Saturday, December 29, 2012

Open learning and the web 2.0


Many people refer to the web as a location to look for information and not an effective educational tool. Even though the internet becomes an essential tool for educators and students it is not considered as an authentic tool for learning. It is criticized by many as holding many non-reliable sources of information for learning. Others emphasize the need to be very cautious when using the internet because it can be dangerous for kids and adults alike. In fact it is true that the internet is used for many bad purposes. It is even used to violate the civil rights of citizens. Besides its bad side the internet has spaces that are educational. One has to know the tools that one can use for formal and informal learning. 

Surrocki describes the internet as being chaotic:
- No principles or rules describing quality: individual preferences only
-No rubric or metric
- No "peers or committee of experts"
- It is chaos!

In spite of its chaotic structure the web is embedded of tools that can facilitate formal and informal learning. As the internet is made of different networks open learning uses some of its networks for learning. One uses a set of networked tools called "personal learning networks" to facilitate learning. Personal learning networks considered as personal environments (PLE) include blogs, wikis, social bookmarks sites like Delicious and Diigo and social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc. It is the web 2.0     

The web 2.0

Initially the web was read only, called web 1.0 and began in 1994. It consisted in publishing content only. It was about the visitor’s web only contrasting with the author’s web that requires a lot of technical expertise. In other words it means at that time the web wasn't equipped of technical tools that allow the visitor to publish content. Later it evolves to become the read/write web called web 2.0. This began in 2004 and allowed the web visitor to publish content because of the authoring tools implemented in the web. The web visitor is also able to publish content interactively thanks to the social network technologies tools. The term web 2.0 was challenged by an early web pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee who argues that most of the social tools attributed to the internet existed since the beginning of the internet. In fact the first decade of the second millennium witnessed an accelerated development of the web 2.0.

As early as 2003 a Pew Internet & American Life Project found that more than 53 million American adults or 44 percent of adult internet users had used the internet to publish their thoughts, respond to others, post pictures, share available content online and otherwise contribute to the explosion of content available online (Lenhart, Follows, & Horrigan, 2004). In 2005 another Pew study showed that 57% of all teens  using the internet are potential content creators.

In early 2008 Technorati,com, a blog tracking service listed 110 million blogs. This site was considered the first easy publishing tool used massively by people to publish journals of their lives , build collaborative resource web sites and publish daily news without the knowledge of code and file transfer.

In early 2008 over 100,000 videos were uploaded to YouTube each day. A vast amount of photos, audio files and other content is being uploaded daily to the web becoming a vast repository of information. The Read/Write web has created millions of amateur reporters and editors reporting news on the web.

The web 2.0 doesn't refer only to the reading and writing of the web but also to its listening, speaking and doing part. With a variety of tools at their disposal people are using the web in different ways.

Learning 2.0

 From the web 2.0 derives learning 2.0 which is a set of pedagogical approaches based on participative, democratic and collaborative methods. Learning 2.0 uses web 2.0 tools such as blogs and wikis and other hosted services to enable users to generate and broadcast content, share resources and connect into communities of interest. Teachers are using worldwide the potentialities of this architecture of participation for the promotion of deeper and more engaging learning within social and collaborative environments.

Open Content

Open Content can be defined as content produced by using the web tools to facilitate learning. Open Content promotes the student-centered learning approaches in different ways. Learners generate their own content and become managers of their own learning. Teachers become facilitators. Open Content pedagogical approaches are based on the student-centered learning philosophies of Dewey (1916) or Rogers and Friberg (1994). The central theory of these philosophies is that students can take ownership of their learning. Different open content software tools allow learners to create their own content, manage, reflect and share their learning. Podcasting and audio broadcasting tools allow small self-organized communities to unite themselves. Blogs allow learners to create their content and share it with others. Photo sharing sites allow learners to be more creative in their photo making and presentational skills. Wikis allow collaborative work on content.

Learning 2.0. Self-organized learning

In self-organized learning students take responsibility of their learning. Teachers provide the environment and resources to learn and assess learning. Teachers play the role of mentor for learners. They are not responsible for providing content to the students. Another characteristic of Learning 2.0 is connectionism which is a new learning theory for the digital age. This learning theory is based on the ability of forming connections between sources of information. According to Siemens (2005) the connectionist approach allows new forms of knowledge to be created. He continued by stating that many traditional learning approaches can be supported by new technologies.

Technology can play the role of mind tool to enhance the capabilities of the mind.
Learning 2.0 promotes the use of informal kinds of learning. Activities of informal kind of learning involve casual internet surfing, visual media viewing, etc. Informal learning leads to the adoption of digital learning environments commonly referred as personal learning environments (PLE).

PLEs can take any form imaginable using the digital technologies and tools. Personal learning environments or spaces are essential for the application of student-centered learning approaches. Personal learning environments commonly refer to a number of online social networking tools, blogs and communication tools. Social bookmarking and tagging is important for those who want to save information and discover similar one. Personalizable and multi-functional social networking tools such as Facebook, Ning, Twitter are used by people according o their needs.

Social Connections for learning

 From the early days of the Socratic discourse to the contemporary time online social network learning happens as a result of discussion, collaboration, etc. People share their thoughts and reflections based on resources and artifacts created by others. Dialog takes place through audio, text and object based conversation. The social connections enable the learner to tap into a vast amount of knowledge, skill and opinion that go beyond what a single individual can produce. The benefits surpass those offered by the most highly resources institution. The integration of web 2.0 tools into a PLE facilitates connections that are immediate, rich in dialog and archived for later retrieval. Tools such as blogs, micro-blogs, image sharing tools and podcasting facilities integrated in the space that allows reflective and collaborative learning enable learners to generate their own content and share it with others. These artifacts allow reflection, dialog and collaboration to take place. Students in one study reported that exchanging artifacts strengthened social ties and facilitated more effective, collaborative learning later in the course (Minocha and Roberts, 2008).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Business Model Cycle

For profit organizations invest money in the beginning of their venture to allow them to sell their products or services. Non-profits don't draw revenues from offering their services. They depend on fundraising to operate. Both types of organizations need to know the costs necessary for the operation of their venture. In this case it is necessary to define the functions necessary to deliver the services. These functions define the core unit of the organization and allow to set the costs involved in providing the services. It is necessary to define each unit of services if the organization provides different types of services. Once one or several units are defined it is necessary to calculate the costs and revenues associated with the operation of this unit or these units. For non-profits there are no calculations of revenues involved. That is the case for Open Popular University that doesn't draw any revenues from offering its services. In this post I will focus on costs only.

Definition of the unit

I have defined two units in Open Popular University: providing access to open courses from the site and teaching courses. I hold off teaching courses and concentrate on designing the model for providing access to open courses from the site and improving this model. I have spent some time thinking and reading about the functions related to this unit. There are certainly different types of models of functions applicable to each type of organization. But an organization needs to focus on a model based on the nature of services provided. Based  on this concept I have created a set of administrative functions based on open courseware.

Calculation of the costs and fund raising

Based on the functions of the unit I have set a budget for the operation of the unit. The costs are certainly related to the personnel salaries, physical location and materials necessary to operate this unit. A certain amount of money is needed to finance these costs. This is where it is getting tough. You have to identify the different sources of funding and this takes a lot of time and research. Receiving the amount of funds necessary for operating is another tough thing. I advise anyone reading this post to go to the site of Open Popular University and click on the donations link on the right side bar. Your contributions and advice will be appreciated. In spite of the great amount of effort I made in order to find the support for this endevour but no one and no organization haven't provided their support. I am the only one fulfilling the administrative, research and technological functions of Open Popular University.


The costs of operations are known but funds are needed to cover them. The fundraising depends on the good will of people and organizations willing to support a noble cause. I appeal to these people and organizations to provide their support. My focus now is finding a fundraiser who can raise funds. I will appreciate a good referral. I  am certainly interested in other type of support such as volunteering, partnership, etc necessary for the operation of Open Popular University.


Friday, November 23, 2012

The Impact cycle

The purpose of a social entreprise represents its impact. Hopefully one would expect to make a positive impact. But some unexpected positive or negative impact might happen. It is important to take into account these considerations about the impact of one's social endevour:

1. Define the expected impact.
2. State a measure of the desired impact.
3. Find ways to get information about the unexpected positive or negative results.
4. Record the results obtained.

In creating Open Popular University the primary impact I expected to create is for people to realize that   the accumulation of knowledge beyond the minimum is not a privilege reserved to a few. People have to realize how educational institutions can deceive people in attaining their educational goals. I have been myself deceived by some predators located behind some american so-called educational institutions. My realization is that the attainment of some degree of knowledge is not the prerogative of educational institutions, people with degrees or people with some exceptional cognitive abilities. Knowledge is not necessarily acquired from educators and educational institutions. Knowledge primarily resides in books and books are acquired by educational institutions. Now knowledge resides in the world wide web. Learning in formalized educational institutions is  managed by private and government administrators who decide what to teach and who can teach. However learning doesn't take place exclusively in this manner. Knowledge is acquired by oneself from books, the web, radio, television and from family members, friends, the community, etc. Knowledge comes also from one's personal inquiry, intuition, reflection, etc. Whether one wants it or not knowledge starts from birth and stops at death at least in that lifetime. Learning is a lifelong process.

Specifically for Open Popular University the desired impact is that students. professionals, self-learners worldwide access the site to satisfy their educational needs. I expect that many people come to the site, spend a reasonable amount and come back. More specifically the impact for students is that they can use the site to understand concepts they misunderstood in class and to deepen their knowledge. Professionals can use the site to review a subject that they learned in college, undertake new studies or study a subject related to a project, etc. Educators can enrich their curriculum  from the content of different subjects. More importantly the most important aspect of the impact is that people after spending a lot of time exploring the resources in the site are urged to cultivate self-learning and lifelong learning. I will measure this impact by surveying people who accessed the site.. This can be done by setting a form in the site asking people specific questions. It can also be done by e-mail and on other social media pages for Open Popular University. As in any human endevour there are unexpected positive or negative results. Unexpected positive results might be defined by people having obtained spectacular results from using the site. Unexpected negative results are that the site has made no impact on people. Unexpected positive results  can be assessed by asking questions like: " What huge benefits have you gotten by using the site?". Unexpected negative results can be assessed by asking questions like this: " What are the negative effects of using the site? In summary the impact can be defined by the number of people  accessing the site and the benefits obtained from its use.

In a follow-up to assess the impact I can report on the access of the site. Specifically I can say
1. I have had positive feedback from people using the site. Although there isn't a huge amount of people accessing the site but the number of users is growing.
2. As unexpected positive result I have seen the access increasing suddenly
3. I haven't seen any unexpected negative result.
The statistics suggest that people benefits from using the site because of a fair amount of returning users. The nature of the benefits cannot be assessed at this time but a protocol will be set for this. Cycling on the use of the site I will increase its marketing to make the access growing although the number of users suddenly keeps growing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Technological challenges for Educators

A few months ago I took an online teaching course and I had the opportunity to learn about the use of technology by "digital natives" (students born in the information technology age) in comparison to their teachers. I didn't like how adult educators were put down because their lack of using technology. In the discussion forum of this course I expressed my feelings about those allegations. Technology is only a tool. The old educators educated the creators of technology even though they didn't know about technology. Do the "digital natives" not owe some recognition to their educators? I haven't read anything about students blaming their teachers because they are more proficient than them in their use of technology.The irony is that educators were blaming themselves for that. I read a book by Will Richardson about the use of the web in Education and later I read his wiki. "Students are leading teachers by participating, collaborating and creating more", he noted in his wiki site. He related some statistics about the use of social software by students. “ 71% of students with online access use social networking tools on a weekly basis”. “75% of college students have a Facebook site”. Indeed students use Information and Computer Technology more than their educators but are they using it for educational purposes?

 A survey of 25,000 students at the university of Wisconsin in 2008 concerning the use of technology by students showed the following results:
Only 3% don’t own a computer.
59% own an internet capable cell phone.
18% of freshmen spent more than 16 hrs per week on social networking.
Fine Arts use the least amount of technology. Engineering uses the most.
Students believe that instructors do not understand their IT skills level.
47% of students believe IT improves learning in courses. 37% were neutral.
 Only 26% believed that online recording of lectures tempt them to skip class more often.
56.7% use social networking to set up conversations.

The Do It Student Technology report showed the differences between the student and faculty uses of tech. Here are some results:
88% of students but only 59% use Wikipedia.
78% of students but only 39% of faculty use portable media devices.
85% of students but only 45% of faculty use YouTube.
75% of students but only 35% of faculty uses SMS.
41% of faculty use Google apps.
32% of students use a gaming console.

 The good side about the University of Wisconsin report is that a little less than half of the students surveyed believe that IT improves learning in courses (47%). This survey doesn't show the educational use of the Information and Computer Technology by students more than their teachers. “ We are entering a time of deeply personalized, passion based learning . Youth using new media often learn from their peers or adults, and notions of expertise and authority have been turned on their heads” (John Steely Brown). He continued further to state that this fact makes our curricula less and less relevant to our students. The learning expectation is to create and not to consume and creation is not coming yet.

The above citation from John Steely Brown showed that students use technology for educational purposes but don't state if they use technology more than their teachers for educational purposes.Technology remains a tool that helps to reach educational goals. Some cognitive skills and a willingness to use it for educational purposes are the prerequisites to reap its benefits in Education. The educational benefits of technology are multiple. Learners can create their own content. They can use technology to learn collaboratively and teachers can become more facilitators than instructors.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Market Cycle

 I have been thinking about the abilities exercised during this course. Doing some research in open learning, I found the concept of the four quadrants circle of a PLN (Personal Learning Network). The concept is drawn in a circle of four quadrants. The first quadrant is called the STAFF ROOM. This is basically learning from people in your social network. Twitter is referred as the best element for this part. The second quadrant is called FILING CABINET. This is the process of saving things you learned from and it is done using bookmarking sites such as Diigo and D.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. The third one is called NEWSPAPER. This is the process of having knowledge came to you using aggregate sites like READER. The fourth quadrant is called PORTFOLIO which is publishing one's content . This is done using a common media called BLOG. Blogs usually allow to reflect and produce one's own content. We have been using the blog to produce assignments content in this course. This allows me to clarify ideas that would otherwise not benefit of this kind of clarification. The practical aspects of the assignments allow to do so.

In this assignment it is required to identify the the people who benefit from the services offered, your means of communicating to them and your message. I used a Google spreadsheet to identify the characteristics of the different categories of potential people likely to use the site of Open Popular University. and my means of communicating to them. Even though I have identified these categories before this assignment allows me to identify several locations where these categories are located. The categories who benefit from Open Popular University are : High School students, University students, Professionals, Self-learners and Educators.

High School students

Demographics: they are adolescent students.

Means of communication: Social media and other means of communication.

Message: Open Popular University gives access to different courses such as Math and Science that can help you better understand the concepts taught in school. These courses are advanced courses that can help you to prepare for college.

Direct messages to parents: Open Popular University holds advanced courses specially in Math and Science that can help your children prepare for college. I invite you to have your children visit the site of Open Popular University

University students

Demographics: They are young adults and mid-life adults.

Means of communication: Social media networks and other means of communication.

Message: Open Popular University is offering courses in different academic disciplines. These can help you understand better the concepts taught in class. They can also increase your knowledge of the subject matter.


Demographics: They are adults and mid-life adults.

Means of communication: Several means of communication

Message: Open Popular University is a place that encourage lifelong learning. I encourage you to visit it to see if there is something that might be useful to you.


Demographics: They are adults and mid life and old adults.

Means of communications: Different means of communication.

Message: Open Popular University is a place for self-learners. Check it out to see if there is something that can interest you.


Demographics: They are adults and mid-life adults.

Means of communication: Several means of communication

Message: Open Popular University is a place for educators. Visit its site to see how it can help you in developing your curriculum

Cycle: This exercise allows me to set up a clear marketing plan and means of communication. In communicating about Open Popular University I will have to target specific groups and deliver the appropriate messages to them using specific channels of communication.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Product Cycle

This assignment requires that I go back to my motivation of creating Open Popular University. I was motivated by the fact that the access of knowledge was too restricted to people. At the university level it is not guaranteed that someone who matriculates there would be able to come to the end of the studies fulfilling  all the requirements set for a particular program of study. The bureaucracy politics and the desire for financial profits prevent the universities from truly educating. The antiquated process of admitting, teaching, assessing students eliminate the access of many students to learning in addition to financial and time constraints. In fact what's the purpose of an educational institution? It is to help people to learn something. Education and learning are important to the survival of the society. So education should be open so that everybody should be able to survive. Knowledge shouldn't be mystified meaning that it is so difficult to learn that someone who is able to learn a certain type or amount of knowledge is considered exceptional. In fact knowledge learning isn't difficult if one knows how to learn. The formalization of knowledge by educational institutions has made knowledge closed to a vast majority of people. The development of the web makes access to learning easier thanks to many repositories of knowledge found in the web.Based on this development I created Open Popular University  to make access to knowledge free and easy for people who want to learn.

At this moment Open Popular University has open courses and video lectures from different universities around the world. It offers resources from different open courseware sites located in different parts of the the world. It would soon offer its own designed courses.

Imagine what your ideal service or product will look like ten years from now. How will it work? What will it include?

Fulfilling my desire of making knowledge accessible to everybody Open Popular University would be in the future a repository of educational resources meaning a database of lecture hall videos, educational forums, other types of learning artifacts and written open content.   

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Risks Test

Life itself is not  guaranteed. Man has faced since his existence many dangers that threaten his survival. One can wonder if something serious goes wrong in this universe man can disappear without never knowing what causes his disappearance because he wouldn't be able to experience the catastrophic event and no one would survive the aftermath of the event in order to try to give an account of what happened. Man has survived terrible natural catastrophic events: earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc. These had never threatened the whole human life and the universe that harbors it. These events appear like the result of simple physical phenomena and appear perhaps to be necessary for the universe equilibrium. It appears that nature obeys to some laws and can't break them. What will happen if the earth ceases to rotate during an infinitesimal period of time or rotates too slowly or to quickly?

 Animate life seems to be weaker to survive in this universe and more prone to break the natural laws. The breaking of these laws seems to be an inherent tendency of humans not the animals and plants. Man faces several risks and the probabilities of overcoming or being victims of the risks vary. Evaluating these probabilities is not easy. One can pretend to understand the risks and hold means of overcoming them and fail due to perhaps some other risks that were not known. One can ignore the risks and succeed. A careful preparation to confront the risk doesn't seem to be the guarantee of success.

Human behavior is important in risks situations. In human endeavors confrontation diminishes the power of overcoming the risk because there will always be a stronger entity that would be  the winner of the jungle battle. But would we survive better if we can cooperate in solving our common problems instead of fighting against each other?. In this way the ability of solving problems will increase tremendously and there will be fewer problems on earth because of the collective and cooperative effort. It is a risky initiative to take the resolution to work for oneself and not for somebody else. It is easy to work for someone else because one takes less responsibility in the overall direction of the enterprise, However working for oneself implies a lot of effort. The benefit of self-independence is acquired to the price of great sacrifices. One faces the "pain" of making an enterprise successful. One can have all the good solutions to all the "pain-problems" and all the determination for success but the structure of the human society in which we live together constitutes the barriers to the solution of these problems. I will attempt to answer the questions of the "Pain Risk Test" because pondering over these risks can be painful.

Is somebody else already working on this problem?

There are many institutions trying to solve the problem by putting free courses online accessed asynchronously. Others also offer free courses online synchronously and asynchronously.

If others have failed in solving this problem, why did they fail?  

It seems to me that most of the institutions working in this problem haven't failed. In the case of Open Popular University  I have made some unsuccessful efforts to bring financial and human resources to solve the problem. The platform is operating thanks to my own resources but I am  hopeful that there will be people and institutions that will come in order to help this endevour to be successful.

Is there anyone who doesn't want this problem solved and can they stand in my way? 

I am not sure who these people are. But they can be those who take advantage of uneducated people. People who are selfish and don't want to help others. People who don't want to help another organization for selfish reasons, etc. According to my research there are many personalities and institutions having the resources to help other organizations solving this problem. They seem to be enthusiastic in having the problem solved. However helping a startup go off the ground is not easy.

Are there laws or regulations that can stand in my way?

I am not sure if there are laws that can prevent people from educating themselves freely. I would think if society can help people to educate themselves easier this would be to its benefit.

What happens if I try to solve the problem and fail?

I am not solving my problem. That would be the failure of society. However I am not thinking about failure.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Solution Test

The previous topic was about the problem. Now a solution has to be provided to this problem. The statement of the problem is that many students, professionals and self-learners throughout the world who want to learn by themselves using the internet don't have or want to have access to high quality educational resources structured in a way that enable them to learn effectively by themselves and that allow them to be successful in their studies, their profession and their personal enrichment. The following paragraphs state the questions and the answers to the topic "The Solution test".

What does your solution do?

The solution is to provide these people access to open and other educational resources that can help them to reach their goals. The solution includes also providing the learner the possibility to work with other learners. The goal is to lead the self-learner to the world of Open Learning.

How does the solution work?

The web site of Open Popular University has links to pages about the learning of many disciplines such as Engineering, Science, Math. Computer Science, Human Sciences, Education, etc. The links are labeled "School of Engineering", "School of Math", etc. The site has also links to video courses only and links to courses in French and to various resources. The learner clicks the link related to the discipline he wants to learn and this link opens the page of the educational resources. If the learner speaks French he can have access to courses in French by clicking "OpenCourseWare Francais". If he speaks another language he can click "Resources" to have access to many OpenCourseWares in different languages throughout the world. If the learner wants to watch video courses he clicks the link "Video courses". Some courses have links to Open Study groups. The main idea about the solution is to get the learner access to the curriculum of a particular discipline and learn the courses by himself. If he chooses to learn one course of that discipline he can do so.

Why would someone want it?

These courses are from well renowned universities throughout the world and they are free. The learner has also the possibility to learn the same courses from different universities throughout the world. He has a variety of resources at his disposal.   

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Considerations in Open Learning

My plan for an Open PhD is focusing on acquiring some tools to develop Open Popular University , taking some open courses to fulfill some personal learning objectives and publish some work in the form of books, papers, blog posts on Open learning. This blog post is a part of my publication on Open learning.

Open means wide access and this access can be free or not. For example some universities offer online courses that can be accessed anytime, anywhere by the student. However unless it’s an opencourseware it is not free. Using opencourseware some universities put some of their courses to access for free. Other organizations offer some college courses for free. In the second case the access is wider because more people can have access to these courses. A kind of online open course that is commonly run these days is called MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). It is a kind of open online course that draws thousands of people to the portal where it takes place.

Traditional learning is not open. There are multiple barriers in this type of learning. First the access is restricted in various ways. The doors of physical schools are open at a certain time to let learners and teachers to come in. Learners are accepted to come in these schools based on criteria of admissions. Even though these learners have access to these buildings they can’t show up before or after school hours.

Physical libraries and study groups offer some restricted open learning . Access to libraries is limited. Libraries open at certain hours and learning is almost personal there. Many people come to do their stuff individually. There is no interaction. Social learning doesn't take place there. A home personal library offers a wider access to open learning. One can open and read a book any time. Physical study groups are not popular and they seem to be closed.

Technology offers a wider access to open learning. One can open a radio or TV at any time for access to educational content with minimal barriers to access. Computers and various computing devices allows people to learn openly anytime and anywhere. The access to these devices is contingent upon the good functioning of the hardware and software used. To access to a wide content the use of the internet is necessary. Software can malfunction and electronics materials inside the devices can break down. The life of these devices is also limited. In this sense books appear to be safer. They last a long time and can survive the wearing down of time.

"Open learning is an approach to education that seeks to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning while aiming to provide students with a reasonable chance of success in an education and training system centered on their specific needs and located in multiple arenas of learning" (Neil Butcher). Taking into account multiple ways of learning open learning can be organized into systems that facilitate it. Open learning seeks to eliminate or lower barriers to the use, extraction or reuse of knowledge. It is purposeful. Learners identify the reasons why they have to learn a particular subject. Open learning environments are used according to the user’s particular needs. The varieties of web tools available make open learning more customizable.

Open learning systems make resources available to learners that would be inaccessible to traditional learning environments. A less open learning system started with some online universities providing courses to thousands of students worldwide. Today with the development of information technology learning becomes more open and is facilitated by various tech tools. The web went through a rich story that makes open learning possible.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Pain Test

Thinking about entrepreneurship I came to realize how the illiterate entrepreneurs applied some basics with some good sense and informal knowledge. I was thinking about the poor peasants coming from the countryside of Haiti in the capital Port-au-Prince. Many of them satisfy their living needs by becoming entrepreneurs. I was particularly attracted by the street vendor who does marketing very well. A peanuts street vendor would go around in different streets yelling "roasted peanuts, roasted peanuts, .." to market the peanuts sold in a little glass cup. During the 70's a cup of peanuts costed one penny. Everyday the street vendor makes enough money to live and raised her children. At another level there are many entrepreneurs in different countries of the world and from various socio-economic backgrounds who are successful without knowing anything in the formal knowledge of entrepreneurship. What I would like to stress here is that some research needs to be done in the informal sector whether in entrepreneurship or other human activity in order to enrich knowledge and not consider or build it only on the formalized side. Very often those who know a lot are teachers, professors and researchers but who never apply their knowledge in real life while others who don't have this formal knowledge become successful in their human endeavor. I would like to stress also the fact that people become succesful in life because some other factors independent of the knowledge they possess are favorable to them. The world educational system is in great part responsible of the social and economic crisis by teaching dogmatic knowledge meaning that if you learn this and do it you are going to be successful while in practice it is a different story where you have to acquire other skills and other types of knowledge. People some times get discouraged by the complex formalized way of how things are done. You have to write a proposal in order to get funding for your business. You have to know how to write it or pay someone to do it for you if you don't know how to do it. You also have to know the guidelines of the funder, In business you have to do market research and write a business plan. I am not saying that these things are not important but they have to be done in simple ways. People approached should be willing to help. Funders shouldn't see their own interests but should be willing also to help and suport a good idea. It is important for them to help because without startup ideas they couldn't get returns for their money. That's the same thing for organizations that fund non-profit organizations. I think it is interesting to do these remarks before doing the assignment which consists in responding some questions about the problem that one needs to solve and doing a mini survey which is in fact a market research. I will attempt to respond to the questions in this post and do the survey in another post.

Statement of the Problem and Identification of assumptions

The problem is that many students, professionals and self learners throughout the world who want to learn by themselves using the internet can't have access for different reasons to high quality educational resources structured in a way to enable them to learn effectively by themselves and  that allow them to be successful in their studies, their profession and their personal enrichment.

1. What causes the problem?

The primary and secondary school doesn't encourage self-learning. The educational system at these levels doesn't make available courses taught and other educational resources for students to access in order to solve their educational deficiencies and enrich their knowledge. In developing countries students at these levels lack high quality teaching materials. At the professional and university level professionals and students don't have the financial means to attend to expensive university courses. In other countries it is even more difficult.

2. What are the people with the problem currently doing or willing to do to solve the problem?

Many people are researching ways to effectively learn by themselves but the need remains to have platforms bearing structured ways of learning by oneself.

3. What are all the current solutions to the problem?

They are many platforms that offer free open courses and educational resources to solve the problem.

4. Why aren't the solutions good enough?

Many sites put video courses for anyone to access. They don't put full courses online. Some platforms offer full free courses but they aren't fully open because people have to subscribe to these courses in order to attend to them. These materials are not structured in a way that allows people to learn effectively by themselves without the help of a teacher or professor.

5. How long has it been a problem?

This has been a problem for a long time.

6. How easily could something happen to make the problem go away?

A platform has to be designed in a way that allow learners to learn anything effectively by themselves asynchronously.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The idea

I am very active on this course even though my posting comes behind others who started before me. I started posting two weeks ago even though before that I have been browsing around the site, reading its content  and making myself familiar with the environment. I participated in the forums and tried to make some connexions. I sent private messages who haven't been answered. This is what I think is the most difficult thing in social networking. People are not really connecting or don't prove they are. I am active in different social media but people don't react to my posting or respond to my appeal. Success in entrepreneurship and in one's profession or any endevour depends on the reality of being connected to people who are willing to help and share ideas. One might have all the knowledge in the world, all the ideas to solve the problems but if someone who has all these things doesn't have the support of people nothing won't materialize. Human relationships are very important to solve the problems of our society. There is a lot methods that show how to approach people, make connections, maintain and cultivate relationships. But if people don't feel the necessity of helping each other, marriages or intimate relationships, children's education and education in general, employment, housing, entrepreneurship and all the social structures that help men survive will continue to fail. The educational system in its formal and informal aspect has to stress the importance of the connectedness between people to solve problems. Social learning is being used in face-to-face and online education. But do the students in real life are able to apply these skills to find a job, to start a venture and many other social undertakings?. Various social sites either for social connections or education have been booming but how many people benefit significantly from this explosion?. Some people have been successful in finding people to connect with for their social endevours. But the relationships are often difficult and fail. The majority struggles to find the right connections to make their social endevours successful whether it's having an intimate partner or spouse, making friends, having a job or start an enterprise, etc. With the explosion of private initiatives to solve educational problems educators have to play their role in society because they are the makers of social people. Good education in all its aspects not in its academic aspect can solve many problems in our society. The world education system  has for too long mistakenly sressed the importance of the academic knowledge while neglecting the human and social behavior. Math, Science, Languages, Art, Technology are the main subjects taught in schools and the belief has been persistent that if one masters these subjects success will come. If this was true, there wouldn't be all these world social crises with high unemployment rate. economic crisis, criminality, social conflicts and the break up of the social structures. Hoping that this introduction will reach some ears and people will be conscious and take action, I am presenting my ideas. These ideas are already started up but they need resources to be successful.

Idea # 1: Bring open courses and other educational resources in different disciplines such as Engineering, Math, Sciences, Human Sciences, etc to people around the world so they can educate themselves. Site: Open Popular University These open courses originate from open courses taught from renowned universities around the world. These courses are in English and French and can be provided in other languages.

A large segment of the world population can't afford a good education. Many students in face-to-face and online schools struggle in understanding the concepts they are taught and need supplemental help. Many self learners want to find educational resources and tools that can help them learn better. Many professionals want to be better in their profession by continuing to learn. Educators are not concentrating on educational resources at hand but are looking for good educational resources to supplement their curriculum. The educational resources in Open Popular University can help these segments of the human population.

Above all Open Popular University want to help people educate by themselves. This aspect has been long neglected in traditional education. As learning is a human skill the traditional educational system has been focusing on teaching people instead of helping them develop their learning skills. Learning starts with birth and ends with death. Many people learn by themselves whether they want it or not during their life. Babies already learn to cry when they are in their mother's womb so that when they are born they use this skill in order to satisfy their natural needs. Early in life some skills are just facilitated by parents or learned by oneself in the environment. Parents don't teach children how to brush their teeth, take a shower and take care of themselves. Children learn these activities just by watching and parents just coach them. Many other skills and things are just learned in the environment from birth to death without the help of anybody else. When children come to school they already know something they learned naturally. The role of the teachers would be to help them to develop these skills. The idea of Open Popular University is to strenghten the idea of self learnig and social or networked learning.

Open Popular University solves the problem of self learning, networked learning and learning to improve oneself by bringing all the educational resources at its disposal whether it is in the form or open courses or something else to help people to take charge of their own whole education. Educators, professionals, students, self-learners and people interested in Education can use freely the educational resources of Open Popular University.

Many other institutions are already helping to solve the problem stated above. Many people and many institutions can bring varieties in solving a problem. Since my childhood I have learned to learn by myself and in group of students. I have learned in an educational system where you take notes and the teacher lecturing. The time spent in class has been mostly devoted to taking notes and listening to the teachers. The bulk of my learning has been done at home where I have to master the concepts by my self. I have also studied in social groups of students. I haven't spent my time focusing on the teacher for my learning. This has been during all my life. While I have been brilliant in primary and secondary school and being satisfied, the university system (where I have been also brilliant by overcoming its shortcomings) with its closeness, profit making interest and all the other negative things not in the interest of people have put breaks in my learning and professional development. I have been the sole responsible of my professional and personal development in my adult life struggling within a system that hasn't helped me. When I discovered the movement of Open Education I think this is a movement that can help people to take charge and empower themselves but there is a long way to go. I will develop the idea of tutoring services New Direction Education Services in another post.


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Ed Tech Startup Space

Before giving my opinions on these Ed startups , it is important to define startup and describe their characteristics. A google search led me to these definitions:

"A startup business is a company that is in the first stage of its operations" (

"It is a new business that provides a new service to the target market" (

These two definitions stress the fact that a startup business is a new company whether the service provided is new or not. Startups are often financed by their founders as they try to develop their product or service according to Investopedia continued by stating: "Due to limited revenue or high costs most of these small business operations are not sustainable in the long term without funding from venture capitalists".  These characteristics seem make startups different from other traditional new companies in the sense that they are often funded by their creators. Why don't investors finance these companies in their first stage of operations? The survival of a startup depends on the existence of a need and capital.

I am not really attracted by the list of startups provided in the course as my ideas are based on providing open learning services synchronously and asynchronously. Coursera seems closed to my idea  but it provides open courses only synchronously and its courses are only taught by university professors where the traditional face-to-face model is duplicated online. I am also attracted by Degreed that seems to evaluate  formal and informal learning. I subscribed to it but there was a software error after logging. I might come back to it later to see how it works and make an evaluation. Codemy apparently seems good as it offers web programming but although it is free you have to subscribe in order to see what it offers. Class Dojo seems interesting as it proposes to solve behavior problems in the classroom. But it can only serve as an aid to the teacher. The assignment of points seems similar to a discipline method used in elementary school. Overall these startups are web 2.0 tools with the exception of Coursera and Codemy which  are some kind of open learning platform.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ed Startup 101 course Introduction

Hello Everybody,

I am an educator, math certified, currently living in Boston, Massachusetts. I am presently working in the public school system and tutor privately. I have 4 blogs where I comment or write articles on Open Education, my open PhD program, Math, Science, Civil Engineering, etc.

My educational background is in Math and Science Education, Civil Engineering, K-12 education, Educational administration, Curriculum, Adult and Open Education. I am currently pursuing openly with a network of open PhD candidates a PhD program I started a few years ago.

Graduated as a Math and Science Teacher I have been teaching math and Science for a long time. Recently I created the site New Direction Education Services  to market my tutoring services in Math, French, Spanish and ESL I have marketed in different social networks and tutoring sites such as and but these marketing efforts haven't yielded many leads. I hope my participation in this course will help me make the tutoring services successful not only from the knowledge acquired through this course but also from the participant's experiences and knowledge. My other recent initiative is the Open Popular University . Its purpose is to allow educators, students, professionals and self-learners to access open courses and educational resources from the world renowned universities. My goal is to present a rich, open, networked, self-learning educational platform. In order to reach these goals I need financial, material and human resources. In a first step I need to change the look and increase the capacity of the site to accommodate more educational resources and offer some open courses. I will have to do some expenses to upgrade the site and hire a web developer. I am also looking for volunteer educators for an advising board and to teach the open courses. In a second step a physical location with hired personnel will be needed. I am participating in this course in order to find volunteers who can help and people who can point to funding resources to reach these objectives. I am looking for people who can help at any level: sharing the site, liking the facebook page, advising, contributing financially, partnering, etc.  I hope that my participation in Edstartup will help me make New Direction Education Services and Open Popular University successful from the help gained from the facilitators and participants of the course.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why do you have to use the OpenCourseWare?

Let's remind that the OpenCourseWare is made of courses, taught at the high school or at the university level, that are put on the internet for anyone to access freely. You can use the OpenCourseWare for several reasons including the following:

1. For your own interest. If you are interested in a particular subject or field you can use the OpenCourseWare to gain or update your knowledge in that field.
2. To update your skills or knowledge for work. If you are a professional you can use the OpenCourseWare to review or update your knowledge in a subject or field.
3. To understand concepts you are studying. The OpenCourseWare is used by many students to help them understand concepts they are studying. If you are studying mathematics you can find a lot of OpenCourseWare materials to help you to understand a lot of mathematical concepts.
4. To learn something for a particular subject or task. I heard about someone working on a solar energy project using the OpenCourseWare to help him realizing the project.
5. To supplement/create teaching materials. Educators use the OpenCourseWare to create courses, enrich the curriculum, etc.

These reasons are based on a study by the OpenCourseWare Consortium. According to this study the OpenCourseWare is used by Teachers, Students at the Secondary or high school level, Students at the undergraduate and graduate level, Self-learners, Working professionals, Employers, etc.

The results of the survey by OCW about respondents using OpenCourseWare are:
46%: to help understand concepts I am studying
31%: to learn something for a specific project or task
23%: supplement/create teaching materials
50%: to update my skills or knowledge for work
59%: for my own interest
7%: other.

A survey of users of OCW materials translated in traditional and simplified Chinese by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign revealed similar results.
68%: to extend my professional knowledge
62.8%: to increase knowledge of personal interests
31.4%: to answer questions related to my profession
25.9%: for academic studies

The percentages of these two surveys show that the OpenCourseWare is mostly used for personal interests, professional knowledge and academic studies.

My interest in different subjects of human and exact sciences led me to create the Open Popular University. I realize also that knowledge cannot be the prerogative of educational institutions meaning that in order to learn something you have to spend not only a fortune but a huge amount of time and physical energy. Knowledge should be to the disposal of the six billions of humans beings living on the earth and everybody should be able to access and learn that knowledge without any restrictions. The purpose of Open Popular University is to demystify knowledge and make it accessible to anybody provided that you have access to a computer and internet access.

My goal for Open Popular University is that it can become an open and free encyclopedia of courses and knowledge. A lot of resources are needed in order to realize this goal. I am launching a fundraising in order to optimize the site and to continue to add more courses. If you are a reader of this blog and believe in my philosophy of education I am asking for your support by doing the following:

1. Make a donation to and ask others to do the same by sharing the link of the fundraising.
2. Like the facebook page of Open Popular University at
3. Visit the site of Open Popular University at and share the link to others. Feel free to reach me for any questions by writing on the comments section of this blog.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Who uses Opencourseware?

In a recent time to learn a subject you can matriculate at an university in order to attend a class. Depending on the level of the course one wants to attend one can take a class at a community college or an adult education center that offers various courses. For example the Boston Adult Education Center  has offered basic and short courses in different areas for a very long time. Today it is not necessary to spend some money to attend some courses thanks to the Opencourseware and various online organizations that offer free courses. One can find a subject in an opencourseware and find support in a social network like Open study. A few months ago I launched the project Open Popular University that has courses in Engineering, Sciences, Math, Human Sciences, etc. In the section "Resources" are found courses in French. I added a social network like Open Study to support a course. For certain disciplines like Civil Engineering I put the whole curriculum like the one offered by a renowned university with the free courses. In this way someone can learn an university degree program by oneself. I am presently launching a fundraising campaign to raise some funds to optimize the site and add more courses. I am appealing to my readers to support this project by clicking the link "fundraising campaign" or clicking the widget on the sidebar of this blog.

The use of OpenCourseWare is supported by studies of which one originates from Mary Lou Forward, director of Open Courseware Consortium. OpenCourseWare (OCW) and Open Educational Resources (OER) rest on the idea that free and open sharing in education can favor the   improvement of teaching and learning around the world. The OpenCourseWare movement was initiated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Other universities noticing the power of open sharing followed the MIT example. Initially OCW was conceived as a resource for faculty to exchange ideas and course materials. Today OCW supports formal and informal learning and millions of people worldwide are using high-quality educational materials for different reasons.

The OpenCourseWare is used by faculty (Professors, Teachers) and students at the university and high school level, self-learners, employers, working professionals and different others. The study of Mary Lou Forward shows that a high percentage of users are not currently involved in formal education as faculty or students. The study uses statistics to show the different reasons people use the opencourseware. University professors and school teachers use the opencourseware to develop their courses. The opencouseware is used for professional development. Some California teachers use the opencourseware of the university of California-Irvine to help them to prepare for teaching credentials. The African Virtual University provides professional development through the use of the opencourseware. Its developed curricula for bachelor of education programs in 5 subjects to prepare teachers. The curriculum is presented in French, Portuguese and English at the African Virtual University (AVU) portal. Opencourseware is also supported by different platforms such as Open study, Peer-to-Peer university, etc. Many universities and companies put their opencourseware for free and open access. Their opencourseware is organized in different ways. Opencourseware presents different gaps and there ia a need to fill in these gaps. This is what I am trying to do at Open Popular University and I need the support of different interested people.    

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tips for professional development planning in teaching with OERS

Open Educational Resources are not a bunch of educational resources placed on like Wikipedia, Curriki, Connexions, Merlot, etc for whoever wants to learn and use them for teaching. They are finding their ways in the k-12 educational system. In this article are laid out tips to help teachers use open educational resources
If there's one thing that the information age has taught us, it's that throwing new technology tools and resources at people and expecting them to adapt them successfully is unreasonable and unrealistic. The rule definitely applies in the K-12 educational environment, where preliminary and ongoing professional development is key to ensuring that new innovations "stick" both in and out of the classroom.
Take open educational resources (OER)--copyright-free teaching, research, and learning materials that are in the public domain--for example. A novelty for many K-12 educators who are accustomed to having textbooks, assessments, and other materials prepared for them, OERs can create significant challenges when introduced to today's teachers.
Here are five broad tips for professional development planning that will help smooth the way to adoption of these open resources.
1. Help teachers sift through the piles of OER resources. Colleen Worrell, manager of professional development at Virtual High School in Maynard, MA, said she sees the sheer volume of OER resources available today as a huge challenge for K-12 teachers.
The fact that most of those instructors are accustomed to working from a single textbook and a few ancillary resources places the hurdle even higher. To ease some of that burden and help teachers integrate OER into their lesson plans, Worrell culls through the OERs to find the best resources. She shares these with the teachers and talks to them about the best ways to adopt and integrate that content.
"Someone has to do the vetting for the teachers," said Worrell, "even if it's just creating a social bookmarking list of the top 10 OER social studies sites. Everything helps."
2. Acknowledge the fact that not all teachers are comfortable with technology. Not all teachers are tech-savvy and willing to integrate state-of-the-art resources into their classrooms. Some just like the "old ways" of instructing and prefer to stick to those methods.
"If you want teachers to take advantage of OER you really have to assess their comfort levels with it," advised Neeru Khosla, co-founder at open content provider CK-12 in Palo Alto, CA. "You can't expect the mid-range of teachers--that large percentage of them who are on the bell curve--to just accept the new technology if they don't know how to use it."
To overcome this hurdle, Khosla said, OER champions must create value propositions for the open content and help teachers understand the advantages it provides. Getting teachers "hands on" with the content and showing them how to use it (via one-on-one demonstrations and webinars, for example) will also "go a long way in helping teachers get more comfortable with the technology," said Khosla.
3. Create a "culture" of professional development. Rather than offering professional development on a sporadic or ad hoc basis, create a culture around it.
Get teachers, administrators and even students involved in the process. Encourage sharing, said Khosla, and use community collaboration as a way to not only keep everyone up to date and informed, but also to save money.
"Everyone should make it their job to contribute to this type of ongoing professional development," said Khosla. "That way you won't miss out on important little OER nuggets just because they're not associated with a $300 professional development class."
4. Encourage an environment of "reinvention." OER isn't only about using non-copyrighted, digital materials in the classroom; it's also about adapting and adjusting that content to make it even more relevant for today's learners.
Sharing that mindset with teachers is an important professional development strategy, according to Jason Neiffer, curriculum director at Montana Digital Academy in Missoula, MT.
"You really need to build an encouraging environment for reinvention and reconsideration of the OER materials," said Neiffer. "Traditional textbook reinvention took place every five to 15 years, but with OER it happens every year--or every time the resources are distributed to students."
Helping teachers adapt to and embrace that rapid pace is a key component of any OER professional development program. "There has to be an ongoing support mechanism in place that encourages teachers to be reflective," said Neiffer, "and that helps them constantly evaluate both existing and potential OERs."
5. Put the power in the hands of the educators. Professional development isn't solely about training teachers, said Neiffer, it's about empowering them to make the best decisions for themselves and for their students.
"In the end it's the teachers who make the decisions about OERs and how they're going to use them in their classrooms--not the administrators or districts," said Neiffer. "The most effective professional development is the kind that recognizes this important point and that truly empowers teachers to make the best possible decisions surrounding OER."

Friday, May 11, 2012

How to learn from a conference you aren't attending

A few decades ago in order to attend courses, seminars, etc you had to be present in a room with a teacher or presenter and the students or attendees. With the internet and the world wide web commuting is not necessary. Besides all the other platforms available Twitter allows not only  to attend a conference live but also to access it even if if it's over. I think this option is very useful since many other online platforms don't provide the option of accessing an online conference that is over. Very often I couldn't attend to online conferences I subscribed and when I went to the platform to see if I can access it I found that the access is restricted. I don't use twitter for attending to conversations and conferences but I find the following post very useful on how to use twitter to attend to a conference you aren't attending.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Can opencourseware lead to a true revolution in education?

With the introduction of open educational resources (OER) and opencourseware in higher education some steps were taken to make education more accessible. Many universities put their courses online so that everyone can access them. Some of them think they fulfill a higher purpose by doing this. Students have broader access to knowledge. Professors know more about what's going on in terms of what is being taught at other higher institutions of learning. People who want to learn independently can access those courses. There is a lot of benefits to the world at this point. But in another perspective does this fulfill a marketing purpose when we know that universities are in the business of making money first not education as their first goal ?. That seems very appreciative when courses costing thousands of dollars are accessible online for free. But is "free" really "free"? When you go to the supermarket you are attempted to taste something for free but they give away something in order to attract people to buy their products. In the same way do some universities put their courses online in order to attract more students? I can say yes. But at the same time they think they are doing some thing more disinterested financially. But higher learning institutions have several barriers to reach such a disinterested purpose. Such barriers are economic and social. Higher learning institutions are more concerned about money than education. They don't reach out to people in order to expand education on a global scale and they operate in a closed structure from admissions, tuition, credit transfers, refunds to almost everything. Can true learning happen in such a market structure? Their business rules are stricter than those of stores and supermarkets. Stores and supermarkets offer sales at certain times of the year where items can be purchased at a very low price and other items not sold go to charities. But are they times where universities lower their tuition for students? They are rules that seem unacceptable like you can't transfer more than 2 courses from another university. There is a certain limit of time to finish a program otherwise you lose your credits while you might still pass them and have your knowledge. Alternative assessment such as prior work experiences, prior informal learning are accepted at a small scale at a very small number of universities. When I started my master's degree 27 years ago I had to stop because I didn't have the money to pay. I had to pay travel expenses from where I lived to come to the university. I wasn't qualified for loans and I had to pay higher than the other students. I came back a few years later to continue my master's program to take a few courses but again lack of money, disqualifications for loan prevented me from finishing while I had only four courses to finish. When I came back later for the third time I was told than I can only benefit of two courses in order to finish and then I lost all the other courses. That was unacceptable for me. I was told to contact my professor/advisor because he made arrangements for my former courses to be transferred. Actually he gave me a paper mentioning all these credit transfer courses. I presented this paper and they didn't accept it. My professor was dead and he wasn't there to back me up. I went to another university for the master's degree that I almost finished in the former university. Then from there I started a PhD with another university taking 21 credit courses and passing all the courses with A ( most of these courses are research). Again I had to confront another institution that is part of a structure of not truly educating. With all my abilities and enthusiasm I had to stop. Now recently I embarked myself in this journey of open PhD joining Leigh Blackall, Prawthorne and others who chose this option as well. For me there is a long road for higher learning institutions to take in order to fulfill a meaningful role in society. The following article reports about a global conference on the future of online learning and the debate around opencouseware. Certain universities are threatened by a movement that can force them to change their inadequate structures.  

Leading higher education specialists from across the world convened at Cambridge University in April for a landmark global conference on the future of online learning. The contrast here between the ancient and the modern, the traditional and the new, reflects the challenges of standardising the digital learning revolution across higher education globally.
The Cambridge conference was hosted by the OpenCourseWare Consortium, a non-profit consortium, which is now the largest open online education resource in the world. OCWC comprises some 280 higher education institutions, offers around 21,000 courses online, and has many millions of learners across the globe.
The ambition of open online learning is to cut cost and eliminate geographic distance as obstacles to the exchange of knowledge and ideas. Unlike traditional e-learning, OpenCourseWare (OCW) offers all course materials free to everyone with online access. The logic follows that educators from around the world can upgrade their OCW classes; students can enhance their OCW coursework or pursue self-study; and – for the first time ever – the general public is given a window through which to see the depth and breadth of what leading universities are offering and to benefit from reading lists and lectures.
The potential benefits of open online learning are tremendous. However, in order for it to truly deliver a global knowledge revolution, the higher education sector must collaborate more effectively to enhance the impact of online education resources.
One key sticking point is that traditional institutions have previously enjoyed a knowledge monopoly in higher education. However, in the digital age, knowledge is instantly accessible, and universities and colleges must now actively share their role for developing and spreading knowledge with many other institutions and indeed individuals that require enhanced collaboration.
Concern exists among some higher education institutions that by releasing knowledge into the public domain, they will increasingly become little more than certification factories, with no clear role as the arbiters and producers of knowledge. The worry is that students will study online for free, after which they will shop around for higher education institutions that are willing to test to a given standard and – if they pass – provide them with an appropriate qualification. This point was also discussed in Cambridge last week.
This shouldn't be a threat to higher education institutions, especially given the ambition in Europe, and indeed much of the rest of world, to dramatically increase the percentage of the population with a tertiary education. Online learning offers the opportunity to teach many more students than we do now: a higher education institution could potentially have 1 million students, including lifelong learners who find it difficult to take part in on-campus courses.
The business model for higher education institutions would be different, of course, forcing them to change from a system of tuition fees to one of course-completion or certification fees. However, as long as they have a thorough system of testing and provide high-reputation certified qualifications, offering online learning might even be an advantage, allowing more time for other institutional work, such as research.
For some, the real danger is if higher education institutions lose their monopoly on certification. The answer here must be to enhance the quality and reputation of our institutions.
Students generally attend an institution not only because they want to learn something, but also because a qualification helps them with their future career. The greater the reputation of the certifying institution, the more valuable the diplomas, certificates and degrees will be.
People may well be less willing to pay for tuition at an institution with a poor reputation, preferring to attend a free, virtual one. They will continue to pay, however, for a qualification from high-quality institutions such as Cambridge. These diplomas, certificates and degrees are reliable proof of what they have learned and at what level, providing a valuable ticket for a future career.
In general, the higher education sector has little reason to view the digital learning revolution as a threat and should embrace the massive opportunity it presents through more active participation and collaboration. Online education can not only help provide higher education institutions with increasing numbers of students, but also new potential revenue streams, whilst embedding their reputation for high quality knowledge and teaching in the digital age.

Some key points discussed at the OpenCourseWare conference

• Student numbers in higher education make open education inevitable
The world's higher education system must accommodate nearly 80 million more students by 2025. Sir John Daniel (Common Wealth of Learning) calculated that this would require building three campuses for 30,000 students every week for the next 13 years. Since this is unlikely to happen, other ways to provide education have to be found.
• What is a sustainable model for open education?
Various models are being tested now. Some of these are based purely on volunteers, such P2PU (Peer to Peer University); most focus on combining the existing higher education structure and open education (such as MITxOpen University UK or Delft University of Technology)
• Government interest in open education is growing: In 2011, the US started a four-year programme involving a total of $2bn, which includes development of open educational resources (OER) for community colleges. Many other countries, such as India, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Poland, South Africa, Turkey, Vietnam, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have introduced specific measures or subsidies to promote OER. Unesco is pushing this by encouraging governments to sign the Paris declaration on OER next June.
• And has to grow further!
Open education can help governments deal with a number of challenges in higher education, such as bridging the gap between secondary and higher education, reaching life long learners, globalisation, competition for talent and financing the increasing number of students.