Opencourseware Consortium panel discussion at UWC

Last Friday I was fortunate enough to attend 2 panel discussions on the use of OER in higher education. It was a bit of an occasion as one of the panels included a few board members of the Opencourseware Consortium (on a side note, UWC is a member of the OCW Consortium). This post is really just a few of the comments made during the panels.

The session began with a welcome message by the university’s Chancellor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a wonderful man who is always a pleasure to listen to. Something he said struck a chord with me, as I’ve been reflecting on this issue with my students in the ethics module I teach. He said to remember that we are not second rate, and that we don’t have to apologise for who we are. This is important because so often I find that my students lack self-confidence and seem almost apologetic for even being here. The history of this particular institution seems to haunt them, and they can’t seem to shake the belief that their degree isn’t worth the same as one from another university. This is obviously a deep issue that I’m not going to go into here, but I just wanted to mention that comment.

The Vice-Chancellor also made an interesting point in his short welcome address. That is, a redistribution of wealth from the rich 10% won’t significantly improve the lot of the poor 90%. Only by empowering the majority of the people to make their own change, can the country move forward.

The other comments I made a note of included the following:

Andy Lane (Open University, UK): OER is not just good to do. It’s about some form of social justice.

Neil Butcher (OER Africa, South Africa): Curricular frameworks must drive the development of OER i.e. content is not the focus, content comes after pedagogy

Derek Keats (Wits University, South Africa): 1) When content is free, students can use scarce financial resources to acquire technology, which opens up access to an even greater body of content. 2) When institutional strategy is developed around OER, faculty pushback can be reduced

N.B: 1) Institutional pushback is reduced when the OER conversation happens around better ways of addressing faculty and student needs. 2) The content is infrastructure.

Philip Schmidt (Peer 2 Peer University): When lecturers become "internet superstars", they can teach a greater body of students than any traditional lecturer could teach in a lifetime. This reduces the emphasis on formal recognition of professional development.

Ultimately, OER is about content, but I’m more interested to know if it has a role to play in changing teaching and learning practice?

Mozilla Open Education course – Overview

We had our first session of the Mozilla Open Education Course earlier this evening and it was pretty interesting.  There were a few technical issues with sound but generally it was very well done.  Thanks to everyone who made it possible.

Here’s a few notes that I took during the session.  I know the video will be available later but I took notes anyway and listed the comments from the presenter as it was happening, so there may be errors.  If I’ve made any mistakes, please let me know.

Mark Surman (from the Mozilla foundation)
Spoke about why Mozilla is involved and what the foundation’s motivations are.

Why do the course?

Students are living and learning on the web.  Education is not working and the web is making this even clearer.

Educators need to teach like the web, using these building blocks:

  • (open) content
  • (open) tech
  • (open) pedagogy

This course is about using these building blocks…all 3 need to come together in order for open education to work.

Why do Mozilla and CC care?
To promote openness, participation and distributed decision-making as a core part of internet life.  Education is critical to this.

Also, an experiment to:

  • share skills
  • new ideas
  • more allies
  • …have fun

Frank Hecker (Mozilla Foundation)
Elaborated on previous presentation

  • Teach people about Mozilla
  • Create learning opportunities around Mozilla technology and practices
  • Bring new people into the Mozilla camp
  • Create a global community of Mozilla educators
  • Mozilla curriculum at Seneca college
  • Incorporate Mozilla-related topics into coursework
  • http://education.mozilla.org – repo for course materials created
  • People learn things best when participating directly in the communities around that project
  • education@lists.mozilla.org

Question: will we be able to make our own ff addon?  Yes

Ahrash Bissell (ccLearn)

Why is Creative Commons involved in learning?

It’s mission is to minimise the legal, technological and social barriers to sharing and reusing educational materials.

Focusses on ways to improve opportunities for and education:

  • Teach about OER
  • Solve problems (built the “discover” tool for OER)
  • Build and diversify community (education is traditionally subdivided into camps e.g. university, high school).  Open education transcends these boundaries. Boundaries useful but should be permeable.
  • Explore better pedagogical models (learning is not something that happens in a delimited way, ideally it should be enjoyed and embraced all the time.  Models haven’t penetrated, everything the same way for the last 50 years (deeply entrenched)
  • Empower teachers and learners (certain expectations of students / teachers, “this is what it means to teach/learn”.  Little power to engage as “scientists” in teaching / learning and make adjustments.  Open source development models – emphasisise feedback, creating a system that allows experimentation in an open, transparent, participatory way.

Embrace overarching principle for engaged padagogies, not new but has become inevitable.

Crucial considerations:

  • Constant, formative feedback (must want to be assessed)
  • Education for skills and capacities, not rote knowledge (the internet makes it obvious why this is the way to go, “knowledge” is already everywhere, thinking is more important.  “Skilled learners”.
  • Leverage human and material capital effectively (reaching into peer groups)
  • Consider the bulding blocks of a participatory learning system
  • Enjoy learning

Philip Schmidt (Peer 2 Peer University)
Provided an overview of the project / sessions

Background readings available on course wiki / 20 min. interviews

Draw up a blueprint for individual / group projects:

  • (open) technology platform
  • (open) licensing
  • (open) pedagogical approach

Idea – blueprint – prototype – project!
Good idea to feed into ongoing things, like:

  • Mozilla education portal
  • Firefox plugins
  • P2PU

Next steps:

  • Decide on groups
  • Start sketching
  • Ideas more important than detail
  • A picture
  • Enough detail to start building