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.