Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Two Comments on 'Open'

Response to David Wiley (his post)

> Which initiatives that use “open” properly would you suggest the whole world read about instead of the Fauxpen Education Alliance?

I don't want to be a self-promoter, but...

I have planned and run all my MOOCs openly since 2008. Moreover, they have all been run using open source software (Perl Artistic/GPL) which has been available on my website and on Sourceforge since then. See http://grsshopper.downes.ca

But everyone - *everyone* - has jumped on the Coursera / Udacity / EdX bandwagon, not because they're open, not even because they're better, but because they're part of that Stanford / Harvard / MIT nexus. The willingness of people (and media, and funders, etc etc) to run toward these initiatives, simply because they're from elite US universities, is what leads to these new versions of open.

Meanwhile I get flack from the Creative Commons community because the CC license on some of my writing is 'not open enough', because I don't (and couldn't if I wanted to) allow my work to be scraped and sold by content-farms.You can take my work and do whatever what you want with it (but you can't lock it behind a wall forcing people to pay thousands to see your annotated version of it).

So I think that the promoters of open need to look closely at what motivates them and what projects they support, and perhaps be less willing to jump on the next media meme because it pushes pageviews and signups, and examine the sort of software and content environment they want 'open' to really be.

To me, open isn't about the money (and it's precisely when it *does* become about the money that it becomes converted and corrupted). Open is about creating and sharing. Open isn't about elite universities and "the best professors in the world". It's about everybody being able to be a learner, and a teacher, and a member of the community.

I'm just saying. I'm not bitter, I don't even care - I'm just observing that people get the 'open' they deserve.
Responses to a discussion forum on the future of OERu. (the discussion)


- What is the OERu point of difference and does it need one? 

The primary (and perhaps the sole) point of difference between OERu and the other initiatives is the manner of course construction, using the wiki and (mostly) volunteer labour. Perhaps secondarily, the fact that OERu materials can be reused, though reuse permissions vary through the open online learning community.

- What differentiates the OERu collaboration from xMOOCs? 

Strictly the reuse permissions. The 'logic model' employed by OERu is (more cynically) also employed by, say, Coursera.

It may be that there is an argument to be made for the gretaer quality or usefulness of learning materials created collaboratively in a wiki environment, but as OERu has focused more and more on its university "founding partners" it becomes more like Coursera, and less like Wikipedia. In my view.

- What has contributed to the uptake and global interest in the cMOOCs and xMOOCs?
Marketing.

CMOOCs were around for a while without making a huge impact (though they were influential pedagogically). It is with Stanford's AI course - and the support of the Stanford media machine - in 2011 that the format became popular. The marketing was so influential that they were actually given credit for inventing the form, though we know that both MOOCs and OEREu were around before Coursera.

- What does this mean for OERu?

It's running behind in a race against well-funded marketing machines. No doubt board members on OERu "founding partners" have wondered why they weren't "involved in a MOOC'. OERu is not sufficiently 'more open' to attract notice from the supporters of xMOOCs, at least, not in the popular media and public opinion. Initiatives like Wikiversity and Curricki find themse;ves in the same position.

I don't think 'being a wiki' open education initiative will be sufficient to attract long-term interest (though this should not deter OERu and WikiEducator members from continuing to create and contribute valuable online learning materials). It will probably create funding pressures for OERu, as "founding members" look elsewhere to join the MOOC bandwagon.

Should OERu brand itself as a MOOC initiative? I don't think so - it would be like trying to retroactively give itself credit for being a part of a movement it wasn't a part of (like the way Alison is saying it created the first 'MOOCs' in 2007 because it released some 'openish' learning content).
But I think OERu can draw on its superior pedagogical knowledge and offer a more substantial learning experience than the Video+quize format of the xMOOCs. Maybe cMOOC people and OERu people should talk more.

- Are there other contemporary developments which the OERu network should take into account? 

Well, yeah. Can it get past the concept of a 'class' and 'university credit' (ie., the old-fashioned and not very open logic model) and embrace a model of learner-driven education? Can it nurture (and support existing) domain-specific communities with the sharing of resources, practices, war stories, activities, etc?

Before MOOCs became large the same community was talking about the concept of personal learning. The institution-based OERu model is a step away from that (as are the institution and course-centric MOOCs, both 'c' and 'x'). Can OERu find a way to merge collaborative (cooperative) community with personal learning?

- What questions should the OERu network be asking to inform its future? 

To me, the central (and existential) question always facing OERu (and WikiEducator) is: who does OERu and WE serve? WQho is intended to be the ultimate beneficiary of these initiatives? When a person contrubutes content to WE, who are they trying to help?

As the emphasis of WE has shifted over time from open learning to founding partners, the answer to this question has become murkier. When we see initiatives like Coursera and Udacity launch, it becomes relevant to ask how different OERu is from either of these. I'm not saying they are the same. But the difference is far less clear after the 'logic model' than it was before.

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