Sunday, February 21, 2010

R685 Week 6 OpenCourseWareOCW and OER thoughts

Our class readings placed a lot of emphasis on sustainability of OCW and OER. Interestingly, this wasn't just about providing new content, there was a great deal involved with financial issues.

I hadn't given the cost of OCW or OER much thought. But the quality of knowledge, the methods used to store content on the web and the infrastructure costs can be much larger than I'd assumed. This is a distinction between volunteer-type Web 2.0 sites. Sites like MIT's are genuine knowledge repositories with all the functionality of commercial web sites. This sites and others like it don't just gather quantities of knowledge and place it in a folder for the user to sort out. Instead there is design in how this is done. Really good OER sites can cost well into $000,000,000 to develop and maintain. This is big business!

I don't have answers for how this can be maintained from a revenue standpoint. We've read about a number of different models, foundations, host organizations, subscriptions, etc.

But I think once the word really gets out to the value and learning capability of sites like MIT, use of the sites will be so significant that revenue will find a way. I think lack of visibility for OCW and OER is one of its biggest constraints.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Week 6 R685 Open Educational Resources and OpenCourseWare

This is my first post this week and pulls a thought from several weeks ago.

Our class has talked about using Web 2.0 as a learning platform that offers global scope. I'm seeing evidence that this idea is true. Learning can happen anywhere, anytime by anyone.

Unfortunately, I'd looked at Web 2.0 from the perspective of a college student. We talked about Web 2.0 Learners, digital literacy skills, E-Books and E-Book Readers, blended and fully online learning, Open Source Software. All of these have been show to contribute to individual learning, some in significant ways.

What I hadn't considered until last week is that all of these characteristics can contribute to organizational learning, not just individual learning in a post-secondary setting. Organizations can take advantage of the same range of Web 2.0 capabilities that an individual student can. Reading how organizations collaborate, innovate with individuals outside of their organizational boundaries in Don Tapscott's Wikinomics is just one example. In the end, organizations can build intellectual property/knowledge with the same Web 2.0 tools/techniques as an individual student.

I'm going to start asking two questions as the semester continues to unfold. One is how can an individual learn from this Web 2.0 concept, but the second is how can an organization learn.

Week 5 R685 Movement toward Free and Open Software

This week our class focused on open source as a strategy. Several of our articles were written around 2004-2005 as open source began to penetrate higher ed. Comments made by thought leaders predicting the direction of open source served as thought-provoking backdrops for what has happened during the last 5 years.

Communities of practice were identified as an important element of open source success.

I'd originally viewed these communities as primarily developers; individuals who could improve the original source code as well as develop new applications. However, I see communities differently now particularly in an educational setting using open source.

There are still developers, but also administrators who help establish strategy and objectives for the open source applications. There are also users within these communities who provide feedback on the designs. A final group within the community includes individuals who coach/advise users in how to apply the open source assets. In a commercial software product these coaches would be technical support resources.

I think a successful open source initiative will depend on a number of ingredients. The original code needs to work, and there needs to be value-adding problems that can be solved by the open source content. But I see multi-layered communities as a prequisite for open source now. It's not just about writing code. It's about solving problems.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blended learning

Week 4 of R685 focused on the growth of blended learning as well as describing its various forms. Although I had been exposed to early forms of blended learning, i.e. WebCT synchronous chats through distance learning while a student at Mercer University, I have noticed a significant change in the richness of the blended learning experience during the last several semesters in Indiana's IST master program.

We use a sychronous chat software called Adobe Connect/Breeze which resembles virtual meeting software that I utilize at work (WebEx, WebMeeting, GoToMeeting) but the level of sharing and dialogue within Breeze has changed to the point it is almost like being in a face to face setting. Lectures are supplemented with visuals, often better than face to face classes. In addition, students are increasingly interacting with the professor and with each other using audio and chat forms. There are multiple learning levels during these sessions more so than is possible in traditional face to face classes. Often these parallel discussions need to be placed in a "parking lot" in F2F to avoid distractions from the lecturer, but in the virtual classroom, both conversations can occur without significant degradation to the knowledge sharing.

What I see happening is the level of interaction is growing, in part I think through growing skill sets for students and professors. We're learning how to use the technology.

A couple of years ago I speculated that the biggest force working against synchronous virtual learning was the size of the "pipe" that carried information between participants, but I underestimated the degree everyone had to learn in order to more effectively use the new technology. Now I see those learning curves paying off and the "pipe" isn't as much of a constraint as I'd thought.

For my money, I'd rather have a well planned synchronous virtual class where students understand the rules of discussion and are interested in sharing with the professor than a traditional F2F lecture.