OER

Call for Participation: Open Education Week 2014

Jane Park, February 14th, 2014

oew-logo 2
OCW Consortium / CC BY

Creative Commons invites you to participate in the 3rd annual Open Education Week! Taking place from 10-15 March, 2014, the purpose of Open Education Week is raise the profile of open educational resources (OER) and the global movement of people and organizations behind them, in addition to highlighting the crucial role that legal tools, such as Creative Commons licenses, play in making OER possible.

The OpenCourseWare Consortium, organizer of Open Ed Week, cites several case studies demonstrating the growing impact of OER, including:

  • A pilot program in Utah’s K-12 schools that used printed open textbooks, cutting textbook costs by over 50%
  • A Haitian solar energy company that built their business to serve the needs of its local community thanks to open courseware that helped to deepen its knowledge about solar engineering
  • An engineer in India that developed his management skills and international perspectives to advance his career thanks to a self-designed study plan consisting of OER

…not to mention CC’s own set of Team Open and OER case studies!

You can contribute to the week by submitting an informational video about OER or a specific OER project; hosting a local event/workshop or webinar, and promoting the week to your networks. The deadline to submit your resource or event is 28 February, 2014.

We look forward to seeing your contributions in March!

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School of Open: “Writing Wikipedia Articles” Course Now Open for Registration

Jane Park, February 3rd, 2014

Below, Sara Frank Bristow invites you to join “Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics & Beyond”. Sara is a co-organizer of the course and a member of WikiProject Open. Both projects are part of the School of Open.


The School of Open will offer its popular “Writing Wikipedia Articles” course (WIKISOO) starting 25 February, 2014. This free introductory online course, now in its fourth incarnation, runs for six weeks. Enrollment is open to all.

WikiSOO_Burba

WIKISOO Burba Badge

WIKISOO students learn about the values and culture that have driven hundreds of thousands of volunteers to build Wikipedia. Through their work in the course, they join an effort that has generated millions of free articles in hundreds of languages since 2001.The course covers the technical skills needed to edit articles, and also offers practical insights into the site’s collaborative norms and social dynamics. Students graduate with a sophisticated understanding of how to use Wikipedia both as a reader and as an active participant.

The course focuses on articles about openness in education: open educational resources (OER), MOOCs, Creative Commons licenses and more. Students will forge connections with WikiProject Open, a community of volunteers focused on this topic area. Upon successful completion, students earn the WIKISOO Burba Badge.

The course is sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the University of Mississippi. Course instructors are:

  • Pete Forsyth, Wikipedia trainer & consultant (Wiki Strategies)
  • Sara Frank Bristow, OER and online education researcher (Salient Research)
  • Dr. Robert Cummings, Associate Professor (University of Mississippi)

Course registration is now open!

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U.S. PIRG report finds students would perform better with open textbooks

Jane Park, January 30th, 2014

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a report this week called, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market: How Students Respond to High Textbook Costs and Demand Alternatives.” The report features responses to a survey administered to over 2,000 students across 163 college campuses in the U.S. in regards to the rising cost of textbooks and how it affects student usage and academic performance. The report has been making the rounds in major news outlets and is highlighted in a letter to Congress by Senators Durbin and Franken as a push for the Affordable College Textbook Act. It is available for anyone to read online under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, but here are the tl;dr highlights:

What the survey results say

  • 65% of students choose not to buy a college textbook because it’s too expensive
  • 94% report that they suffer academically because of this choice
  • 48% say they altered which classes they took based on textbook costs, either taking fewer classes or different classes
  • Senator Durbin wholeheartedly agrees: “According to the students surveyed in this report, the rising cost of textbooks not only adds to the overall financial burden of attending college, it can also have a measurably negative impact on their academic performance and student outcomes.”
  • 82% of students say they would do significantly better in a course if the textbook were free online and a hard copy was optional!
  • Case studies at both Houston Community College and Virginia State University suggest that classes using open textbooks have higher grades and better course completion rates

Textbook industry facts

(as reported by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs)

  • College textbook prices have increased by 82% in the past ten years, aka 3x the rate of inflation
  • Though alternatives to the new print edition textbooks exist, the costs of these alternatives (such as rental programs, used book markets and e-textbooks) are still dictated by publishers who re-issue editions every few years
  • Ethan Sendack at U.S. PIRG says: “[Students] can’t shop around and find the most affordable option, meaning there’s no consumer control on the market.”
  • On average students spend $1,200 a year on textbooks which = 14% of tuition at a four-year, public college; 39% of tuition at community college

Open textbook facts

  • Open textbooks are written by faculty and peer-reviewed like traditional textbooks
  • Open textbooks are free to access, use, download to electronic devices, and affordable to print — all thanks to the open content licenses on them that legally allows these uses
  • U.S. PIRG estimates that open textbooks could save each student ~$100 per course they take

Find out for yourself

Links to the press release, full report, and news coverage below.

What you can do

Support the Affordable College Textbook Act which would establish open textbook pilot programs at colleges and universities across the country! Learn more at http://www.sparc.arl.org/advocacy/national/act and read Senators Durbin and Franken’s Dear Colleague letter to Congress at http://www.sparc.arl.org/sites/default/files/S.%201704%20Dear%20Colleague.pdf.

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Help bridge our open communities: Open Coalition Project Coordinator Job

Jane Park, January 22nd, 2014


Construction of the Story Bridge, Brisbane, 1939 / State Library Queensland / No known copyright restrictions

Last November, a bunch of us from Wikimedia, Mozilla, P2PU, OKFN, Creative Commons, School of Open, and other communities got together for a session at Mozfest called “Collaborations across the Open Space.” That session not only laid the groundwork for better communication among open organizations, but also resulted in the momentum to draft a job description for a project coordinator who will “support the development of a stronger network of organizations working in the areas of open knowledge and open access.”

The part-time position is being funded by Wikimedia UK with the hope that another organization will pick up it up after the initial 6 month term. The full description is at https://wikimedia.org.uk/wiki/Open_Coalition_Project_Co-ordinator – but here are the highlights of what we envision the person to be doing:

  • Have a thorough understanding of issues relating to open knowledge, open access, open source, and open content licences
  • Lead on the development of a small event for organisations working in this space, including Wikimedia UK, Open Knowledge Foundation, Creative Commons, Mozilla, Open Rights Group, and OpenStreetMap, among others
  • Act as a conduit for organisations acting in the open space, facilitating discussion and collaboration
  • Lead on the creation of a website and booklet explaining what it means to be an open organisation, what the “open sector” is and the benefits it brings
  • Build a relationship of trust with the group and the wider open community
  • Develop and deliver sessions about the open coalition at Wikimania in London, August 2014

The position is based in London, but will be working with open community members from around the world. Have a look at the position and also at the notes from the original Mozfest session for reference.

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OER Summer Camp on Luxi Island

Jane Park, January 16th, 2014

The following is a guest post by LIUPing and SUN Beibei, members of the CC China Mainland Affiliate team and the School of Open community. Below, they describe CC China Mainland’s experience with running a two-week open educational resources (OER) summer camp for the children of Luxi Island, a remote island off the coast of China. The CC China Mainland OER Summer Camp was included in the 2013 round-up of School of Open activities.


oer summer camp 1
ZHU Renkai / CC BY

The idea of a real world open educational resources (OER) activity has long been on the agenda of CC China Mainland volunteers. As one of the CC global community’s OER advocates, CC China Mainland has in the past put more effort into promoting the use of CC licenses in OER instead of co-hosting multi-party activities in remote China. This past summer, however, CC China Mainland co-organized a real world OER activity in rural China which taught us how powerful collaboration across organizations could be.

Where did it happen?

Luxi, a small, remote island (1600km from Beijing) in Northeast Dongtou County, Wenzhou City, Zhejiang Province. The island depends on ferry for transportation to surrounding areas twice a day.

Because of the inconvenient transportation, there are very limited educational materials available for primary and middle school students from the island. In addition, many of the students’ parents work in big cities to make a living. These “left behind” children have to stay with their grandparents for most of their childhood. However, they have the same dreams like kids in urban cities.

Who made it happen?

For 5 successive years, students from Renji School of Wenzhou Medical University have served as volunteer teachers for Luxi children of various grades during their summer vacations. In summer 2013, LI Lujing, a member of CC China Mainland team and teacher in Wenzhou Medical University, led a group of 30 volunteer students to Luxi for another summer session.

After initial communications, CC China Mainland decided to turn the Luxi project into the first OER summer camp by inviting some OER providers to join the lessons. Guokr.com responded to CC’s initiative first based on past cooperation.

oer summer camp 2
ZHU Renkai / CC BY

How did it happen?

After several rounds of online discussion, CC China Mainland OER camp took place:

oer summer camp chart

What did the partners think?

Here is some feedback both from Guokr.com and Renji School.

Guokr.com (the most popular online platform for science and knowledge sharing in China) contacted a couple of active users who used to put their own video lessons online. All of them were very interested in helping but none could make the travel because of time or distance. Based in Beijing, with members all around the country, Guokr thought that it would be difficult to send members to Luxi Island, due to both finance and timing.

But it turned out that distance doesn’t matter.

At this point, Guokr.com’s MOOC initiative inspired us. Guokr has been dedicated to popularizing MOOCs and its MOOCs online community has become the largest in China. We decided to support the program by designing a MOOC.

Deyi is a student majoring in agricultural science who happened to run a Guokr-sponsored project named “box of making plant specimens – a teaching guide.” The box contains materials for producing plant specimens as well as teaching guidance. To facilitate teaching, Deyi recorded 4 videos to show viewers how to use the box. A quiz is displayed in the middle of the videos as well.

Before the formal classes, Deyi delivered 4 boxes to the school and contacted a local volunteer as the teaching assistant. He trained the volunteer on how to play the videos and guide students to use the box.

That’s how a MOOC-like class goes into a school on a small island and that’s how a class happens without the teacher standing in the front of a classroom.

The content below is provided by Renli School of Wenzhou University.

Every summer, 30 volunteer students go to Luxi Island to give some courses to Luxi Children. The free teaching activity has lasted for 6 years and is warmly welcomed by the parents of the island, because most of the children were “left behind” and needed to be cared for.

Last year, a kid told us his dream of being a scientist. At that time, we realized that they want more than what the island can offer. But most of the volunteers are medical students, lacking the professional knowledge of other fields. At that time, we thought about cooperation. CC was our first choice and with their help, we got connected with Guokr.com.

In the local classroom, one of our volunteer students played the role of teaching assistant to guide the children to learn better, because the children were too young to understand the video alone. After the class, every student got to focus on their own work. They were really happy to be involved and asked us to bring more courses next year.

oer summer camp 3
ZHENG Haotian / CC BY


In addition to the OER Summer Camp, CC China Mainland has run engineering and design challenge workshops incorporating open source and CC licensing education for university students in China. Called the eXtreme Learning Process (XLP) at Tsinghua University in collaboration with Toyhouse, it is also a School of Open project and was highlighted in the Wall Street Journal last year.

About the School of Open

school of open logo

The School of Open is a global community of volunteers focused on providing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, research, and more. Volunteers develop and run online courses, offline workshops, and real world training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works. The School of Open is coordinated by Creative Commons and P2PU, a peer learning community and platform for developing and running free online courses.

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School of Open: What we did in 2013

Jane Park, December 30th, 2013

Here’s another end of year list: all the awesome things the School of Open community accomplished in 2013. Last year, we highlighted the work we put into materializing School of Open as a concrete entity with goals and people involved. This year, we actually launched the School with a full set of online courses and kick-off events around the world!

But we didn’t stop there. All year long, our volunteers have been contributing in so many fantastic and unexpected ways that it’s been hard to wrap our brains around all the activity. So here’s my attempt at collecting and distilling everything here, as a teaser for the new School of Open landing page that will happen in 2014.

SOO breakdown

The biggest thing you should note about the School of Open is that it is no longer just a set of online courses sitting on the P2PU platform. It is a global community and movement of volunteers developing and running online or hybrid courses, face-to-face workshops, and real world training programs — all with the purpose of helping people do what they already do better with the aid of open resources and tools.

In 2013, we

…and more, all of which you can check out in detail on the CC blog at http://creativecommons.org/tag/school-of-open.

In 2014, we will

  • Launch our third round of facilitated courses in March. Sign up to be notified when registration opens
  • Revamp the School of Open landing page to better reflect our multi-layered activity
  • Build out courses in different languages. So far volunteers have expressed interest in translating courses into Spanish, Romanian, Hindi, Swedish, Chinese, Korean, Dutch, French, Arabic, German, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew… yes, we’ve got our work cut out for us!
  • Expand current training programs to other regions; for example, we hope to have similar programs to School of Open Kenya in place in Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania
  • Start new courses and training programs in South Africa, Colombia, Uruguay, El Salvador, Argentina, and more!
  • Collaborate with our fellow open organizations such as OKFN, Mozilla, Wikimedia, P2PU, and more!
  • Do more research! And completing a report of our findings with the OER Research Hub
  • Get more SOO courses adopted as part of formal university courses
  • Secure professional development credit for teachers/librarians taking Copyright 4 Educators in Australia (and elsewhere)
  • Collaborate with the California School Librarians Association (CSLA) to increase CC and OER education in K-12 schools!
  • fireworks

    Fireworks / Jack-Benny / CC BY-SA

  • Run more workshops, especially one for SOO volunteers to get together and grow their respective projects
  • Take more pictures. We didn’t have enough this year!

And I could go on, but I’ll stop there. On behalf of the School of Open community, we wish you a Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year!

If you would like to join us in our endeavors to provide free education opportunities on all things open, introduce yourself at the School of Open Google Group, sign up for announcements, and check out a course (or two or three).

About the School of Open

school of open logo

The School of Open is a global community of volunteers focused on providing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, research, and more. Volunteers develop and run online courses, offline workshops, and real world training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works. The School of Open is coordinated by Creative Commons and P2PU, a peer learning community and platform for developing and running free online courses.

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UNESCO launches Open Access Repository under Creative Commons

Cable Green, December 18th, 2013

UNESCO has announced a new Open Access Repository making more than 300 digital reports, books and articles available to the world under the Creative Commons IGO licenses.

From UNESCO’s press release:

“Currently, the Repository contains works in some 12 languages, including major UNESCO reports and key research publications. As well as the 300 Open Access publications, UNESCO will provide on-line availability to hundreds of other important reports and titles. Covering a wide range of topics from all regions of the world, this knowledge can now be shared by the general public, professionals, researchers, students and policy-makers… under an open license.”

UNESCO will continue to expand its collection of open resources with selected past publications and all new works following its new Open Access Policy adopted in April 2013. As of 31 July 2013 all new UNESCO publications are released with one of the CC IGO licenses and will be loaded into the Open Access Repository. The majority of UNESCO resources will be openly licensed under CC BY SA.

Kudos too to UNESCO for implementing many of the recommendations in its own 2012 Paris OER Declaration (translations):

d. Promote the understanding and use of open licensing frameworks.
g. Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts.
i. Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER.
j. Encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.

By open licensing its publications, UNESCO not only makes all the knowledge it creates freely and openly available to the world, but it sets an important example for its 195 member (and 9 associate member) nations about the strong policy arguments for releasing publicly funded resources under open licenses. The message is clear: it is a good idea to adopt open policies that increase access and reduce costs to education, research, scientific and cultural resources.

Congratulations UNESCO!

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Guest post: What’s behind the success of Copyright 4 Educators Australia?

Jane Park, December 10th, 2013

The following is a guest post by Jessica Smith, National Copyright Officer for the National Copyright Unit of Australia. She ran the Copyright 4 Educators (AUS) course with Delia Browne as part of the School of Open’s second round of facilitated courses in 2013.

The School of Open is a community of volunteers focused on providing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, research, and more. Volunteers develop and run online courses, offline workshops, and real world training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works.


jessica smith
Self portrait by Jessica Smith / CC BY

Delia Browne
Self portrait by Delia Browne / CC BY

The National Copyright Unit (NCU) of Australia ran its second cycle of the School of Open’s Copyright 4 Educators (AUS) course in August. The course ran for seven weeks, with a two-week introduction period and five weeks of substantive group work. We took on 60 learners, with enrollments filling up in less than two days, plus a wait list of around 15 people. At the end of the course, we only had 3 drop-outs, a 95% retention rate!

On top of those stellar results, we also had very happy learners as well as great results in terms of the uptake and understanding of the information. We have an ongoing wait list for the course as well as teachers and librarians continuously enquiring about the course. We’re also in the process of obtaining accreditation for the course through larger teacher organizations so that it can be used to fulfill specific professional learning requirements of Australian educators.

We believe our course has succeeded for three reasons:

  1. We made it easy for the students to participate.
  2. The course was associated with the NCU, an official government division.
  3. We assigned small groups based on commonalities, such as profession and field.

1. Make it easy for the students to participate

Making it easy for students is of utmost importance in an online environment, especially if the course is targeted to people who may not be familiar with online learning. We know this may sound obvious, but it’s so important that it’s definitely worth mentioning and expounding on. If you don’t nail this, you’re not going to retain your students.

So how do you make it easy for the students? Have everything (eg, communication tools and assignment submission entrypoints) set up for them and support them to the nth degree. What this means: you have to put the time in before the course starts and you, as the course facilitator/organizer, must be very comfortable with the course layout and tools in order to be able to give ample support as well as troubleshoot when issues arise.

Tutorials for Tools

For our course, we had heaps of information on our P2PU course site (outlining essentially everything they’d need to get through the course), but we also created tutorials and sent out additional information through email on all the essential parts of the course (ie. using the discussion tool Disqus, submitting group assignments, leaving peer review, etc). We really wanted the students to feel supported and to answer questions and issues BEFORE they arose. It’s too easy to drop out of an online course, so we wanted to preemptively take care of as many issues as possible. We had one student state they were “very nervous and uncomfortable” to take an online course who later reported how great the course was set up and how easy it was in terms of knowing what to do and how to do it. It’s key students feel like this from the start of the course, or they won’t stick with it.

Tools we used

We used Google docs for our course. We had every group’s Google doc set up for every single week, and we linked to the docs from both the course on P2PU as well as in emails that we sent out every week. The weekly emails make it very clear what was expected of our learners as well as where to go to complete their tasks. See an example below:

Hi all,

It’s the last week already! You’ve all done a great job getting here. We’ve been very impressed with the calibre of all the groups’ work in this cycle. In Week 7, you’ll be using everything you’ve learnt throughout the course to help a peer.

This week you should:

*read the Week 7 Readings;
*collaborate with your group to complete Week 7’s assignment;
*post (ie by copying and pasting) your final group answer to your group’s google doc HERE by COB this Sunday, September 22nd;
*leave peer review for Week 7 by COB Tuesday following the assignment due date, September 24th;
*and remember you should also have your peer review for Week 3 finished by COB tomorrow Tuesday, September 17th.

Please note this assignment is only asking you to point to helpful resources – ie, you don’t actually have to answer the question – you simply need to demonstrate that you’re able to find, compile and share helpful copyright resources.

Peer Review

You will peer review the exact same groups every week. Just as a reminder see below:

* Group 1 will review Groups 2 and 3.
* Group 2 will review Groups 1 and 3.
* Group 3 will review Groups 1 and 2.
* [...]

Badges

Since you’ve all now completed Week 6’s assignment, you can apply for the Copyright Exceptions badge HERE.

For more information on P2PU badges, see HERE.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, just let us know!

Following up

We also sent out individual group chase-ups the Monday following a Sunday due date as well as a chase-up Wednesday following the peer review due date. See below for an example of this:

Hi Group 7,

It doesn’t look like you’ve done your peer review for Week 6. Remember this is a requirement of the course. Your group is responsible for leaving peer review for Groups 8 and 9. I can see your group has left feedback for 8 already, so only Group 9 to go!
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns. If you want to see some examples of peer review, you can take a look at some of the other groups’ docs. It doesn’t have to be anything long – just something to show you’ve had a look at the other groups’ work. If it works best for your group, you can also nominate one person per week to represent your group and do the peer review.
Please review Group 9 ASAP. We will leave our facilitator feedback on the docs this afternoon, and it would be most beneficial for you as well as the group you leave feedback for if your reviews were left before we post our comments.

The link to Week 6’s google folder is HERE.

Let me know if I can help in any way!

Its also very important to understand that the first two to three weeks are a bit rough for learners – they’re confused and they have lots of questions and issues. We received anywhere from 15 to 30 emails a week and at least five calls, asking general questions about the course, the platform, google docs, etc. We nearly always responded to these on the same day and offered as much support as needed. A quick response to a simple question can be the deciding factor between a learner getting frustrated and dropping out or being satisfied and feeling supported and staying in the course.

Onboarding

This initial confusion is also why we went with a two-week introduction period, and we think this really helps with the retention rate. It gave the learners a chance to ask questions, sort out their issues and concerns and get comfortable with the course, the platform, the collaboration tools, and their groups.

2. Associate a course with a known, respected entity

Our course was associated with the NCU of Australia, which is very well known and respected. We deal with teachers on a daily basis, and most of our NCU affiliated teachers/librarians were the first to sign up for the course and have been our biggest supporters and promoters.

In addition to past participants spreading the word, we promoted the course through our school connections in Australia – through teachers whom we’ve given advice, the Copyright Advisory Group (each State/Territory in Australia as well as each sector has a representative), teacher organizations, and our website (http://www.smartcopying.edu.au/) which is the official guide to copyright issues for Australian Schools and Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions. Once we did our initial promotional blitz, the promotion largely took off on its own, making its way onto numerous listservs and teacher associations that we didn’t previously know existed.

So the association helped with the initial promotion of the course, but we also believe the reputation of the NCU encouraged teachers to sign up for the course: it made teachers feel more comfortable asking questions/contacting us, it decreased the numbers of dropouts, and we also found that many employers, such as school deans, required their teaching staff to take the course.

Incorporating the course into NCU’s daily workload also allowed us to quickly and effectively respond to questions/issues with the course.

3. Arrange groups to encourage conversation and cohesiveness

Questionnaire

In the first week of the course, we only asked our learners to fill out a questionnaire and have a look around the course. With the information from the questionnaire, we created 15 groups of four. We also took group requests, which frequently came from teachers at the same school. If groups were not requested, we arranged groups based on school location, level and sector to encourage conversation and commonality between group members. In the second week of the course, we only asked our students to meet their group and to decide on how their group would collaborate. Group members got to know each other and supported each other over the course of the seven weeks, and we think this group cohesiveness really encouraged group members to stay committed to the group and the course (as well as have more fun!).

Peer support

As an example, we had one student who was going to drop out because she needed to have surgery in the third week of the course, and she would be unable to type for a week or two. She consulted us, and we told her to first discuss the problem with her group to see if they could work something out. She did this, and they became somewhat of a support group for her and they worked out that she would lead discussion in the weeks leading up to her surgery (which they mainly did via email) and then the weeks she couldn’t type she participated via a weekly Skype session with her group.
We’ve also been told by a number of groups that they all plan to keep in touch with each other to discuss any copyright questions and what’s going on in their classrooms/schools.

Conclusion

Overall, we believe the course was very successful. Not only because of the retention rate but also because people enjoyed it! They’re telling others about the course, they learnt the information, and if they ever have any questions or issues they now know where to find the information.

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School of Open begins investigating its impact with the OER Research Hub

Jane Park, December 2nd, 2013

milton keynes
Milton Keynes / CC BY

I took up residence in Milton Keynes, England, for one week in October as the Linked OER Research Hub Fellow for the School of Open. The School of Open is a community of volunteers from all around the world who are developing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of openness in their field of choice, whether that’s education, science, research, or community design. The free education opportunities consist of online courses, face-to-face workshops, and in-person training programs. Whatever the format, volunteers seek to help people do what they already do better with the aid of open resources and tools. One obvious example is helping educators to find and use free and open educational resources (OER) for the classroom.

In developing these opportunities, we decided it would be a good idea to simultaneously attempt to measure the impact of our activities. We teamed up with the OER Research Hub for a Linked Research Fellowship, which would provide funding for travel/accommodations and a researcher to help with administering, collecting, and analyzing School of Open data. Since we only just launched in March and have a limited data set to work with, we decided to start by focusing on a subset of our online, facilitated courses. School of Open volunteers administered optional surveys in four courses: Copyright 4 Educators (AUS), Copyright 4 Educators (US), Creative Commons for K-12 Educators, and Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics and Beyond. The surveys gather feedback from participants on their sharing practices and attitudes towards OER before and after the course. In combination with feedback from the facilitators themselves and archival course material, we hope to write up a short report on our preliminary findings. This report will likely identify gaps where more research is needed, which we hope to conduct during our next round of facilitated courses in March 2014. Then we will publish a final report with our findings in the third quarter of 2014.

My week with the OER Research Hub

cropped-oer_700-banner-2

As a linked fellow, my week with the OER Research Hub was organized around meeting with Beck Pitt, the researcher I have been working closely with around collecting the data, in addition to meeting the rest of the Hub’s research team and Open University staff working on open education projects of interest to the School of Open. Since I had been and would continue to work on aggregating and analyzing the data remotely, it was crucial to make the most of my stay through face-to-face meetings. Through these meetings, I was thrilled to discover additional areas for collaboration. They are:

  • OER Research course: A School of Open course on how to conduct research openly, especially in the field of OER, to be developed in conjunction with an OER research toolkit that the OER Research Hub team is already developing. The initial concept for the course is still being shaped, but we imagine the course to be for those who are leading open education projects of their own that don’t currently have the resources to measure the impact of their project. This course would equip them with the methods, tools, and familiarity with ethical, privacy, and cultural issues researchers need to consider when conducting research. We aim to have the course developed in time to be part of a facilitated round of School of Open courses in the second quarter of 2014, and to exist thereafter as a stand-alone course for anyone to take at any time.
  • Open Translation course: A School of Open course on open translation, or more specifically, how to translate materials that are openly licensed and what that means. The TESS-India project at the Open University already runs translation workshops for its volunteers in various regions of India to translate OER addressing regional, cultural, and linguistic issues for translation into several Indian languages including Hindi. As part of the workshops, TESS-India will include a day/session on OER and open licensing and what that means for translation. As these workshops will be recorded, we will have video in addition to the workshop resources which can be adapted into an online course for translators around the world. We hope to work with TESS-India to prepare this course for 2014.
  • OpenLearn OER course: A joint OpenLearn and School of Open course on OER, drawing on existing resources like Creating open educational resources.
  • CC license and OER education for the OER Research Hub’s K-12 educator networks, such as the Flipped Learning Network, in the form of webinars and media such as infographics.

mozfest candy
Mozfest candy / CC BY

For our main collaboration — research on School of Open courses — we were able to ready some of the data we had collected for the Mozilla Festival, where Beck hosted a “scrum” on visualizing open education data called the Open Ed Data Detective. Throughout the festival, several participants came by to experiment with the School of Open data along with other data the OER Research Hub made available. In addition to preparing for the data scrum, we collected and compiled most of the initial data on the School of Open courses listed above, including web analytics and data for all 13 stand-alone courses. We outlined a plan for completion of a report on preliminary research findings, follow-up interviews we will conduct with facilitators and course participants, and additional research we will conduct in 2014 during Round 3 of School of Open’s facilitated courses.

For a research residency that lasted less than a week, we made a tremendous amount of progress. I look forward to working closely with the OER Research Hub and Open University staff in the coming months!

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US Senators seek to make college textbooks affordable and open

Jane Park, November 15th, 2013

A Human Timeline of Open Education
Opensourceway / CC BY-SA

United States Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota have introduced legislation called the Affordable College Textbook Act that seeks to make college textbooks affordable and openly available under the Creative Commons Attribution license. According to Durbin’s press release, Bill S.1704 does 5 things:

  • Creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for those programs that will achieve the highest savings for students;
  • Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public [via CC BY];
  • Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students;
  • Improves existing requirements for publishers to make all textbooks and other educational materials available for sale individually rather than as a bundle; and
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress by 2017 with an update on the price trends of college textbooks.

You can read the full text of Bill S.1704 here. In addition to highlighting the rising cost of textbooks, Bill S.1704 defines the following terms:

(3) OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE.—The term ‘‘open educational resource’’ means an educational resource that is licensed under an open license and made freely available online to the public.

(4) OPEN LICENSE.—The term ‘‘open license’’ means a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable copyright license granting the public permission to access, reproduce, publicly perform, publicly display, adapt, distribute, and otherwise use the work and adaptations of the work for any purpose, conditioned only on the requirement that attribution be given to authors as designated.

(5) OPEN TEXTBOOK.—The term ‘‘open textbook’’ means an open educational resource or set of open educational resources that either is a textbook or can be used in place of a textbook for a postsecondary course at an institution of higher education.

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) note several existing open textbook programs that have proved successful in lowering costs for students, including the University of Minnesota’s online catalog of open textbooks which has so far saved students $100,000; Tidewater Community College’s degree program where each course uses open textbooks lowering costs to zero for students; and Washington State’s Open Course Library project for its 81 largest enrollment courses that has saved students $5.4 million to date.

In addition to cost savings, SPARC highlights Bill S.1704’s potential impacts of high quality and innovation:

  • High quality materials. Open educational resources developed through the grants will also be available for all other colleges, faculty and students across the country to freely use.
  • Supporting innovation. At a time where new models to support open educational resources are rapidly emerging, this bill would help foster innovation and development of best practices that can be shared with other institutions.

For more info, see:

You can take action to support Bill S.1704 here and use Twitter hashtag #oerusa to share the news!

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