by Stephen Downes
[Sept] 02, 2014
The challenges of open data: emerging technology to support learner journeys
One of the consequences of an outcomes-driven competency-based education system is that it creates the risk of running through the gamut of issues surrounding metadata that characterized the development of online learning resources. This appears to be the basis for the development of LMI in Britain - labour market information. Graham Attwell describes and links to the "LMI for all" API in this presentation. This is a better approach than simply defining XML schemas, as it creates access to data that can actually be used for applications. Maybe second time around we'll get more of this right "with the intention of optimising access to, and use of, core national data sources that can be used to support individuals make better decisions about learning and work." I'd love to see something like this for Canada.
Reflecting on reflection
I have often described the 'Downes Theory of Education' (which is not original to me, and which is too simple to be called a theory) as follows: "To teach is to model and demonstrate; to learn is to practice and reflect." So much writing focuses on the first pair of activities; the bulk of educational literature is focused on how to teach. My focus has generally been about how to learn, but even here I have tended to focus more on practice and less on reflection. But reflection should not be overlooked; 10,000 hours of practice may produce expertise, but 10,000 hours of unreflective practice produces nothing but sore shoulders. Harold Jarche begins this important conversation. I think it's necessary to expand on the idea. A lot.
Community Source Is Dead
I've never been a proponent of what is sometimes called 'community source' (but which is really a closed federation posturing as though it were some sort of open source). The way it worked was, "several institutions contract together to build software for a common need, with the intent of releasing that software as open source." Fair enough. And it did address the problem of bringing together the resources needed to create such software. But there's a second problem, says Michael Feldstein: "What is the best way to plan and execute software development projects in light of the high degree of uncertainty inherent in developing any software?" Community source is difficult to manage, and nowhere nearly sufficiently agile to respond to changing needs. See eg. the interesting comment from Josh Baron: " I certainly understand the desire on the part of institutional leaders to have control over key decisions and reduce the messiness, this was my first reaction when entering the Sakai community as well, but as soon as these leaders begin to take control they can end up ruining the 'secret sauce'." See also: Kuali for-profit.
Educator’s Guide to LiveBinders
Overview of what looks like a really interesting tool, Livebinders. "To accommodate this ever evolving world of information, teachers and students both need an online tool where they can collect, share, reflect, and grow from their learning. This is where a tool like LiveBinders comes in. LiveBinder is your digital binder for all of your online content and learning." The article is probably an advertorial and all that (otherwise, why flood it with links to the LiveBinders site), and the product is essentially a hosed commercial service, but the concept is still attractive.
The Open Access Interviews: Paul Royster, Coordinator of Scholarly Communications, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Long, interesting, and important essay by Richard Poynder on open access (20 page PDF). The context is an interview with Paul Royster (pictured), who has established the second largest institutional repository in the US at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with some 60K open access works. A great accomplishment. But he is surprised to see it attacked by open access advocates. "He was startled to hear SPARC announce to delegates that henceforth the sine qua non of open access is that a work has to be made available with a CC BY licence or equivalent attached... the OA movement no longer views what he is doing as open access."
Well, I've had this argument with people before. I have long felt that the insistence on CC-by (which allows commercial reuse) comes not from actual proponents of open access, but by commercial publishers promoting their own interests. That's what we see represented in this article. "The OA movement’s failure to address the definition problem, and its willingness to “partner” with publishers is enabling publishers to bend and mould OA to their needs rather than the needs of the research community." How? "By insisting on CC BY, the OA movement is encouraging publishers to further increase their prices — and without providing any additional value."
Additionally, CC-by sets the stage for the enclosure of open access works. The University of Ottawa's Heather Morrison explains: "Picture Elsevier buying out Hindawi, for example (is this more far-fetched than Elsevier buying out Mendeley or Springer buying BMC), then including Hindawi content in ScienceDirect and shutting down the Hindawi OA sites." In the LMS world it would be like Blackboard buying out companies that offer open access software like, say, MoodleRooms. She adds, "there is nothing to stop publishers from lobbying against public spending on archives (have people really not noticed that governments around the world are listening to such arguments)?" (See also)
For my part, I continue to support what is called 'Green' open access, in which authors and institutions archive their own work, without the intervention (and expense) of publishers, and in which, for me, and for the people who have actually promoted open access, open access is “immediate, permanent online access, free for all on the Web” (with no reference to, or need for, a specific licence). And I will go further and say that Creative Commons and organizations like SPARC, by privileging CC-by, are actually harming rather than helping open access.
Moocs are free – but for how much longer?
Times Higher Education,
You can't just say “Moocs have started out as a free opportunity – and free is a great way to get people interested,” as Stanford's John Mitchell does. MOOC means free. If academia wants to charge tuition for instruction, I won't complain, since academia has been doing that for 2,500 years. But they don't get to call such courses open or MOOCs. Because they're not!
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