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.
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
- Launched 12 stand-alone courses for anyone to take at any time, with or without others.
- Ran a total of 11 facilitated courses on topics such as: Copyright 4 Educators, Designing Collaborative Workshops, Open Science, CC licensing, Writing Wikipedia Articles, and Why Open?
- Conducted initial research on the impact of some of these courses and completed a research residency with the OER Research Hub in Milton Keynes, England
- Hosted multiple workshops, course sprints, and other events across 5 continents (in countries like England, Germany, Kenya, China, Sudan, Argentina, South Africa, the U.S.)
- Started School of Open Kenya, an after school program for high school students teaching about open educational resources, CC licenses, and the open culture that they engender
- Put on an engineering and design challenge incorporating open source and CC licensing education for university students in China
- Ran a two-week OER summer camp for kids on Luxi island, an island in rural China (more info to follow in a guest blog post [updated])
- Launched WikiProject Open, a community of new and experienced Wikipedians, dedicated to improving Wikipedia’s coverage of all things “open” and to using openly licensed content to improve Wikipedia articles in general
- Got the School of Open’s Writing Wikipedia Articles course adopted as part of a formal university course (the University of Mississippi’s “Open Educational Resources and Practices”)
- Piloted P2PU badges for 7 of our facilitated courses! For examples, check out this Remix OER badge and this Intro to Open Science Open Access badge
- Built a human timeline of the open education space! Which we want anyone and everyone to contribute to
- Helped turn a “collaborations across the open space” session at Mozfest into a funded part-time position that will help coordinate our open communities! (more info at this pad)
- Developed support resources for course facilitators, including this comprehensive tip sheet by a facilitator with a 95% retention rate
- Created a couple videos for online conferences, like this one for K-12 educators and this one for Open Ed Week
- Showcased School of Open projects by CC affiliates at the Creative Commons Global Summit in Buenos Aires…
OER summer camp on Luxi island ( ZHU Renkai / CC BY)
…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!
- 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!
Fireworks / Jack-Benny / CC BY-SA
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
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.2 Comments »
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.
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!Comments Off on UNESCO launches Open Access Repository under Creative Commons
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.
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:
- We made it easy for the students to participate.
- The course was associated with the NCU, an official government division.
- 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:
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:
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.
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
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!).
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.
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.Comments Off on Guest post: What’s behind the success of Copyright 4 Educators Australia?
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
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 / 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!Comments Off on School of Open begins investigating its impact with the OER Research Hub
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.
(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:
- Senator Durbin’s press release
- SPARC’s press release, web page to take action, and page about the bill
- Summary and current status of Bill S.1704; complete text of bill
You can take action to support Bill S.1704 here and use Twitter hashtag #oerusa to share the news!Comments Off on US Senators seek to make college textbooks affordable and open
A few weeks ago, CC co-hosted an open education meetup in London with P2PU, the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN), and FLOSS Manuals Foundation. We also led or participated in sessions and tracks on open science, makes for cultural archives, collaborations across the open space, and open education data at the Mozilla Festival immediately following the meetup. Several interesting projects have arisen from both the meetup and sessions, so we thought it worthwhile to mention here in case others would like to get involved.
Hit the Road Map: A Human Timeline of the Open Education Space
In addition to networking and sharing our common open education interests, participants of the Open Ed Meetup at the William Goodenough house collectively built a timeline of events that they felt marked important (and personal) milestones in the open education space, from the beginning of the Open University in 1969 to Lessig’s countersuit against Liberation Music this year. The timeline was a great collaborative exercise for the group, and one that we hope is only beginning. As Marieke from the OKFN writes in her post,
“…the plan is to digitise what we have by moving all the ideas in to Google Docs and then create a TimeMapper of them. This may form part of the Open Education handbook. At that point we will be able to share the document with you so you can add more information, correct the date and add in your own ideas. We may even try to run more open education timeline events.”
In fact, CC affiliates in Europe will be co-hosting the second Open Education Handbook booksprint with the OKFN and Wikimedia in Berlin as a result!
Getting hands-on with tools on the web for Open Science
by Billy Meinke
In another team-up with the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN), we ran a session investigating tools on the web that help make science more open. Hinging on the theme of alternative ways to measure (altmetrics) scholarly impact, collaborators joined us in the session and got hands-on with tools that we can use to see how publications and other research outputs are talked about and shared on the web. To help build content for lessons linked to the Open Science course in the School of Open, participants tested a handful of free tools to see what they were able to measure, how usable the tools were, and considered ways to share this with others who aren’t familiar with altmetrics. We will be organizing the content over the next few weeks, and offering the altmetrics lesson as a standalone exercise once it’s complete. For more information about how the session went, see this blog post.
Collaborations across the Open Space
We also participated in a session with Wikimedia, OKFN, and other orgs to talk about how we could better collaborate and share news among our organizations so we don’t keep reinventing the wheel. I won’t go into detail here, as the wiki session writeup does it much better, and has continued to grow since the festival. For example, something as simple as a blog aggregator for all “open” related news would help those working in this space tremendously. To join our efforts, head over to the wiki and add your thoughts and be notified of follow-up meetings.
Digital Self Preservation Toolkit
One neat thing to come out of this year’s Mozfest was the beginnings of a Digital Self Preservation Toolkit exploring the idea of what happens to your body of creative, educational, or scientific work when you die. Some questions we asked and discussed were: In your country, what happens to your work when you die? What steps can you take to ensure its posterity? How would you want it shared and who would you want to own it? Our initial aim was to develop a set of tools and tips to help people think through how they might want to release their work upon death, building on an idea that the Question Copyright folks had last year around a free culture trust. Skirting the technical and legal issues for the time being, we came up with a prototype IP donor badge that creators might use to signify their intent, a concept form that they would fill out, and a mock-up website where such a toolkit might reside. We are now continuing our efforts in collaboration with folks from numerous organizations interested in the same questions, and you can join us to move the project forward at the Free Culture Trust wiki.
OER Research Hub’s Open Education Data Detective
Lastly, we’d like to highlight our collaboration with the OER Research Hub, who held a “scrum” on visualizing open education data called the Open Ed Data Detective. Participants experimented with open education data that the OER Research Hub made available, including data on School of Open courses.Comments Off on Creative Commons in London: Open Ed Timeline and Mozfest
This is a guest post by Pete Forsyth, organizer of the School of Open’s “Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics & Beyond” course and member of WikiProject Open.
The University of Mississippi’s Spring 2014 course “Open Educational Resources and Practices” will include the module “Writing Wikipedia Articles” (aka WIKISOO), which I developed and taught through the School of Open; as well as “Open Content Licensing for Educators,” developed and taught by Wayne Mackintosh as part of the OER university consortium. The new graduate level course (Edhe 670), taught by Dr. Robert Cummings, will invite learners from around the world to take these two course modules alongside graduate students, free of charge. This is the first time a university has adopted a School of Open course as part of a formal university course.
In the new course, both online learners and University of Mississippi students will actively participate in open educational practices, even as they learn the theory and history of open education and related concepts. Online learners will enjoy university-level instruction free of charge and without the need to enroll in a degree program.
Noting the advantages of this first-of-its-kind course, Associate Professor Robert Cummings said,
“University of Mississippi graduate students in the School of Education will prepare for their careers with this unique opportunity to engage the emerging global field of Open Educational Resources. UM students will not only learn about OER, its origins, and its role in the classrooms of the future, but they will have the opportunity to work with developers and theorists—both as fellow students and emerging practitioners—in a synchronous, global classroom of enrolled students and un-enrolled learners.”
The course’s subject matter should be of particular benefit to those interested in the future of education. Educators are embracing openness in education by using the increasingly interactive and ubiquitous Internet. In doing so, they aim to lower financial costs, reduce legal complexities, and otherwise eliminate barriers for learners worldwide.
“Open education signals a return to the core values of the academy, namely, to share knowledge freely,” said OERu founder Wayne Mackintosh, who teaches the “Open Content Licensing for Educators” module. “Working together we achieve far more than working alone. This course is an exemplar of open collaboration widening learning opportunities for all.”
The ability to engage and collaborate online and in real time, across geographical borders, presents opportunities that didn’t exist a few years ago. Wikipedia in particular has enabled hundreds of thousands of people around the world to connect in meaningful ways, united by a shared passion for freely sharing knowledge. As part of the team that created the Wikipedia Education Program, Dr. Cummings, Dr. Mackintosh, and I have long worked to bring Wikipedia’s community and the world of formal education closer, so that each may learn from the experience of the other.
Wikipedia is important not only as a publication, but also as a vibrant learning community, and as a collection of highly effective collaborative processes. Wikipedia offers many valuable case studies in effective online collaboration, both in connection with and independent of formal academic study. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to work with UM students alongside learners around the world.
If you would like to take one or both of the open modules, sign up to receive updates today!
- Open Content Licensing for Educators (OER university; 2 weeks in February)
- Writing Wikipedia Articles (WIKISOO) (School of Open, 6 weeks, starting in February)
Providing free learning with pathways to formal credit, the OERu officially launched on Friday November 1, 2013 at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops British Columbia. “In basing your learning and teaching on OER, you have an excellent opportunity to treat the minds of your students primarily as fires to be set alight rather than as vessels to be filled with the knowledge of just one teacher,” said Sir John Daniel, former UNESCO Assistant Director General of Education and open learning visionary.
Coordinated by the Open Education Resource Foundation, headquartered in New Zealand, the OERu is an independent, not-for-profit network that offers free online university courses for students worldwide using open educational resources (OER). As a designated project of the UNESCO-COL OER Chair network and with over thirty-two partners from five continents, the OERu is using OER to provide more affordable ways for learners to gain academic credit towards qualifications from recognized, accredited institutions.
“The OERu makes affordable education accessible to everyone,” said Open Education Resource Foundation Director Dr. Wayne Mackintosh. “All you need is an internet connection and you can study independently from home, with access to world-class courses from recognized institutions around the world. It’s about sharing knowledge and the sustainability of education.”
Research from the Commonwealth of Learning and UNESCO predicts that an additional one hundred million post-secondary learners will be entering into the tertiary education system over the next fifteen years. “The key challenge we are trying to address is how to provide spaces for the additional one hundred million students – that’s the equivalent of building four sizeable universities with roughly 30,000 students each, every week for the next 15 years,” said Mackintosh. The OERu aims to provide students excluded from the formal education sector with learning pathways to credible credentials.
Coming at a time of dramatically rising higher education cost and high youth unemployment, the OERu provides a parallel learning universe based solely on OER, quality assurance, and institutional accreditation. The OERu sees OER as a key means of expanding and sustaining higher education and aims to see OER and open education practices integrated into every institution in the world.
The distinctively open aspects of the OERu, including its use of open-source software, open peer review, open public input, open file formats and open educational resources are key differentiators from MOOCs. Another major difference is the OERu’s commitment to providing students with the option of getting formal credit for their study for a small fee.
“The OERu will reduce the cost of higher education dramatically,” says Sir John Daniel. “I believe that radical innovations in higher education must be accompanied by particularly robust frameworks of accreditation and credentialing in order to reassure the public. It’s all very well for evangelists to promote do-it-yourself accreditation from the personal safety of CVs replete with reputable qualifications, but ordinary people want the ‘beef’ of proper recognition too.”
The OERu launch at Thompson Rivers University coincided with the second meeting of the OERu open network of partners including post-secondary institutions, nonprofits, government, and international agencies who all engaged in an intensive two-day implementation planning meeting. I was delighted to attend and contribute to the planning, including a summary of a two-week-long discussion exploring OERu’s unique differentiators, operations, micro-credentials, potential use of textbook zero, and quality assurance processes. Livestream recordings of the OERu launch and plenary meetings are available from the Thompson Rivers University live streaming channel.
At the time of launch, the OERu is offering two credentials – one undergraduate and one post-graduate and is experimenting with micro Open Online Courses – mOOCs. As an open network the OERu is expanding the courses and credentials it is offering and its partners. Organizations choose to join the OERu for three main reasons:
- to be part of a global network of “like-minded” institutions
- to participate in the philanthropic mission of widening access to more affordable education, especially for learners excluded from the formal higher education sector
- to learn new business models and retain a competitive advantage as open education approaches become more mainstream
As Estrella Patrick Moller First Nations Elder for the Secwepemc Nation put it in her OERu launch blessing, “I thank all of you for having big dreams… Help us to reach hundreds and hundreds and millions of people so that mother earth will be covered with people on an equal footing with education.”
- Free Open Learning University Launches at TRU, CFJC TV, Kamloops, 1 November 2013.
- TRU joins free education movement. Online university combines resources from around the world. The Daily New, Kamloops, 1 November 2013.
- Open Educational Resource university is launched, University World News, 1 November 2013.
- The free university launching in NZ. TVNZ Breakfast, 2013
- The launch of OERu: Towards free learning opportunities for all students worldwide, BCcampus, 31 October 2013.
- Mooc rival OERu puts accreditation on menu, Times Higher Education, 31 October 2013.
- Polytech opens a door to the world, Otago Daily Times, 26 October 2013.
- Open Educational Resource university to be launched worldwide, 25 October, 2013.
WikiProject Open is a community of new and experienced Wikipedians, dedicated to improving Wikipedia’s coverage of all things “open,” and to using openly licensed content to improve Wikipedia articles in general. In celebration of Open Access Week, we invite you to join us in improving two Wikipedia articles this week:
- Open Access Week: We should have plenty of new news coverage to draw from in improving this article
- Creative Commons license: Let’s make sure this central article is thorough and accurate; we will consider splitting off sub-articles, etc.
For those new to Wikipedia, you’ll find some tips to get you started on our “welcome” page.
Then, just get to work on the “Open Access Week” and “Creative Commons license” articles! Be sure to check each article’s talk page (you’ll find the tab in the upper left), because we’ll surely be discussing what needs to be improved and how we want to approach it as WikiProject Open’s Collaboration of the Week (COTW) gets underway.
Collaboration of the Week programs have been implemented by a number of wiki communities over the years. Academic studies have found them to be a highly effective way to keep people engaged and productive, in addition to building a sense of community. We hope you will join us as we launch this program, and help us improve Wikipedia’s coverage of important topics in the world of openness!Comments Off on WikiProject Open launches “Collaboration of the Week” for Open Access Week
This past August, I facilitated an online peer-learning course in the School of Open introducing open science to newcomers, and Michelle Sidler worked behind the scenes to keep things glued together. This guest post was written by Michelle, and gives a look at how things went teaching an entirely free course on open science over the web. It’s pretty cool.
Guiding Students through the Course
During last month’s round of School of Open courses, I helped out with a facilitated version of the Open Science course supported by Creative Commons, the Open Knowledge Foundation, and PLOS. On four Tuesdays in August, Billy Meinke hosted online discussions with a handful of well-known members of the open science community while participants from around the world completed course modules and blogged about their experiences. Here’s how things went down.
Note: The course materials and online discussions are available on the Open Science P2PU course page, and will continue to grow over the next few weeks as participants share blog about their experiences working with aspects of science that are either open or not.
While completing course units, participants blogged their experiences, offering reflections and insights about open science and sharing online resources they found. Participants were researchers and scientists from around the world, including biologists, climatologists, librarians, and even musicians.
Though we are still working through much of the blog posts, here are some examples of people learning about open access, open data, and open research for free through the School of Open:
The first of three modules introduced the topic of open access (OA), and after browsing through content about OA, learners were to report on the openness of published research articles they found on the web. A learner named Peter Desmet provided a fine overview of the history of open access and the different “flavours” of open access in an entry on his blog. The second module led folks to the topic of open data for science, where a peer by the name Odon shared her process of learning through her blog, Odonlife. Her writings offered definitions and descriptions of open data and assessed the openness of datasets she found online. Drawing from these lessons, she also described her experiences contributing to open data crowdsourcing projects and how they inspired her to start a similar project. For the third unit on open research, a peer in the course named Nicki Clarkson described the work of Jon Tennant, a paleontologist and open science advocate who deposited the data from his PhD research into the Paleontology Database, a repository for similar data. Jon even commented on her post, thanking her for the shout-out—another example of the ways in which open information brings researchers together!
In addition to supporting the online course participants, Billy Meinke hosted online discussions with many open science friends and advocates from many locales and types of involvement with science around the world. Guests from a variety of organizations joined open, broadcasted Google Hangouts and shared their experiences in open science with dozens of learners watching each stream. Thanks to all the guests who took the time to chat with us about open science! Links to the video and etherpad notes (taken during the live sessions) can be found on the Open Science course page.
Taking the Open Science course further
The Open Science course doesn’t end when we complete the units and assignments. Continue the conversation by spreading the word to other scientists about this resource and encouraging them to participate. There has been interest in volunteer translation efforts and other adaptations of the material. Anyone is free to do so, in compliance with the CC BY-SA license on the course. Much of the material is licensed CC BY or CC0, which give even more open reuse rights!
If you’d like to find out more about what’s happening with this course and others in the School of Open, head on over to the School of Open Google Group and join the discussion! You can also sign up to be notified when the next facilitated course launches, likely in Spring 2014.1 Comment »