Open Policy #ioe12

At the heart of the movement to open educational resources is the simple and powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that technology in general, and the World Wide Web in particular provide an opportunity for everyone to share, use and re-use it.

Kathy Casserly & Mike Smith, Hewlett Foundation

The course topic ‘readings’ consider the area of pushing for legislation within the US to increase public access to data generated by publicly funded grants. Examples being the expansion of National Institutes of Health Public Access policy. However, I have previously written about the Research Works Act H.R.3699 which would undo this approach if my understanding is correct.

In the UK the Research Councils are requiring research data to be made openly available as it’s a ‘public resource’. Increasingly there is a requirement for research institutions to have a Data Management Plan in place prior to funding being granted, as I’ve previously mentioned.

Brazil has a very interesting openness approach as outlined in the OER into federal legislation article.

The bill deals with three main issues: It

1) requires government funded educational resources to be made widely available to the public under an open license,

2) clarifies that resources produced by public servants under his/her official capacities should be open educational resources (or otherwise released under an open access framework), and

3) urges the government to support open federated systems for the distribution and archiving of OER.

https://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/27698

When reading this for education I was minded of the robust approach taken by Brazil towards pharmaceutical patents for the good of the national public health that I have previously encountered. There does seem to be a will in that country to work for the educational benefit of its peoples.

But more generally across the globe there are problems in policy at different levels:

  • within institutions
  • in government
  • etc.

where they don’t understand the technologies and make decisions within existing parameters.

Most of the resources in higher education are digital, non-rivalrous and we just need to license them properly, using Creative Commons licenses for example. Cable Green argues that by licensing and opening work there can be greater leveraging of a global workforce that will take one’s work and maybe translate it, make it more accessible, or improve it in other ways.

Cable suggests that there are instances where the policies of institutions have been circumvented.

Where the faculty have come together and said “we are the Academy. Our job in the Academy is to advance knowledge. Our job in the Academy is to share knowledge to the extent that it’s what we are about. We will not only publish in the journals, but we will provide a free, accessible version of our research as well to anybody who would like to access it.”

Cable Green, Creative Commons, (video) http://youtu.be/bPTzFbpKIFA#t=12m08s

By following an openness policy there is increased potential for sharing and learning from each other:

  • across an institution (intra-openness)
  • and crossing institutional boundaries (inter-openness).

This also has the potential for financial savings. But Cable suggests that we need to move towards a ‘not invented here’ to ‘proudly borrowed from there’ stance so that resources can be shared. Additionally there are general advantages for society if people have increased access to education; good quality curricula and affordable up-to-date ‘textbooks’, constantly maintained and with use of the latest technologies.

There is a movement where some universities are proving resources and instruction openly. “The OER university (OERu) is a virtual collaboration of like-minded institutions committed to creating flexible pathways for OER learners to gain formal academic credit.

The OER university aims to provide free learning to all students worldwide using OER learning materials with pathways to gain credible qualifications from recognised education institutions.

http://wikieducator.org/OER_university/Home

There is a much reduced fee for assessment and credit from the institutions. Obviously there is an outreach and community mission to this approach, but there are potentially widespread general implications to the approach, meaning a shift away from the status quo in higher education provision.

Currently the ‘anchor’ partner institutions of OERu are:

Other interesting things happening in this area are the University of the People and Wikiwijs in the Netherlands. Athabasca University in Canada has a policy that prior to building a new course the academic must go out globally and look at what OER materials are already available.

But there is a challenge with all of this; existing structures are difficult to change. The current ‘preferred’ institutional model of higher education is one of gatekeeper and rivalrous resource model.

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Open Business Models #ioe12

The question that seems to arise from throughout the course topics is one of sustainability and the open business models topic considers this area in more detail.

When looking at particularly the concept of OpenCourseWare (OCW) there is the concern that it can’t be achieved without major subsidies. The MIT OCW seems to always be quoted, as is the investment figure running to millions of dollars required each year to maintain the initiative.

[Aside: However, this approach seems to be based on maintaining and propagating the existing systems of higher education structures. “How can we get to a (financially) sustainable position of providing openness in education whilst still doing what we are doing?” And if we have seen anything over the last decade or two, existing systems/business models adapt or die. Cable Green in the next topic, Open Policy, makes a valid point that possibly we are asking the wrong question. “What are we trying to achieve?” is the primary and fundamental question. If we are trying to achieve the maintenance of the existing educational system then possibly the answer is different to us trying to expand and open education much more fundamentally to enable access to all who want it. From an institutional or organisational perspective openness is a question of mission and strategy, which includes community outreach, marketing, retention, student satisfaction, etc. Financial sustainability is part of a larger strategic discussion. However, there are moral and ethical issues for the sustainability position of openness to consider.]

So running through the course readings for the Open Business Models.

The Johansen & Wiley, 2010, ‘A  Sustainable Model for OpenCourseWare Development’ article/paper is primarily devoted to analysing the possibility of adapting courses at Bingham Young University (BYU) to create OCWs, and the financial implications of that process to reach financial sustainability.

[The main cost of adapting existing courses is ‘copyright scrubbing’. This is the process of identifying copyrighted content, identifying the rights holder(s), negotiating for rights to use the material(s), and paying any applicable fees. Alternate solutions after identifying copyrighted content are to remove any such content, or to create your own alternative content (still requiring resourcing).]

The paper works through the analysis, drawing on concerns about the potential loss of revenue from participants learning from the open courseware balanced against the potential increased sign-ups to register on the formal, paid-for course enrolments. Examples like that of the Open University in the UK are highlighted, I’ve written about this myself previously.

Figures are calculated within the paper of the revenue levels required versus the costs of adapting to OCW for BYU example courses. It provides a useful resource for institutional policy makers looking to perform a similar analysis.

However, I think my recommendations would be to ensure that resourcing factors are taken into account at the course production stages – record staff time to produce the course. Also, copyright and licensing of material should be considered from the onset of the production process for materials destined for open use.

The other ‘readings’ from the topic centre on book authoring and publishing, be it general of textbook specific. I personally found the Hilton & Wiley, 2011, ‘Free: Why Authors are Giving Books Away on the Internet’ of interest. In this article, 10 authors were asked a set of questions about their views on open publishing and whether there were affects on sales. The general consensus amongst the authors was that they had a desire to increase the exposure of their works; open publishing achieved this by increasing readership to those who wouldn’t otherwise have accessed the works. They felt that there was little impact in relation to loss of sales of people who accessed the open publishing rather than bought the book. Indeed, the authors felt that sales of the books actually increased as a consequence of the open publishing availability; arguments related to accessing the works to see whether they were worth buying, and preferring to read a ‘hard’ copy than off the screen. Since publication, however, sales of electronic copies of books to Amazon’s Kindle eReader have outstripped their ‘hard’ copy sales of equivalent titles. In light of this statistic, it would be interesting to see subsequent analysis of open publishing to eBook format and whether there is any affect on sales.

The textbook model related topic readings relate mainly to The Flat World Knowledge (FWK) approach, of which David Wiley is the Chief Openness Officer; with passing reference to Rice University’s Connexions and Wikibooks. FWK uses a ‘freemium’ strategy, giving away some elements and charging a ‘premium’ for other services, however it doesn’t subsidize with advertising revenue. So students can access full online versions of the textbooks for free, or pay for printed, PDF or audio versions for example.

Open Teaching #ioe12

In some ways I’ve perhaps found this topic to be the lightest on content with regard to the topic ‘readings’, perhaps because I’ve encountered both videos previously, not least from participating in the other MOOCs. However, I also found the content going some way to present me with more of an insight into how the separate MOOCs are managed, and the differences taken by the facilitators of each.

Inevitably there is bound to be a comparison of styles if you are participating in multiple open courses run by different people.

My own, less than rigorous analysis of the three approaches I’m currently being exposed to run something like:

  • With Change 11 the facilitators are providing direct support, from the ioe12 topic readings this approach is resource intensive and time consuming for the facilitators.
  • With DS106 the facilitators, from my perspective, are rolling their sleeves up and getting stuck in with the rest of us. I’m rather liking this approach.

But perhaps the most insightful reading for me from the topic was the Graham, Hilton, Rich, & Wiley, 2010Using Online Technologies to Extend a Classroom to Learners at a Distance’. I think it goes some way to explain the less involved approach taken by David Wiley with his Open Courses. For me, and I might be wrong in this, it shows how the boundaries of a campus based course can be expanded out to an open participatory course without creating undue burdens on the course facilitators. I think this is the essence of David’s approach; to enable a widening of access and participation to education in a potentially sustainable model.

This reading gives details about how previous open courses were designed and what technologies were employed to enable them. There are also estimates of how long setup would require for educators with less technical proficiency than David. There is analysis of the course to develop an idea of participation and which areas of the course structure were given greatest weight by participants; carried out by questionnaire.

There are three types of interaction:

  • Learner – Content interaction
  • Learner – Learner interaction
  • Learner – Instructor interaction

The Learner – Learner interactions for an open and campus combined course are different as without the instructor facilitating interaction the two groups can remain separate, but it is felt that there is much that can be gained from an interaction beyond the classroom/lecture theatre.

However, for David Wiley facilitated courses, the course readings seem to carry most weight with distance participants. I’m personally finding that the case at present due to the course structuring and ‘reward’ system. (I’ll write more about that in the future.)

The MOOC Guide‘ by Stephen Downes, 2011 I found particularly interesting and useful if one wants to develop and facilitate a MOOC. It is an open wiki for anyone with MOOC experience to contribute to and already it has much useful information for a number of previously run MOOCs. I hope to use this information to develop and run a MOOC in the near future, and to contribute back my own experiences from that venture.