Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Open Education: Moving From Concept to Reality

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Apr 29, 2003

Summary of presentation to OE membership

Open Education
Needs/Next Steps


History of Open Source
Internet - connections/network
Early programmers culture: sharing
Free Software Foundation - response to eroding freedom/sharing/access
Open Source – less "militant"
An expression of how things should be organized, how power should be distributed, how content can be reused.

Current Climate in Education Content
Societal changes (globalization, industrial to knowledge transition, etc.)
Learning objects – nebulous knowledge defined, tagged
Legal – IP, copyright
Publishers/LMS – closed doors
We (educators/content creators/users) need to respond – stay relevant, have a voice, keep control

Open Education: A Solution
…not perfect…but a start
An alternative, not replacement
Create, share, re-create
Blends: blogs, open source, Internet itself
CoPs – create content
OE – fosters CoPs

What is OE about?
Create content
Release content
Community to build communities
Provide resources/guidelines

OE’s Goals
Central listing of Open Source Content (OSC)
OSC content release
OSC content use
Advocate OSC
Create the structure for OSC

Overview of OE

Some concepts/thoughts
Follow structure of blogging:

  • Creation
  • RSS/Trackback (Bottom line: Trackback is basically a commenting technology: "I'm writing a comment about something you wrote, and I want to tell you that I've done that. That is "pinging", but it should be called "Notify" or something simpler (e.g. "Send comments to original site [url]"). If I want you to tell me when you comment on what I've written, I must enable notiication, which is currently called "incoming pings" (e.g. "Receive comments from other sites")." David Carter-Tod
  • Aggregating

Simplicity – like Blogger. Make it (very) easy!
Connect to known projects - MIT? David Wiley?, Blog development (i.e. adopt infrastructure/technolgoy already established)
User level focus
Flexibility – let user define use
“Laddered” – individual or org. wide

Three Components:
Steering Committe - foster environment...advocate, maintain movement/momentum
Work Groups – see for more information
Cmmunities of Practice– create, build, do – autonomous - by field of interest/specialty - need simple/social/collaborative tools

Starting with OE
License Under CC
Join OE
Get involved in WGs
Start interest group/CoP
List CoP on OE
Review Needs Page
List on your blog


  1. Get involved in OE
  2. Search for CoP
  3. Join/Start CoP
  4. Review OE resources
  5. Adopt resources of interest
  6. Release material under OE
  7. Advocate to admin/colleagues
  8. Use DLORN
  9. Co-develop content


  • Initiation: A community is initiated (by an individual or organization)
  • Formation: At this stage, the group organizes and involves required institutions and individuals
  • Registration: With DOSC - in order to create a centralized, searchable listing
  • Adoption: of DOSC model for content creation and sharing via CoPs/open source model
  • Roles - a CoP is largely self-organizing. Roles are filled based on the skills and abilities of a group. The process can loosely follow guidelines made available by DOSC


D L O R N Distributed Learning Object Repository Network
Stephen Downes
April 29, 2003

What is DLORN?
A system that allows content producers to distribute their learning resources
A mechanism that enables the subject specific aggregation of learning resources from many sources
A means to allow course authors to locate and use resources from many sources

DLORN, the Concept
DLORN should be thought of as a concept, not a product
The central idea is that learning resources are distributed through a network
DLORN isn’t about content management, it is about content distribution
The principles behind DLORN are those of the web: distributed, decentralized, open

DLORN: Basic Structure

Current Implementation

Syndication Formats
DLORN currently supports all versions of RSS with Syndication, Admin, DC and CC modules
DLORN also supports all LOM fields as RSS modules (needs documentation)
Planned: support for OAI repository harvesting

LOM Metadata in RSS
Treat LOM as just another RSS Mod
Prefix with LOM

Writer's Online Outline…/senoutline.html



LOM Metadata: Issues
As usual, what does the ‘link’ tag point to?
Preferred: to the LO directly
Optional: to the LO metadata
Really not desired: to an HTML summary page describing the LO
Excess ‘junk’ in LOM
The endless ‘languagestring’ tags
The reference to VCard data

Metadata Repositories
Intent is to conform to IMS DRI as much as possible – analogous to IMS ‘search intermediary’
Expectation that there will be many metadata repositories
MDs harvest metadata and provide search services to e-learning applications

MD Issues
Some repositories do not make all metadata available – eg CAREO, most recent 10 items
Some repositories don’t make any metadata available – eg. Corbis, Merlot
MDs will have to output in a variety of (as yet unspecified) formats, eg., SOAP, XML-RPC, RSS, etc.

E-Learning Applications
Right now, only the web browser, but of course MD output should be fed directly into applications, including:
Content aggregation tools
Learning Object browsers (akin to headline viewers)
LCMSs and LMSs

Third Party Metadata
Not yet supported
Third party reviews of learning objects
Aggregated by MDs and made available as part of search process

Digital Rights
DLORN will support the eduSource DRM component
The reason is to place free and priced learning resources side by side in search results (if desired by searcher). Why?
Creates market for free materials
Undermines existing publisher monopoly
Results in realistic content pricing

DLORN - Complete Structure

Of Interest
Open Anarchy or Closed Dictatorship: Methods of Producing Collaborative Teaching Texts
(OE Member: Dave Munger)…info on OE site

Clear concise message (create, share, recreate?)
Awareness - with instructors we hope will adopt OE, with administrators who will permit licensing under Creative Commons
Server space - not an issue now, but will be. We need to be able to provide easy content publishing
Technical people - graphical, programming
Meeting platform - i.e. vClass, HorizonLive, etc.

Next Steps
Define Collaboration
David Wiley – “source-forge”
“Kick off” – Interview article: Lawrence Lessig (May 1)
Work Groups organize and begin work
Form Steering Committee

Sample Look:

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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