OER

Flexbooks in beta

Jane Park, March 16th, 2009

Today marks the beginning of the second half of the month, and with it, the Ides of March are safely behind us. What else is behind us: the beta launches of several Flexbooks, aka the CK-12 Foundation‘s version of open source textbooks.

The most notable Flexbook is the one we mentioned last fall—notable because of its integral tie to state standards via a partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia. The textbook now has a title, 21st Century Physics FlexBook: A Compilation of Contemporary and Emerging Technologies. According to Government Computer News, the effort was statewide, “a collaborative effort by the state departments of Technology and Education and volunteer educators, engineers and scientists using Web-based tools to quickly up-date educational resources” to “provide students with timely information about nanoscience, dark matter, quarks and leptons.” This only makes sense as Physics (and science in general) is a rapidly changing field that the traditional textbook review process cannot keep up with. Open textbooks, on the other hand, are instantly editable and constantly changing; you could even say that they are perpetually in beta.

Don’t hesitate to check it out, along with the myriad other Flexbooks up for review. All Flexbooks are licensed CC BY-SA.

What’s ahead of CK-12: the progression of existing Flexbooks and the partnerships they have with other states, where some are working on companion teacher editions.

Also, spring!

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Open Learning: Open Educational Resources Issue

Jane Park, March 11th, 2009

Open Educational Resources are good for the economy (or at least, economizing). They are also good for students, teachers, and the environment. And they currently theme the most recent issue of Open Learning, The Journal of Open and Distance Learning (Volume 24, Issue 1).

ccLearn’s own Executive Director, Ahrash Bissell, submitted a paper last fall entitled, “Permission granted: open licensing for educational resources.” In it, he argues that “open licenses are critical for defining Open Educational Resources” and “explain[s] the logic of open licensing” in terms familiar “to teachers, funders, and educational policy-makers.”

Ahrash’s isn’t the only interesting read in the mix; there is also David Wiley and Seth Gurrell’s paper spanning “A decade of development…” which presents a “history of the idea of Open Educational Resources, overview[s] the current state of the Open Educational Resources movement, report[s] on critical issues facing the field in the immediate future, and present[s] two new projects to watch in 2009.”

Actually, all of them sound pretty fascinating, especially one “personal and institutional journey” at the University of the Western Cape (this one involves the struggle for political freedom) by Derek Keats. All papers illuminate different aspects of the open educational resources movement, a movement that has grown steadily since inception. You can view them online, or download the PDFs. We will also be hosting Ahrash’s paper on ccLearn’s resources page shortly.

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Access to OER Discussion Launched

Jane Park, February 9th, 2009

by the UNESCO Open Educational Resources Community today. For those of you who don’t know, the UNESCO OER Community is an international online community “[connecting] over 700 individuals in 105 countries to share information and discuss issues surrounding the production and use of Open Educational Resources – web-based materials offered freely and openly for use and reuse in teaching, learning and research.” (We blogged about them last October.) The new discussion will run for three weeks and is open to all. From their community’s wiki:

OER is seen as having the potential to extend access to knowledge worldwide, but there exist certain barriers to its achieving this objective. Access is one potential barrier – and a crucial challenge.

Although our initial interaction on the issue started with the consideration of limited or no connectivity, lack of electricity was identified as an even more basic barrier to access to OER. However, there are many other potential barriers or constraints and it will be useful to identify the range of them, for there are emerging solutions or approaches that would mitigate the problems. Developers of OER will benefit from having these in mind – donors and other agencies may be able to contribute to addressing them.

This week the discussion will focus on “Identification and description of the main problems associated with access, and an initial development of a classification scheme.” The discussion is already underway, moderated by Bjoern Hassler, a senior research associate at the University of Cambridge, so if you have something to say, go join it now!

All content on the UNESCO OER Community wiki is licensed CC BY-SA. Like ccLearn, UNESCO’s work on open educational resources is generously supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

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Thanks and congratulations to Catherine Casserly!

Melissa Reeder, January 30th, 2009

Catherine Casserly, Director of Open Educational Resources Initiative at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and long-time supporter of CC, has taken a new position at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. As stated in the press release:

As the first full-time Senior Partner appointed by Carnegie President Anthony S. Bryk, Casserly will be responsible for new program initiatives and will manage the strategic direction of Carnegie’s work in Open Educational Resources. In leading efforts to build a new field of Design, Educational Engineering and Development, Carnegie provides an ideal combination of timing and place to extend the knowledge and evidence base regarding the effectiveness of innovation and Open Educational Resources for learning.

Catherine Casserly and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation have been instrumental in the growth of Creative Commons and in establishing ccLearn. It’s important for the commons community to recognize the work Casserly has done over the years, as she has been and will continue to be a key player in the open movement. Congratulations to Catherine and Carnegie from all of us here at CC!

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OpenSA – Championing South African heritage

Jane Park, January 29th, 2009

If I hadn’t interned for Clarity Films one summer, I would never have learned most of what I know now about the apartheid, Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu. I spent hours transcribing interviews and condensing documentary footage into some type of digital package that I don’t recall the name of (nor do I remember the outdated technology I used). What I do remember: the world’s reactions to the tumult that surrounded South Africa within the past fifty some odd years.

opensa-logoNow, anyone can learn about South Africa and its rich heritage with the recent launch of OpenSA, “a pilot project to make South African heritage more accessible for remixing and re-publishing by online creators.” From the announcement at The African Commons Project:

“In collaboration with SA Rocks and the African Commons Project, OpenSA! is collecting, tagging and managing donations from people who are willing to make their material freely available online. OpenSA! will also be helping to coordinate outreach to South Africa’s young creators to enable them to learn more about how to find open content that they are free to remix and share.

As access to the Internet grows in South Africa, so too does the range of creative activity by a new generation of active online citizens. Internet publishing in the form of blogging and citizen journalism, online publishing of photographic, video and music publishing are all part of a wide range of democratic speech that we as a young nation are trying to encourage and nurture.”

Some media they’ve found and posted so far:
A documentary about one of the first Chinese restaurants in Cape Town (CC BY-NC by Link Media Inc.)
Photos of Johannesburg (CC BY-NC-SA by Gregor Rohrig)

Anyone can get involved and contribute. We encourage you to choose a CC license and send in your materials, or build on what’s already out there.

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Access 2.0

Jane Park, January 20th, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day! Following on the heels of Fred’s post, I’d like to point out a Seminar on open knowledge that will take place on February 4th and 5th at the National University of Bogota. Access 2.0: A discussion on intellectual property from the sciences, arts, library sciences, and education is being hosted and coordinated by the National University of Colombia and the Karisma Foundation. It will address “the important changes [that have occurred] in the past decade with regard to “the way in which we create and broadcast knowledge.” The Seminar acknowledges the emerging necessity of open educational resources (OER) and their future impact on the state of education:

“The issue of intellectual property and of copyright has ceased to be the exclusive province of lawyers, or to be relevant only in the area of the commercialization of cultural products. It no longer deals solely with concerns regarding remuneration of professional artists. For this reason, the responsibility of academics, teachers, scientists, and managers of information and knowledge in general in the construction of the legal culture has acquired a new and updated dimension.”

Our very own John Wilbanks, head of Science Commons, will speak at the meeting. The Seminar itself is free of charge and open to the public, though afternoon workshops will require prior registration.

The Seminar is the first step in a four objective research project examining intellectual property in public policy. For more information, see the description of the project on ccLearn’s resources page.

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“What Status for Open?” A ccLearn Publication

Jane Park, December 18th, 2008

ccLearn is pleased to announce the publication of a research report entitled, “What Status for Open? An Examination of the Licensing Policies of Open Educational Organizations and Projects.” We encourage you to read the whole report, which you can find in several formats, along with an FAQ, on the ccLearn website.

The report asks, “What makes an educational resource “open”? Is it enough that resources are available on the World Wide Web free of charge, or does openness require something more?” These questions have become more urgent as the open education movement has gained momentum and as potential users of open educational resources (OERs) increasingly face uncertainty about whether permission is required when they translate, reuse, adapt, or simply republish the resources they find.

With the support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, ccLearn surveyed the copyright licensing policies of several hundred educational projects or organizations on the Internet to assess whether these legal conditions limit the usefulness of self-designated open resources from the user’s perspective.

The study reveals three principal findings:

  • The copyright licenses or terms of use associated with some OERs are difficult to find or to understand;
  • The majority of OER projects or organizations have adopted a standardized license created by an independent license provider, and of these, the large majority have adopted one or more of the six Creative Commons copyright licenses (“CC licenses”) to define the terms of openness. But, a sizable minority of OER providers have chosen to craft their own license – often borrowing terms from one of the standardized licenses. Thus, as a group, OER providers have adopted a diverse, and often customized, set of license conditions that in some cases require significant work by users to understand;

and

  • The usefulness of OERs as a group is limited by incompatible license conditions that functionally prohibit combination or adaptation of OERs provided by different sources.

This report concludes with a recommendation that creators of open educational resources consider using CC licenses to provide users with readily found, standardized terms of use. It recommends further that OER creators consider adopting the most open of CC licenses, the Attribution-only License (CC BY), to nourish the creativity of educators and learners alike by allowing the adaptation, combination, and republication of OERs from multiple sources.

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The Student-engineered Open Textbook: Chemical Process Dynamics and Controls

Jane Park, December 4th, 2008

It is commonly known that students learn by doing—by practicing, rather than simply soaking in, the information that is taught them in the classroom. But it is also commonly known that anyone can obtain information; the internet is chock-full of the stuff; all one has to do is type in a few key words and hit search. The reality is that formal education, aka the classroom, can no longer be, and no longer is, just one side of this perceived divorce in education: the acquisition of knowledge versus the practice of it. 

Open education acknowledges that information is abundant, and that it takes someone to organize, interpret, and make it meaningful. This is one value that formal and higher education still offers the net generation, those bred on Google and Wikipedia. The culling of data becomes the responsibility of professionals, their peers, and their students—the results of which are high quality educational resources available to the rest of the world. 

The Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Michigan has taken this idea of synthesis and run with it. They have integrated the practice of knowledge into class curriculum, by requiring students to contribute to an open textbook in wiki format—Chemical Process Dynamics and Controls. Since 2006, senior chemical engineering students have been developing this resource, building off of the preceding year’s work. The result is a comprehensive and dynamic textbook, available for free on the web, that is both high quality and openly licensed under CC BY. Though you must be a member of the class to directly edit the wiki text, nothing prevents the rest of the world from copying and deriving it for their own uses—even republishing it and distributing it at a low cost in concrete form is possible.

Originally conceptualized by Peter Woolf (Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering) with help from Leeann Fu, the system of textbook creation is anything but haphazard. Each week, a team of students is selected to become “experts” on a particular topic. The students research and present on the topic, adding the relevant text and diagrams to the wiki. The wiki’s content is further vetted by “the faculty and Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs)” who “act as managing editors, selecting broad threads for the text and suggesting references.” They also check for copyright issues, and the students are encouraged to re-use public domain materials.

In contrast to other courses, the students take an active role in their education by selecting which material in their assigned section is most useful and decide on the presentation approach. Furthermore, students create example problems that they present in poster sessions during class to help the other students master the material.

In addition, full class lectures in video format and powerpoint presentations are available on the wiki, also under CC BYCC BY is the most appropriate license for educational materials, since all one has to do is attribute the original authors. The freedoms to copy, adapt, remix, and redistribute are crucial to advancing progress in education.

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UNU Media Studio Launches Our World 2.0 VideoBriefs

Jane Park, November 6th, 2008

Some of you might remember Cameron’s post back in June regarding the United Nations University (UNU) Media Studio‘s decision to license their Media Studio and Online Learning sites under CC BY-NC-SA. Well one month later they launched “Our World 2.0“, the English version, also licensed under the same (with the Japanese version taking off just this past month), which is a webzine dedicated to exploring environmental issues and what can be done about them, specifically dealing with the “complex, inter-connected and pressing problems like climate change, oil depletion and food security.” Taking its name from Web 2.0, a sweeping trend in the use of the Internet for “community and social network based approaches to content development that take advantage of new technologies,” Our World 2.0′s central tenet is “that we can use our collective knowledge, technology and design to facilitate creativity, innovation, and, most notably, collaboration amongst people.”

Today, they announced the launch of their new video documentary series on the web, “short high-definition documentaries which examine key issues relating to climate change, energy, and food security, the subjects at the heart of [their] Our World 2.0 webmagazine.” The first video is titled “The Electric Sunflower” which focuses on electric vehicles—their current use and future. It’s pretty exciting stuff. The video, along with the rest of the content on their website, is open for use via CC BY-NC-SA.

The UNU Media Studio is dedicated to the sharing and creation of Open Educational Resources (OER), which they believe will ultimately improve education. They write that “[Their] main goal is to try to help academics in the developing world and [they] are fully engaged with a number of exciting innovative movements that could help better share knowledge and improve education. These include efforts to share content (opencourseware and open educational resources). This movement is supported by new approaches to copyright licensing and intellectual property rights that promote sharing and collaboration, specifically through Creative Commons.”

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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.

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