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.

Open Data #ioe12

Tim Berners-Lee talks on his TEDtalk about how he originated the World Wide Web. The memo he wrote about it was read by his boss (who after his boss’s death was found to have the words “Vague but exciting” written on it). I’m thinking of adopting that as one of my own taglines because of the amount of ideas I propose and receive little interest and even less understanding. (I’m not saying my own ideas are of Tim Berners-Lee’s scale of impact.)

It was a grassroots movement that launched the Web and it was this community that excited Tim. He asked people to put their documents onto the Web, and people did. In his words, “It’s been a blast.” Now he asks us all to put our Data onto the Web.

He refers to Hans Rosling, who also says that it’s important to have a lot of data available. I’d previously seen Hans Rosling’s TEDtalk and also his presentation on a BBC television programme. Tim is going further, however, with his concept of Linked Data, where everybody is putting everything on the web, and therefore virtually everything you could image is on the web. He asks for three things to be observed in this process:

  1. Everything has a http ‘name’ – events, products, things, people, etc.
  2. When someone fetches something with a http name it returns some standard data (information) in a format that people will find useful – something about the event, that person, etc.
  3. The data returned shows relationships; importantly the data has relationships and these related data also carry http names that allow them to be looked up, etc.

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have agreed to use standardized formats for data as outlined at Schema.org

Another interesting phrase to come out of the videos is ‘Database Hugging’, coined by Hans. Tim demonstrated it as though he was actually hugging something with his arms. The idea is that people, governments, institutions don’t want to release their data until they’ve created a lovely website to display it. Tim says, by all means make a beautiful website, but first give us the unadulterated data, emphasized with the chanted phrase – ’Raw Data Now’.

Linked Data’ useful links:

The site that draws together useful information about Linked Data is linkeddata.org
There you’ll find, amongst other things:

  • Guides and Tutorials
    • Key Reference Documents
    • Textual Guides/Tutorials
    • Video Tutorials
    • Introductory Slide Sets
    • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Tools
    • Linked Data Publishing Platforms/Frameworks
    • Linked Data/RDF Editors and Validators
    • Tools for Consuming Linked Data
    • Linked Data Applications for End Users

A point that Tim makes in his video at t=11m30s is about the sharing of data to enable Open Science activities to occur, which links in nicely to the previous topic in the Openness in Education course about Open Science.

Tim Berners-Lee returns to do a short TEDtalk ‘updating’ the situation with Open Data:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YcZ3Zqk0a8

It is interesting to see that over this time we have witnessed more of a willingness by governments in areas across the world to share data openly in what has become know as Open Government or ‘opengov’. So in the US you have sites like the one in the topic readings, and in the UK you have ones including data.gov.uk from HM Government; a BBC interview with Tim Berners-Lee on the project that brought about data.gov.uk is available.

Areas of the media are making it easier and more convenient to use open data and allow individuals to interrogate and interpret the data to provide useful information to them. Examples being The New York Times in the US and The Guardian in the UK (which enables questions to be asked of government data from around the world). The Guardian also has a section online that is dedicated to the journalistic use of open data, called the Data Store.

Open Science #ioe12

Michael Nielson in his TEDtalk begins by talking about Tim Gowers1, a renowned (famous) mathematician, and Cambridge (UK) professor, who asked on his blog in 2009 whether science could be done collectively out in the open. There was a mathematical problem that he would like to solve, and so he set out via his blog to make all his workings open and invite contributions from anyone and everyone, with the anticipation that multiple people working collectively by expressing their ideas and studying the workings and ideas of others would lead to a solution. This experiment was the Polymath project. Michael says that he observed the blog at the time and was amazed by the speed of activity; how ideas would quickly develop and be elaborated upon by others, and sometimes be discarded. It took 37 days for the core problem, and even a harder generalization to be solved.

Michael believes what the Polymath Project demonstrated is the potential of the internet to enable us to expand our ability to solve some of the most intellectually challenging problems. It follows from this that there can be an expansion in the range of scientific problems we can go on to tackle. It means that the rate of scientific discovery can be increased. And Michael suggests that it means ‘a changing in the way we construct knowledge itself’.

There are challengers and problems with this approach. One area is development of the community and the lack of contributions by others. Many times wikis have been suggested and developed to encourage the sharing of knowledge and problem solving in different scientific areas only for them to falter due to lack of participation. Similarly social networks along the same lines have failed. Primarily the current reward structure for researchers in higher education institutions is focused on the publication of academic papers in journals, and consequently researchers are much more likely to put their efforts there than contributing to a collective, community project. So even though the concept might be appealing, and you might think that it would advance scientific endeavour more rapidly, the rewards structure doesn’t allow, or actively discourages participation.

Arguably the Polymath Project succeeded because, even though it was carried out in an unusual way, it was still inherently conservative because academic papers would be ultimately published as a consequence.

Michael suggests that the Open Science movement wants to change the perceptions that data should be locked away even though it could be potentially useful to others, about the hording of scientific ideas, and even the hording of descriptions of problems that researchers believe to be interesting.

The movement is intent on changing this culture of science so that there is greater motivations to share; to share all these different kinds of knowledge. they want to change the values of individual scientists so that they start to see it as part of their job to be sharing their data, to be sharing their code, to be sharing their best ideas and their problems.

Michael Nielson

This can then lead to changes in the system that then incentivize this kind of activity. It’s not easy, but there are things that scientists and non-scientists can do; as Michael outlines at the end of the video.

http://youtu.be/DnWocYKqvhw#t=13m30s

All the ideas expressed above are extracted from the video and attributed to Michael Nielson.

The Open Science Project is ‘dedicated to writing and releasing free and open source software for scientific use’. The blog for the project is a very useful source of information. In one particular post it quotes an informal definition of Open Science provided by Michael Nielson:

Open science is the idea that scientific knowledge of all kinds should be openly shared as early as is practical in the discovery process.

One element in the work of scientific researchers is the Lab Notebook. I’m familiar with the concept from my own scientific training in my days as a science undergraduate and postgraduate researcher. It’s not the first time that I’ve been interested in the concept of Open Notebook Science which makes up part of the reading for this topic in the course. I wrote a blog post about it back in 2008 when I was experimenting running multiple blogs (a bit of a daft idea), and received a response from Jean-Claude Bradley the concept originator. Open Notebook Science certainly fulfils the ideal of openly sharing as early as is practically possible.

Since 2004 the Creative Commons has been looking to expand Creative Commons Licensing to the area of science. It had a section know as Science Commons between 2005-2010, but is now called Science at Creative Commons. By licensing in this way, science has a greater chance of being practiced more openly. There are interesting links to organisations that have adopted a Creative Commons Licence to enable Open Science activities to happen.

1 I’ve already encountered Tim Gowers more recently with regard to Open Access, and I’ll be writing about that in more detail later.

In the writing of this post, I’ve also seen writings by Michael Nielson that are relevant to the Open Access section of the course, and I hope to bring those into my later posts.

Open Access ioe12

From the course readings for this topic, Peter Suber’s initial article begins by drawing on a number of sources for a definition of Open Access. These include:

  • The Budapest Open Access Initiative
    • There are many degrees and kinds of wider and easier access to this literature. By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.
  • The Public Library of Science
    • free availability and unrestricted use
  • and others

Peter is a very influential character in the Open Access movement and has written extensively about the subject. There are numerous links to several of his other writings from within the text.

Peter highlights the importance of three declarations to the Open Access movements:

I think that the primary point that Peter is making in his article is that Open Access is comparable to conventional scholarly publishing, with regard to the rigour of the peer-review process, academic career advancement, etc. it’s just that with Open Access there is no financial barrier to readers accessing the content; and that copyright holders have given their consent with prior licensing arrangement (be that via Creative Commons, or similar). It must be remembered that free doesn’t mean free to produce, but free to the reader. However, production costs are much less that conventional publishing. Open Access isn’t an attempt to put existing publishers out of business, but instead it’s intent on making content freely available to readers.

Because the publishing of academic articles are royalty-free for the author (they receive no payment from the work but develop greater prestige and career advancement), then to some extent this is the initial place where Open Access can make a significant difference. This is increasingly the case as we begin to see other pressures becoming important, particularly the requirements by funding bodies that research findings are made open and freely available.

Peter goes on to highlight the distinction in Open Access publishing of research articles. The best know distinction is Gold (Open Access Journals) and Green (Open Access Repositories), with the former always conducting peer-reviews and the latter not but may be hosting articles peer-reviewed elsewhere.

Funders and universities are upstream from publishers and can adopt policies to ensure green OA and the permissions to make it lawful. Because most publishers already permit green OA, and because green OA is a bona fide form of OA, authors who fail to take advantage of the opportunity are actually a greater obstacle to OA than publishers who fail to offer the opportunity. Funders and universities are in a position to close the gap and ensure green OA for 100% of published work by their grantees and faculty. Because authors cannot close this gap on their own, funders and universities who fail to close the gap have no one else to blame if fast-rising journal prices enlarge the fast-growing fraction of new research inaccessible to those who need it. All publishers could help the process along and some are actually doing so. But there’s no need to depend on publishers when we could depend on ourselves.

Open Access Overview by Peter Suber, http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/overview.htm (Accessed 8 Feb 2012)

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, SPARC provides much useful advice and resources on the Open Access section of their website. The material here could prove very useful in my own efforts to move the institution I work for to implementing an Open Access policy.

The next reading on the list is the UNESCO Global Open Access Portal (a knowledge portal) which is at a much more strategic level, providing an overview of the current global state of play with Open Access. Its content is aimed more at policy-makers. The Portal allows individual countries to see what level they are actively engaged at with regards Open Access. From a UK perspective, the situations is quite encouraging. Perhaps the initial main area for further work to be done in the UK is to increase awareness amongst academic researchers about Open Access and their role.

Heather Morrison Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in her blogpost ‘Happy 2012 Open Access Movement! December 31, 2011 Dramatic Growth of Open Access’ provides a summary of the growth of Open Access over 2011.

It’s possible to find out more about the progress of, and about, the Open Access movement and to get involved via the annual Open Access Week, ‘a global event now entering its fourth year, is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.

(http://www.openaccessweek.org/profiles/blogs/welcome-to-open-access-week, Accessed 8 Feb 2012)

Perhaps the final element in the jigsaw puzzle is finding and accessing the Open Access journal content you require for your individual academic, scholarly, research or learning activities. That’s where directories come in, allowing browsing and searches to be carried out. These include:

And OpenDOAR, an authoritative directory of academic open access repositories.

Open Assessment ioe12

The area of assessment, recognition and reward for skills development and learning beyond formal education has been a difficult one. However, the Digital Learning and Media Competition 4, sponsored by the MacAuthur Foundation (Press Release) in association with HASTAC and Mozilla (who are developing the infrastructure) are creating the concept of Badges (for Lifelong Learning) to demonstrate competency levels, to reflect abilities and skills developed in informal (and formal) learning and training and act as a validated indicator. These badges representing achievements can then be displayed on social media websites, profiles, reputation, and other places with an association to a person’s professional development.

On the launch video we hear from the primary partnership sponsors. Additionally, there are presentations from NASA, and US Department of Education represntatives.

I must admit that as I was watching the video there was a feeling of it being a US national initiative rather than something global and international. However, this particular point was raised and it was stipulated that competition and Open Badge infrastructure was an international affair; indeed there was activity taking place in Japan as well.

Mozilla is developing the ‘Open Badge’ infrastructure, which defines a set of standards and the technical building blocks to enable others to create and use badges for their websites. The hope is that such a system will help learners, educators, and employers all reach their goals.

Now this raises an interesting point for me about the relationship between employers and traditional education institutions. Previously, I was all for the idea of students creating ePortfolios to demonstrate their abilities to employers. I even did some investigatory work about which environment would be most convenient for students and prospective employers. However, I attended a presentation where an employer said that they had little interest in (time to) look at such material. They were reliant on the institutions being the gatekeepers of the accreditation and validation. However, there are some areas where professional standards are seen as a much better indicator of ability; CISCO and Microsoft qualifications are primary examples. With the concept of separating validation and accreditation of skills from the course (and potentially the institutions) which are easy for employers to access and understand, this could well be a significant (some might say paradigm) shift in educational provision.

Mozilla is also interested in developing people’s skills in web development. As a comment, this is a great initiative on the part of Mozilla who want to maintain the ethos of the Web being ‘open’. If people train to develop skills in Web development in an open way, assisted by Mozilla with the School of Webcraft, then they as the next generation of developers are much more likely to want to uphold and defend that ethos. Thus developing a self perpetuating, self sustaining community.

So now we are seeing the potential for Open Online courses to provide the recognition of achievement some participants might require. Some examples of such take up by Open Online course providers are the Peer-2-Peer University (P2PU), which Mozilla is working in conjunction with to deliver the School of Webcraft, and this very course Openness in Education.

There is the potential that other MOOCs might use the Open Badge infrastructure approach in the same way.