Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ The Fate of eduSource

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jan 21, 2005

Scott Leslie writes of the PLANET Digital Repository: On the surface just another repository project, but of interest to me because it is a current project from outside of Canada that seems to have picked up the Edusource Communications Layer (ECL) developed by Marek Hatala and others as part of the Edusource project. This is the second piece of information I've had in as many weeks that Edusource isn't maybe as moribund as it's original website would lead one to believe. I guess some of the action has moved on to this eRIB site and to this eduSource Registry of Services, but still, it seems pretty unclear to me what in fact is still going on. Would love to know, though."

When funding for eduSource ended, it sort of devolved to the institutions that were a part of it. But four of the major partners (Netera Alliance, New Media Innovation Centre, TéléEducation NB and Télé-Université) were closed, cut back or merged with other institutions. Waterloo was always more interested in CLOE and MERLOT. Waterloo's Tom Carey and Doug MacLeod have somehow become the sole representatives to discussions surrounding a nascent project called GLOBE, which is intended to be an international federated search network and is having meetings in Japan. Three of the partners, along with some other universities (Télé-université, the University of Waterloo and Simon Fraser University (which is where New Media Innovation Centre ended up)), obtained a $7.5 million NSERC grant to create LORNet. This has allowed Télé-université (which is being merged with UQAM) to maintain the eduSource software site.

Various individual projects continue, the most notable of these being the Campus Alberta Repository of Educational Objects (CAREO) - follow this project by reading D'Arcy Norman at Calgary's Learning Commons. CanCore continues under the steady hand of Norm Friesen at Athabasca University. Here on the east coast, Moncton's IDITAE continues development of some eduSource related projects while at the NRC work on the digital rights management component continues (I hold out no real hope though that it will ever be a part of eduSource proper, since the model is for a distributed system while eduSource - despite much verviage to the contrary - became a centralized federated system). DLORN was also supposed to be part of the eduSource network, and would allow the harvesting model to be a part of the model, but it was never added - and thus you see the inherent weakness of the federated model, where the network itself becomes a means of control.

I suppose I am still involved with eduSource, but as it is being pushed more and more toward the closed, commercial, exclusive and centralized federated model I have less and less use for it. Who cares if a few universities exchange learning content among themselves (not that this really happens a lot anyway)? What's this doing for the people who actually pay for these projects? Why do the same people get funded over and over again to produce essentially the same network, a network that never seems to extend beyond their own offices? Why is Industry Canada supporting ELF, which looks like another instance of the same phenomenon?

My time with eduSource was essentially a two-year long series of arguments where I pushed for an open, distributed and accessible system of learning resources. Time and time I heard arguments about how commercial providers required this, how a proprietary piece of software requires that. Many people in these organizations who are genuinely working for an open system. But I don't see eduSource - or GLOBE, or ELF, or LORNET - as working toward that. There is this general and incessant pressure from above to work toward the closed commercial model - I would have buried the last of our work on eduSource long ago were I able to. But I have no interest in this model, and for all practical purposes, have put eduSource behind me.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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