Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Half an Hour, Dec 17, 2017

In my email today:

As co-leaders of the Educause Openness Constituency Group, we would like to introduce an idea, solicit feedback, and invite you to participate in a planning session for a series of community conversations about openness in higher education.

The idea is that each month the Openness CG will host a volunteer guest to present and discuss a topic of their choosing on openness in education. The topics could range from discussions about an initiative, an organisation  an idea, a new technology, a service, or just about anything else that would be relevant to the Openness CG membership.

We invite you to contribute your ideas to help shape this initiative. Please feel free to respond to this posting if you like and let us know what you think. We will also schedule a virtual meeting on Wednesday, January 24, from 4-5pm EST where we will give a quick overview of the idea, summarise any feedback and additional ideas that we have received, and listen to feedback. 


My thoughts. Incomplete, and I’m sure others will have thoughts to add and/or corrections.


1. General suggestions about presentations (topics, etc.)


- The Creative Commons Education Platform (review of current state, issues with it, impact)

- Open Pedagogy (What is it, how is it applied, why is it important)

- Is there really an OER reuse problem (who reuses, how are things reused, scenarios for reuse)

- Unexpected stories of openness (line up a half-dozen or more interviewees for this one)

- Open pedagogy and public policy – aligning policy with open initiatives (eg open publishing mandates)

- Openness and colonialism (is it a thing? How to mitigate the impact? )

- How open data will/will not change the nature of open educational resources

- Openwrapping (ie, OER wrapped in proprietary tech): is it a problem? Does it violate the spirit of openness?

- The many ways of being open, aka the OERu logic model (resources, assessment, pedagogy, credentials, etc)

- Is open access good enough? Or do we need reuse / modify as well?


In general, keep the topics detailed and current. Don’t just repeat the same topics everyone repeats (why OERs are good, a case of how I used an OER in a course, etc).



- Don’t do presentations. Have an interview format. Interviewee can come prepared with slides to illustrate

  Points but they should never present a sequence, only a given slide to illustrate a particular point

- Keep it conversational, back and forth. Don’t just stick to a list of questions, drill down on topics a bit

- length: 1 hour (but structured so you can get a set of 10-15 minute videos from it)


2. Structure of the Educause Openness Community Conversations (EOCC)

Treat it like a media production. Make the governance open, but ensure that key roles have specific people responsible for fulfillment: executive producer (liaison with organizations and funders), producer (topics and guests), director (management of audio, visual), production (management of tech), host or hosts.


In addition, open the governance to a wider membership. In particular:

- create an advisory board (to suggest topics, guests, etc.)

- create a show ‘membership’ with a discussion forum and regular exchanges with advisory board, producer and hosts

- have an open annual general meeting


There’s probably more stuff here I haven’t considered; I think EDUCAUSE has more experience with this aspect than I do.


3. Best technologies to use

- To created the audio/video: I personally use xSplit but any similar product would be useful. This in turn can be used with Skype or other videoconferencing systems for the interview & conversation. I would output using YouTube Live, because it’s widely accessible and bandwidth scales well, and it also create a video archive of the live show. Save locally as well.

- Use an HD camera and quality mic. Make sure the guests have quality mic & good bandwidth (move them out of their home office to a proper studio if necessary).

- As mentioned before, split the local recording into 10-15 minute video segments and upload those separately to YouTube.

- As well, livestream Audio feed using Shoutcast/Icecast at maybe 32kps for low-bandwidth and mobile phone access.

- Distribute audio and video as MP3 podcasts and MP4 vodcasts  

- ensure there is a backchannel. Don’t just use Twitter or Facebook, as many are uncomfortable. Don’t just use the YouTube channel. I create a separate channel, accessible to Twitter (ie., it aggregates Twitter comments using the hashtag) but allowing an open (anonymous, even, but I live on the edge) chat input and make it available on the video screen. See, eg.


4. Frequency and timing:


- Once a month is too infrequent but might work. Ideal is weekly but this would require a sustained commitment and probably financial resources. For maximum exposure the live show should be at 12:00 noon Eastern time (=8:00 am on the west coast, 5 pm in Europe, 8:30pm in India, midnight in China). If the west coast can handle it, an hour earlier, maybe two, would be even better.

5. Interest in participation

I’d be happy to participate. Let me know.

6. How to best call for volunteers and nominations for speakers


Network. Get interest and participation from key agencies – UNESCO, Creative Commons, OERu, BC Campus. Don’t forget international organizations outside the U.S. – Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Arab league Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ALESCO), Open University of China, Commonwealth of Learning, FUN (France), etc. Especially involve people producing resources – Public Knowledge Project (PKP), Moodle, OpenDOAR, Internet Archive, Wikiedia. Don’t forget corporate learning, government learning, community colleges. Try to reach into communities outside the usual crowd – there are tons of special interest groups, schools groups, etc. Ask these agencies for both topics and potential interviewees (you will never run out of either if you cast the net widely enough).


Market: I personally think mailing lists are the best bet. The open education community is active on a number off mailing lists, and sessions should be advertised on these. Use other EDUCAUSE lists, but reach out. Be sure to stress that people can participate in the event (backchannel, call-in, whatever). Market openings for volunteer roles as well as shows.


Social Media: it pains me to say this, but tweet (and retweets) should be encourage, Facebook posts (set up twitter Account and Facebook page). Have people blog about the show and the contents of the show.


Media: elicit media partnerships – obviously, create a link with EDUCAUSE publications. Try for a link with NPR, CBC, BBC, etc. Issue press releases announcing each show, and another following up with a key point made by the interviewee on the show. Offer the potential for magazines (Inside Higher Ed, Chronicle, THE, eLearn, etc.) to interview guests and/or run interview transcripts.


You want to position each even as the community’s attempt to wrestle with a specific problem. The interview is just the capper of a set of lead-up events. You want to introduce the topic three weeks ahead, call for contributions to the discussion list (be sure to seed it with some posts to get discussion started; people hate an empty page). Don’t make it issue-based (ie., don’t st it up as a debate between left-right, blue-green, whatever) but as something open-ended that may have many possible solutions or approaches. Cover the discussion in other EDUCAUSE pubs. As the event nears, encourage tweets and blog posts about the topic.


During the event, be sure it’s live tweeted (preferably with several tweeters from different perspectives). Make sure people are aware there are multiple ways to watch/participate (ask them for ideas about how to make it more open).


In the follow-up, make sure recordings and transcripts are available as soon as possible. Wrap up the event with an EDUCAUSE article, being sure to include coverage of the community participation in addition to what the guest speaker sid (and include a teaser for the next event in the coverage).


Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Mar 30, 2021 9:05 p.m.