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Open Access good news, bad news

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Tue, 30/09/2014 - 17:33

There was an interesting report done by market analysts, which claims that the threat to publishers from open access is fading. The threat has receded, and indeed OA may have increased profits for publishers. In short, publishers have nothing to fear in terms of profit from OA.

Good news one might think. This was exactly the argument many OA advocates made for its adoption. Making articles openly available increases uptake. Publishers don’t need to resist OA, and if we want to make it really mainstream, then getting publishers on board is the quickest route.

But, from a different perspective, it’s also a bad news story for open access. The report concludes that:

“The hybrid model deployed by subscription publishers to meet the requirements of the UK government is not threatening in any visible way the subscription model of the journals; the rate of adoption of deposit policies for US federal agencies, and the embargo period of 12 months also protect the position of subscription publishers”

In other words, publishers have successfully managed to carry on with their old model whilst simultaneously taking money for the new OA approach also, and this has been helped by the UK government policy. This isn’t really an open access victory, as the subscription model is still surviving, publishers are just getting paid twice. Curt Rice suggests that it is a failure of leadership on the part of open access that has caused this situation. Publishers now own the open access debate.

I would suggest that this is another example of the battle for open (I know, what isn’t an example to me?). Open Access starts out trying to make its argument. It is resisted, but eventually it begins to succeed in getting uptake. Academics get on board, then journals, funding agencies and governments. It looks like a big win, as open access becomes a standard approach. But then the real battle begins. While seeming to comply, it begins to take shape in a different form, and the hybrid model, with embargos and big publisher profits becomes the accepted model. But that wasn’t what was planned. So the next question is: Who owns the direction of open access?

It’s not reuse, it’s adaptation

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Mon, 29/09/2014 - 16:43

(I posted this over on the OER Research Hub originally, just reblogging here)

Reuse of OERs is an elusive, even mythical creature, so much so that Alan Levine has compared finding it to tracking Bigfoot. David Wiley has spoken of ‘dark reuse‘, like dark matter, we assume it’s going on but we can’t see it. But maybe we’re looking for the wrong thing, or at least calling it the wrong name.

We’ve just completed our annual report for the Hewlett Foundation, and reviewed our findings against the 11 hypotheses. We’ll put up the full report later, and dig into findings some more, but one thing that struck me was how much people say they adapt online resources. Contrary to findings on OER reuse, our surveys across informal learners, educators and formal learners uncovered a comparatively high level of adaptation amongst all types of users of 79.4%, (n=1765).

However, how people interpret adaptation varies. For some users it means using the resources as inspiration for creating their own material, as this quote illustrates:

“What I do is I look at a lot of free resources but I don’t usually give them directly to my students because I usually don’t like them as much as something I would create, so what I do is I get a lot of ideas.”

While this is an important use of OER (and perhaps under-reported), it arises principally as a result of their online availability rather than openness. However the freedom to reuse ideas is encouraged with an open licence and users feel free to do so. For other users, adaptation is more direct, editing or reversioning the original, aggregating elements from different sources to create a more relevant one, as this quote demonstrates:

“The problem where I teach now is that we have no money; my textbooks, my Science textbooks are 20 years old, they’re so out-dated, they don’t relate to kids (…) so I pick and pull from a lot of different places to base my units; they’re all based on the Common Core; for me to get my kids to meet the standards that are now being asked of them, I have no choice, I have to have like recent material and stuff they can use that’ll help them when they get assessed on the standardised test.”

And for others, adaptation may be taking an existing resource and placing it in a different context within their own material. The resource isn’t adapted, but the manner in which it is used is altered.

What this suggests is that there may be a continuum of adaptation in practice, ranging from adapting ideas for their own material to full reversioning of content. So why is there this discrepancy between our findings and the commonly reported dearth of reuse? Maybe it’s semantics? Reuse is perhaps a very OER specific way of putting it, and people aren’t sure if what they’ve done counts as reuse. Or maybe reuse sounds cheap, like stealing, whereas adapting has connotations of improving, taking ownership of, being active. Or maybe we’ve just been asking the wrong people. I think it is less a case of dark reuse as varied adaptation, and that is an interesting picture. As usual people aren’t quite doing what we expected of them, but something slightly different. Those pesky people.

Your career is a research project

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Thu, 25/09/2014 - 11:57

I must confess, I have a mild warning klaxon that sounds when I see “action research” in a thesis. This is not to say it isn’t a valid methodology, indeed the only way to conduct some research, but it’s one of those fashionable terms that people apply rather loosely. If in doubt, call it action research. That thing you did where you gave them a different text book one year? Action research.

But this isn’t a rant against lazy methodology terminology, as I am now going to co-opt the term for my own use. Rather it is to say that ideally academics should view their own careers as an action research project. As well as conducting the research in their discipline, they should conduct research on themselves on how to do that research. This is particularly true in a digital, networked context. We have many more possibilities available now for how every aspect of research is performed: generating ideas, methodology, dissemination, funding, data, participants. It would seem a waste of these possibilities and the intellects involved to merely continue with the same limited approach out of habit alone.

I always try to stress that it is not a case of X is dead and has been replaced by the new digital version, but rather that we have a more diverse range of tools to select from. And yet many academics are reluctant to engage with these. This is often a result of an anxiety that these won’t be perceived as ‘proper’ scholarship compared with the traditional approaches. I think if organisations and promotion committees in particular focused on this aspect of using your own career as a research project then it would legitimise this experimentation.

There is a strange irony in the present context that at the very time we have the opportunity for experimentation in academic practice, the environment in which it operates is becoming increasingly conservative and strictly defined. The public perception of universities, the manner in which tenure is granted, the student funding model and the increasingly complex process to gain research funding all work against the type of experimentation we would want to encourage. It sometimes feels like we’ve been given free access to the Louvre and been asked to count the lightbulbs.

But I would encourage the attitude of career as action research if possible. Now I think about it, action research may not be the methodology, maybe it’s autoethnography. I have a really big klaxon for that one, but that’s another post.

How to sell soul to a soulless people

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Sun, 14/09/2014 - 10:25

This was the question posed by Public Enemy back in 2007. Apple’s answer is to put U2’s album on everyone’s iPhone. This has been commented about endlessly, but I was interested by my own reaction when I saw it there. I felt something akin to revulsion. Now I know logically that I can just delete it, what’s the big deal. And I also know apps push stuff at me all the time, so what’s the difference here?

Pondering my own reaction (and that of many others), I think the answer is that music is related to identity. I posted many years ago that digital formats changed our sense of ownership, and that owning music used to be a strong part of your identity. “Look through my record collection” used to be an invite to get to know someone better. This has undoubtedly changed, one has only to consider what it’s like to be a Spotify customer where you have immediate access to just about every record ever made. Selection and ownership are less important then.

But I think what Apple failed to understand (or understood perfectly well, but didn’t care), is that your music library still feels like yours. On Twitter people pointed out to me that I didn’t own a phone, but rather rented a content delivery service. But I still feel like that library is mine. I’ve chosen what goes in there. I know no-one else cares, but it’s like your real library at home, those books have been selected by you. Some you may hate, some you may not have finished, some relate to a specific point in your life, and so on. But they are an extension of who you are. Having someone else place items in your music library feels far more intrusive than pushing an advert at me, or sending me a notification because it is eroding a sense of identity. And the more I think about it, the more I believe that tools that help us establish and define that identity in a digital age are the ones that will be successful. Apple demonstrated that their belief is that the only identity to have is theirs, and for such a modern company, that seems an old-fashioned view.

Now, if they had put this track on everyone’s iPhone, I wonder what the reaction would’ve been:

To what extent is education a digital product?

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Fri, 05/09/2014 - 08:13

This is an obvious, even old-fashioned question. I was thinking about it the other day, and I realised that not only is it actually the question I’ve been answering on this blog for the past 8 years or so, it is the key question for education. Having been to numerous ed tech conferences, it is also the overarching question each of them is really addressing.

The “to what extent” is the important element, because that doesn’t mean “it is”. The answer can be “not at all”, “some bits” or “completely”, depending on your perspective. If you look at many ed tech developments, and the reactions to them, they can be boiled down to different interpretations of this question. MOOCs are an obvious example, for the MOOC hypers, Clay Shirky, Thrun, et al, the answer to this question was pretty near 100%. For many MOOC critics, the answer would be nearer 0% (education isn’t a product, and the components you can make digital are the least important).

You could take issue with the “product” part, and can replace that with “service”, and you could make a case against the underlying neoliberalism inherent in the question. But I would contend that even if this is the case, then being able to defend and articulate a position against this question is what you will be doing for much of the next decade, because this is the question everyone else is implicitly, or explicitly, seeking to answer.

If you have a new Vice Chancellor, boss, colleague or whatever, I would suggest that asking them this one question might be quite illuminating. And more importantly, ask the question of yourself. As for me, I think it’s…

 

Kill yr idols (or not)

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Thu, 04/09/2014 - 15:14

I’ve been meaning to write a “twitter isn’t as much fun as it used to be” kind of post for a while. Then Bonnie Stewart went and did it, but you know, with added eloquence and thought. It’s been an idea a few ed techers have been mumbling about online for a while now. On almost the same day as Bonnie’s post David Kernohan gave an excellent talk at ALT-C on this subject.

The argument goes something like this: online communication and networks used to be fun, but they’ve become not only boring now, but as David put it, scary. This is partly a result of professional types now manipulating social media, and partly because people now pay attention.

Sheila MacNeill asked David a good question which was along the lines of “are you just upset that the great unwashed have turned up now and ruined your place that used to be cool?”

I think there is something in this. Back in the day, those of us who blogged and then used twitter were always advocating how great they would be if everyone used them. And then they did. The thrill of being right (for once) was offset by the disappointment at what inevitably happened. And here is the quandary for ed tech – we want people to take it seriously, but when they do it becomes something else. As soon as what you said in social media mattered then people wanted to control it. Or at least fire people who said the wrong thing, and as this Pew Internet report highlights, this leads to self-censorship and a spiral of silence. Self censorship is still censorship.

The same might be said of MOOCs. It was fun when no-one was watching, but then everyone started paying attention and it got all corporate. In the TV series Extras, Ricky Gervais character is given this very blunt choice by his agent:

“do you want fame and fortune, or do you want integrity and respect?”

Because he can’t have both. And this is what I’m not sure about, can we have both in edtech? Or must this year’s fun thing always become next year’s VLE or die?

Anyway, here’s Sonic Youth telling you to kill your idols. Because it’s the end of the world, and confusion is sex, or something like that.

LINK Research Lab: Fall Speaker Series

At LINK Research Lab, we have a full slate of speakers for fall, including topics on distributed learning, synchronous instruction, success for under represented students, learning analytics, engagement, design based research, openness, flipped classrooms, health and the built environment, mentorship, and wonder. The full schedule is here. We will be streaming the events online and are exploring options for asynchronous interaction as well. If you’d like to be informed of event details, recordings, and links to live sessions, please register.

Open researcher open course

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Tue, 26/08/2014 - 10:48

Led by Beck Pitt, the OER Research Hub has developed an open course (don’t use the M word) on P2P University on being an open researcher. It is four weeks long, although you can study it anytime and it’s all available at once. The weeks cover:

  • Open research
  • Ethics in the open
  • Open dissemination
  • Reflecting on open

It’s based on our experience of running the OER Research project as an open project. There are a number of interesting things that happen when you try to operate in the open. For instance, what ethical considerations are there to releasing data? What communication methods are most effective? The course explores these, using the fictional Mr O’pen. He’ll be in a pixar film before you know it.

The facilitated course starts on 15th September, although you could be doing it now if you want. There will be a weekly Google Hangout every Thursday over the 4 weeks of the course, with one pre-course hangout on the 11th. Take a look, we’re all finding out what being an open researcher means still, it’s not a defined set of approaches, so maybe there will be something there that works for you.

Quote of the day

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Thu, 14/08/2014 - 17:07

I’m on holiday at the moment, in a cabin by Loch Ness with my daughter. Being a teenager she rarely sees pre-noon so this gives me the morning to have a run, and also to finish off my book edits. I have been collecting quotes to add to each chapter, but have been debating whether to use these.

I have a love-hate thing going on with quotes. I used to love a good quote, but the internet has ruined them. A quote on any subject is just a google search away, and twitter is full of those inspirational quotes that are meant to make you want to be the next Steve Jobs. If you want me to unfollow you on twitter, then an inspirational quote a day is a pretty sure way to realise it. That all of the beauty, complexity and nuances of life are reduced to pithy, Nike-advert type quotes makes me want to become a recluse in a cabin by Loch Ness and communicate solely through the medium of beard growth.

But having said that, I do love the judicious use of quotes in both literature and non-fiction. They not only bring in a different voice, but when used well, add a different perspective to the text you are reading that the author themselves cannot provide. So, I’ve decided to plough ahead with quote use, but adhere to these self-imposed rules:

  1. The quotes must be from material I have read myself and not just searched for a relevant quote
  2. They are not directly referencing the content, eg there aren’t quotes about “open”, or “education”
  3. They are slightly oblique to the content of each chapter, so hopefully consideration of the quote in relation to the content adds something extra
  4. They are well written, so the discerning reader can use them as stepping stones of quality to navigate the peaty bog of my own prose.

I’ll leave you to be the judge as to whether they work or not. Because as Emerson said “I hate quotations”

 

Infrared instead of sun

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 13:06

In case you missed it, The Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers have proposed some new open access(ish) licences for their research articles. They argue that: “CC licenses are intended to be used across the entire creative sector, and are not designed specifically for publishing, or for academic and scholarly publishing”. Well that was kind of the point of CC licences, they were simple, effective and could be applied across many domains. That they are simple is not a fault, but the result of hard work and good minds. Compare the CC-NC definition with this one from STM:

“STM stand-alone non-commercial+TDM+Translation and some commercial uses other than “Reserved Commercial Uses”: rationale see comments under B above for those not having a be-spoke publisher licence or not wishing to use a UCLA licence or a CC licence or other licence”

I do what now?

Needless to say most open access people have decried this unnecessary attempt to add confusion to the sector, and pointed out that we’ve been getting on just fine with CC licences, thanks. Here is the PLoS response, who state that the new licences would “make it difficult, confusing or impossible to combine these research outputs with other public resources and sources of knowledge to the benefit of both science and society.”

Other people more knowledgeable than me can point out the problems of the licences (see for example this discussion I had with Cameron Neylon on Twitter) but the story is interesting to me for two reasons. The first relates to my digital scholarship interest, as it demonstrates a rather irritating academic habit, which is to say that the thing used by everyone else isn’t quite suited to the special needs of academia, and they need to create their own specialised, more complex version. It’s like academic versions of Twitter, or the death by metadata of learning objects. This is often well meaning, in that there may be some fine issues with using a general tool, but the benefits are worth the sacrifices. For a start those popular tools are popular for a reason, usually simplicity of use. As Cameron points out there is also a benefit to be gained form being part of a bigger, global community. Why create an academic ghetto of specialised use that no-one else relates to?

The second reason I find it interesting relates to the battle for open stuff. One could view it cynically and see it as a move by commercial publishers (many of whom STM represent) to either muddy the open access waters, or to control what the new definition of open is. Either way, open ends up not meaning what you think it means. And once that happens they can reclaim it to have any meaning. It could mean “Publisher X brand of open”, which means it is open to anyone who pays a subscription to their system. In this sense it is a good example of how the battle for open moves from big claims (open vs closed) to more detailed arguments which actually determine its future (CC vs STM open licence).

Unless they are forced upon authors, I’m hoping they’ll go the way of other unnecessary academic complications to perfectly functioning systems. People vote with their feet.

 

Battle for Open – references

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Wed, 06/08/2014 - 17:44

I’m doing some revisions to the final text of my book The Battle for Open at the moment. When you’re going through it like this, you notice a few names keep cropping up. So I did a count for certain names, and this includes whether they are mentioned in the text and then in the references, so you get a double hit. The top names were:

  • David Wiley – 38
  • Sebastian Thrun – 25
  • George Siemens – 14
  • Dave Cormier – 14
  • Stephen Downes – 10
  • Audrey Watters – 8

I’m a bit surprised Audrey isn’t more to be honest, as one blogger said of something I’d written “he seems to be channeling Audrey Watters”, and that pretty much feels like much of what the book has done, so maybe I should go back and check that.

Anyway, David Kernohan suggested (nay, demanded) that I put up the references:

@mweller @davecormier you should publish the index and references now.

— ժǻƲïժ κēŗɳoңȺɳ (@dkernohan) August 6, 2014

So here they are in the, yes, not very open, formats of Word and PDF – if people have suggestions for other useful formats let me know. I haven’t been through these in the final copyedit yet so there may be some bits missing, don’t go all reference purist on me.

The Battle for Open refs (PDF)

The Battle for Open refs (word)

[Update - At Alan Cann's suggestion, I've put it on Figshare too]

 

A farewell and an opportunity to get a free book

Its been a long dry spell on this blog. Apologies for that. The last post was around the time that I was preparing for OER13 to be unleashed (a fantastic experience which I and many others really enjoyed). Not long after that I confirmed arrangements to take early retirement from the Open University in order to have more time with family. Leaving the OU was very hard to do. I originally planned to go at the end of 2013, this stretched to the end of March 2014, allowing me to not only chair production of a new course on the MA Online and Distance Education Programme (H818: The Networked Practitioner which has openness and sharing at its heart), but also to lead its first year of presentation. This meant that I met and worked with some great students - always a joy - and had a front row seat for the first H818 student online conference and activity around this. Unmissable.
This last year has also involved working with some talented authors and my valued friend and colleague Professor Allison Littlejohn on completing the book which we started talking about at the ORIOLE retreat in 2010. The book is published at the end of this month and we agreed an arragement with Routledge (many thanks to Alex Masulis) allowed us to publish about half the chapters in an issue of the open journal JIME. So a significant portion of the content has been available to read, without fee, since April. Thank you to Martin Weller and others on JIME for agreeing to this hybrid form of openness which allowed us to accommodate authors who were uncomfortable without an open license, but also making it possible to publish conventionally, which also has benefits.

FREE COPY AVAILABLE: I now have two copies of the hardback book (pictured) and thought it might be a good idea to offer one of these via this blog to someone who can provide a good reason why they should have it.  If I agree I will post it to you anywhere in the world. You can contact me with your entry (put 'ROR book' in the subject header) at my OU address chris.pegler@open.ac.uk until the end of August 2014. I will be happy to sign it if that suits, so feel free to suggest a suitable inscription.

Why don’t we talk about PLEs anymore

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Wed, 23/07/2014 - 10:42

I know some people will immediately respond to this title by declaring “I do! And look at all these other people who do”. And yes, there is a PLE conference. But my sense is that we don’t use the term, or more significantly, discuss the concept of Personal Learning Environments, like we did in 2010 say.

This is not to disparage the term or work on it, I think it was very useful to frame the difference in the way we began to operate when all these new, easy to use tools suddenly became available. I’m interested from an educational technology perspective in what the decline in its usage tells us. Google trends backs my impression up that we don’t talk about it as much, and given that terms tend to linger, I would suggest that it shows it definitely isn’t a hot topic amongst ed tech people:

If you accept for now the premise that it isn’t discussed as much, then what does this tell us? There are a number of possible reasons:

  1. It’s become commonplace, so drawing the distinction between your set of tools and an institutional learning environment isn’t necessary. It’s a bit like saying “my phone is mobile!”
  2. It’s become absorbed, so it is seen as an extension of the LMS, or rather the LMS is just one other part of it. We don’t differentiate between tools for different settings because the boundaries between personal and professional have been blurred.
  3. There has been a shakedown in the market, so actually we’ve all settled on the same few tools: Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, Slideshare, plus some other specific ones. My PLE looks pretty much like your PLE, so it’s not really a Personal one anymore. Just like with the early days of search engines, we don’t talk about whether you prefer Lycos or Webcrawler now, we just Google it.
  4. It wasn’t a useful term or approach. There were projects that attempted to get data passed between LMSs and PLE tools, or to set these up for people, and in the end people just opted for some tools they found useful, and didn’t feel the need to go further.

For some of these reasons you could argue that the PLE was a success, it made itself redundant as a term, which illustrates it reached penetration. For others you could argue it was maybe a case of academics inventing something that wasn’t really there. For me, I found it a useful way to think about these new tools and moving away from pre-packaged solutions, but that’s become second nature now. Anyway, it’s useful to revisit terms and see what they tell us about the current situation. I shall now go into hiding from the pitchfork (some hand-crafted, some mass produced) wielding PLE mob.

Bundling and Re-bundling

I’m at the Knewton Symposium – an event focusing on the future of digital learning. This is the second year that I’ve attended. It’s a small event (last year had ~20 attendees, this year it’s closer to 60+). Knewton brings in a range of speakers and leaders in education, ranging from startups to big edtech companies and publishers to faculty and advocates for some type of change. The conversations are diverse, as can be expected when publishers and open education advocates as well as VC firms and academics share the same stage.

The narrative of educational change is more stable than it was even a few years ago and it’s reflected in this symposium. In 2011, everything was up in the air: universities were dead, faculty would be replaced by MOOCs, California would solve its education crisis by partnering with a small startup, and so on. Now the narrative has coalesced around: 1. economics and funding, 2. access and affordability, 3. innovation and creativity, 4. data and analytics, 5. future university models. While I’m interested in all five of those narratives, particularly the way in which these are being framed by university leaders, vendors and startups, and politicians, I’d like to focus here on one aspect of the conversation around future university models: unbundling.

Unbundling is an appealing concept to change mongers. The lessons of the album and mp3′s is strong with these folks. MP3s lead to newspapers which lead to music and media in general. Since change mongers (a species native to Silicon Valley but now becoming an invasive species in numerous regions around the world. Frankenfish comes to mind) do not have much regard for nuance and detail, opting instead for blunt mono-narratives, unbundling is a perfect concept to articulate needed change.

There are a few things wrong with the idea of unbundling in education:

1. Unbundling is different in social systems than it is in a content only system. An album can be unbundled without much loss. Sure, albums like The Wall don’t unbundle well, but those are exceptions. Unbundling a social system has ripple effects that cannot always be anticipated. The parts of a social system are less than the whole of a social system. Unbundling, while possible in higher education, is not a zero sum game. The pieces on the board that get rearranged will have a real impact on learners, society, and universities.

2. When unbundling happens, it is only temporary. Unbundling leads to rebundling. And digital rebundling results in less players and less competition. What unbundling represents then is a power shift. Universities are today an integrated network of products and services. Many universities have started to work with partners like Pearson (ASU is among the most prominent) to expand capacity that is not evident in their existing system.
Rebundling is what happens when the pieces that are created as a sector moves online become reintegrated into a new network model. It is most fundamentally a power shift. The current integrated higher education system is being pulled apart by a range of companies and startups. Currently the university is in the drivers seat. Eventually, the unbundled pieces will be integrated into a new network model that has a new power structure. For entrepreneurs, the goal appears to be to become part of a small number of big winners like Netflix or Google. When Sebastian Thrun stated that Udacity would be one of only 10 universities in the future, he was exhibiting the mentality that has existed in other sectors that have unbundled. Unbundling is not the real story: the real issue is the rebundling and how power structures are re-architected. Going forward, rebundling will remove the university from the drivers seat and place the control into the re-integrated networks.

New home

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 10:35

I’ve finally (after 8 years) moved from Typepad to WordPress, and even more importantly, my own domain. Blame Jim Groom, that guy just wears you down until you say yes. Have tried a new theme, expect I’ll mess around with it and also widgets. If you’re here from the old place and use an RSS reader (I know, who uses them now?) then the new feed is http://blog.edtechie.net/feed/

All you WordPress geeks out there can tell me what plug-ins I must have. Time to start annoying the neighbours.

Congrats to Paul-Olivier Dehaye: MassiveTeaching

In a previous post, I commented on the Massive Teaching course at Coursera and that something odd was happening. Either Coursera deleted the prof from the course or the prof was running some type of experiment. It now appears to be primarily the latter.

The story has now been covered by The Chronicle (here and here) and Inside Higher Ed (here). Thoughtful reflections have been provided by Rolin Moe and Jonathan Rees. Participants on Twitter have also had their say. The general consensus is that “wow, this is weird”. Coursera has deftly pushed everything back to the University of Zurich, who in turn has pushed it onto the prof, Paul-Olivier Dehaye. Commenters have been rather cruel (I know, shocking to have mean people on the internet), going so far as to question Dehaye’s sanity. OT: Favourite comment of the day: “Moocs are demonic, and unhuman.”

There is plenty of blame to go around. Dehaye has not publicly commented. Coursera very quickly washed its hands of the situation. What Dehaye did was inappropriate and might have crossed a few ethical boundaries. That’s an important angle, but not one that I want to pursue here. Three substantial concerns exist:

1. Coursera has been revealed as a house of cards in terms of governance and procedures for dealing with unusual situations. While Coursera promotes itself as a platform, something that I wrote about a few years ago, it is more Frankensteinian than functional. MOOCs were developed so quickly and with such breathless optimism that the architects didn’t pay much attention to boring stuff like foundations and plumbing. What is the governance model at Coursera? Is there anything like a due process to resolve conflicts? And a range of questions around content ownership and learner data.

I have a colleague who taught on Coursera recently. He was unable to get access to data that had previously been promised. In a university, there is a counterbalancing process to these types of conflict or disagreements. At MOOC providers, the company rules. This is fine at Facebook, but Coursera is essentially a leech on the education system – getting teaching for free while exploring new ways to monetize the process. (Wait. Doesn’t that make them the Elsevier of teaching and learning? Content and teaching free. Monetize the backend.)

My point here is that the governance structure that underpins university is lacking in MOOC providers. It is not a balanced and equitable system. There are many fissures in the MOOC model and as providers become more prominent in education these fissures will become more evident. If companies like Coursera and edX expect to be able to make decisions on behalf of faculty and partner universities, conflict is inevitable. A transparent process is required.

2. University of Zurich has an obligation and responsibility to its faculty. Where a university’s reputation and identity can be launched internationally in a MOOC, leadership should have some quality control process in place. Is the university so poorly informed about online learning that simply giving a faculty member keys to the kingdom without some guidance and direction was assumed to be a good approach? There is much blame to be shared and it should fall in the following order: 1. Coursera, 2. U of Zurich, 3. Dehaye

3. Criticism ranging from a poorly designed course to poor ethics has been directed to Paul-Olivier Dehaye. Most of it is unfair. There have been some calls for U of Zurich to discipline the prof. Like others, I’ve criticized his deception research and his silence since the course was shut down. Several days before the media coverage, Dehaye provided the following comments on his experiment:

“MOOCs can be used to enhance privacy, or really destroy it,” Dehaye wrote. “I want to fight scientifically for the idea, yet teach, and I have signed contracts, which no one asks me about…. I am in a bind. Who do I tell about my project? My students? But this idea of the #FacebookExperiment is in itself dangerous, very dangerous. People react to it and express more emotions, which can be further mined.”
The goal of his experiment, Dehaye wrote, was to “confuse everyone, including the university, [C]oursera, the Twitter world, as many journalists as I can, and the course participants. The goal being to attract publicity…. I want to show how [C]oursera tracks you.”

There it is. His intent was to draw attention to Coursera policies and practices around data. Congrats, Paul-Olivier. Mission accomplished.

He is doing exactly what academics should do: perturb people to states of awareness. Hundreds, likely thousands, of faculty have taught MOOCs, often having to toe the line of terms and conditions set by an organization that doesn’t share the ideals, community, and egalitarianism that define universities (you can include me in that list).

The MOOC Mystery was about an academic doing what we expect and need academics to do. Unfortunately it was poorly executed and not properly communicated so the message has been largely lost. Regardless, Dehaye has started a conversation, raised a real concern, pushed buttons, and put a spotlight on unfair or opaque practices by organizations who are growing in influence in education. Yes, there are ethical concerns that need to be addressed. But let’s not use those ethical concerns to silence an important concern or isolate a needed narrative around what MOOCs are, how they are impacting higher education and faculty, and how control is being wrested from the people who are vital counter-balancing agents in society’s power structure.

Paul-Olivier – thanks. Let’s have more of this.

I was wrong

I’ve made statements late last year to the effect that “corporate MOOCs will be the big trend in 2014″. I was wrong.

Recently, with CorpU and Reda Sadki, I ran an open online conference on corporate MOOCs. We put together a strong line up of presenters and topics and I expected reasonably strong turnout as the topic was timely. While we had a large number of signups, we only had 15-30 people attend each session. The sessions were generally one-way information flow (from the presenter). Attendees appeared to be reluctant to share experiences and views. I’m not sure if this was due to corporate interests in preserving and not sharing information or if we just didn’t hit on the right topics.

The recordings of most sessions are available here (we had a few requests to not record sessions by presenters). Some excellent presentations!

Aside from not having the engagement I was hoping for, I was interested in several points raised during the event:
- Corporate MOOC completion rates are in the 70-80% range
- Coursera is heavily focused on providing branded “turn key” content for corporation training
- Systems like WorldBank are developing MOOCs as an integrated part of their overall online or digital learning strategy
- Several corporations, notably Google and SAP, are deep in the rabbit hole of MOOCs already and are reporting position experiences for both employees and customers who have taken their courses
- Consulting services such as Parthenon are deeply engaged in MOOCs and helping organizations plan for and deploy them.
- The costs of MOOCs are significant in terms of capital and time and effort of people. It’s not as simple a process as many assume when they start.
- Military organizations are exploring MOOCs and alternative teaching/learning approaches and are reporting promising early results. But we can’t tell you everything. It will be declassified in 2050.
- Organizations are primarily using MOOCs for internal learning, marketing, connecting with customers, and “teaching” suppliers.

The iceberg model of OER engagement

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 13:42

I'm pretty sure I'm the first person to ever use the iceberg analogy…

I've been pondering ways of thinking about open education awareness, and OER usage that might help shape OER policy. So here's one I want to try out.

Open education in general, and OERs specifically, form a basis from which many other practices benefit, but often practitioners in those areas are unaware of OERs explicitly. It is likely that these secondary and tertiary levels of OER awareness represent a far greater audience, than the primary “OER-aware” one, so one can view the sizes of these audiences like the metaphorical iceberg, with increasing size as we push into these unseen areas. The three groups of OER usage I see are:

Primary OER usage – this group is “OER aware”, in that the term itself will have meaning for them, they are engaged with issues around open education, are aware of open licences and are often advocates for OERs. This group has often been the focus of OER funding, conferences and research, with the focus on growing the ranks of this audience.
Example: Community college teacher who adopts, and contributes to open textbooks

Secondary OER usage – this group may have some awareness of OERs, or open licences, but they have a pragmatic approach to them. OERs are of secondary interest to their primary task, usually teaching. OERs (and openness in general) can be seen as the substratum which allows some of their practice to flourish, but they are not aware, or interested in open education itself, rather in their own area, and therefore OERs are only of interest to the extent that they facilitate innovation or efficiency in this.
Example: Flipped learning teacher who uses Khan academy, TED talks and some MERLOT OERs in their teaching.

Tertiary OER usage – this group will use OERs amongst a mix of other media and often not differentiate between them. Awareness of licences is low and not a priority. OERs are a ‘nice to have’ option but not essential, and users are often largely consuming rather than creating and sharing.
Example: A student studying at university who uses iTunes U materials to supplement their taught material.

 David Wiley has talked of Dark Reuse, that is whether reuse is happening in places we can’t observe, analogous to dark matter, or it simply isn’t happening much at all. He poses the challenge to the OER movement about its aims:

“If our goal is catalyzing and facilitating significant amounts of reuse and adaptation of materials, we seem to be failing. …
If our goal is to create fantastically popular websites loaded with free content visited by millions of people each month, who find great value in the content but never adapt or remix it, then we’re doing fairly well.”

By considering these three levels of OER engagement, it is possible to see how both elements of Wiley’s goals are realisable. The main focus of OER initiatives has often been the primary OER usage group. Here OERs are created and there are OER advocacy missions. For example, Joanna Wild suggests three levels of engagement for HE staff that progress from piecemeal to strategic to embedded use of OER. The implicit assumption is that one should encourage progression through these levels, that is, the route to success for OERs is to increase the population of the primary OER group.

Whilst this is undoubtedly a good thing to do (assuming one believes in the benefits of OERs), it may not be the only approach. Another approach may be to increase penetration of OERs into the secondary and tertiary levels. Awareness of OER repositories was very low amongst this group, compared with resources such as the Khan Academy or TED. The focus on improving uptake for these groups is then to increase visibility, search engine optimisation and convenience of the resources themselves, without knowledge of open education. This might be realised through creating a trusted brand to compete with resources such as TED.

There is evidence that openness has a virus like quality, in that once people are exposed to it, awareness grows and they seek opportunities to expand open practice in other areas. If this is the case, then emphasising effort on this initial exposure should be a high priority for funders in the OER world.

The iceberg model of OER engagement

The EdTechie Martin Weller's Personal Blog - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 12:42

I'm pretty sure I'm the first person to ever use the iceberg analogy...

I've been pondering ways of thinking about open education awareness, and OER usage that might help shape OER policy. So here's one I want to try out.

Open education in general, and OERs specifically, form a basis from which many other practices benefit, but often practitioners in those areas are unaware of OERs explicitly. It is likely that these secondary and tertiary levels of OER awareness represent a far greater audience, than the primary “OER-aware” one, so one can view the sizes of these audiences like the metaphorical iceberg, with increasing size as we push into these unseen areas. The three groups of OER usage I see are:

Primary OER usage – this group is “OER aware”, in that the term itself will have meaning for them, they are engaged with issues around open education, are aware of open licences and are often advocates for OERs. This group has often been the focus of OER funding, conferences and research, with the focus on growing the ranks of this audience.
Example: Community college teacher who adopts, and contributes to open textbooks

Secondary OER usage – this group may have some awareness of OERs, or open licences, but they have a pragmatic approach to them. OERs are of secondary interest to their primary task, usually teaching. OERs (and openness in general) can be seen as the substratum which allows some of their practice to flourish, but they are not aware, or interested in open education itself, rather in their own area, and therefore OERs are only of interest to the extent that they facilitate innovation or efficiency in this.
Example: Flipped learning teacher who uses Khan academy, TED talks and some MERLOT OERs in their teaching.

Tertiary OER usage – this group will use OERs amongst a mix of other media and often not differentiate between them. Awareness of licences is low and not a priority. OERs are a ‘nice to have’ option but not essential, and users are often largely consuming rather than creating and sharing.
Example: A student studying at university who uses iTunes U materials to supplement their taught material.

 David Wiley has talked of Dark Reuse, that is whether reuse is happening in places we can’t observe, analogous to dark matter, or it simply isn’t happening much at all. He poses the challenge to the OER movement about its aims:

“If our goal is catalyzing and facilitating significant amounts of reuse and adaptation of materials, we seem to be failing. …
If our goal is to create fantastically popular websites loaded with free content visited by millions of people each month, who find great value in the content but never adapt or remix it, then we’re doing fairly well.”

By considering these three levels of OER engagement, it is possible to see how both elements of Wiley’s goals are realisable. The main focus of OER initiatives has often been the primary OER usage group. Here OERs are created and there are OER advocacy missions. For example, Joanna Wild suggests three levels of engagement for HE staff that progress from piecemeal to strategic to embedded use of OER. The implicit assumption is that one should encourage progression through these levels, that is, the route to success for OERs is to increase the population of the primary OER group.

Whilst this is undoubtedly a good thing to do (assuming one believes in the benefits of OERs), it may not be the only approach. Another approach may be to increase penetration of OERs into the secondary and tertiary levels. Awareness of OER repositories was very low amongst this group, compared with resources such as the Khan Academy or TED. The focus on improving uptake for these groups is then to increase visibility, search engine optimisation and convenience of the resources themselves, without knowledge of open education. This might be realised through creating a trusted brand to compete with resources such as TED.

There is evidence that openness has a virus like quality, in that once people are exposed to it, awareness grows and they seek opportunities to expand open practice in other areas. If this is the case, then emphasising effort on this initial exposure should be a high priority for funders in the OER world.

Something weird is happening at Coursera

Something weird is happening at Coursera. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but have boiled it down to two options. Both are problematic.

A bit of background

About two months ago, I posted a short article on a DesignJam that we hosted at UT Arlington. The designjam brought together numerous folks who had some interest in teaching and learning online, often at a massive scale (i.e. MOOCs). Paul Olivier Dehaye commented on the post and described his interest in running a dual-track MOOC, blending instructivist and more collaborative. He was referring to the Massive Teaching course on Coursera that he was to run in June. I’ve been continuing to refine my thinking on this since the designjam, but I had not been following Paul’s course. Today, Apostolos Koutropoulos posted about social experiments and confusion at Coursera. I did a bit of backtracking on Paul’s tweet stream.

Just to confirm, I was removed from the #MassiveTeaching course. Please do not question my integrity without facts.

— Paul-Olivier Dehaye (@podehaye) July 4, 2014

and

Students, please reflect on the fact that a technology company has now effectively replaced your teacher. #MassiveTeaching

— Paul-Olivier Dehaye (@podehaye) July 3, 2014

and finally, in response to a tweet asking Paul what was happening, he replied

@gsiemens Thanks, it felt lonely. I still feel I owe an explanation to my students first, then @coursera to me, then us to others

— Paul-Olivier Dehaye (@podehaye) July 5, 2014

Two options:

1. Coursera has removed a faculty member from a course for some reason without explanation
2. Paul is running a fairly elaborate social experiment

I am uncomfortable with both. If Coursera has removed the course or the faculty member, some explanation is required, both for the sake of the faculty member and the student. The transparency of MOOC providers is rather poor. If Facebook randomly deleted people, it would cause angst. Coursera doesn’t state the conditions under which a faculty member can be removed or a course cancelled. Universities and faculty spend enormous time and resources developing and running courses. Students devote significant hours as well. Everyone deserves an explanation.

If Paul is running an experiment, well, that raises a range of ethical issues around active experimentation with learners. Kate Bowles links to paper and a Google doc that raises additional questions. Given heightened concerns about ethics in social media and experimentation on users, MOOC providers and faculty need to be clear on any research and analytics being conducted.

@gsiemens 100 learners in a room: http://t.co/k6va4Lq9f4 and https://t.co/mPgcQYr9NZ @audreywatters @patlockley

— Kate Bowles (@KateMfD) July 5, 2014

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