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.