Archive for the ‘open education’ Category

How Open is Open Education?

October 4th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

For the second in this mini series on open education we ask ‘How open is open education’? How open is open sounds a bit of a stupid question. But lets just start by looking at some of the definitions of Open Education. According to wikipedia: “Open education is a philosophy about the way people should produce, share, and build on knowledge.”

Proponents of open education believe everyone in the world should have access to high-quality educational experiences and resources, and they work to eliminate barriers to this goal. Such barriers might include high monetary costs, outdated or obsolete materials, and legal mechanisms that prevent collaboration among scholars and educators.”

But the European Union is backing Open Education with their open education europa web site providing a “gateway to open education resources”. However they say they are enacting the Europe policy on ‘Opening up education’. This “proposes actions towards more open learning environments to deliver education of higher quality and efficacy and thus contributing to the Europe 2020 goals of boosting EU competitiveness and growth through better skilled workforce and more employment.”

These seem rather different goals. Is open education about a believe that everyone in the world should have access to high-quality educational experiences and resources of is it about boosting EU competitiveness and growth?

Lets make no mistake. The spread of open education resources, MOOCs, open access journals and of course Open Source Software are big steps forward. But how far have they taken us: how open is open. I am not sure whether by plan or serendipity but three of the keynote speakers at this years EDEN conference, held in Barcelona in June addressed this question, albeit with different accents.

Jim Groom attacked the soulless of corporate-driven ed tech saying “it robs the field of any deep, meaningful interrogation of the issues we need to be struggling with, such as digital identity, digital fluency the new cultures around piracy and privacy, student empowerment, and how we can begin to think like the web.” None of this happens in an LMS (or VLE), he said. “in fact, that systematic design of that system is anathema to all of these crucial elements of educating in the digital era.”

Jim highlighted how the edupunk discourse had been subverted by corporate and political interests. Rather than talking about new cultures they wanted to highlight the failure of public institutions.

Martin Weller’s speech was entitled the battle for openness (the title of his recent book). In an interview prior to the conference he said: “Generally I think the use of new tech has allowed education to be more flexible, and opened it up beyond the traditional notion of what constituted a university student. But there has also been some terrible hype about new developments, and technology can also been seen as a route for commercial interests to undermine the role of the university.”

And in a brainstorming performance Audrey Waters pointed out the contribution of education to the creation of the web. The web and open education is reliant on an open infrastructure but private and corporate interests were fighting to take control. She called this cultural imperialism.

There seems to be a common message here. Whilst there are advances in opening up education corporate interests (including governments) are subverting the discourses for their own purposes. Rather than seeing MOOCs as an opportunity to provide education to those who had no access or could not afford traditional courses (which is the same thing) Silicon Valley investors pumped money into private MOOC providers to the hope of disrupting education and opening upo the market for private capital (and profit). When investors started losing patience with how long this disruption was taking, founder of Udacity, Sebastion Thrun announced MOOCs were a “lousy product” and he saw the future in selling paid for closed inline training courses.

And rather than moving to genuine open publishing through federated online repositories, the UK government has backed the so called Gold Model which guarantees publishers a rick future income stream form authors (an article entitled ‘Open access fees hike universities’ journal bills‘ in this weeks Times Higher says universities are paying more than ever to publishers).

So Martin Weller is right – there is a battle for open. And that battle is getting ever wider. But as well as fighting on a day to day level over actions, we also need to become clear as to what our vision for openness is and how open we think open should be.

Graphic Recording of Keynotes by Maria Calvet. Video editing by Gabriel Gómez.

Open Source and Open Educational Resources in Europe – a look back to ten years ago

September 30th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

As promised the first in a mini series about Open Education. Pontydysgu originally got into educational technology through using closed and proprietary software. The first ‘educational technology’ I can remember using was FirstClass running on an Open University / BBC server (accessed through I think, the Mosaic browser). Ironically it was a print book which stimulated our move into Open Source technologies – Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary, first published as a book in 1999.

In 2003 we submitted the SIGOSSEE project to the European Commission. SIGOSSEE stood for Special Interest Group on Open Source software in Education. Essentially we were exploring the potential uses of open source software and holding a series of workshops all over Europe, whilst building a Special Interest Group. Whilst the Special Interest Group failed to survive beyond the period of funding, it did kick off a flurry of activities, including a later spin out project on Open Education Resources. At the time the European Union has an ambivalent attitude towards OSS and OERs. Whilst there was strong support from a number of enlightened officials and programme administrators, the EU was being heavily lobbied by publishers and by the software industry not to endorse open source.

As part of their cautious move towards Open Source Software and Open Educational Resources, in 2004 the EU Directorate responsible for education, held a seminar entitled Creating, Sharing and Reusing e-Learning Content : Access Rights for e-learning Content. They invited a wide range of participants including from teh publishing industry and asked for the pre-submission of position papers. Below I publish the SIGOSSEE position paper, written by myself and Raymond Elferink. In the next post I will look at some of our recommendations and consider to what extent (if at all) we got it right.

Overview

This short position paper is addressed to both consultation workshops as we feel the issue of access rights to e-learning content and the more technical issues around reusable content are intrinsically interlinked. Whilst the position paper is presented by Graham Attwell and Raymond Elferink, it represents the position of the steering committee of the Special Interest Group for Open Source Software for Education in Europe.

The lack of easy access to attractive and compelling educational content is one of the major barriers to the development and implementation of e-learning in Europe. Most educational content is pedagogically poor, consisting overwhelmingly of sequenced text based materials and exercises. Furthermore, the subject and topic range is limited. This is particularly so for vocational and occupational subjects and in lesser-used languages.

Time and cost of production are major barriers to the production of quality learning content leading to the present interest in standards based, reusable content and to the sharing of content between institutions. In many areas content developers require not only technical and pedagogic skills but also deep subject knowledge.

Publishers have an important role to play in the development of content. However, as with traditional learning materials, much content in the future will of necessity be produced by teachers. There are also intriguing possibilities for learner developed content and there is great potential from public content repositories especially from cultural heritage and media organisations. It could be argued that there is already a wealth of rich learning materials available through the web. The problem lies in how these materials can be described and accessed and pedagogically deployed.

Key issues

Pedagogy and content

Pedagogy remains the key issue in terms of delivering content. As with any new technology, there has been a tendency on implementing ICT for learning to imitate previous paradigms – the ‘electronic classroom’ for example. There is some evidence to suggest we are now beginning to move beyond such paradigms and develop new scenarios for learning. However, the monolithic nature of much educational software and the need to implement ‘whole systems’ are barriers to developers seeking to pilot innovative pedagogic applications. The development of standards based content repositories and of Service Oriented Approaches (SOA) or modular approaches to learning architectures (see below) promises to allow far more advanced pedagogic innovation

Reuse of content

The potential reuse of content is a critical issue. Central to this is the development and adoption of standards. There remain problems in this area. Standards are being developed and adopted and the new Learning Design standard promises a major step forward in terms of recognising pedagogy, but the software engines and support are still in a development phase. There remain issues over defining metadata schemas and over who will (and should) enter metadata classifications. In the longer term the use of distributed metadata may provide some answers to these issues. Nevertheless the standards should be supported in order to allow reuse.

In pedagogic and technical terms there is still much work to do in developing tools and engines for content sequencing and assembly. Equally, more work is needed on how to base content on activity.

Licensing, property rights and open content

We believe a key issue is to involve the wider educational community in the development and sharing of learning content. One issue raised here is the question of licences. Traditional copyright licences are far too restrictive to develop an ecology of e-learning content. The Creative Commons Licence provides an effective answer to this issue providing an easy way of indicating possibilities for reuse. The OKI development by MIT and the Connexions project by the University of Rice in Texas – based on different open content models – have shown the potential of open content repositories.

There remain many issues to be resolved – not the least is the question of quality assurance. The difficulty in using content production tools is still a barrier for many to producing their own content.

Software and architectures and content

Monolithic architectures for learning and learning management have held back content production and deployment. Migration and reuse of content is often difficult due to lack of interoperability. Services Oriented Approaches and modular software designs can allow the development of standards based component architectures. Content would be either contained in a repository or accessed through distributed systems. Developers – open source and proprietary – could focus on particular components based on need and on their skills and interests. Content could then be easily reused between systems. The implementation of DRM systems should allow easy access to both proprietary and open content in centralised and distributed resource repositories (see for example the Canadian edu-source initiative).

Culture change and content

Implementing of this vision will require culture change at both institutional and individual level. Whilst much of the discussion has focused on teachers and trainers producing content, more important may be the ability and willingness to search for content and to develop coherent learning and activity plans from content produced elsewhere.

Recommendations to the e-learning community and to the European Commission

These recommendations are addressed to the e-learning community as a whole. However, the European Commission could play an important role in supporting pilot developments and implementations.

  1. Further develop standards and the implementation of standards. At the very least, funded projects should be required to consider and report on standards implications of any content development. Further work is needed in disseminating information of standards and their use. In this respect it may be worth considering European links to the UK based CETIS service on educational standards. Further research and development on standards and standard implementation related to educational content should be supported by the European Commission.

  2. Support the Creative Commons License. There seems little reason why education content produced with public funding – national or European – should not be required to be released under a Creative Commons Licence.

  3. Initiate and develop pilot implementations based on open content in institutions and networks. These pilots will be invaluable in exposing and testing many of the issues raised in this position paper.

  4. Explore the potential of a framework for e-learning based on a Service Oriented Approach. Work in this is already being developed by the UK based JISC in conjunction with Industry Canada and DEST in Australia. At a European level, an initiative to encourage developers to focus on services oriented or modular approaches and to share in the development of software, rather than continuing to reinvent the VLE wheel, is needed.

  5. Support the development of tools for content production, distribution, sequencing and deployment. Access to easy to use tools is more important at present than is directly subsidising the production of content itself.

  6. Support experiments in different pedagogical implementations of content including content from cultural and media organisations.

What does Open Education mean?

September 30th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

Next week, together with edupunk pin up bog, Jim Groom, I am delivering (? facilitating) an unkeynote session as the TEEM conference in Porto, Portugal.The session is entitled the the People’s Open Educational JAM Mix.  Instead of standing up and delivering a lecture to the conference we want to hold a dialogue with participants using slides, pictures, videos, quotations, metaphors or even better animated gifs from the education community. There will be the chance for participants in the conference to contribute on the day. But the JAM is open to everyone.

The theme (as the title suggests) is Open Education. Open Education is big news these days. Its a buzzword being embraced by publishers, universities and even governments, as well as the European Union. MOOC providers have leapt on the meme. But what does it mean? The idea that education should be open to everyone seems fine. But even as they talk of open journals, publishers are charging authors a fee, in the so called gold model of open open journals. And whilst universities and governments talk about open education, austerity is leading to cuts in funding and increasing student fees. However open it may or may not be, in The UK many young people simply cannot afford to go to university.

Its time for the educational community to have their say on what open education means. We hope this event can help build a dialogue around a European vision of Open Education.

Over the next five days I will write a series of posts about open education. But in the meantime we would welcome your contribution. We’ve tried to make it easy for you to contribute. Just add your ideas to the form on the front page of the POEJAM web site at http://poejam.com/. We promise your contributions will turn up somewhere in the JAM event and afterwards on the internet. And also feel free to forward to your friends and colleagues

Proudly Announcing the People’s Educational big Jam Mix

September 7th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

P,O.E.J.A.M is the People’s Open Educational JAM Mix. And its taking place in Portugal, at the TEEM conference in Porto at the final plenary session on Thursday October 8th, 2015.

Graham Attwell from Pontydysgu and Jim Groom from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia are hosting what they call an unkeynote session. Why unkeynote? Because instead of standing up and delivering a lecture to the conference they want to hold a dialogue with participants using slides, pictures, videos, quotations, metaphors or even better animated gifs from the education community. There will be the chance for participants in the conference to contribute on the day. But the JAM is open to everyone.

The theme (as the title suggests) is Open Education. Open Education is big news these days. Its a buzzword being embraced by publishers, universities and even governments, as well as the European Union. MOOC providers have leapt on the meme. But what does it mean? The idea that education should be open to everyone seems fine. But even as they talk of open journals, publishers are charging authors a fee, in the so called gold model of open open journals. And whilst universities and governments talk about open education, austerity is leading to cuts in funding and increasing student fees. However open it may or may not be, in The UK many young people simply cannot afford to go to university.

Its time for the educational community to have their say on what open education means. We hope this event can help build a dialogue around a European vision of Open Education.

We’ve tried to make it easy for you to contribute. Just add your ideas to the form on the front page of the POEJAM website. We promise your contributions will turn up somewhere in the JAM event and afterwards on the internet.

Open Education and Libraries

August 19th, 2015 by Graham Attwell
The NMC, the University of Applied Sciences (HTW) Chur, the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB), Hannover, and ETH-Bibliothek Zürich have jointly released the NMC Horizon Report  2015 Library Edition. They identify six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in technology  across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, providing, they say, a valuable guide for strategic technology planning  for library leaders and staff.
“The trends identified by the expert panel indicate that libraries are doing a better job of making their content more accessible and adapting library spaces to meet the needs of the contemporary, connected academic community,” says Rudolf Mumenthaler, Professor of Library Science at HTW Chur and co-principal investigator of the report.
Interestingly, amongst other trends, the report identifies “Makerspaces” and “Online Learning” as technologies and digital strategies that are expected to enter mainstream use in the first horizon of one year or less. “Information Visualization” along with “Semantic Web and Linked Data” are seen in the second horizon of two to three years; “Location Intelligence” as well as “Machine Learning” are seen emerging in the third horizon of four to five years.
The focus of the NMC report, which sees libraries as increasingly important toteaching, learning, and creative inquiry, is academic and research libraries.
Yet with the rising recognition of the importance of access to knowledge and data and with renewed interest in ideas such at the smart city, it would appear possible that the same themes might be important for libraries open to the public, outside the more closed academic sphere. Indeed with the growth of Open Education and MOOCs libraries could be seen as playing a key role in supporting more open forms of learning. Therefore it is ironic that even whilst organisations like the European Commission champion the slogan of Open Education, the policy of austerity is leading to drastic cutbacks in library provision in many country including the UK, leading to closures of libraries, cutbacks ins staffing and freezes in new stock acquisition. And libraries, along with community and adult education are regarded as something the state should no longer provide, something provided by voluntary organisations or not at all. And whereas m,mainstream school and university education can be prepared for the market as a prelude to full privatisation, few corporate bodies see a profit to be made from libraries.
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    MOOC providers in 2016

    According to Class Central a quarter of the new MOOC users  in 2016 came from regional MOOC providers such as  XuetangX (China) and Miríada X (Latin America).

    They list the top five MOOC providers by registered users:

    1. Coursera – 23 million
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    XuetangX burst onto this list making it the only non-English MOOC platform in top five.

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    In a new fact sheet the Tech Partnership reveals that UK cyber workforce has grown by 160% in the five years to 2016. 58,000 people now work in cyber security, up from 22,000 in 2011, and they command an average salary of over £57,000 a year – 15% higher than tech specialists as a whole, and up 7% on last year. Just under half of the cyber workforce is employed in the digital industries, while banking accounts for one in five, and the public sector for 12%.


    Number students outside EU falls in UK

    Times Higher Education reports the number of first-year students from outside the European Union enrolling at UK universities fell by 1 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

    Data from the past five years show which countries are sending fewer students to study in the UK.

    Despite a large increase in the number of students enrolling from China, a cohort that has grown by 12,500 since 2011-12, enrolments by students from India fell by 13,150 over the same period.

    Other notable changes include an increase in students from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia and a fall in students from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.


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    According to the Guardian, research conducted with more than 6,300 authors of journal articles, peer reviewers and journal editors revealed that over two-thirds of researchers who have never peer reviewed a paper would like to. Of that group (drawn from the full range of subject areas) more than 60% said they would like the option to attend a workshop or formal training on peer reviewing. At the same time, over two-thirds of journal editors told the researchers that it is difficult to find reviewers


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