Open Learning Curriculum: Week 3 - Open Education Week!

Open Learning Curriculum - Week 3 : Open Education Week!

Wow! What an exciting and busy week for open learning! First, a big thanks to the OpenCourseWare Consortium for organizing the first ever Global Open Education Week! I attended 14 different webinars that discussed issues on a variety of branches of Open Learning. The pool of Open Educational Resources (OER) and organizations seems to be overflowing at the moment, which makes getting involved with this movement really exciting. There were a lot of common themes that connected all the talks together and that is how I will try to present this wealth of information to you. First I'll discuss some of the great organizations I heard from or of this week, then go over some of the exciting new OER (Open Education Resources) courses and lectures I heard of. Next, I have a lot of really awesome news about open textbooks to share with you, as well as some cool new online OER tools that may be of significant value in your own Open Learning journey. Lastly, but definitely far from least, and possibly the most important piece to this whole puzzle, I will tell you about some global projects as well as legislation that is taking hold around the world to help push for a world where anyone can learn anything, and not be held back from their full potential simply because of their place in society.


There are all sorts of different organizations getting involved with the Open Learning movement in a variety of ways, I wanted to go over a couple of the big ones that are helping to organize this abundance of resources that is growing every day. First the OpenCourseWare Consortium who put on this wonderful week of learning and networking opportunities.

"The OpenCourseWare Consortium is a worldwide community of hundreds of higher education institutions and associated organizations committed to advancing OpenCourseWare and its impact on global education."

Another group is the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources of which the OpenCourseWare Consortium is also a part of."

"The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) is a joint effort by the Open Courseware Consortium, OER Center for California, League for Innovation in the Community College, and many other community colleges and university partners to develop and use open educational resources (OER), open textbooks, and open courseware in community college courses."

There is also the Connexions Consortium, which is more focused around the technology for advancing the Open Learning movement. Specifically, Connexions, the open source educational content repository and content management system that is one of the most popular open education sites in the world with over 2 million visitors a month! Next, is the IEEE-SPS/Connexions Project which is best described as such:

"Embracing the principles of open access, the IEEE-SPS has partnered with Connexions, one of the world's leading open education resource repositories, to develop and disseminate a critical mass of high-quality, peer-evaluated content and to make it available to anyone, anywhere, at any time, for free on the web as well as in a variety of other formats. Materials submitted to this project pass through a careful Society quality evaluation, ensuring that the content is deserving of the imprimatur of the IEEE brand for quality."

Projects such as this one will allow new forms of online accreditation to become recognized, due to the increased amount of higher quality OER content they will produce to add to the global library of open resources.

Courses and Lectures

I'll start this section by discussing the OCW Scholar Course program. If you aren't already familiar with MIT OCW, you need to check it out since it was a program that really pioneered open learning. This wasn't their intention though, as Steve Carson from MIT mentioned in a webinar this week, as he showed us some interesting stats gathered that showed who the users of OCW where. MIT had launched OCW as a resource for students but surprisingly found their users to be 42% students, 43% self-learners, and 9% educators. These materials are also getting widespread use as we see from 2011 user stats. OCW pages received 18.9 million visits: 40% from the US, 17% from Europe, and 19% from Asia. Enter OCW Scholar, this project's purpose is to address this demand for open learning materials for self directed learners. The courses they are releasing as part of this program are carefully trailered to online learners. They integrate materials into better organized logical sequences and include more content than traditional OCW. They currently have only 10 courses available due to the increased cost of producing these higher-quality OER. More are being worked on now, and there are plans to expand to 20 courses by 2013. I will definitely be including one or more of these in my open curriculum, I'd like to go through the micro-economics course, it was recommended during the webinar and is first on my list.

Another exciting development in the Open Learning world is in Washington State. Due to some excellent progress with legislation, Washington State Colleges are organizing the Open Course Library with help from the Saylor Foundation, Creative Commons, Connexions Consortium, and the OpenCourseWare Consortium. This resource is a collection of high quality materials (textbooks, syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments) for 81 college courses. Half of these courses are complete and released under a Creative Commons (CC BY) license.

Next up is and I went to a webinar they put on entitled "The video's dead. Long live video! ...the educational one." They are the largest OER video library and at the time of this post they have 14,888 videos, from 9,587 authors, including 12,466 lectures. This is a great resource that you are allowed to share in turn as most of the materials do have a CC license on it. Unfortunately, due to the use of a more restrictive CC license, you will not be able to modify and remix these videos or use any of it commercially. This doesn't diminish the value of these videos, but it does limit the ways in which they can be legally used. Marajana Plukavec spoke on behalf of and told of their vision of enabling free education for everyone and spoke about the future of online video. She spoke of hypervideo, videos with links embedded at specific points in a video to allow for richer linking between different content on the internet. Also mentioned was machine translation, having computers translate videos into different languages. Another interesting idea was video personalization, where a video would be more modular and depending on the user's level of knowledge would present the information in a way that might be more easily understandable to that particular person.

Of course, P2PU had a presence this week and was referenced in quite a few of the webinars. I have already spoken about them and am particularly interested in this project because I have chosen to get involved with the open source software that makes it possible. They had several presenters talking about their experiences running some exciting challenges. Alan Webb gave an interesting overview of the work he has been doing with the P2PU School of Social Innovation, which in addition to online groups, includes face-to-face projects that help people come together to take action on important issues. Maria Droujkova is leading a P2PU course with the goal of assembling a toolkit for helping young children develop mathematically. She gave some great examples of how the class worked collaboratively over the Internet to produce quality resources. In the webinar "Introducing Saylor Foundation OER to Community Colleges," Jeff Davidson, Alana Harrington, and Jennifer Shoop spoke on behalf of the Saylor Foundation. They were also joined by Michell Levy from College Open Textbooks and Open Doors Group who spoke about the new Open Doors Group project which aims to share best practices and facilitate relationships in the Open Learning movement. The Saylor Foundation was founded in 1999 by Michael Saylor and offers some excellent online courses as well as a certificates for completion. They are working to expand their library of courses and even are offering quite an incentive to help out.

"To spur authors to openly license their work, the Saylor Foundation is offering a ,000 award for submitted textbooks accepted for use in our course materials after a round of peer reviews. To be eligible for the award, the author(s) must agree to license the text under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY) license."

The first couple winners have already been chosen with a couple more rounds of entries scheduled for later this year. The group spoke about the future for and mentioned that there are plans to add study group features and more social features to as well as badges for course completion.

Open Publications and Textbooks

An important area for many, due to the fact that it increasingly becomes a barrier to learning, is the cost of textbooks. The increasing costs of textbooks have risen more than four times faster than inflation. Due to these costs 7 out of 10 students have skipped buying at least one of their textbooks and most of these students felt it would hurt their grades. Textbooks are an billion industry and they are being released to maximize profit. Practices such as producing unnecessary new editions, selling more expensive bundles where students are forced to buy more than they may need for a class, as well as single use access codes for digital content that destroy resale value. Also a lot of textbooks manufacturers aren't making use of the technologies available and instead offering lower quality ebooks at a high prices. Open Textbooks aim to do something about all of this. As mentioned in the last section, the Saylor Foundation has been doing great work in this area. Also mentioned but not discussed yet is College Open Textbooks, of which I also received this link to the College Open Textbooks online community

"The COT Collaborative is collection of colleges, governmental agencies, education non-profits, and other education-related organizations that are focused on the mission of driving awareness, adoptions, and affordability of open textbooks. Our focus is on community colleges and other 2-year institutions of higher education and the first two years (lower division) of 4-year institutions. Some of our activities also apply to K-12, upper division, graduate school, and life-long learning."

Next, are a couple of companies that are using two different business models to tackle the Open Textbook challenge. The first is OpenStax College, a non-profit publishing effort committed to improving student access to quality learning materials. They are working on releasing a set of high quality free open source peer-reviewed textbooks. The next is FlatWorldKnowledge, a commercial open textbook publisher that also is working to create new textbooks with help from authors and educators. They allow anyone to use their books free online and then charge for print, audio, and self-print PDF options. They also release everything under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA). I also wanted to mention a couple of resources mentioned in a few of the webinars for open journals and resource publications. Open Research Online, which a repository of such resources from the Open University. Also is the Directory of Open Access Journals.

"The aim of the Directory of Open Access Journals is to increase the visibility and ease of use of open access scientific and scholarly journals thereby promoting their increased usage and impact. The Directory aims to be comprehensive and cover all open access scientific and scholarly journals that use a quality control system to guarantee the content. In short a one stop shop for users to Open Access Journals."

Last, I wanted to quickly mention that in a webinar by the Open University on Enabling Universal Access to Higher Education via Openness and Collaboration" a newly published open book (under a CC license that allows for sharing and remixing non-commercially) titled The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice was recommended and I have gotten through the first couple chapters so far and like where it's going.


This has been a lot of information to get through, so thanks for staying with me this far. Next I'd like to share a couple new online tools that aid in Open Learning that were discussed this week. But first, let's talk about brains. One of the webinars that I was really looking forward to this week due to my fascination with how the brain works was Neuroscience, Learning and the Future of Open Education." Todd Rose and Sam Johnston are research scientists for CAST. I was unfamiliar with CAST, but just learned that they have an interesting history. Their mission is:

"To expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through the research and development of innovative, technology-based educational resources and strategies."

They went over the Universal Design for Learning ,which is about better understanding how the brain learns, and talked about variability and personalization for learning strategies. Here is a short video that explains the Universal Design for Learning, although it looks like they may be in need of graphic designers.

They talked about how the brain used to be looked at as brain spaces, but now it is looked at more like a distributed network throughout the whole brain used for even simple tasks. An example was given of recording the brain activity of a boy and flashing the word dog on a screen in front of him, showing how much of our brain gets used for the simplest of tasks. They continued to stress the importance of variability and how it allows learners to better understand how to turn content into knowledge and learn from each other. Now, onto the open learning tools starting with one recommended in this webinar called VoiceThread, conversations in the cloud. It looks like a pretty excellent tool with a lot of potential and a variety of uses. Here is a video that explains how it works, just ignore the part and just go to

The next tool is in it's pilot phase right now and it makes use of a couple different OER, the Personalized Learning System (PleaSe). This is a project by researchers at Rice University and Duke University that ties together resources from Connexions with questions from QuadBase a question banking site where anyone can submit questions and share and embed them in tests, homework, or other online learning platforms.

Gerd Kortemeyer, from Michigan State University, gave a webinar on The LON-CAPA Resource Sharing Network. "LON-CAPA is the free open-source distributed learning content management and assessment system that has been sharing and using online learning and assessment materials across institutions and disciplines. Since 1992." LON-CAPA currently has over 440,000 resources and almost 200,000 homework problems with 160 member institutions involved in the project. This system is not yet open to the public though, unless you were to download the free source code and host it for yourself (if my understanding is correct you wouldn't have access to all those resources though, just the system that is used to manage them). The system has a lot of nice features including allowing instructors to go through all the resources with a "shopping cart" and build courses. They also have Amazon style recommendations to help organize content as well as gathering lots of usage statistics for all of the content. Greg Kortemeyer said that he hoped they would be able to open the system up to the public within two years! In the mean time they are running their first public access course, it is a physics course and you can access it here

Another webinar I went to focused on tools: Tools that help you find, create and re-use Open Educational Resources" which was put on by the University of Nottingham's Open Nottingham program. Open Nottingham engages with OER in a variety of ways in the United Kingdom, China, and Malaysia. Two tools they discussed are Xpert & Xerte. Xpert is an OER search engine that currently searches through over 275,000 resources. There is also the Xpert Attribution Search Engine which searches for pictures, sounds, and videos related to your search query simultaneously. It returns only openly licensed Creative Commons material, but not only that, it also embeds the license into the resource when you select it for use, greatly simplifying the process of using CC content. Xerte is a fully-featured e-learning development environment for creating rich interactivity." Similar to LON-CAPA, Xerte is an open source solution that you have to host yourself, and allows for the creation of rich open learning materials.

Last, a tool that was used by a lot of the presenters this week for sharing their presentation slides was SlideShare, the world's largest community for sharing presentations. A free service for sharing publicly for uploads less than 20MB, they also have paid services for larger uploads and private sharing.

A Look Globally and at Legislation

Now let's take a more global look at everything that is happening in the open learning movement. Almost everything I have already mentioned has global impact. It's really hard not to in this new global world we all live in, where, because of technology, everyone is suddenly a lot closer together. The important thing is to make sure everyone can have a voice, because although we have all this great technology there is still a great digital divide in the world. Let's look at a couple organizations and projects that are working on doing something about this.

Patrick McAndrew and Martin Weller from the Open University gave a talk on Big OER vs Little OER. This was an interesting way to categorize the OER all there. Big OER comes from recognized universities like Stanford and MIT and is a lot more structured. It is excellent to see these accredited institutions contributing to the movement. Little OER is from the ground up, with individuals producing content. We are seeing a lot more of this because of all the great new tools out there that are lowering the threshold to entry by making it a lot easier to remix resources and produce quality open learning materials. Another contributing factor to little OER is the removal of filters and more access to open data. In a webinar on "High-Quality Open Textbooks and Connexions" it was mentioned that OER is more than free books, it engage academics in communities and increases learning outcomes worldwide.

"TESSA is a research and development initiative creating open educational resources (OERs) and course design guidance for teachers and teacher educators working in Sub-Saharan African countries."

Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) is an organization or universities and groups in Africa and around the world, including the Open University and the Commonwealth of Learning, an organization which is supported by the governments of Canada, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, and the United Kingdom that aims to encourage the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies." There are also groups in South Africa pushing for the use of Open Textbooks in schools.

Next we look to Korea and the eNanoschool. Gyutae Kim gave a webinar titled "Collaborative online Education of the nanoscience & nanotechnology in Korea." The eNanoschool uses Moodle, another open source learning management system (LMS) and is a pilot test funded with a mere ,000 in government funds. Gyutae Kim talked about how Nanotechnology involves a fusion of fields, including chemistry, physics, electronics, and biology. The focus of his talk was on the MOST policy with SIMLPE tools.

What he meant by this was essentially creating an environment that encourages reuse and sharing, a theme consistent throughout the entire week, and heard the world round as people realize the benefits. If you are interested in nano-technology check out nanoHUB, a global nanotech community with over 200,000 members to date. They have a vast resource library of simulation programs for nanoscale phenomenon, online presentations, courses, learning modules, podcasts, animations, teaching Materials, and more!

Elsewhere in the world, the government of Vietnam is developing new curriculum at 40 universities, and making use of OER through the Vietnam Education Foundation, a program funded by the U.S. Government with the mission of "strengthen[ing] the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral relationship through educational exchanges in science and technology." In Brazil, legislation has been passed that releases public work under open licenses and further encourages practices that further the Open Learning movement! Another exciting project that is spreading education worldwide is Wikimedia Offline. The Wikimedia Foundation's vision is "for the sum of all knowledge to be freely available to every individual in the world." The Wikimedia Offline project works to further this vision by taking high quality, relevant content from Wikipedia and packaging it for use offline in places that don't have access to the Internet. They are using Kiwix, an open source offline web content viewer, to host this content on Linux machines. This project has also started working with computer manufacturers and ministries of education to expand their reach. Another piece of really exciting news is the pairing of Wikimedia with a couple mobile providers. Many people in developing countries have mobile phones but have to pay for data usage, which they often can't afford. Wikimedia has paired with Orange mobile to allow twenty countries across Africa and the Middle East free data use of Wikipedia content, giving tens of millions of people access that wouldn't otherwise be able to access that information. Telenor has also started a partnership with Wikimedia which also gives free access to Wikipedia to potentially 135 million more people in Thailand, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Montenegro, and Serbia. Finally, I wanted to point out an excellent OER document drafted by a group of organizations that met in Africa in 2007, the Cape Town Declaration.

I have already mentioned some, but there are a lot of groups working on promoting new legislation for open education and open data. One of these groups is Student PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups)

"Student PIRGs are an independent statewide student organizations that work on issues like environmental protection, consumer protection, and hunger and homelessness. For nearly 40 years students working with their campus PIRG chapters have been making a real difference in people's lives and winning concrete changes to build a better world."

They have groups in 15 U.S. States and one of their campaigns right now is Make Textbooks Affordable!" They have a petition you can sign.

I attended two different webinars this week put on by Dr. Cable Green, the Directory of Global Learning at Creative Commons. One on "Understanding Creative Commons Licenses," and the other on "The Obviousness of Open Policy." The first webinar was a great overview of all the creative commons licenses and how to use them, as well as some history and stats on their usage. One interesting thing I learned was that CC licenses are irrevocable and perpetual, so once something is openly licensed it stays that way. There are currently over 500 million CC objects and this library is growing exponentially! Creative Commons has affiliate teams in 72 nations. The second webinar was a presentation Dr. Cable Green gives often and can be seen here: The Obviousness of Open Policy. This requires Microsoft Silverlight to watch (so I had to use my Windows XP virtual machine since I'm running linux) and starts 10 minutes into the video. This is an excellent talk and I highly recommend that you take the time to watch it. In it Dr. Cable Green states:

"I believe that we in fact, have a learning machine that is at our fingertips, it's within our power to turn it on...but in order for us to turn on that machine it's going to require that we have public open policies to provide ongoing, sustainable funding and we are going to need the necessary cultural change that goes with it."

Right now in the U.S., we spend over 0 billion dollars a year on research and development. Grants come from tax dollars and as a result produce new knowledge, materials, etc... Open Policy supports the idea that when public funds are used, it should be required that the works produced are released under an open license, so that everyone can benefit from the research. The criticisms of this is mostly by existing businesses that are making so much money off the existing system right now as well as others who are resisting change. The exciting thing is that we are already seeing progress in these areas. Here is a list of Government use of CC, involving governments spanning the globe! Some exciting news from Washington State of an OER K-12 bill passing. Here is the opening paragraph of the bill:

"The legislature finds the state's recent adoption of common core K-12 standards provides an opportunity to develop high-quality, openly licensed K-12 courseware that is aligned with these standards. By developing this library of openly licensed courseware and making it available to school districts free of charge, the state and school districts will be able to provide students with curricula and texts while substantially reducing the expenses that districts would otherwise incur in purchasing these materials. In addition, this library of openly licensed courseware will provide districts and students with a broader selection of materials, and materials that are more up-to-date." read rest of bill...

Washington has been ahead of the curve with OER for a while now, here is a resolution from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges stating:

"All digital software, educational resources and knowledge produced through competitive grants, offered through and/or managed by the SBCTC, will carry a Creative Commons Attribution License."

There is also a bill in California promoting OER and aiming at lowering the cost of textbooks that was just introduced as well.

Now for something that demands our attention, The Bipartisan Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) (H.R. 4004 and S. 2096).

"FRPAA would ensure that the public has access to the important scientific and scholarly research that it pays for. Creative Commons recently wrote to the White House asking that taxpayer funded research be made available online to the public immediately, free-of-cost, and ideally under an open license that communicates broad downstream use rights, such as CC BY."

I ask anyone who is a supporter of Open Learning to stand up and take action to ensure that this legislation makes it through!

David Wiley, Chief Openness Officer at FlatWorldKnowledge: "If we are not sharing, we are not teaching"

Dr. Cable Green: "The opposite of open isn't closed. The opposite of open is broken!"

My Open Curriculum

Hopefully, I organized the information above in a way that was helpful to you. On top of all that, I was also still keeping up with my own Open Learning curriculum this week with Udacity, the P2PU DIU U challenge, the P2PU lernanta group, and some mathematics studying. Regarding Udacity, there isn't much to say except that I still really like the structure of the class. The CS101 class is still really basic and not challenging enough for my skill level, although there have been a couple things I keep picking up along the way as I get more experience with python. The course seems to do a good job at easing beginners into programming, and it looks like there are a lot of people learning from this judging from the forums. I didn't do too much in either of the P2PU classes this week, aside from add a couple comments. I did get to meet some people involved with p2pu and lernanta during webinars though and got onto the p2pu-dev mailing list. I am still going through learning all the prerequisite knowledge before I am able to understand the lernanta source code and contribute to the project. I made some good progress in that this week as I studied django, the open source web application framework that lernanta is built on. There is a lot of good documentation for django so it has made learning easy. So far I have gone through the first 2 parts of the official django tutorial which has already produced a web application with a back-end system for modifying the database with very minimal code. I am quite impressed so far. Last, I spent some time studying mathematics this week since this is an area that I have identified some weaknesses I would like to address. I learned how to use Octave, open source numerical computation software which allows you to write mathematical programs with minimal syntax. I compiled the latest version of the system from source code and then followed the free Stanford Machine Learning Class course section V. OCTAVE TUTORIAL, which got me up and running. I then got to work on solving some Project Euler problems that I mentioned last week. I started from the beginning writing solutions in both Octave and Python side-by-side so as to also use this as an exercise for reinforcing my knowledge of python and octave syntax. I haven't made it too far yet, but definitely got plenty of other stuff done this week. I found myself stuck on a rather deep problem of determining whether a certain number was prime. I found a solution, but it would probably take more years than I would be around for the computer to finish running it, due to the number of different calculations that would have to be made. So I did some research and found out that what I needed to do was to look into the history of prime factorization algorithms. I discovered that it is has stumped mathematicians for thousands of years, so I didn't feel so bad about not being able to find a solution already.

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Thanks for taking the time to read all the way down here. There was a ton of information to get through and I hope you found some of it as valuable as I did. I'd imagine that this will probably be my longest post in this series and a lot of it will be used as the structure for my final project of an Open Learning Guide. Until next time, keep sharing and learning!

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