Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Higher Education Bubble: Part One

Created By: Education News

DiY Learning, Hacking and Accreditation

Some of these readings strongly echo our discussion from last Thursday – why are these novel approaches (in this case, open access university systems) being met with harsh resistance to accreditation?
In How Web-Savvy Edupunks Are Transforming American Higher Education, Kamenetz, quoting Jose Ferreira, writes, “The Internet disrupts any industry whose core product can be reduced to ones and zeros.” I think we’ve seen this everywhere in education – online supplementary materials for classrooms (like Blackboard), online research tools that have replaced encyclopedias (Wikipedia) and librarians (google, Wikipedia), and now online-only scholarship which we discussed last week.  The main problem we identified with the online-only journal model was its lack of accreditation within the majority of our fields. Open access journals that publish scholarly writing can be a major tool for us as academics to broaden our CVs or for students, non-academic learners, etc. to find resources to help them with research. However, this model of publishing is perceived as sub-par, or at the very least as non-competitive with more traditional journal formats. Despite the optimism about the Edupunk movement, there still seems to be the same concern over this lack of traditional accreditation.
Kamenetz discusses MIT’s ‘open content’ as a innovative frontrunner for a new model of higher education. However, what holds ‘open content’ back is its reception; though it contains courses from top universities, it is not affiliated with a traditional degree path – members who access course content do so without cost. Accreditation comes with a huge fee; those learners who seek higher education through these open access models will not receive the same credit for their work as their paying peers. This is extremely problematic; this type of university system could have a more positive and profound effect on the way that all future learners interact with information, and should be recognized as such.
Thomas Gokey argues that we need to ‘weaponize’ these open access schools and programs through “an autonomous accreditation agency based on mutual recognition.” I find such an approach inspiring, particularly because of last week’s discussion. If a lack traditional accreditation is the problem for these new approaches to learning, then why can’t we come up with a different model? Why can’t we based accreditation on something like mutual recognition?
I think the Wired piece gets at that very point – if self-motivated learners come together in a joint space to teach each other and learn from each other, why shouldn’t that count as a legitimate learning process? Is there any reason why these ‘students’ can’t come away from these ‘classes’ with a recognized skill set?
I think the Wired piece also touches upon another aspect of learning that Kamenetz mentions in her book – that of a social network of learners. While some learning is done in isolation, most people choose to participate in group learning environments (whether they be chatrooms, classrooms, workshops, coffeeshop meetups, etc.). This really seems to capture the social element of learning as something essential to the process. I definitely agree with this idea, and think it should be expanded beyond the traditional (acceptable) teacher/student relationship that dominates universities.
I really liked the way the Noisebridge system works – a very democratic approach to education. This echos some of my own research interests in philosophy. Traditional ‘private’ spaces take on a somewhat ‘public/political’ element when they educate individuals to be better citizens. How do they do this? By engaging in democratic processes (like giving group members the freedom to pursue their own interests within the shared space, sharing and distributing resources, open access to resources and decision making, etc) outside of the traditional ‘public’ sphere of elections/policy making. Everyone can be and is an active participant, which is something that doesn’t always happen in the traditional classroom.
I think the open access model of education works off of some of these ideas – education should be accessible for all (not something that only the wealthy can afford), resources should be widely available or shared equally among learners (again, low-cost over high-cost), and learners should be able to choose how they will navigate their education rather than following a traditional path. Paving the way for new models of accreditation will allow these types of educational systems to better establish themselves, but I think a cautious approach is needed to avoid falling in line with traditional approaches to accreditation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to do Open research: 5 basic principles

There are some pretty basic things that a researcher can do to make their work into an open content project. Here are a few.
1. Radical realtime transparency. Release all work in an editable format under a creative commons license as soon as it’s made. I’ll elaborate on each of those points in a bit more detail:
1a. Release all work. This means not just the finished/polished products, but the rough drafts, the incoherent notes, and the random scribblings as well. You can put disclaimers of “these are the rough things” at the top, and you don’t need to do announcements of the release of all your low-level work (except in weekly summaries) but they will let other people dig as far as they could possibly want to go on your activity in the space.
1b. In an editable format. No pdfs — wiki pages, plaintext in a version control repository, something Word (or better yet, .odt) files are marginally acceptable, but force you to become a merging bottleneck; it’s best to get as close as possible to people being able to edit not just the material, but also each other’s edits, themselves.
1c. Under a creative commons license. Use the same license as the final paper. UNICEF chose the CC-BY-SA license, which is good; the key point is to avoid the “noncommercial” and “no derivatives” restrictions, which are the non-open creative commons license variants. Remixability for all purposes is vital.
1d. As soon as it’s made. This means what it sounds like; push it as you do it, not after the fact as “background material” accompanying the finished paper. If you want people to help you along your journey, they need to know as accurately as possible where you are right now.
2. Make work findable. Have a central place where people can easily read the current status of the project in 1 minute or less, and where they can quickly navigate to all the materials you’ve created for it. The specific structure/format isn’t as important as having a clear structure to begin with; pick a schema and stick with it.
3. Make participation as low-barrier as possible. Whenever possible, don’t require logins or account creation. If you must use authentication of some sort, think about what accounts the people you want as collaborators are already likely to have (facebook? twitter/ wikipedia? github?) and what platforms they’re already likely to be familiar with (do they know version control? word processing? English?) and in general try to make it possible for someone to go from “stumbled across your project” to “made a contribution” in as few seconds and clicks as possible.
4. Update in a regular rhythm. Weekly is usually good, but for some projects it may make sense to cycle more quickly or slowly. For those who need a rule of thumb, I’ll semi-arbitrarily say that you should have at least 5 updates throughout the life of your project, so a 2-month project might have weekly updates, a 2-week project would have daily updates, a 1-day project might have hourly updates, but a 1-year project might have bimonthly updates (though weekly updates will drive more participation). Pick a schedule, announce it, and stick to it; this is something that should be on the front of your “participation” homepage (from #2, “make work findable”) so that new people coming in know when the “next thing” is coming up that they can jump in on.
5. Reach out in backchannel to bring people to the public space. Email, go to conferences, tweet/dent, blog, sit down at coffee shops, go to marketplaces… go where the people are, and engage with them in their spaces as long as it takes for you to help them feel comfortable coming to yours. Basically, private conversations are necessary, but they’re necessary as a means towards the end of bringing people into a public and collaborative space. It’s like opening a new physical location for something like a bar or a library; you want everyone to end up in your space interacting with each other, so you go out and have individual conversations with them aimed towards getting them there.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Open Educational Resources: Transforming the way knowledge is spread

DELFT, THE NETHERLANDS — “Do you still remember Tipp-Ex?” For Anka Mulder, secretary general of the Technical University of Delft, the bottle of white typewriter correction fluid (the U.S. brands are Wite-Out and Liquid Paper) once found on the desk of every graduate student was as evocative of the past as the taste of a madeleine was for Marcel Proust. She interrupted her remarks, considered the average age of her audience, many of whom were tweeting her comments, and asked “How many of you remember typewriters?” About half the audience held up their hands.

 Ms. Mulder was speaking here at Open Education Week, an event held this month on campuses from the University of California, Irvine, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the University of Cape Town, Leeds Metropolitan University, in England, and the National Science Library, in Beijing. At 47, Ms. Mulder can remember the days of typewriters and hardback textbooks. Yet as president of the Open Course Ware Consortium, a global group of universities devoted to expanding the amount of free, openly licensed educational material on the Internet, she is focused on the future.
For thousands of years, she said, anyone who wanted access to knowledge had to first find a teacher or an expert. After the printing press was invented, libraries and universities became repositories of knowledge. But now with the Internet, “universities do not hold the monopoly on information anymore,” Ms. Mulder said. As a result, she said, the five functions now performed by universities — teaching; providing a space for social interaction; testing students’ knowledge and offering feedback in the form of grades; cultivating a reputation as a good place to learn; and certifying what graduates know through accreditation — will inevitably change. The goal of Open Education Week was “to make the process seem less scary, she said, adding, “We want to show how you as a student or an institution or a government can benefit from these changes.”
That is also the goal of, a competition begun this month by the U.S. Department of Education, Creative Commons and the Open Society Institute, which will award a prize of $25,000 for the best short video explaining the benefits of free, high-quality Open Educational Resources, or O.E.R., for students, teachers and schools. Entries will be judged by a panel that includes the filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, the animator Nina Paley and the actor James Franco. In a speech announcing the competition, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said O.E.R. “can not only accelerate and enrich learning — they can also substantially reduce costs for schools, families and students.”
Beginning in 2001, when M.I.T. announced that it was going to make some of its courses available online, the movement for O.E.R. has continued to grow. In October 2003, there were 511 courses available, all from M.I.T. According to Ms. Mulder, the current total is over 21,000 — with 9,903 in languages other than English, including Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Catalan, Hebrew, Farsi, Turkish, Korean and Japanese. As the movement has gathered adherents, the material available has also changed. There are still thousands of courses on the Internet that amount to little more than a camera focused on a lecturer, or even just an archive of lecture notes. But as Ms. Mulder finished her remarks here, staff members from the University of Nottingham, in England, were presenting a Web seminar on how professors could use O.E.R. to produce custom-designed textbooks.
The IE University, in Madrid, employs 14 people who work full time on producing O.E.R.
“We have programmers, designers and writers working with our professors,” said Martín Rodríguez, director of multimedia content development. “If a professor comes to us with a specific need — for example on how to calculate the cost of capital — then we go to work.”


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How opencourseware enriches academic experience

In the past, students spent hours upon hours hunkered down with textbooks and notebooks, poring over the material assigned to them by their teachers. In a digital world, the student's academic experience is QUITE different. Sure, we still have our textbooks and they're invaluable to the knowledge we gain from our classes, but the use of OpenCourseWare adds dimension and depth to the curriculum. Staring at a book when the material can be dry (depending on the class, of course) can get cumbersome. Students learn in all different ways so it is beneficial to give them a variety of materials to stimulate their interests. Students are more engaged when their content is  interactive and visual.
Though the idea of OpenCourseWare originated in Germany in 1999, it was MIT's program that began in 2002 that ushered in OCW as we know it. It is entirely free and the material offered is of the highest quality. MIT's purpose in creating OCW was to "enhance human learning worldwide by the availability of a web of knowledge."
 You can search a variety of topics, from antiques to test prep in this site!
iTunesU is also a great source of free educational materials that you can put right on your iPod or mp3 player! Convenient AND enlightening!

Source: RCPL blog

Monday, March 5, 2012

Open Education Week

  Open Education Week is taking place from 5-10 March 2012 online and in locally hosted events around the world.  The purpose of Open Education Week is to raise awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Participation in all events and use of all resources is free an open to anyone.
If you are new to open education, we recommend you start with the ABOUT OPEN EDUCATION page
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