Saturday, September 29, 2007

OpenEdu Week 5: Comparing Six Example Open Education Projects

QUESTIONS: What do these representative open education projects have in common? What differentiates them?

All of those six open education projects contain open educational resources in different fields so that the students will have lots of choices and all the resources are available for variety of audience. The differences between the six open education projects I found are the extent of the open educational resources collected, the overall arrangement of the open course content, and the quality of the courses. Next, I will talk about each of them separately.

Open University (UK) Open Content Initiative

The course subjects of Open University are list clearly at the centre of the main webpage. Their target audiences are students who want to be rolled in college and the courses are all college level. The Open University Open Content Initiative provides Undergraduate certificates, diplomas, degrees, and postgraduate qualifications; so that, the courses actually count into credit hours which is not following the tenet of Open courseware.

Rice Connexions

On the main webpage of Rice, it doesn’t list all the course subjects, but it shows the links of subject, language, popularity, and title, author, etc. It seems like there are more content than the first website. When I checked the links, the subjects are much less than the OUOCI. Rice’s target audience is not only limited in college students. There are no credit hours in any course; they are all open content under Creative Commons License. Connexions lists each content piece by piece instead of fully distinguish them into different specific academic field. I don’t know if it will be harder to find the needed information without such details. They have done nice jobs on the language part; at least the simplified Chinese part looks good to me.

Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

Carnegie Mellon offers courses from only ten different study fields and in each fields, the courses offered are very limited in numbers. The quality of the courses is high because the courses can be selected for credits by college students or anyone who are willing to take those courses. I didn’t find any courses have been translated into other languages; so even they are all open courseware, they still can’t be widely used all over the world. The whole project looks very simply to me, but I don’t know how much effort they still have to put into this project.

UNESCO Open Training Platform

UNESCO has similar layout of CMOLI except it contains a lot more courses and learning materials. All of the courses are provide online and links to another websites. Their target population is much wider than just college students. The courses comes from different organizations so I think the quality of the courses are still high than providing by individuals.


MIT contains the largest course content among all the projects. MIT OCW shares free lecture notes, exams, and other resources from more than 1700 courses spanning MIT’s entire curriculum. It already has lots of translations done into different languages, such as Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese listed on the right top corner of the main webpage. MIT are focus on the college level learners, and lots of students worldwide already enjoy their benefit.

National Repository of Online Courses

The National Repository of Online Courses offers a lot less open courses than any other projects. Their target groups are high school and college level students. They use media, photos in slideshow presentation and text as the main instructional material format. The slideshow presentation in each topic is the main characteristic distinguishes from other projects.

In the context of open education projects, what does "quality" mean?

I think “quality” can mean different to different open education projects. For some projects such as the Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative and the National Repository of Online Courses asked for feedback from the users to improve their courses so that they can satisfy the learners and meet their needs. I am wondering if that can be counted as improving the course quality. Well organized large quantity of open courseware can mean quality such as MIT OCW. The accuracy of course content is always considered as quality at least in my mind. But who will be the judge and how it can be judged are still problems. Some of the projects are still in developing, so it is hard to see what quality means to them.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

OpenEdu Week 4: Review on Open Educational Resources (OER)

QUESTIONS: What do these overviews of the field have in common? What do they emphasize differently? What are the aims of the authors of each report? Do you see a bias toward or against any ideas, organizations, or approaches in any of the reports? Which report spoke the most clearly to you, and why do you think it did? Based on where the field is now, and these initial ideas about where it might go, what part of the open education movement is most interesting to you? Why?

Before focusing on the question this week, I would like to mention an interesting paper: Chinese students’ experiences in US graduate school from Stian HĂ„klev. It is fun to read! The participants are just a small group instead of most Chinese students in the U.S. I agree the educational systems are so much different between China and the U.S., but experiences are different by individuals. By reading other students’ blogs, I found that Chinese students like me are more like to focusing on answering weekly question or writing in events relevant to the reading. Instead of that, American students or other international students like talking freely whatever come to their mind on their blogs. I try to broader my mind not just being restricted by the reading content. I have been changed a lot after one month study in our IT master’s program, now I think learning as much as I can to enrich my personal capacity is more important than just pursuing high grade which is always highly emphasized in Chinese traditional educational concepts.

The second week reading
Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources gives us some entry ideas about Open Educational Resources.
Those are all new concepts to me since I am a beginner of this field. It talks about the copyright which are also mentioned in the later reports and we can see it is the prerequisite to make the Open Educational Resources available. Other purposes of this report are to investigate drivers and barriers, sustainability, and improvements in OER. Open Educational Resources Movement is also mentioned for more details in the following weeks’ reports.

The Third week reading
Open Educational Practices and Resources: OLCOS Roadmap 2012 emphasizes a lot more on the drivers and enablers than the first report. It has grouped the drivers/enablers and inhibitors according to their assumed short to medium (until around 2009) or longer-term influence. Web 2.0 becomes popular all over the world from 2006, the U.S. plays the leader role in e-learning, while it just started in China and we feel it is very hard to develop. I think Web 2.0 technologies are tools to enhance students’ learning and the high quality contents which are provided known as Open Educational Resources can make a big difference between e-learning and traditional classroom learning.

OLCOS, a European Union’s e-Learning Program organization, does not primarily emphasize on open educational resources but open educational practice. One viewpoint of them is that “If the prevailing practice of teacher-centered knowledge transfer remains intact, then OER will have little effect on making a difference in teaching and learning.” I believe it is true that if the traditional educational system is hard to be taken place by OER; or in other words, OER can’t immediately come into people’s mind; well then OER seems useless. Traditional Chinese education is a typical instance, and this is one of the major remaining challenges in the third report: Scale-up and Deepening Impact in Developing Countries. I couldn’t find more new content about Open Educational Resources in the second report; instead, there are more authors’ perspectives on pedagogy. I am thinking if it is a necessary material we have to use in our course or we can just change to another piece.

At last, this week reading A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities reported by Hewlett Foundation seems the most interesting and meaningful among the three reports to me. It gives an overview of Open Educational Resources movement. It lists very clear in each particular area focusing on the achievements, remaining challenges, and enablers. It does not only describe the abstract concepts, and also put them into the real world. This report mentions the great international movement on OER especially talks about the challenge in developing countries which have not been noticed in the other two reports. The Hewlett report fresh my mind and made me think through from the first week’s topic about education as a human right, mandate education to open education which I had already mentioned in the first week blog. It gives me some comparison among different developing countries, and I have a clearer sense about the situation of OER in both China and other developing countries.

What I had found the three reports in common is that seemingly focusing on Open Educational Resources movement. In fact, the second report moved more on the writers’ viewpoints on education instead of emphasizing on OER and the first report is more on describing the concept other than the real world practice. No matter how, each of the three reports at least has some parts related to Open Educational Resources movement. I didn’t see a bias toward or against any ideas, organizations, or approaches in any of the reports in my personal perspective.

Based on where the field is now, and these initial ideas about where it might go, the most interesting part of open education movement is to create more international open educational opportunities. Because I am from China which is a developing country, I would like to search a useful and efficient way to help develop pedagogy in China. This is what I had written in a long paragraph in last week’s blog. When I read in this week reading, “Today, there are over thirty million people who are fully qualified to enter a university, but there is no place available. This number will grow to over 100 million during the next decade.” This is an impressive number to all educational technologists. It is an urgent problem we all need think about and try to find a way to get the problem solved.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

OpenEdu Week3: “Open Educational Practices and Resources”

Albert Einstein said,“If I give you a penny, you will be one penny richer and I’ll be one penny poorer. But if I give you an idea, you will have a new idea, but I shall still have it, too.” This is the first sentence coming to my mind from the article. Open education resource is like an idea, even you give to someone, and you will still have it. You won’t lose anything if you provide educational resource; you can always gain something from giving.

Making achievement on open education internationally should take many years to realize. Let’s compare the education in China with the education in the United States! During the past ten years in China, information-based educational technology made a big progress. The educational technologists are high on putting variety of modern facilities including hardware and software into the classrooms. Substitute handwriting paper with word processing software; use powerpoint to demonstrate instead of the chalk and blackboard; provide class content with digital materials. Schools are armed with informational facilities; but the teaching outcome has not been significantly improved. Teaching and learning are not yet essentially changed, it is just like a simple upgrade of the hardware. That is why you still see the teachers using chalks and blackboard most of the time, lots of ink printed handouts which will dirty your hands. If we call the blackboard and chalk age the Education 1.0, the schools full of modern multimedia facilities might be called Education 1.5, Education 2.0 becomes popular all over the world from 2006. Education 2.0 is divided into School 2.0, Classroom 2.0, E-learning 2.0 and so on by parlance in different research fields.

I do not want to preach down the educational system in China, but it is the reality we need to accept. While in the United States, educational technology grow much faster than in China; though it still can’t catch up with the fast growth of the technology, economics, and society. The U.S. plays the leader role in educational technology, especially on e-learning. When I visited an elementary school in a very small town in the U.S., I saw all the classrooms have multimedia facilities. The students can use computers conveniently, and the internet is spread out all over. This seems impracticable to have some multimedia facilities, computers, or internet for all the schools in China at least in the next five years. Open education is widely put in practice in the U.S., but it just started in China, and we do feel it is hard to move on. Do you notice the latest news about the Chinese students? Twenty percent of the college students can’t start their classes even they are admitted by the colleges because they don’t have enough money to afford the high expenses in college. We have to think about the problem----we even can’t assure that everyone in China can get higher education if the students are admitted, how we can promise to provide everyone a higher level of educational technology, such as computers and internet. That is why I want to come to the U.S. for the advanced educational technology, hopefully, I can bring it back to China and put into our Chinese education system.

We all know that new technology can’t firstly influence education, but changes people’s behavior and thinking manner, and also boost the changing of the society. In the internet age, the world is changing to be flat. With the widely used of OER in the near future, we don’t need to study in the closed classroom but a real world environment epitome; learning will not only consume knowledge or course content, more of practice, intercommunion, and creation; education will not just indoctrinate, but to help the students achieve the ability to adapt to the future life. I want to be an educational technologist to help Chinese education in the future.

Dr. Wiley’s class I am taking now is a typical e-learning class, not 100% percent open education because of restrict of class registration. Each week, we have amount of reading and write our thoughts after reading. We post all our assignments on personal blogs, and we can also make comments or changes on wiki. There is no pushing for this class, but you also have motivation to read and write. Because the articles are interesting to read and some ideas will just come out after. In this learning environment, I will totally get rid of the idea of “spoon-feed” education. Students are from all over the world, we can share their ideas cross-culturally. We learn more on dealing with the blog, wiki, podcast, Youtube which are the things we like to do in our daily life also. I think it is neat.

In the first week, we talked about the obstacle of how to choose the high quality OER. We find more obstacle this week that how to assort OER. Although the educational technologists or experts can solve the problems, how to find the right education content from those categories will be also a problem for teachers and students. Those are all questions in open educational practices.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

OpenEd Week2: Thoughts after “Giving Knowledge for Free--THE EMERGENCE OF OER”

The first thing that comes to my mind after reading “Giving Knowledge for Free” is OER projects and the fact that major parts of resources are located in English-speaking countries in the developed world. Bringing and spreading out OER in the developing or undeveloped countries is still worthwhile even it already made progress. Take my country China as a developing country example. Fast development of information technology impacts on traditional closed and unilateral teaching pattern----classroom as main learning environment, teacher as center, paper materials as tools. From several years of educational practice, we experienced using developing information technology to set up an open resource and investigative teaching pattern is a preferable integration of technology and teaching innovation. China Open Resource for Education in common believes with Charles M. Vest, MIT's ex-president who started MIT OCW that "education can be advanced---by constantly widening access to information and by inspiring others to participate" and agree with new president, Susan Hockfield, that faculty and "students everywhere can benefit from [joining] a global learning community in which knowledge and ideas are shared openly and freely for the benefit of all". In a developed country, extracurricular prize might be thought a lot of than a formal college graduation certificate.

There is one more advantage I would like to add to incentives for individual teachers and researchers to open sharing. Reputation is no doubt meaningful to individual contributor; feedback can be also gained from publicity. Usually feedback is given by a group of people in a closed environment; and it is restricted. In my opinion, no matter the teachers or researchers, any academician will enjoy gaining feedback of people from different fields and levels. Individual academic work might be significantly improved.

Copyright is a very important issue in OER. In the movement of information technology, everyone downloads or upload various materials on the internet. Copyright is often neglected by people. In fact, there are still large numbers of people who don’t even know anything about copyright on the internet. As long as there is useful information for them on the internet, they will think they can be legally obtained. To avoid infringing other people’s intellectual right, I strongly agree the idea of use open licenses to create a space in the Internet world.

With such rapid growth of OERs, the related software of teaching students how to find the high quality and useful information should be followed immediately. People often ask for help on how to get help. Therefore, lots of professionals on computer or software are needed. On this point, free teaching materials seem ideal to me; those professionals need to contribute extra time and effort which may not be very obvious as the OER. Government funding, public contribution, company or institute donations are suggested to be used on this group of professionals.

There is one more issue I would like to mention this week. People will be familiar with the OCW day by day as well as the students. Course content can be easily found through OCW; there might be a problem. Teachers open all the materials in the course to the public including the test materials; students can get the test exactly the same as given by on-campus courses. This might cause cheating reaction and slacken the study because they can get high grade without hard-study. My question is, should the test materials also be given into the open?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

OpenEd Week1: Right to Education;"Access" Sufficiency; Mandate Education

The “right to education” is a basic human right to a certain age or level in personal manner; and also I agree with Tomasevski that to obtain certain educational level is considered as a duty to the individual and the whole society. Therefore, it is necessary for the government to mandate education through that certain age or level. While on the contrary, the government can’t temerariously mandate education on people who may not be able to afford their time or money, or various rational reasons. I disagree with Tomasevski that government should mandate what education can be given to people. The chances to get open access to free, high-quality educational is determined by the area you are at; or you might get a lot more if you get the open access such as internet, mobile-phone unboundedly. It is hard to estimate if the open access is sufficient or not because of the unmeasured demanding from people of different fields.

According to Tomasevski’s mention of international treaties, the core components of the right to education are agreed universally. The problems about individuals of which age or level have the human right to obtain certain level of education are solved by different countries’ governments based on their characteristics. For instance, in China, legally mandated length of compulsory education is nine years; in other words, the compulsory education goes into effect until about end of middle school. Most of the elementary schools abolish both official and unofficial school fees which often result in the exclusion of girls from education. Students from poor families can apply some financial aid from schools to waive all the educational charges from higher levels. There are still some situations that students have to quit schooling. Recently, a large group of children called “left kids” which means those kids parents are both gone for drudgeries in another cities those is far from home; their kids have to stay at home to take care of themselves and their siblings. What the Chinese governments do for those “left kids”?
As far as I know, the governments usually send some educated people such as school teachers to those kids family; talk with their parents or relatives if parents not at home about the right of free and compulsory education; try to convince the kids back to school. If turn up with a financial problem, the persuader will report the situation to the local government; most of the time, they should find a way to get the kids back to schools; in addition, some students quit going to school because they can’t get good grades; and more, some students may attend the military when they are about 13 t0 14 years old. Those situations attest to Tomasevski’s idea that children should have the right to education; but they often can’t get educated.

I strongly agree with Tomasevski that Education should be compulsory until children reach the minimum age for employment. Countries’ list in Table 6 by the legally mandated length of compulsory education, ranging from 13 years to 4 years can hardly tell the development degree of those countries. In my opinion, how many years free and compulsory education provide by one country’s government is based on this country’s economic ability and also the degree on consideration of the education to this country. It seems an ideal goal for children to get compulsory education until the minimum age of beginning work; but it is still possible to achieve. I hope one day it can be realized in the whole society.

As in the real world, low-educated students can’t get good jobs; well-education is required for people who want to get dreamy jobs. Which education defined as high-quality and cost free to attain is still questionable. If the governments mandate education to people of certain age or level; they should first find a group of educational experts which are the instructional technologist to qualify which education can be suitable to this certain age or level. Therefore, governments have to allocate a part of money to hire the experts, support their researches, find good teachers, and gather teaching materials or information and so on. I believe that to prove high-quality is a long-term project and complex or complicated path to get to the qualified education. Instructional technology is necessity on this path.

Open education is a good embodiment of instructional technology. People of different age or level from all over the world can access to their internet instead of sitting in one classroom for gathering data or any other information. By contacting people from different fields, students can learn knowledge out of the textbooks or print outs. After information collection, students will have their own ideas can write on their own blogs or wikis for sharing information and idea exchange. When people have questions or comments, they can also teach others to solve the problems. Students can also become teachers but might not be instructors. Tomasevski indicates that often technical schools are seen as useless. By reading a classmate
Greg’s blog, he poins out that
"in places where it is seen as useless, let's improve it. Where there is didactic learning that is mind numbing, let's adjust what is taught and improve students’ outlook."
I really like his idea that keep improving and adjusting the instructional technology because the technology is not a changeless issue; it can always been meliorated.

In China, the education
we attain at school is called “spoon-feed” education. We sit with amount of students in the same classroom for years using the stated textbooks by the government, without contacting the people outside the classroom; we all get the same information or teaching materials provided by the teachers; we can’t even go out for a related job experience if we are not old enough because we are the consumers. Opposite opinions of the teachers might be looked upon disrespect the teachers. Comparing with the students from other countries; we are lack of the abilities of real practice. Recent years, open education has brought into our country by MIT; this almost brings in an educational revolution. The organization of China Open Resources for Education tries to transit the concept of traditional education to the new open education idea. I hope this transition can be achieved in the near future; and the children or even adults will be beneficial their whole lives. :-)