Our house

Week 5 Open Ed MOOC – Research and impact

“Cyclr” by Skil Fibber

Research questions can be revealing.  Areas of focus provide insight into how we define value. When we choose to invest time and money to pursue a question, we are declaring the outcome important before we even start. I did a command F search on the Open Education Group OER research page to see if Stephen Downes was blowing smoke about the narrow focus of past research. He says it’s skewed towards grades and outcomes. This very unscientific test suggests that he’s not off base:

  • the word “grade” appeared 16 times
  • the word “exam” appeared 27 times
  • the word “test” appeared 10 times
  • the word “drop” appeared 7 times

I’m with Stephen on this. It may be the lingering effects of Jesse Stommel’s recent declaration on why he doesn’t grade. It may be the influence of the Ontario students pursuing the Exponential Learning project in our SXD Lab. Either way, at best, this is an unnecessarily narrow definition of value. And, this is on top of the fact that open education research is being pursued in disparate zones. Martin Weller illustrated this beautifully in his recent post Mapping the Open Education Landscape.

Re-defining value in open education

So how does future open education research define value?

I am curious about the current research David Wiley described: a comparision between experience of an educator involved in the design or curation and one who adopts directly. I will be very surprised if there is no correlation between direct involvement and a deeper experience. Have you ever had a conversation with Robin DeRosa!? But again, history repeats itself. The bottom line of this research is the difference in student outcomes (read: grades) in these two scenarios.

At eCampusOntario, we have something called the Student Experience Design Lab. The lab was developed by a group of Ontario students and the mantra that they chose is so revealing. Their work is to design purposeful learning for a meaningful life.

Education is about so much more than grades. Our students know that. So let’s take their lead and meet them where it matters. This is our challenge as the next generation of open education researchers.

And, this conversation needs to start with a shared understanding of values. The values are not an add-on. Our values are the foundation. The 5 Rs are the tools we use to live those values everyday. Open is a way of doing everything. This is our open education house.

So … roommates?

Elevation gain

Week 4: Open Ed MOOC + signals from the network

I’m writing this post at high elevation. I’m in the mountains of Colorado after spending the week at the WCET conference. In addition to my very important role as sole Canadian representative present, I spent my time listening and trying to translate differences between the American and Canadian education systems.

This post is a mash-up of ideas that have been floating around the network for #OpenAccessWeek and #OpenEdMOOC and have combined with some of the conversations I had at WCET.

There are two undercurrents:

The textbook: I’ve heard it won’t be with us for long.

The end of the textbook narrative has been coming primarily from brilliant educators who believe everyone should put 100% of their creative effort into teaching. These people can make the case for a mash-up of openly licensed materials in their sleep and it sounds so right. I think it is.

But, I’m also hearing from administrators and others who are working hard to get the idea of openly licensed materials into the culture of their institution. For them, the open textbook is the gateway to the larger culture shift. Even if an educator adopts an open textbook it is likely they will still want their students to have a print option. Digital itself is still a bridge too far for some.

As we heard in Week 4 of #OpenEdMOOC, it takes a couple of cycles to fully understand the pedagogical affordances of open. You need to experience the process of iterating and sharing before you have your Bodhi moment. Before you can see the space beyond free.

‘point break rip bodhi’ by Rollan Budi, September 21, 2010

In the meantime, we need to build infrastructure that allows educators to easily find, adapt and retain OER. That infrastructure needs to allow for discovery and adaptation of open textbooks, course materials, modules, streaming video, course outlines – anything that aids teaching.

Commercialization: several zones of the network have expressed concern over commercialization of publicly funded resources.

Jenni Hayman articulated this concern through an analysis of the Cengage announcement.

Geoff Cain chose the otherwise routine commute video as his setting to ask the big question: why is CC-BY the gold standard of open licensing?

It is going to be increasingly important that we support our educators to choose the open license that works best for them. Especially if they are coming to open for the first time. I have been returning to the “How to Destroy Open Ed” live notes from the #OpenEd17 Ethics workshop. There are so many interesting ideas captured here. A few of my favourites to close this post:

How do we ensure that Open Ed is not open?

  • Have commercial publishers who already create open educational resource additives (that have a cost) take over the creation and sale of OER altogether.
  • Not empower teachers/teaching & learning
  • Engage in double-speak where my work is “not really open” because it is not available for a corporation to sell (CC-by-nc)


Week 3 Evangelism

The idea that copyright is automatically assigned to an artifact on creation is bizarre. I had to find out for myself. Sure enough, the one official academic document to my name is marked.

Very weird.

So, I wrote to the good people at Dalhousie University and asked them if I could make a change. I’m going to take a moment to say that the response I received from the Dalhousie English Department was so quick and understanding I found myself scanning Halifax real estate. These might be the nicest people in the world. They got me set-up with a CC-BY license in less than a week.

So I have de-owned this thesis! It is now officially part of the commons.

The big picture

Week 3: Reflections on #OpenEdMOOC and stock space footage

Have you noticed that every video Stephen Downes posts for #OpenEdMOOC has a moving space-theme for a background? I have, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Stephen Downes: Open Course 3

First, I want to know where this stock space footage is coming from so I can  project it, in a loop, on my living room wall. Beyond curiosity and party tricks, I think there is design at work here. I wonder if Stephen is provoking us think bigger – beyond our lives and our context. 

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity this week to take part in a panel speaking with delegates from the Open University of China. With the help of an extremely talented translator we had a meaningful conversation about learner needs. Delegates from the OUC wanted to know how to better engage and understand their 3 million students. That number alone was enough to give me pause. Our world looks so different from theirs, and yet, we have exactly the same goals.

When I told them that all of the results of our @SXDLab would be openly licensed they were very happy. Class size and culture aside, they wanted to know how 22 Canadian students were rethinking and redesigning their learning experience. Maybe OUC will take that work and adapt it for their context. They can teach us a thing or two about operating at scale.

This is all a reminder that open licensing remains a simple and elegant solution to keep connected in a world (a universe!) as diverse and unique as ours. All of the other alternatives seem unnecessarily complicated and short-sighted. Cultivating the commons is a social process. The more we engage, the better we are.

California love

Reflections on 2017 Open Education Conference and #OpenEdMOOC Week 2

This post is serving two purposes. It happens that #OpenEdMOOC and #OpenEd17 overlapped this week. For one thing, I’m keeping my MOOC completion dreams alive. On the other hand, the overlap of these two open ed events has resulted in a confluence of ideas + an effort to come away with a clear idea of where we are all headed. And, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I think that is as true for those who have worked in Open Education for decades as it is for those who are just poking our noses in now.

In her closing keynote, Cathy Casserly encouraged us to welcome dissent. To keep the conversation challenging. My colleague, Terry Greene reflected on the echo chamber effect of the Open Ed conference a few days ago. Cathy and Terry were saying the same thing.

The most challenging conversations I had were outside of scheduled programming. These conversations were with people who had seen Open Education grow and flourish. There were many fond references to the old days: there were only 20 of us! We only needed half a room!

This all sounds so great. It must have been liberating and energizing to be on the edge of something impactful. And, maybe the path appeared clear and straight for the most part.

I’m not quite sure how the original Open Ed thinkers see the world now. I thought the Cengage announcement would provide the perfect conversation starter, but it hardly came up. And, when it did, the reaction was something like this: commercial publishers are taking up OER development. Isn’t this what we wanted?

I wasn’t around in the early days, so I can’t answer that question.

No matter what side of the non-commercial licensing debate you fall on (shout out #OpenEdMOOC, that’s me applying Week 2 learning), there is one truth that needs to be restated:

Publishers serve themselves: we serve the public

When I say “we” I’m speaking from a public-sector vantage point. That includes, at the very least, anyone who is paid, in whole or in part, from public sources. There are many more people who do not fall into this definition but maintain this value.

I started to explore some of this thinking in conversations that I had throughout the conference and the reaction was mixed. There were references to ‘the market’ and altruism. The implication was that institutions and educators do not have the ability, or the desire, to mimic commercial publishing processes.

I totally get it. I am a slave to reality in most things.

But, I can’t quite shake this feeling: we need to believe in our public institutions and the people in them.

The wonderful thing about academics it is that they are independent thinkers. This makes them a bit of a nuisance in the publishing process. No two chemists will agree!

Two chemists only need to agree if you are asking them to collaborate as authors in a textbook. Yet, we know that the days of the textbook are limited. I heard this over and over at Open Ed.

If we give our educators the tools to create, adapt and repurpose their own teaching resources this becomes a non-issue. It may be messy. It may be something to celebrate. It might just mean that those two Chemists are fully invested in their thinking and their teaching.

We need to empower our educators. We need to give them opportunities to engage directly in the development of their teaching resources. This is the only way that open pedagogy happens and that the culture of higher education shifts. It is not by outsourcing the open publishing process. The process matters. Doing the process matters. A healthy commons depends on it. Because the commons is not a thing, after all, it’s a process cultivated by the community (David Bollier).

I am lucky enough to have a garden in my house in Toronto. I grew garlic this year and my garlic-pride verges on embarrassing.

This is what I have noticed: I plan exactly when and how I’m going to use my garlic. Really carefully. And, I celebrate the result. It’s just better.

I think this might be true for all things that we put a part ourselves into.

Wide open spaces

Why Open Matters – Week One

I remember the day I chose English Literature as my major. It is memorable not because I was suddenly free of the the pressure of being “undeclared”. It was memorable because I felt a nagging guilt. Was this a legitimate use of formal education? How will it serve me? Luckily, I was clear about what I wanted. And, what I wanted was a book club.

Book club meeting, by Anda Logn

An English Lit degree seemed too good to be true. We get to sit around and talk about books?  We get to read and reflect together, in real time?

I continued on to a Masters degree because I couldn’t resist. The quality of the conversation kept getting better. Class size shrank from 20 to 8. Discussion continued in many pubs, over many weeks.

When class ended we went our separate ways: we had 4 months to write a thesis. We still went to the pub (this is Halifax), but we were too immersed in the worlds of one particular author or literary movement to share the way we did before.

That was when I figured that a PhD was not for me. More isolation. More time alone with my thoughts. More misery grinding away on a theory that needed to be tested by someone smarter than me.

This first week of #OpenEdMOOC has landed me here.

That class time was an open networked environment. Everything was iterative. We were able to share freely without a mitigating agent. We were releasing early and releasing often. We were grateful for the talent of our peers. The learning was rapid and expansive. Success in learning was success in this network.

Open matters because it allows us to replicate this experience in a digital space.  We can reflect and expand at a rate which matches our environment. But it has to happen in the open and it has to happen in a network.

Open is the enabler – that thing that brings us together at the pub every week.

Split Crow on a Saturday, by Cinderella Sew