Late thoughts on the Open Ed 2010 conference

Last two months have been so busy that I haven’t written anything on this blog. There is one blog post that I planned to write already weeks ago. It’s a summary of the Open Education 2010 conference that took place in Barcelona. Several participants have already shared their thoughts about the conference: Ismael Peña-López, Molly Kleinman, John Robertson, Brian Lamb, Scott Leslie, Pieter Kleymeer, Paul Stacey and Vic Jenkins. There is also a wiki page and a Cloudworks site about the conference. In my post I want to point out some of the presentations.

One of the keynote speakers Wim Westera talked about the next steps in OER strategies (presentation). On of the important issues that must be solved is the financing model. Westera argued that micro pricing model where people pay for views or downloads doesn’t work in education. Instead of that we should look at the cross-funding. He proposed 8 cross-funding schemes (see slide 30). In my opinion the most promising models are the freemium model and the rock concert model. We can see the freemium model working quite well in Flickr where the pro account costs $24.95 for a year. Some other services like SlideShare have failed to provide a reasonable price for ad-free accounts ($19 monthly). I wonder what could be additional pro services in LeMill that would attract active authors to pay a small fee that helps us to cover the hosting costs (detailed statistics about the use of their resources, management of exercise results, …).

Another keynote presenter Erik Duval was talking about removing friction in open education. His presentation made me think about large numbers. GLOBE has reached more 1 million learning objects. This is a great result, but what is behind that number? How many of these resources have a Creative Commons license that enables educators to improve and remix the resource? Are these resources somehow connected to the authors? In many repositories the resources are not published by the actual authors. I think that in case of user generated content it is important to maintain these connections. This is something that the OER community must work on. LeMill has 24 000 resources but unfortunately we have some technical problems with our OAI-PMH interface and these are not available through GLOBE yet. If we get this fixed then LeMill resources would make 2% of all OER’s available. Erik showed also an interesting comparison data from dataTEL initiative (see slide 50). We have to make LeMill data also available for dataTEL community.

From the conference presentations I really enjoyed Rory McGreal’s talk about approaches to OER course development (article). He listed 13 suggestions for developing OER course content. I find his suggestions very relevant for Estonian context. In recent years we have had several large project where lecturers develop online course modules. However, the quality of these modules varies a lot and often there are technical limitations for reuse and re-editing (source files not available, etc).

A lot of interesting things are going on in University of British Columbia. Brian Lamb, Scott Leslie and Novak Rogic presented how they use open platforms in UBC. One wiki installation is used for the whole university and integrated with university login system. This has allowed them to reach critical mass of people who collaborate online. They have even hired a wiki gardener to manage the site. Instead of developing their own platforms they rely on major open source platforms (MediaWiki and WordPress) and add/develop the needed plugins.

Another wiki-related presentation from UBC took place in Mozilla Drumbeat Festival. Jon Beasley-Murray talked about a course project where his students were writing Wikipedia articles. Three of the articles were finally featured on the Wikipedia main page. I should start improving the Estonian Wikipedia in my courses.

Brian Panulla and Megan Kohler presented an ontological model for exchange of assessment rubrics (article, presentation). I have experienced it in my own teaching that coming up with a detailed assessment criteria is more difficult than creating/finding/adapting the learning content. Many educators would benefit from a sharing platform of educational rubrics. Actually in Estonia we have a platform for creating and sharing rubrics for primary and secondary education. Estonian teachers have created more than 250 rubrics that are published under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

Nathan Yergler presented a new search engine prototype that is developed by Creative Commons (article, slidecast). DiscoverEd search engine provides only open educational resources as results. Currently the results come from OER Commons, Connexions, Open Courseware Consortium and several other repositories. The number of indexed content cannot be compared with GLOBE but the results should include only OER’s. I hope that the user experience of this search engine will be in a same level with other Creative Commons tools when it will come out of the prototype phase.

Two interesting projects come also from the Open University UK. Anna De Liddo presented qualitative data analysis tool Cohere (article, presentation). Cohere is a web-based tool and it is specially designed to annotate and analyze web data (blog and forum posts, etc.). In the paper they analyzed one course that took place in P2PU. Cohere had very nice network and cluster visualizations of memos and participants. This work is very interesting for me because we have developed simple course visualizations in EduFeedr. This should be also interesting for my Finnish colleagues who are planning to do a visual knowledge building tool for the next version of FLE.

Another really promising project from OU UK was presented by Simon Buckingham Shum (article, presentation). SocialLearn is a learning community that is designed by the principles of Web 2.0 and social software. Every member has a dashboard with gadgets and a user profile. It is possible to form communities, make connections and follow other people in SocialLearn. The site will be launched later this year.

All together I am really happy that I had a chance to participate the Open Ed conference. There were quite a lot of interesting presentations and probably I missed some good presentations in parallel sessions. Unfortunately there were only five participants from Eastern Europe. If I look at the use of LeMill I think that open educational resources have a big potential in these countries. It would be good if the Open Ed conference would take place in Europe every second year.

Proceedings of the conference are available in UOC repository and can be downloaded also as a complete PDF book.

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