#oerhf part 6 – OER Research session led by Patrick and Candace

We proceeded with audience interaction regarding what metrics can be use to measure the learning effectiveness of OER. The following is a list of key points, Patrick will have a more complete and organised list on Cloudworks (http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/3320)

It was clear that it is only a proxy that we can measure, and there were doubts over causality. Also do we need to prove that we are “as good as” or “better”. Could we use the same material as open and closed as a trial – do we have the appropriate level of control as proper trial? Should we be measuring secondary and quantitative effects and tracking these back to learning outcomes?

We need metrics that isolate the effect of OER from eLearning and everything else.

Are “stories” enough to convince people of the benefits of OER? Do we need quantitative data for advocacy? Great anecdotal evidence exists – can we measure eg. how enquiring students are becoming? can we baseline this?

It may might be easier to look at strategies by which students are learning, by which teachers are using materials and tools.

Are materials generating more interaction, new communites of practice?

Do learning materials have an impact on learning? Does the “open” make a difference? Can we draw on existing research?

Qualitative data – case studies, what is working, what is not?

Is learning happening for free?

Are there measurable efficiencies? (yes)

What materials to students graduate towards?

Teacher’s behaviour – differences in behaviour, frequency of OER use? (but is this a focus on use not the outcome of use?)

Easier question when using OER “platforms” as we have detailed student traces here (eg OLI).

We ended with a plea for OER stories on the Cloud.

#oerhf part 5 – update from Hewlett


Managed through waiting in line behind the world’s most loquacious and angry guest to get delayed checking my bags, so I missed out on the first bit of Vic Vuchic and Barbara Chow’s introduction.

Barbara gave the Hewlett objective as being to support an education system to help high-poverty communities to earn a living wage or more. The Hewlett Foundation’s strategic priorities are: remedying gaps in California Education Policy, Open Educational Resources, and Deeper Learning for C21 work + citizenship

Hewlett sees the development of a decentralised OER Ecosystem, encompassing:
* Flagship Agencies/Networks
* Guidelines and Tools (eg. equalize access to knowledge – accessibility)
* Research and Evaluation (eg. OlNet, how is OER improving practices on the ground
* Advocacy and Communication – to include demonstration (a move from opportunistic demonstrations – textbooks, gaming, participatory learning, to applying OER to a problem of practice… deeper learning)

Kathy Nicholson noted that the strategy approved by board late last month. Highlighting deeper learning so everyone can succeed in a changing world. Goal: “to increase economic success and civic engagement by educating standards for a changing world.”

Deeper learning was defined as encompassing core knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, learning to learn. OER is a catalyst for deeper learning.

Test structures in high school, currently based around recall and easy to marked, were contrasted with example of writing a complex paper and presenting to peers, which requires a combination of deeper skills (and assesses these skills). Now, a combination of openness, technology and wide support mean that it is possible to bring this about, and Hewlett feel able to bring this about.

Work will focus on K12:

* policy: reauthorisation of federal education act (previously “no child left behind”) concentrate on addition to act in 2017.
* practice: focus on curriculum, tools and training – clear potential impact of OER, example of Carnegie Melon OLI (which isn’t really OER as is generally understood, but is a very powerful model of feedback loops)
* proofpoints: a network of schools and community colleges – 100s of model schools, communities of practice and the exploration of new models (peer to peer open learning was mentioned)

A video was shown about a student at “city arts and technology high school” moving from being a potential drop-out to getting college acceptances via a deeper learning approach.

In questions, Barbara agreed that 21st century skills was another language for talking about “deeper learning”.

Question from the audience made a useful point about this being cultural change (staff development and policy change). Noted that schools are being assessed via tests that do not test these skills – changing the policy environment is critical. The “no child left behind” act pushed a lot of deeper learning practice underground, the challenge is to re-expose it.

Some interesting language about lowering barriers to this kind of information via open source tools for collaboration. And an admission that HE is a much more sophisticated bunch of consumers than in K12, but that teachers at this level want to engage in this kind of practice but need time and support.

Can we build on partnerships between HE and schools, volunteering from students and remedial teaching in HE? Generally agreed that this needs to be leveraged.

Barbara Chow notes that if we (Hewlett) are the OER movement in funding and leadership then we have a problem. That is not sustainable.

An interesting question about a media strategy for this work – it was noted that the “story” was not out there and negative publicity could sink the idea. Noted that we are not the first people to enter this charged political area and that all support is welcomed.

Person from California wondered whether we could demonstrate how deeper learning can improve performance on standardised test. We are seeing this, and also seeing a drop in college drop-outs.

Concluding thoughts from Barbara:

1. OER is thriving, over the next 7 years we want to move it from the edge to the mainstream. A common communication strategy will be core.
2. We are clear about where we are headed, and want to hear about what the OER community can offer. Open to any ideas that we have.

(this text and image licensed under CC-BY 2.5 (UK) – these are my personal notes from the sessions, and any errors or omissions are my fault or the fault of the guy who spent 10 minutes arguing about room service charges – seriously, you paid for that film, you might be embarrassed about it now but last night you wanted it enough to spend $9.95.)

#oerhf notes part 4 – afternoon panel on international OER

Another scrappy set of notes for me I’m afraid as I was on the panel at the time. This was an interesting and inspiring overview of global practice, with an emphasis on different structures, models and aims. It was much more practically based than the morning’s more advocacy centred panel. There were a very good range of engaging speakers and despite being an early afternoon/after lunch session a lot of audience interaction.

Panel: International OER Policy: Sharing Goals and Objectives Across
(Moderated by: Melissa Hagemann, Senior Program Manager, Information
Program, Open Society Institute)

* Abel Caine, Program Specialist, Section for ICT in Education, Science
and Culture, Information Society Division, UNESCO
Abel talked briefly about the original role of UNESCO in defining the term
OER at a famous conference nearly 10 years ago, and suggested a possible
anniversary conference to bring about the next phase of OER. UNESCO are
developing an OER platform for their materials, enabling them to be
adapted and reused – he gave the example of a model curriculum for
Journalism educations which has a backlog of 120 universities across the
world wanting to adapt the model. He didn’t mention it in the presentation
but he mentioned earlier to me that one of these will be a guide to OER

* David Kernohan, UKOER Programme Manager, Joint Information Systems
Committee (JISC)
David spoke eloquently and persuasively (yeah, right…) about UKOER,
emphasising the low levels of project funding, requirements of
sustainability for projects (including the model of match funding and
decentralisation) and enumerated the large number of things that are not
mandated by the programme but are left up to the 29 projects to make
decisions on (eg. metadata, file formats, release mechanism, promotion
mechanism, business model…). He noted the development of an OER infokit
to be launched in July, and a showcase conference on July 23rd
(http://www.jisc.ac.uk/oer10). He was heckled throughout by a squeaky door.

* Catherine Ngugi, Director, OER Africa
Catherine emphasised (as the OER Africa programme does) the practical
applications of using OER in a resource scarce environment – it is not and
cannot be a sideline activity. Recognition and reward for academics
releasing materials are important aspects of their work, and they ensure
that release projects are responding to a recognised need rather than just
releasing into nothingness.

Dr. Wayne Mackintosh, Director, OER Foundation
Wayne apologised profusely for being very jet-lagged. OER commons NZ is an environment for academics in New Zealand to release material into, which also provides free training in the creation and use of reusable and portable content. Wayne saw wider work as a parallel to the (FL)OSS movement, where both giving and receiving material is important – he noted that OER is very good at giving material, but less confident in receiving it.

Ben Janssen, Senior Policy Advisor, Open University of the Netherlands
Wikiwijs is a platform for Dutch academics to release material (under CC-BY) for reuse and repurposing. Born out of support from senior government ministers and a context where funding was available, wikiwijs exists to stimulate the use of open materials in teaching at all levels of granularity. A key concern is the professionalisation of teaching via the release of material and the skills developed therein. The platform already supports a peer review/rating system, and is being adapted for further use in other sectors.

Carolina Rossini, Coordinator, OER Brazil & Fellow, Berkman Center at Harvard University
The approach to OER in Brazil is both top-down and bottom-up, and an initial focus on online and distance learning has become a broader emphasis on OER, especially around awareness raising and community building. Despite tax exemption for academic publishers, the cost of textbooks is still prohibitively high and a recent government green paper has highlighted areas where OER release can be of great benefit to the country. An open publisher for educational materials (sealo?) is focusing on core books that are out-of-print and academic journals, releasing both under CC licenses. Carolina noted that the American Chamber of Commerce is currently providing teaching materials around copyright to 8-12 year-olds in Brazil which is seen as unhelpful to the growth of OER.

Questions – there were questions around economic arguments for OER, with Holland and the UK reporting research into business models but difficulties in identifying valid methodological models. The ongoing issue of content as it relates to pedagogy (and whether the two can be meaningfully separated was raised – it was noted that UNESCO are producing OERs on pedagogy, and there was a nod to the Learning Design community who specifically share pedagogic models.

(this text licensed under CC-BY 2.5 (UK) – these are my personal notes
from the sessions, and any errors or omissions are my fault)

#oerhf notes part 3 – lunchtime discussion on sustainability

This discussion was facilitated by the marvellous Steve Carson at OCWC. I was writing and eating (and occasionally speaking) all the same time so what follows is a collection of random points of interest, attributed where possible.

We were asked to go around the table (well, two tables as this session was so popular) and talk about our sustainability plans.

It was generally agreed that government and foundations grants are not themselves a model of sustainability.

John Hopkins U are top-slicing other external grants to pay for OER release (I know that MIT are also doing this, alongside a donation model).

Wikimedia have a pure donation model.

There was a lot of interest in what model of sustainable practice Flat World (a commercial publisher using a Non-Commercial Share-Alike license, http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/about) have. But no-one round the table seemed to know.

Another commercial company (didn’t catch the name, sorry) talked about their interest in providing services around OER content (eg discovery).

The CC foundation is supported by donations and charitable foundations, but admit that they “need a commercial model” – one element of which could be a publish-on-demand service. They also talked about fund-raising initiatives like “five by five”, and noted that google are co-operating with CC on an OER search.

Blossom at MIT admitted that they don’t have a sustainability model, but partners in Jordan have established a public/private partnership model.

The OER foundation, dedicated to building a sustainable OER ecosystem, have a number of funding streams including government contracts, donations and commercial partners (which is possible due to their insistence on not using an NC clause).

In Holland a combination of EC and Government funding is used, with the expectation of high quality services around the materials being a future source of funding. It was noted that Secretary of the Association of Academic Publishers in Holland is a strong OER advocate (linked to the dutch use of CC-BY)

OCWC are interested in both commercial and non-commercial models, depending on material licensing terms.

And I talked at little bit about the UKOER model of building release into institutional processes, low initial funding levels and matched funding, and the idea of a distributed rather than centralised model.

There was a lot of discussion about the place of commercial publishers within an OER ecosystem, some felt that publishers using CC-BY material could feed funds back into the ecosystem, others questions what obligation publishers would have to do this.

Again, apologies that these notes are rather scrappy, I was eating (and talking) at the time!

(this text licensed under CC-BY 2.5 (UK) – these are my personal notes from the sessions, and any errors or omissions are my fault)

#oerhf notes part 2 – morning panel on US issues

The mid-morning session was a panel on Domestic OER Related Policies: Opportunities and Challenges Across Levels (Moderator: Phoenix Wang, Co-Founder, Startl). This session was very focused on the lobbying at state and federal level of OER, and a clear theme was the need for a consistency in the way OER was described and the advantages put forward. There was always a general belief that tax-payer funded materials should *always* be licensed unobstructively and that funding was a lever to change the dynamics of the content ecosystem. Most of the speakers identified themselves as “advocates” of OER, so most discussion centred around ways of promoting and explaining OER to “non-believers”

* Hal Plotkin, Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Dept of Education
When asked “what are we not doing” to support OER, he replied that the current dysfunctional model of the delivery of learning material is an immense industry, with key lobbying access to politicians from commercial publishers. An alliance between the Democratic Party and publishers was instrumental in supporting academic freedom (eg in teaching evolution in schools) may not be beneficial in supporting OER. A match between a 400lb gorilla and a pipsqeak!

He flagged Jim Shelton’s “Invest in Innovation” fund c.$600 for which bids have just closed. Highlighted that OER is not a stand-alone activity, but needs to be embedded in other innovation.

FIPSI (fund for the improvement of post secondary education) worth keeping an eye on.

Noted that he was a “turtle on a fencepost” (he didn’t get there by himself!) and offered thanks to the Foundation and the community.

* Linda Wallinger, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Virginia Dept of Education (http://www.doe.virginia.gov/)
A former French teacher, Linda has a particular interest in using technology for language level. Noted parental preferences around value-laden topics as an under-appreciated driver in education. Using “race to the top” funding in working with universities there have been queries about what “freely available” means and they await a response. In Virginia they have legislated for the release of OER content – an open educational content board. Takes longer than teachers are willing to wait to enact policy, but the boards purpose is to designate OER consortia and to provide quality and licensing guidelines. No funding but enacted.

Betti (?) reported that Maine are undertaking a “multi-faceted attach”. Two HF grants around OER, also title 2-D (enhancing technology via No Child Left Behind Act) schools funds to release OER. Also have a non-profit company based at the University based on this (I was in the pub with the guy who runs this last night!)

* Reg Leichty, Partner, Education Counsel
Reg discussed the US federal education policy landscape, and looked forward to OER initiatives forthcoming. He noted that “no child left behind” would make way to more local and proactive initiatives. The Recovery Act looked at teacher development, more effective uses of data, school improvement, standards and assessments (eg the development of a common core of state standards, which will greatly effect the way states think about curricula). Implementation is ongoing, with billions of dollars available on application to states to work on local implementation via “Race to the Top”. Outputs from this grant will be freely available as OER. The Enhancing Education through Technology programme also includes OER language, and the School Improvement funding programme can be used to make outputs available as OER.

Reauthorisation of the No Child Left Behind Act is ongoing, with hearings in progress to define the future of this legislation. He called for the OER community to speak as one voice in advocating OER.

Doug ? (CC Broadband?) – stimulus programme means every American should have access to broadband, most focused on supply side but also some work on demand side – one area that was highlighted was around OER, recommendations delivered to congress and parts are being enacted. E-rate2.0 (cheaper broadband for education providers) also includes OER support.

Public Televison (PBS) (didn’t catch speakers name) have an interest in creating material for learners age 2-8, current programme mentions OER by name.

* Susan Patrick, President and CEO, iNACOL
iNACOL (http://www.inacol.org/) is a non-profit advocacy organisation looking at supporting online learning at K12. She has a particular interest in using OER to benefit students at this level – posing the question of how OER messages can be pulled together consistently, she saw this as a policy issue around terminology (eg around the use of the word “free”). She suggested a number of possible terms that could be consistently used within an OER definition (“non-obstructive licences so we can share access and collaborate”) as different advocates lobby in different places.

* Dave Zook, Chair, B&D Consulting
Has an interest in open access to research and OER and works as an advocate to policy makers concerning a variety of issues. Three key themes that have emerged for him in this work are a need to focus on the outcomes of OER release, a need to “go negative” on the current system of access to materials, OER as a solution to problems – access, learning beyond textbooks (will become a brand for OER advocacy) … Currently focused on K12 OER, moving in to higher education. Requested a contribution around evidence and a research – to turn into “lore” for advocacy.

* Jim Fruchterman, CEO, Benetech
Benetech (http://www.benetech.org/) Silicon Valley’s intentionally non-profit organisation exists to remedy market failure, sees OER as a way of providing what the market does not. Route 66 to Literacy (scenic route to literacy) developed as a CC online curriculum, using CC images, as a social enterprise. Bookshare is an online library available to US students with disability after a $25 set up fee and a $50/year subscription and explicitly allows for format transitions for accessibility (standard ebook licences fear piracy so do not allow this). Initially funded by silicon valley companies, Bookshare won a federal competition for $32million. Two OER initiatives: state-adopted K12 open text books made fully accessible, and partnership with Flatworld knowledge to make their books accessible. Particular focus on accessibility of graphics.

Problems they are facing – OER is not standardised, would like to see OER use the same standards as the publishing industry. Some students who would benefit from Bookshare are not eligible (eg those who are undiagnosed or cannont afford fees).

Questions (responses to various ones) and closing comments. Publishers have standardised on an an XML variant called ePoP, it would be good if OER could use this. Unobstructive licenses are a term which has allowed policy makers to understand OER. “Sharing” language can often be a stumbling block due to a culture (and policy areas) around not sharing. But legislation hopes to change at least the frameworks and guidance around sharing. Initially we had to create content because there was nothing to share, now we need to build communities of practice that can share. Broadband access (and school to home internet connections) can solve the digital divide and provide better access to OER.

(this text licensed under CC-BY 2.5 (UK) – these are my personal notes from the sessions, and any errors or omissions are my fault)

#oerhf notes part 1 – Hal Plotkin and day 2 opening.

We opened with an introduction to the conference and to Yale by Diana Kleiner of OpenYale – Diana’s background is in architecture so we got an excellent overview of Yale’s campus and buildings. We also saw an introduction to the conference cloudworks (http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloudscape/view/2053) from Patrick McAndrew of the UK Open University. It was announced that next year’s conference will be in Half Moon Bay, about 50m north of San Francisco.

Barbara Chow opened the conference by providing a presentation outlining the central themes and sessions of the conference, emphasising the global and mixed-sector nature of the conference. She noted that the update from the Hewlett Foundation on future work will be first thing tomorrow, and that the themes of today would be around public policy in OER.

Vic Vuchic (who has an OER programme management role in Hewlett) offered an overview of OER in 2009 and predictions about 2010. 2009 was a record year for the availability of OER funding, with investment from the Gates Foundation, Lumina, MacArthur, Connexions etc – a lot of activity at the federal and state level in the US, international government initiatives in Turkey, Holland and the UK. He also highlighted the increasing use of OER as monitored by HF grantees, including a 113% increase in searches for “oer”. 2010 sees continued development of open textbook (eg California are currently in phase 2 of a programme, the development of core textbooks for community colleges). There will also be a growth in distribution channels (iTunes U, YouTube Edu), but it is noted that we need to ensure that these offer the benefits of true openness. On a Rogers innovation curve, the OER movement is about to cross the chasm into the mainstream. He concluded with the suggestion that we needed to think about consistency (of quality, approach) as a model for OER advocacy.

Hal Plotkin (http://www.halplotkin.com), a senior policy advisor in the US Education Department, gave the opening keynote. I caught up with him yesterday regarding what happened with the $100m 10-year OER programme announced in the early days of the Obama administration. It turns out that due to budgetary pressures, this didn’t actually start last year, but there is still great support from the president and within the Education Department (a number of policy appointees were drawn from the OER community, all of whom had been at one point Hewlett OER grant holders). We shared over dinner yesterday the perils of being in public policy and waiting for permission to make announcements!

In his keynote he outlined his belief that we are at a “tipping point” into openness in education from a model of exclusion to a model of wide access, and that the OER movement (in particular the early work of Cathy Casserly and Mike Smith) will constitute the first two chapters of the book that will one day written about this. He started the presentation drawing on his early life as a high school “push-out” (he protested about the term “drop-out”) and his early career in journalism and at Foothills Community College. His early interest in “public domain learning materials” sparked his work (initially in Foothills) in what became the OER movement.

The recently passed SAFRA bill on student support which introduced direct lending via institutions to students (http://edlabor.house.gov/blog/2009/07/student-aid-and-fiscal-respons.shtml) was a part of the infamous US healthcare bill and subject to a great deal of commercial lobbying. However, during this process the previously announced OER funds (which were to be taken from the savings achieved via direct lending) were lost as institutions moved to direct lending voluntarily thus dropping the anticipated savings that were to be used in this way. The savings remaining were used to increase the Pell grants to students.

$2bn of unallocated funds were identified in the Recovery Act and Trade Adjustment Act: $500m dollars a year for programmes supporting “dislocated workers” (defined as workers who lost their jobs due to international pressure). The Department are still finalising plans for the use of these funds, but Hal noted that materials developed under the Act would also meet the needs of a wider pool of open learners. Because of strong support for OER in the White House other funding will also be identified for OER related work.

The US government see the way out of current financial difficulties as to invest in the skills and capacities of citizens, enabling the recreation of shared prosperity. And see OER as an important part of this.

The Hewlett Foundation are formal advisers on the creation of the federal OER programme. He asked delegates to share ideas around this with Vic Vuchic – who along with Barbara Chow will be working closely with Hal and his team.

He concluded that “we are the people we have been waiting for, and our work has just begun”.

(this text licensed under CC-BY 2.5 (UK) – these are my personal notes from the sessions, and any errors or omissions are my fault)