back to School: DiscoverEd

Alex Kozak, September 2nd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

Years from now, what will it mean for teachers to prep for a new school-year? Will they be reviewing digital textbooks? Collaborating online with colleagues in revising and adapting digital lesson plans? Upgrading operating systems and software on classroom laptops? Scouring the net for those perfect open educational materials to print or distribute to students?

Everyone might have their own image of how preparation for a new school year will look, but the current excitement about open and digital educational resources indicates that teachers are ready for a new model.

As textbooks and learning materials move online, the copyright status of those resources becomes more important to teachers. At ccLearn, the education program at Creative Commons, we strongly believe that developing a global education commons of openly licensed educational resources is the best solution to the legal and technical challenges that teachers face when trying to share and adapt educational resources. But how exactly will teachers be able to find and share open educational resources? After all, a resource simply being accessible online isn’t itself enough for it to be easily discoverable.

ccLearn has developed a prototype search engine, DiscoverEd, that provides one solution to this challenge.

DiscoverEd provides scalable search and discovery for educational resources on the web. Results come from institutional and third-party repositories who have expended time and resources curating metadata about resources. These curators either create or aggregate educational resources and maintain information about them. Metadata, including the license and subject information available, are exposed in the result set.

We are particularly interested in open educational resources (OER) and are collaborating with other OER projects to improve search and discovery capabilities for OER, using DiscoverEd and other available tools.

Our search engine is a prototype and shouldn’t been seen as the only solution to OER search and discovery. But assuming that categorization and assessment of OER are embedded at the point of publication as open metadata, the DiscoverEd model is a powerful and scalable method for discovering and utilizing those data.

To learn more about DiscoverEd, you can explore the DiscoverEd site, FAQ, or read our report entitled “Enhanced Search for Educational Resources: A Perspective and a Prototype from ccLearn“.

You can also test out our DiscoverEd widget below:


En Estados Unidos están de regreso al colegio este mes y con este contexto en ccLearn, han venido publicando una serie de entradas algunas de ellas ya quedaron comentadas en español, creo que justifica comentar y traducir lo pertinente:

De Regreso al colegio, DiscoverEd

En esta entrada Alex Kozak aborda la solución que ofrece ccLearn, el programa educativo de Creative Commnons, para apoyar los problemas legales y técnicos que enfrentan los profesores cuando buscan recursos digitales y abiertos en el universo de Internet donde encontrar no es tan sencillo. Se trata del buscador piloto DiscoverEd que busca enfrentar este reto.

DiscoverEd es un buscador para recursos educativos en la red. El buscador revisa repositorios de terceros que han dedicado tiempo y esfuerzo a curar los metadatos de los recursos. Estos curadores crean o cosechan los recursos y conservan la información sobre ellos en metadatos, incluyendo la información sobre la licencia y el tema que es presentada como resultado en el proceso de búsqueda.

DiscoverEd se ocupa esencialmente de proyectos abiertos, de Recursos Educativos Abiertos (REA o OER por sus siglas en ingles) y colabora con otros proyectos de este tipo para mejorar los resultados en la búsqueda y descubrimiento de estos recursos..

Kosak finaliza indicando que este es un piloto que no debe ser visto como la única solución para la búsqueda y descubrimiento de REA pero, considerando que la categorización y valoración de los recursos se hace en el punto de publicación a través de metadatos abiertos, cree que DiscoverEd sera un modelo poderoso y escalable para encontrar y usar los datos.

La información sobre el proyecto esta por ahora en ingles, puede revisarse en DiscoverEd site, FAQ, o en el informe “Enhanced Search for Educational Resources: A Perspective and a Prototype from ccLearn”

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Back to School: Open Courseware as a transition to college

Jane Park, September 2nd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

One aspect of open courseware* is its draw for potential students who are deciding where to spend their parents’ or their own hard-earned dollars in obtaining a higher education. The fact is unsurprising, as we saw in 2007, with MIT OCW reporting that “One in four current MIT students who knew of OCW prior to choosing MIT [indicated] the site was a significant influence on their school choice.”

However, beyond free advertising for its school, certain open courseware programs have begun to evolve past the open licensing status of their courses. As the global learning commons of OCW is growing, so are the local learning contexts of open courseware, as more colleges realize the benefit of working with high schools in their areas to prepare, and perhaps to propel, their youth into higher education.

Last month, the University of Massachusetts Boston was awarded a $60,000 grant by the Boston Foundation, with the specific aim of better preparing Boston public high school students for college level courses. The grant will fund workshops for teachers, training them on how to use open courseware to educate their students at gradually accelerated levels. Similar to MIT OCW’s Highlights for High School initiative, these workshops promote high school teacher and student use of open educational resources.

However, I imagine it also going one step further. In providing training for teachers on the use of open educational resources (OER), teachers will not be simply accessing OCW resources on the web. They will learn how to use OER according to its license status, and realize that the commons of open educational resources is vast and global, open to be adapted, derived, and remixed with other OER on the Internet. The Boston grant would enable teachers to see open courseware as part of a larger world of open materials and communities, rather than as simply an institution.

We hope that many other universities and colleges offering OCW will follow this same trend, localizing their university’s offerings at the same time that they are globalizing them via CC licenses. Especially, initiatives like Academic Earth, a site that pools a number of OCW in high definition video, could really run with this idea of contextualization for teachers and students, educating them on the new communities that are opened to them via something as simple as the licensing status of a resource.

*Traditionally, open courseware are university or college courses that are freely accessible online, usually via an open license (the most commonly used license for OCW is CC BY-NC-SA), consisting of lectures and other multimedia, core content, supplemental materials, or tools to aid learning. Nowadays, open courseware sans an open license that allows derivatives, though free, are not considered open, as the ability to adapt the work to global and local contexts via translations and cultural references has become integral to the spirit of OCW.


A summary in Spanish:

De regreso al colegio: Open Courseware como una transición a la educación superior. http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17411

En esta entrada Park indica como en este momento los Open Courseware (repositorios de cursos virtuales que se publican para acceso abierto en Internet, como el famoso MIT OCW http://ocw.mit.edu/) han provocado un interesante efecto de publicidad para las universidades americanas que hoy reconocen como cada vez más de los nuevos estudiantes consideran que conocer el material docente de la universidad en la que esperan estudiar ha influido en su toma de decisión y cómo este efecto ha hecho que las universidades americanas estén creando un puente entre la educación superior y media a través de los cursos en estos repositorios abiertos.

Park señala que los cursos se han convertido en material para los docentes de educación media que les permiten más y mejores recursos para preparar los estudiantes para su experiencia universitaria. Sin embargo, Park hace un llamado a la necesidad de llamar la atención y preparar a los docentes para ir más allá de la simple reutilización pasiva de materiales de los cursos y pasen a ser actores de la recreación de estos materiales localizándolos y ajustándolos a sus circunstancias particulares.

Park espera que donaciones como la de la Fundación Boston a la Universidad de Massachussets, que tiene como finalidad preparar a los graduados de la escuela para enfrentar los cursos de educación superior, sirvan de promotor para contextualizar a los docentes y estudiantes en las nuevas comunidades abiertas a ellos a través de herramientas tan sencillas como la licencia que se asocia con un recurso, de modo que puedan ver estos cursos como iniciativas de comunidades abiertas globales más allá de la institución que los hospeda.

La ruta que presenta Park puede servir de inspiración para nuestros países y sus iniciativas nacionales como inspiración para los actores del sector.

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Back to School: Legal Challenges for Teachers (Understanding Copyright Exceptions)

Lila Bailey, September 1st, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

As part of our ongoing blogging for “Back to School” week here in the United States, I will be blogging about legal challenges facing teachers who wish to harness powerful new digital technologies to enhance students’ learning experiences through OER. In this series, I will explore these challenges in the context of a few specific efforts to reduce the legal barriers to engaging in open education.

Two weeks ago, I attended the international Open Education Conference for the first time. For four days, Vancouver was abuzz with excitement over the latest and greatest in “open.” What was striking to me as a lawyer was the confusion, and in some cases even fear, expressed during conversations about certain open educational activities–especially about the legalities involved.

The first issue I will address in this series is one that has plagued teachers even before the digital era–the inclusion of all-rights-reserved content in teaching materials under an exception to copyright law, such as fair use or fair dealing. From the photocopier to the VCR to the Web, technology has made it easier and easier to make very low-cost or even completely free copies of educational content for the benefit of students. However, teachers may not be aware of, or may fear, the legal implications of making those copies, adapting them to their own circumstances, and using them for teaching. No one wants to turn teachers (or students) into criminals, yet these days the message educators and administrators are getting from rights holders is that digital technologies are doing just that.

The confusion (and the associated legal risk) that comes along with using all-rights-reserved content becomes greater when those materials are placed on the Internet in the context of educational resources that are licensed for widespread sharing and reuse. Further, the cross border use of openly licensed resources that contain all-rights-reserved material creates problems for the overall openness of the resource, because copyright exceptions around the globe are not equivalent or even compatible. As a result, the cost to potential users of determining whether such material may be used in their own jurisdiction presents a barrier to the use of OER.

Gaining a deeper understanding of the ways in which copyright exceptions function globally and how these exceptions interact with open licensing is an important move for the OER community, and one ccLearn hopes to lead the way on. At the OpenEd conference, I presented a paper, titled “Otherwise Open: Managing Incompatible Content in OER,” which outlines this problem in detail. The final published version of that paper is now available here. I encourage you all to take a look at the paper and provide feedback about the paper or your own experiences with this issue.

And, as we blogged a few weeks ago, ccLearn has been working with Open.Michigan on an OER Copyright Survey to gather information about how copyright law may act as a barrier to the creation and dissemination of OER. The initial “test phase” of data gathering is now over, and we are happy to report that we have received many more responses than we anticipated. Keep an eye out for our forthcoming report on the results of this initial survey, and for news on our efforts to internationalize the study.


A summary in Spanish:

ccLearn está de regreso al colegio

En Estados Unidos están de regreso al colegio este mes y con este contexto en ccLearn, Lila Bailey ha venido publicando una serie de entradas que creo justifica comentar y traducir al menos en parte:

De regreso al colegio: Retos legales para los docentes (entendiendo las excepciones legales) http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17240.

Aunque el contexto legal de los régimenes de Copyright (en USA) y Derechos de Autor (en España, en Colombia y en casi toda América Latina) no es igual, de hecho una de las diferencias es la forma como se maneja este tema, me sorprendíó lo “internacional” de este texto, les traduzco apartes:

“De la fotocopiadora al vídeo en la Web, la tecnología ha hecho más y más fácil hacer a muy bajo costo o incluso completamente gratis copias de contenidos educativos para el beneficio de los estudiantes. Sin embargo, los docentes pueden no ser conscientes de ello, o pueden temer las consecuencias jurídicas de realizar tales copias, de adaptárlas a sus propias circunstancias, o de usarlas para la enseñanza. Por su parte nadie quiere criminalizar a los profesores (o los estudiantes), sin embargo, en estos días el mensaje que los docentes y administradores del sistema educativo están recibiendo de los titulares de los derechos de autor es que las tecnologías digitales producen justamente eso.

La confusión (y el riesgo legal asociado) que viene junto con el uso de contenido con “todos los derechos reservados” se hace mayor cuando los materiales se colocan en la Internet en el contexto de los recursos educativos que tienen licencia para un amplio intercambio y la reutilización. Además, la utilización transfronteriza de recursos con licencias abiertas que contienen materiales con “todos los derechos reservados” crea problemas para la idea de apertura general de los recursos, porque las excepciones al derecho de autor en todo el mundo no son equivalentes o compatibles. Como resultado, el costo para los usuarios potenciales de determinar si ese material puede ser utilizado en su propia jurisdicción supone una barrera para el uso de los REA.”

Precisamente Lila Bailey ha venido trabajando el tema buscando entender la forma como las excepciones legales funcionan globalmente y cómo interactúan con otras licencias de contenido abierto, sus ideas se han condensado en la ponencia que presentó durante la conferencia Oponed “Otherwise Open: Managing Incompatible Content in OER”. Un texto que debemos empezar a revisar y ubicar desde nuestros propios contextos.

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Back to School: Open Educational Resources in Africa

Aurelia J. Schultz, September 1st, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

In the United States, the turn from August into September means new pencils, books and backpacks as the nation’s students start a new school year. In other parts of the world, students are returning from semester breaks or going on with classes as usual. And in some cases, with almost no books, let alone new ones.

This is far too often the case in many African schools. Teachers face not only a lack of student materials, but also a lack of access to teaching resources. For years generous donors have attempted to address this problem by supplying schools copies of textbooks, desks and other equipment. Helpful in many ways, but merely giving supplies doesn’t alleviate some of the biggest problems. Take the text books for example.

In many countries, the required text books are outdated. Governments cannot afford newer books, so without a market, new books don’t get written. Sometimes newer books might exist, but only in one language. For a country attempting to teach primary school in several native languages, this presents a huge problem, especially when considering the copyright restrictions on translating a work. The same situations exist for teaching materials as well as text books.

Enter open educational resources, or OER.

OER are materials, tools, and media used for teaching and learning that are free from copyright restrictions or publicly licensed for anyone to use, adapt, and redistribute. And several organizations around the continent are using OER to address the specific challenges surrounding access to teaching materials:

Siyavula LogoIn South Africa, a new project of the Shuttleworth Foundation is helping South African primary and secondary school teachers share their resources. The aim of Siyavula (pronounced see-ah-hoo-la) is to ensure that South Africa has a complete OER curriculum for all primary and secondary grades. The project was designed with the new South African school curriculum in mind, which requires teachers to develop more of their own content. Some teachers formed small groups to adapt to the new South African curriculum requirements, sharing their developments with their groups and offering each other support. Siyavula is building upon this model, helping new groups to form and offering workshops on developing, finding and sharing resources.

The Siyavula system includes a large repository of curriculum, currently complete from grades R (like the US’s kindergarten) through 9 in both English and Afrikaans. One great part of the Siyavula system is that as teachers develop and adapt materials, they submit them back into the Siyavula system where the materials are reviewed by curriculum advisers. This ensures the OER materials always meet the country’s education standards. Because OER are, well, open, there are no restrictions on translating works like there are on materials under full copyright. This has allowed Siyavula users to translate much of the material into Xhosa. Ideally other languages will follow.

oer africa logoWhile Siyavula is tackling primary and secondary education, another organization is focusing on higher education across Africa. OER Africa is currently active in several countries across the continent. Through partnerships with various universities in Africa and elsewhere, OER Africa helps facilitate the sharing of resources between universities and training schools. This program is particularly exciting because it has African universities sharing with each other, instead of just receiving materials from the United States or Europe. Additionally, in the instances where African universities and outside universities are partnered together, the relationship really is mutually beneficial.

One example of the mutual beneficial relationships in OER Africa was explained by Project Director Catherine Ngugi during the Open Education 2009 conference keynote address. Collaboration between the University of Michigan and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in the Health OER program has given students at KNUST access to materials that help them study common medical issues and has given students at Michigan resources about infectious diseases to which they otherwise would not have had access. (As someone who has had to worry about doctors in the US not knowing enough about tropical medicine, this exchange makes me really happy.) KNUST and Michigan also share and receive information with schools in Ghana and South Africa.

OER does more than just supply teachers with educational materials. It helps them customize their curriculum to their own needs, their own locations and their own students. Organizations like Siyavula and ORE Africa are helping to change the face of education on the continent, for the better. Creative Commons is proud that its licenses help make that possible.

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CC Talks With: Back to School: Peer 2 Peer University and the Future of Education (an interview)

Jane Park, September 1st, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

A recent emigrant to New York, I experienced the first turn in weather on the east coast marking the transition from summer to a fast approaching fall. Though a lovely relief from the hot, muggy season that has persisted here for the last few months, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness. Many students all over the world are feeling this same twinge, mingled with excitement, as their summer vacations skid to a halt. No more lazy, hazy days in the sun—instead, it’s time to hit the books and lockers, classrooms and lecture halls.

This is the vision of school we have had with us for ages. A first grader, when asked to draw school, usually draws a little red school house with a bell, or a teacher standing at her desk, with an apple for added effect. However, this traditional picture is hardly where the future of education is headed, as new technologies and mediums of communication, like the Internet, have already revolutionized the way we interact, learn, and live.

CC BY by Philipp Schmidt

CC BY by Philipp Schmidt

Peer 2 Peer University is one initiative that acknowledges this fact—that the world has already changed, and not everyone is going to settle for the traditional modes of teaching. First of all, not everyone can afford to dole out the thousands of dollars required for a higher education, and secondly, not everyone has the time to—those of us with full-time or several part-time jobs, families, and other responsibilities, especially.

P2PU, in their own words, is sort of like an “online book club for open educational resources.” It’s “an online community of open study groups for short university-level courses… The P2PU helps you navigate the wealth of open education materials that are out there, creates small groups of motivated learners, and supports the design and facilitation of courses.” Unlike formal universities or distance education, P2PU’s courses are all defaulted under CC BY, which means anyone can access, share, adapt, and redistribute them. In fact, the founders are more than happy for others to adapt the model they have begun to new and successful ways of thinking about education’s future.

What do you think is the future of education? P2PU co-founder Philipp Schmidt answers the big question and more.

P2PU has been getting a ton of attention lately. Courses are set to start on the 9th! What are you hoping to gain from these first six weeks? What are you most excited about?

This is the first time we will run courses. We have been thinking a lot about how to make sure participants get a lot out of the experience, but this is the real test. I am sure we’ll discover many things we did not anticipate at all—and I look forward to learning as much as the participants. This is an amazing learning experience not just for the participants, but also for ourselves.

I am most excited by the fact that we seem to be providing something that many people from all over the world find useful and want to participate in. One person is taking the Copyright for Educators course and intends to get credit from his university for it. The fact that he is thinking about the course in his own context and trying to “hack” the system in a way that makes sense for him is awesome. This is exactly what we were hoping to see. Another person said that she had always wanted to take a course about cyberpunk literature, but couldn’t find a place to take one. To realize that we can provide a type of learning experience that people are looking for and which simply doesn’t exist elsewhere, is incredible.

There’s so much speculation around the future of formal education. What are your thoughts on it? What will be P2PU’s role in this changing educational landscape?

It is clear to me that the education landscape will change dramatically. I should mention that I am a huge fan of the university as an institution where young people spend a few years learning and immersing themselves into knowledge. It’s wonderful and I wouldn’t want to miss it. However, learning is not just what happens in universities and there will be new and different organizations providing many of the components that today’s universities offer as a package. There are two areas where P2PU could fill a gap. One is to create the social learning experience that will make open educational resources more useful to more people. The other is to provide forms of recognition for informal learning—this could be by enabling pathways to formal credits or by creating a community based reputation.

What do you have to say to those who confuse P2PU with distance learning? How is P2PU more than that?

The core of P2PU is social learning—working with others who are interested in the same topic as you. The fact that it happens by distance is almost secondary and we are hoping to have local off-line groups joining the P2PU community in the future. Distance learning is a broad term, but too often it is used in the context of what I would call industrialized education. Content is delivered to students—either by an online teacher or in the form of course materials designed for self-study. Knowledge is considered as something that can easily be measured, like weight or height. It is a totally different model from what P2PU is doing.

All P2PU courses are licensed CC BY. Why CC BY?

The pilot phase materials are licensed CC BY because that places the least amount of restrictions on others who might want to use and re-mix our content. However, the licensing choice is still a big debate. Some members of the community feel that CC BY-SA better reflects their desire to create a global knowledge commons. It’s one of the topics we will discuss at our upcoming workshop and we will make a final decision there.

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OER Copyright Survey now closed

Jane Park, August 31st, 2009

Thanks to all of you who filled out the OER Copyright Survey! The survey is now closed, with many thoughtful responses. Again, we appreciate your responses, among which was an overarching request to have the survey translated. We definitely hope and intend to broaden the survey to more countries and in more languages in the future, and are open to ideas and support. Please contact us if you, an individual you know, or a project/organization you are in touch with is interested in participating in the next stages of research. Participation can be anything from simply responding to the survey in your own language or helping to translate, organize, or analyze the data.

In the meantime, please take advantage of the user group currently active on OpenEd to continue the discussion. Also feel free to review and contribute to the survey notes.

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Remix Open Ed 09

Jane Park, August 24th, 2009

This year’s open education conference was held in breathtaking Vancouver, BC and the ccLearn team (consisting of Lila Bailey, Ahrash Bissell, Alex Kozak, and myself) was there to soak it all in. Vancouver could be the emerald city, or an alternate reality to San Francisco, from whence three of us hail. This parallel universe yielded skyscrapers made of turquoise tinted glass, Lion’s gate (sea foam green instead of Golden Gate’s deceptive red), and a plethora of downtown eats and night life. The conference itself was located right next to the Vancouver Art Museum, home of the Dutch masters.

While my colleagues presented OpenEd (opened.creativecommons.org, the global open education community site we launched earlier this month), the OER Copyright survey, and cogitated on whether international copyright exceptions and limitations can support a global learning commons—I had the chance to run around with lots of people and talk to some of them. I was pleasantly surprised by the increase in diverse persons and locales represented, and I picked each of their brains for a few seconds with the help of my Flip cam.

The result is this video (blip.tv), which we hope you will enjoy and encourage you to remix! It’s all open via CC BY, including the soundtrack—laid with the album Ambient Pills by Zeropage (thanks to Jamendo). We also have lots of footage we didn’t include due to time constraints, so you may see snippier iterations down the line.

The video is also available at YouTube and Vimeo.

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