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2013 June

OpenChem, Open Curriculum, and the Value of Openness

Cable Green, June 27th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OPEN Partners Host U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT Grantee Kick-Off Conference

Billy Meinke, June 27th, 2013

OPEN Partner Keynote from Cable Green, visualized by Giulia Forsyth
Giulia Forsyth / CC BY

Wave 2 Kick-off Event, Minneapolis MN

Round 2 Grantees from the US Department of Labor’s (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College & Career Training (TAACCCT) program were invited to attend last week’s Kick-off Conference, hosted by OPEN Partners: CC, CMU’s OLI, CAST, and SBCTC. This was a unique opportunity for the Gates-funded OPEN Partners to explain services made available to grantees at no cost, supporting the building of Open Educational Resources (OER) that meet current standards of accessibility, pedagogically-sound and technology-supported design, as well as legal openness. Creative Commons is leading the OPEN Partner services and support, lending expertise in legal and technical aspects of open education to the project. Representatives from forty seven Round 2 TAACCCT projects attended workshops to understand service basics, and a showcase to hear from select Round 1 Grantee projects that made use of the complementary services offered to all grantees.

OPEN Conference Attendee
Photo by Cable Green / CC BY

Highlighted Round 1 Grantees included The National Stem Consortium (NSC), the Colorado Online Energy Training Consortium (COETC), and the Missouri Online HealthWINs program, sharing their experiences in the program thus far. All grantees are funded to support the building of community college-level and technical training courses that will provide opportunities for unemployed and under-employed adults to gain certificates and degrees in high-skilled industries. The OPEN partners offer expertise to grantees around accessibility frameworks, open-licensing and technical interoperability, and quality standards for online education. All of the courses and learning materials created in this four year $2 billion DOL grant program are being licensed for reuse with a Creative Commons (CC BY) license, making this the largest OER production effort to date. The pool of courseware will include lessons, videos, images, and interactive content for learners in health care, information technology (IT), advanced manufacturing, and other industries that need high-skilled workforce support. It’s a big deal.

Keynote and Plenary Sessions

CC’s Director of Global Learning, Cable Green, provided the opening keynote for the conference titled Online Technology, Open Licenses, and Open Educational Resources – The Opportunity for DOL TAACCCT Grantees. The Center for Accessibility Supportive Technology’s (CAST) Samantha Johnston provided an overview of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, and spoke about accessibility in distance education, which most TAACCCT courses are being developed for. Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) Boyoung Chae offered a session about creating and managing OER, targeted at new grantees that will likely be collaborating on content in the coming year. CC, CAST, and the Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC) offered multiple hands-on sessions to familiarize grantees with DOL-mandated aspects of their course design, and describe how the OPEN Partners are offering continue support. CC’s Jane Park led sessions on the CC-BY license and best practices for applying CC licenses to work.

As a special service to grantees, Giulia Forsythe joined the OPEN Partners to provide visual recording (see image above) for the major talks. The creation of visual notes offered another way for participants to understand the big ideas of the speakers’ messages, using sketch-based keywords and symbols to describe connections. During a lightning around for new grantees, participants from over forty of the funded college and consortia spoke briefly about their projects and plans. Visual representations of these descriptions will soon be posted to the OPEN4us.org site.

OPEN Kickoff Conference Attendee
Photo by Cable Green / CC BY

OPEN Supporting TAACCCT Grantees

Creative Commons and the OPEN Partners will continue to support TAACCCT Grantees in the upcoming months, maximizing the value and reusability of this amazing pool of OER. Handouts, visuals, webinar recordings, and additional grantee information can be found on the OPEN Partner website, Open4Us.org.

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KA Lite: an offline version of the Khan Academy

Jane Park, June 26th, 2013

kalite-logo

We’d like to draw your attention to KA Lite, an offline version of the Khan Academy developed by a team of volunteers from around the world in collaboration with the Foundation for Learning Equality. KA Lite was developed with the aim of furthering universal access to education, especially those without an Internet connection — or those with a very slow Internet connection. This map shows all registered users of KA Lite around the world.

KA Lite is an independent project, not associated with the Khan Academy, though as the KA Lite FAQ states, Khan Academy is unofficially supportive of the project. The great thing is that the folks behind KA Lite didn’t have to ask for permission because permission was already granted thanks to the CC BY-NC-SA license on Khan Academy materials. This allowed KA Lite volunteers to build an open source application that would support and make available Khan Academy’s 4,200+ high quality educational videos and exercises in an offline setting.

Dylan Barth, one of the creators behind KA Lite, says,

“Through KA Lite, we distribute Khan Academy videos and exercises which are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

The KA Lite sourcecode itself is open-source MIT licensed, and the other included software and content is licensed as described in the LICENSE file (it’s all open-source, it’s just different licenses for different packages we use).

The only potential cost to the end user would be hardware to run KA Lite on (it can run on all types of hardware bundles, from old Windows computers to the $35 Raspberry Pi) and the electricity to run the hardware.”

Check out, download for free, and volunteer for the project at http://kalite.learningequality.org/.

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Blackboard xpLor officially released with OER and CC license options

Jane Park, June 25th, 2013

In January I blogged about Blackboard xpLor — a new cloud-based learning object repository that was being piloted at 70 institutions. Blackboard officially released it today, giving educators the ability to discover, create, and share resources across learning management systems (LMS). As part of its launch, xpLor has integrated support for CC license options for creators of content as well as the search and discovery of existing OER under CC licenses, such as the Khan Academy’s rich collection of videos and exercises. xpLor currently offers four CC license options for course creators (CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA) in addition to the CC0 public domain waiver, which allows you to waive all copyrights to your work should you choose to do so.

From the press release,

Users can create and store materials in xpLor, and then extend their content by sharing and making it discoverable to instructors across working groups, courses and institutions. Content is delivered through the cloud to users’ LMS; xpLor currently supports Blackboard Learn™, ANGEL, Joule® from Moodlerooms and Sakai. Users can tag and rate content, making it easy to find items their peers found to be valuable.

Content can be adapted over time by multiple users. Content authors can control who can see and change their content, and can apply to their work a variety of rights and permissions from All Rights Reserved to Creative Commons open sharing, to enable crowdsourcing collaboration and remixing of content.

For details with screenshots of the CC license implementation, see my earlier post. If you want to check it out yourself, you can via CourseSites or an existing LMS account with your institution (as named above). If you use a different LMS, xpLor may work with it if your LMS employs IMS standards — since xpLor is cloud-based and built to work across systems. To find out more, see the form at http://www.blackboard.com/sites/xplor/.

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Open Call for Creative Commons Board of Directors & Advisory Council Candidates

Creative Commons Board of Directors, June 24th, 2013

*Board of directors: Hal Abelson, Paul Brest, Glenn Brown, Michael Carroll, Catherine Casserly, Caterina Fake, Brian Fitzgerald, Davis Guggenheim, Joi Ito, Lawrence Lessig, Laurie Racine, Eric Saltzman, Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, Annette Thomas, Jimmy Wales, and Esther Wojcicki.

suggestionbox

Nathan Colquhoun / CC BY-NC-SA

The Creative Commons Board of Directors is seeking recommendations from the Creative Commons community for potential candidates to serve on the board of directors and a new, to-be-formed advisory council. This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to Creative Commons and advance our mission of maximizing digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.

Why we are doing this

Creative Commons Board of Directors is making structural adjustments and engaging in succession planning. As part of this process, during the April 2013 Creative Commons Board of Directors meeting, the board agreed to form a Creative Commons Advisory Council for which it is also seeking members. The advisory council is distinct from the board. While it will not have decision-making authority, its role is to provide depth of experience and knowledge for the board to tap.

This open call for board and advisory council nominations is designed to engage the entire Creative Commons community in identifying candidates who will ensure Creative Commons continues to have the resources, leadership, and oversight necessary to carry out its vision and mission, and does so in a way that is inclusive of our global community.

What the Creative Commons Board of Directors is looking for

The board seeks candidates who have a passion and enthusiasm for Creative Commons and can act as ambassadors, fundraisers, and experts.

Creative Commons has developed a matrix of key skills needed on the board and advisory council. In making your nomination for board or advisory council please reference this skills matrix and describe the skills you believe your nominee would bring to Creative Commons.

Nomination process

To nominate yourself or someone else, please complete this web form by July 15, 5pm PDT (GMT -7). Please share this form with your networks and anyone you think may be interested in serving. There is no limit to the number of candidates you may nominate.

Nominations will be accepted on a rolling basis through July 15, 5pm PDT (GMT -7) and reviewed by the board of directors Executive Committee. Potential candidates will be contacted in late July to early August.

Contact

For any questions contact meryl@creativecommons.org.

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CC Summer Interns 2013

Timothy Vollmer, June 19th, 2013

We’re happy to have two interns this summer: Pei-Yi Wang (Google Policy Fellow) and Teresa Sempere Garcia (Community Support Intern).

Pei-Yi Wang
Pei-Yi Wang / CC BY

Teresa Sempere Garcia
Teresa Sempere Garcia
by Christian H. Paleari / CC BY

Pei-Yi has been with CC Taiwan via Academia Sinica part-time since 2006. As a graduate student at the Law School of National Taiwan University, she helped conduct research about open licenses, porting and translating the CC 3.0 licenses and the CC0 text, assisting governments, academic institutions, libraries and museums to apply CC licenses, and analyzing copyright and other legal issues. More recently, Pei-Yi received her LL.M. degrees from New York University School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center, with focuses on IP, corporate and international business. Before joining CC as a Google Policy Fellow, she practiced law in Taiwan National Digital Archive Project, a leading law firm, and served as in-house counsel in a multinational electronics contract manufacturing company in Taiwan. In her free time, she loves food tasting, music, and traveling.

Teresa is a free culture and free software activist who has been working in the field for many years. She was one of the creators and organizers of the highly successful Librebus Project in both 2011 and 2012, which took open advocates on a tour of Central and Southern America, running workshops and seminars. Teresa has earned degrees in Advertising and Public Relations (University of Alicante, Spain), Specialist in Design and Communication (Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain), Specialist in International Cooperation for Development (University of Alicante, Spain), and Cultural Management focusing on Culture, Communication and Politics (Catholic University of Cordoba, Argentina). She has worked in educational and cultural projects around the world, including in Belgium, Sweden, Italy, and Slovenia (working as Assistant Project Coordinator of Europe WAGGGS), in addition to Argentina and Costa Rica (working for AECID, the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development). Teresa enjoys traveling, photography, swimming, and cycling.

Teresa is based remotely in Cordoba, Argentina and will be working with Jessica Coates, the Affiliate Network Coordinator, as well as the Regional Coordinators, to facilitate collaborative projects among CC’s global volunteer network, particularly focused on the Global Summit and a new project for the production of CC toolkits. Pei-Yi will be based in Mountain View and will help with the development of the Open Policy Network.

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Report Released by U.S. GAO Demonstrates the Need for Open Textbooks

Billy Meinke, June 14th, 2013

picture of textbooks
Books /John Liu / CC BY

A report issued by the United States Government Accountability Office on June 6th confirms a trend of the educational publishing industry: textbook costs to students at higher education institutions are rising 6% per year on average, and have risen 82% over the last decade. The study, ordered by Congress, looks at the efforts of publishers and colleges to increase the availability of textbook price information and “unbundled” buying options as required under provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA). The GAO also interviewed faculty regarding benefits of this transparency and offering of new options for students purchasing course materials.

What they found

Findings of the study indicated that faculty are more aware of textbook affordability issues than they used to be, though they see the appropriateness of materials as the most important factor when it comes to choosing resources to use in a course. HEOA requires publishers to include information about textbook prices when marketing to faculty, including wholesale prices and copyright dates of previous versions. While the report finds that publishers have passively made this information available through their websites and other materials, the GAO did not investigate whether publishers are actively providing the information to faculty as required by law. Making this information not only available, but highly visible, is the best way to support and equip faculty to consider textbook costs and potentially explore more affordable and flexible textbook options.

The study also finds that textbook price transparency helped students save money, particularly because of the information colleges and universities posted in course catalogs. Of the 150 institutions the GAO reviewed, 81 percent provided textbook information online during the months leading up to the fall 2012 semester. This allowed students the opportunity to consider the costs associated with each course and the time to seek cost-cutting alternatives like used books and renting. But even with this relief, textbook prices continue to reach into the $200-and-more range for high-enrollment courses. The end goal of the HEOA price transparency provisions is to pressure publishers into lowering their prices for good.

What this means

As Nicole Allen, Affordable Textbooks Advocate for the Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs) explained, “Overall, the report shows that the HEOA requirements have helped students and professors become more aware of textbook costs, and this awareness builds market pressure that will eventually lead to fairer prices and more affordable alternatives. Although right now publishers stubbornly continue driving prices skyward, they can only ignore the call for affordability for so long.”

The report mentions other textbook affordability efforts that colleges and universities explored alongside providing textbook price information. About two-thirds of the schools that the GAO interviewed offered an institutional rental program, and many offered price information for alternate formats, such as e-textbooks. For example, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges’ Open Course Library, which offers Open Educational Resources (OER) and other low cost materials for the system’s 81 largest courses, has saved students $5.5 million to date — about three times as much as the program cost. As the shift of resources towards efforts that provide more options to students and faculty is seen across the US and in other areas around the world, we anticipate more participation in communities around OER. Which is a great thing.

Next steps towards affordable textbooks

The HEOA requirements for textbook price transparency were a good first step, but there’s more work to do to solve rising textbook costs and lack of flexibility in choosing learning materials for courses. OER, like those created, revised, and shared in the Open Course Library have the potential to significantly offset these costs while at the same time providing more options for faculty and students to customize textbooks and other courseware to their needs. CC believes that OER is the next step in providing affordable, flexible, and truly open educational opportunities for students and faculty, allowing global citizens to better choose their own learning pathways.

picture of textbook
opensourceway / CC BY-SA

A joint statement issued by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on June 7th affirms the potential for OER as a solution: “As the GAO report suggests, transparency alone isn’t enough. Students need more access to high-quality, affordable options that challenge the current price structure set by a handful of publishers. Open Educational Resources, which include high-quality open textbooks that are free for faculty to adopt and students to use, offer a promising step forward. With many recent technology advancements it will be important for Congress to continue to learn more about the textbook sector to ensure that there are accountability mechanisms in place to protect students and taxpayers.”

The Student PIRGs announcement about the study is here
The full report of the GAO’s study can be found here
And lastly, a podcast with a member of GAO’s staff that led this study is here

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CC Launches Affiliate Project Grants

Meryl Mohan, June 13th, 2013


Judy van der Velden / CC BY-NC-ND

CC is excited to announce the launch of our Affiliate Project Grants. These project grants will be used to support and expand the work of CC’s Global community of volunteers.

The goal of the grant program, which is enabled by sponsorship from Google, is to increase the capacity of CC Affiliates and community members working towards our mission, by providing support for local events and projects. Projects that might be covered by the grants include everything from OER workshops to film and music festivals to publications to research – anything, in fact, you can imagine that expands knowledge and adoption of open policies and practices around the world.

Proposals submitted by CC affiliates and community members will be selected to receive up to $20,000 USD towards their project(s). We are hoping to distribute these globally, with at least one project in each of the major geographical regions, and to cover projects small (eg writing and printing factsheets) and large (eg running a region wide series of workshops).

The application deadline is July 8. You can find out more about how to apply, eligibility, timeline, example projects, and the selection process here. Only those working with CC’s local community teams are eligible to apply – so if you have a good idea, find out how to contact your local CC team here.

We are looking forward to reviewing all the exciting project ideas that come from our affiliate community!

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University proposal supports U.S. public access directive

Timothy Vollmer, June 12th, 2013

Last week the Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) released a draft plan on how they’d support public access to federally funded research aligned with the February 22 White House public access directive. The SHared Access Research Ecosystem, or SHARE, is a plan that would draw upon existing university infrastructure in order to ensure public access to publicly funded research. SHARE works through a federated system of university repositories. Participating universities would adopt a common set of metadata fields for publicly funded research articles. The metadata will communicate specific information so the article may be easily discovered through common search engines. Minimum metadata will include author name, title, journal, abstract, and award number. The university-focused SHARE plan was announced in the same week as CHORUS, an effort championed by a coalition of commercial publishers.

In order to promote broad access and reuse of publicly funded research outputs, the SHARE proposal says that federal agencies need to be granted permissions that enable them to make the deposit system work. Therefore, universities and principal investigators need to retain sufficient rights to in turn grant those permissions (access, reuse, archiving) to the federal agencies. From the plan:

Copyright licenses to allow public access uses of publications resulting from federal awards need to be awarded on a non-exclusive basis to the funding agency responsible for deposit in order for that system of public deposit to work [...] Federal funding agencies need to receive sufficient copyright licenses to peer-reviewed scholarly publications (either final accepted manuscripts or preferably final published articles) resulting from their grants to enable them to carry out their roles in the national public access scheme. Such licenses would enable the placement of peer-reviewed content in publicly accessible repositories capable of preservation, discovery, sharing, and machine-based services such as text mining, once an embargo has expired.

The need for universities and researchers to maintain rights to make their research available under open licenses is aligned with the recommendations that Creative Commons made to the federal government in our testimony during the public hearings at the National Academies. In our comments, we urged agencies to allow authors to deposit articles immediately in a repository under a worldwide, royalty-free copyright license that allows the research to be used for any purpose as long as attribution is given to the authors. By making it possible for authors to make their research articles available immediately as open access, federal agencies will be clarifying reuse rights so the downstream users know the legal rights and responsibilities in using that research. This would include important reuse permissions noted in the SHARE proposal.

We also suggested that federal agencies require that authors deposit their manuscripts into a public repository immediately upon publication in a peer reviewed journal. This is also in line with the SHARE plan. If an embargo is present, the SHARE repository will link to the commercial publisher’s website. And once the embargo period expires, the repository would be able to “flip on” access to the article which would then made available under the open license.

The SHARE proposal also notes, “licensing arrangements should ensure that no single entity or group secures exclusive rights to publications resulting from federally funded research.” It is important that universities and scholarly authors properly manage copyrights from the get-go in order to make sure that the final manuscript is made publicly available under the requirements set out by the White House public access directive. This important consideration has been widely discussed at the federal level when the NIH Public Access Policy went into effect. In addition, universities have passed open access policies that reserve the legal rights to archive research conducted by their faculty. And author-level copyright tools have proved to be useful for faculty to preserve some rights to the articles to which they submit to commercial publishers.

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Lumen Learning launches open course frameworks for teaching

Jane Park, June 11th, 2013

course framework
Ryan / CC BY-SA

Lumen Learning, a company founded to help institutions adopt open educational resources (OER) more effectively, just launched its first set of course frameworks for educators to use as-is or to adapt to their own needs. The six course frameworks cover general education topics spanning English composition, reading, writing, algebra, and college success, and are openly licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY).

The course frameworks were developed by the Lumen Learning team in concert with faculty members at nine institutions who worked to align the content with defined learning objectives and quality standards. By providing openly licensed course frameworks developed and vetted by experts, Lumen Learning hopes to make it easier for educators and institutions to use OER. From the press release,

“Our ultimate goal is to provide sustainable open textbook alternatives for an entire general education curriculum and even entire OER-based degree programs,” said Kim Thanos, CEO and co-founder of Lumen Learning. “We are thrilled with the interest and momentum we are seeing around OER today. It is definitely a rising tide, benefitting students, instructors and institutions alike.”

You can browse the CC BY-licensed course frameworks at http://www.lumenlearning.com/courses. Lumen Learning will also offer additional course frameworks in business management, psychology, chemistry, biology, and geography in the coming months.

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