Towards open participatory learning environments: Reusable and portable OER, educator training & mass collaboration
- Copy of bid submitted to Hewlett Foundation (note 1.3MB Download)
Final edits and refinements must still be transferred to the wiki.
- 1 Section 1: Coversheet details
- 2 Section 2: Proposal narrative
- 2.1 A. Problem/Theory of Action
- 2.1.1 Improving collaboration and content interoperability between mainstream OER projects
- 2.1.2 Adding value to OER infrastructure by addressing the reusability paradox
- 2.1.3 Building capability among educators to participate in OER
- 2.1.4 Fostering the development of sustainable OER ecosystems
- 2.1.5 Alignment with Hewlett grant-making priorities
- 2.2 B. Background
- 2.3 C. Inputs
- 2.4 D. Activities, Outputs and Outcomes
- 2.1 A. Problem/Theory of Action
- 3 Outcome
- 4 Outcome
- 5 Outcome
- 6 Section 3: Logic model
- 7 Section 4: Program chart
Section 1: Coversheet details
|Date submitted or revised||Targeting 15 April 2009|
|Name of applicant organization||OER Foundation|
|Organization’s address, phone number, general fax number, and website||Otago Polytechnic 3rd floor, F Block, Forth Street Dunedin, New Zealand. Tel: +64 3 479 6002, Email RDay at tekotago dot ac dot nz, Web: www.otagopolytechnic.ac.nz|
|Head of organization’s name and title (if university, name of head of school)||Dr Robin Day,
Chair, Board of Directors, OER Foundation
|Name and contact info for principal investigator(s), project director(s), or lead person on the proposal||Dr Wayne Mackintosh
Director, International Centre for Open Education
|Name and contact info for individual directly responsible for submission of reports||Dr Wayne Mackintosh|
Improve OER reuse through content interoperability between projects while improving skills of educators to participate.
Fostering the development of an open participatory learning infrastructure is a strategic priority for OER. This proposal will address two significant barriers restricting growth, adoption and effectiveness of OER:
- The absence of content interoperability between OER projects thus limiting the potential for remixing of digital education resources for different learning settings across mainstream OER projects.
- A confined approach to thinking about economic sustainability of OER which, to date, has largely focused on the sustainability of individual projects at the potential expense of fostering sustainable ecosystems at the macro-level.
WikiEducator has implemented a holistic strategy to OER community development utilising the principles of mass-collaboration to simultaneously develop capacity among educators to engage meaningfully in the initiative while developing OER content aided by smart connections in the incremental refinements of the enabling technologies used and strategic networks facilitated by the international reach of this project. Named the Best Educational wiki in 2007 by eLearning opinion leader, Stephen Downes, and inaugural recipient of the MERLOT Africa Network's award for exemplary OER practices in 2008, this holistic strategy founded on the principles of self-organisation and digital networking provides a solid foundation to extend future success of OER through improved collaboration among OER projects. This proposal will:
- Achieve OER content interoperability among Connexions, WikiEducator and the Mediawiki software platform used by Wikipedia (the largest repository of OER), with particular emphasis on improving the remix potential for different learning situations.
- Continue WikiEducator's pioneering work under the Learning4Content training project, which oversees the world's largest wiki-skills development initiative in education. This proposal will support further training for approximately 1,500 teachers, lecturers and trainers around the world.
- Establish a national New Zealand OER collaboration in close consultation with the Ministry of Education for the school sector forming the basis for replicable models which could be used in other countries. This will include the development of 150 demonstrator OER lesson plans and digital resources mapped to the national curriculum by New Zealand teachers.
- Improve our metrics and knowledge of open peer-collaboration models by implementing a robust and comprehensive monitoring and evaluation plan for WikiEducator.
Section 2: Proposal narrative
You may provide responses to this section on separate pages (i.e. without the questions).
|Program Unit within Organization||
A. Problem/Theory of Action
OER is a sustainable and renewable resource which shows considerable potential to reduce costs while widening access to education and improving the quality of learning. Notwithstanding the impressive progress of OER and the free knowledge movement in the formal education sector over the last decade, the movement is still challenged by significant barriers including:
- Lack of collaboration and seamless content interoperability among mainstream OER projects, potentially resulting in unnecessary duplication of content resources, fueling the growth of project silos and restricting the realisation of OER's most significant differentiator: the ability to remix and redistribute content from a variety of OER sources for different educational contexts.
- Effective solutions addressing the reusability paradox, namely that more educational context embedded in an OER resource will enhance its pedagogical effectiveness but paradoxically reduces the potential for reuse of the same OER in different learning settings. (See Wiley, http://cnx.org/content/m11898/latest).
- Shortage of educators with the capacity and skills to engage meaningfully in the collaborative development of OER on an international scale, thus achieving critical mass for sustainable development of OER.
- The absence of a systemic OER participatory learning infrastructure which alludes to the requirement to foster the evolution of sustainable OER ecosystems comprising: public and corporate partnerships, ministries of education, national and international OER collaborations, education institutions, individual educators and appropriate and relevant technology enablers.
Improving collaboration and content interoperability between mainstream OER projects
OER development approaches can be classified into two broad models:
- Producer-consumer models where an institution or consortium develops materials and releases courseware under an open license which can be reused by other providers, for example MIT's OpenCourseware (http://ocw.mit.edu) or the British Open University's Open Learn (http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/). These approaches are derived from traditional academic publishing models utilising work flow methodologies and peer review processes.
- Commons-based peer-production models, a concept coined by Yochai Benkler, which encourage open and unrestricted participation by large numbers of educators utilising "powerful new models of production based on community, collaboration, and self-organization rather than on hierarchy and control" (Tapscott & Williams 2006) for example WikiEducator, Wikipedia and GNU/Linux open source software operating system.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches depending on the context and purpose of specific OER projects. Sadly, to date, there has not been much cross pollination between these approaches so as to capitalise on the "best of two worlds".
Currently, for instance, it is not possible for Connexions authors to open up their developments (or parts thereof) for open peer-collaboration, utilising the benefits of mass-collaboration approaches of the wiki model. Similarly, WikiEducator authors are not able to migrate collections of content into platforms which provide more traditional work flow features and administration of static instances of OER, utilising the Connexions "lens" feature for managing peer review within selected groups or consortia.
A more consequential limitation impeding return on investment in open education relates to the reuse and remixing of content across mainstream OER projects. Atkins, Brown and Hammond (2007:25) warn against "success disaster" where, for instance, a teacher has access to hundreds of courses in elementary calculus. These researchers recommend that the OER movement should develop "incentives and mechanisms to promote creation and access to fewer instances of the same course but with more support material, more commentary, more examples, etc.".
Clearly there is a need to provided seamless import/export functionality between the major OER projects in the formal education sector as a mechanism for scaling OER production and reuse. For instance, it is not currently possible to import/export content between WikiEducator and Connexions. This is a major restriction in that two leading OER projects which subscribe to approved licenses under the free cultural works definition are not able to easily exchange and remix content between the two platforms. Moreover, these technical limitations exclude content remixing opportunities with the world's largest repository of free content, namely Wikipedia. WikiEducator and Wikipedia both use the MediaWiki open source software engine. Pending a successful community vote by the Wikimedia Foundation to enable projects to migrate from the GNU Free Documentation License to an equivalent Creative Commons license, will potentially generate OER remix opportunities for educational content previously not possible. There are also significant technological opportunities for Connexions, WikiEducator and the Wikimedia Foundation to facilitate access and interoperability with the Wikimedia Commons -- a database of more than 4.2 million images and media files licensed under OER compatible licenses (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page).
Adding value to OER infrastructure by addressing the reusability paradox
Educationally speaking, reuse means placing an OER into a different learning context from that for which it was originally designed and developed. Meaningful learning is closely related to the learner's context. For instance, an OER Physics lesson dealing with Newton's second law of motion based on an activity using the example of a London bus will have little meaning or context for learners in rural Uganda who have never seen a London bus. While this OER example may be pedagogically effective for children in the United Kingdom, it has significantly less reuse potential for children in Africa. Consequently, there is an inverse relationship between pedagogical effectiveness of OERs and their potential for reuse -- hence the reusability paradox (Wiley 2004: online)
Effective OER reuse of necessity requires recontextualisation of the resource. The value proposition for OER reuse is based on a cost-benefit decision by the educator:
The cost of recontextualisation, that is, the time required to repurpose an OER for a different educational context, must be less than the benefits of developing a new OER from scratch.
Improving reusability is simultaneously a technical and a pedagogical challenge:
- Technically: OER should ideally be developed and stored in editable formats using open standards and open file formats thus enabling educators to easily adapt and modify materials with the tools of their choice. Both Connexions and WikiEducator develop and store OER in formats which are easily editable by users hence these respective platforms are ideally positioned to reduce the reusability paradox.
- Pedagogically: The ability to identify the educational elements embedded in the content as discrete components within OER would increase the value proposition for reuse. This would enable educators to save time in recontextualising the pedagogy for different learning situations. For example, exporting the content of the OER Physics lesson on Newton's second law of motion (above) with the option of excluding context specific activities. This would ensure that the cost of recontextualisation is less than the benefits of starting a new resource from scratch.
The eLearning XHTML Editor (eXe), an open source software authoring tool funded by the New Zealand government through the Tertiary Education Commission, has implemented an innovative approach where pedagogical activities are identified as discrete elements in the content. The eXe project has pioneered the concept of instructional devices (iDevices) which are the pedagogical elements educators typically include in their teaching materials, for example learning activities, case studies, reflections, interactive assessment elements etc. This authoring approach provides a practical solution to addressing the reusability paradox by lowering the barriers of recontextualisation. It will be possible to export OER content with or without iDevices for individual teachers to remix using their own customised activities.
With reference to the OER sustainability challenge, Atkins, Brown and Hammond (2007:25) recommend the adoption of "a voluntary (or mix of voluntary and paid) wiki-like model, in which OER is the object of micro-contributions from many." This proposal will implement this recommendation utilising a wiki model for micro-contributions of pedagogical elements (or iDevices) in the OER reuse scenario.
Connexions uses an XML schema (a mark-up language which facilitates differentiation between content (what we teach) and form (how we teach it), and is ideally suited to structured authoring and identification of discrete educational elements like iDevices. Similarly, WikiEducator uses a feature to embed pedagogical templates in the content which represent the educational elements within an OER resource.
This project proposal will add value to both the Connexions and WikiEducator platforms by incorporating the ability to specify pedagogical elements (iDevices) within the OER hosted by both repositories. The eXe initiative is an open source project and we will be able to reuse the relevant components of this technology as building blocks for the current proposal.
Therefore, apart from improving content interoperability and reuse between OER projects, this proposal will also add pedagogical value to OER authoring approaches by providing more effective mechanisms for addressing the reusability paradox and facilitating micro-contributions from many educators.
Building capability among educators to participate in OER
This survey data emphasises the importance and need expressed by educators to learn how to develop OER using the collaborative wiki model, especially given that 72% of WikiEducator users are teachers, lecturers or trainers working in the formal education sector and that approximately half of our users are older than 45 years of age.
WikiEducator has pioneered a low-cost training model using OER to teach wiki skills in a live wiki community. WikiEducator's Learning4Content training project has demonstrated its capacity to provide wiki training on a global scale. With the growing number of educators acquiring basic wiki skills, the community has expressed the need for an intermediate level course to follow the basic skills course. We anticipate further uptake and investment by other institutions in widening skills development using the Learning4Content OER resources and supporting materials.
This funding proposal seeks to continue offering free basic-level wiki training, but also seeks to develop and implement an intermediate-level course using the Learning4Content model in response to community needs.
Fostering the development of sustainable OER ecosystems
An ecosystem requires that the elements of the system are continually engaged in a set of relationships with every other element constituting the environment in which they exist. At the micro-level or nodal level of the OER ecosystem, there are early signs suggesting the potential sustainability of individual OER projects, for instance, Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, which is nearing the operational breakeven threshold. However, there is still much work needed in fostering the development of a sustainable OER ecosystem at the macro-level. There is a growing body of knowledge beginning to reflect on the sustainability question, for example Downes' (2006) work articulating different models for sustainable OER and Dholakia, King, and Baraniuk's (2006) reflections on sustainability in the case of Connexions. A number of important principles are emerging from these reflections:
- Learning infrastructure is fostered, not built: Self-sustaining OER systems will only be achieved when social, organizational, and cultural issues are resolved in tandem (Atkins, Brown and Hammond 2007:56). Self-organisation works best when the global pattern emerges from the collective interactions of the sub-elements where the rules of interaction are determined at the local level. Open wiki models exemplify these processes of self-organisation where local projects and initiatives can determine their rules of interaction and engagement, while simultaneously fueling the emergence of sustainable OER ecosystems at the macro-level. The wiki model enables incremental growth combined with flexible adaptation as knowledge and experience of the system grows.
- Sustainability is a value system, not merely an economic return for an OER product: An OER product, for instance a low-cost open textbook, is part of a larger system which should also include "volunteers and incentives, community and partnerships, co-production and sharing, distributed management and control" (Downes 2006). Consider for example, that school-level education in most countries are largely publicly-funded systems, consequently OER sustainability in this sector would benefit significantly by refinements in the national funding models as an incentive for the OER ecosystem, rather than total reliance on a user-pay system where individual schools fund the development of OER products. By contrast, it is easier to achieve a membership-funding model through higher education consortia given higher levels of institutional autonomy.
- Support the development of a critical mass of active, engaged users that will scale: Digital OER content is infinitely scalable, however, in the absence of a critical mass of educators who create, remix and reuse OER the value chain for sustainability is broken. In order to scale participation and the rate of OER production and reuse by an order of magnitude, (Atkins, Brown and Hammond 2007:24) suggest focusing on approaches which enable "micro-contributions from many".. This will enable the ecosystem to propagate the threshold number of "elements" required for sustainable self-organisation of a macro-level OER participatory learning infrastructure. A large number of participants provides the foundation for moving from pioneering individuals to institutional support for OER.
Reviewing the performance of the WikiEducator to date, the initiative has succeeded in laying the foundations and providing key building blocks for addressing the sustainability challenge. These include, for example:
- Achieving critical mass for a viable and sustainable wiki community (8600 registered users, and top 100K web site traffic ranking on Alexa.com for the current month placing WikiEducator within the top 1% of most visited websites in the world.)
- Successfully implementing a self-organising training project using OER which scales in two ways:
- increasing the number of trainers and facilitators with each training workshop -- graduates of the Learning4Content workshops become trainers for future workshops;
- A sufficiently large community which helps identify large numbers of prospective Learning4Content participants.
- Evidence of shifts from individual participation to organised collaboratives and institutional engagement. For example: the launch of a national WikiEducator node for India and subsequent government requests by the Government of India to extend Learning4Content training workshops to all state universities in the country; regional collaborations under the FLOSS4Edu project in Africa; co-ordinated OER course development by institutions (for instance Otago Polytechnic and the University of Education, Winneba in Ghana), training projects launched by the Ministry of Education in support of the National Open School of Trinidad and Tobago; the inception of the OER Foundation, a non-profit entity which will implement a membership contribution model for achieving economic sustainability of the WikiEducator project in the higher education sector.
- Increasing the profile of WikiEducator and OER among policy makers as evidenced, for example, by the respective Ministers of Education opening Learning4Content workshops in Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis and a Member of Parliament officiating at the launch of the Indian node for WikiEducator.
Strategic development requirements
An analysis of WikiEducator data and provisional discussions with stakeholders highlights areas of strategic focus pertinent to this proposal that will contribute to further maturation of a sustainable OER ecosystem:
- Proportional representation of OER developers in WikiEducator from the school sector (28% of users) is noticeably lower than members working in the tertiary education sector (50% of users). Therefore, increasing participation rates in OER collaboration from the school sector is a strategic priority. Discussions with the Ministry of Education in New Zealand and a number of teachers in the school system advise that it would be more productive and effective to focus OER projects on the development of lesson plans, worksheets, and digital resources to support classroom teaching than open textbooks at this time. This is also corroborated by Atkins, Brown and Hammond 2007:24) who recommend focusing on smaller individual projects. Open Textbooks would be the next logical step, once a culture of OER collaboration and adoption has been established within the sector. Through reuse, these smaller components will become the building blocks for larger open textbook projects to follow. The OER movement is not well known in the New Zealand school sector, with the majority of digital content resources accessed and used in the sector, licensed under all rights reserved. This project aims to establish OER as a viable and sustainable alternative for New Zealand schools.
- The maturation of the WikiEducator community has now identified the need for approaches and strategies to establish national OER collaborations. Apart from the pioneering work in India, we do not have models or guidelines to assist countries with instituting their own OER collaborations. This proposal seeks to pilot the establishment of a national OER collaboration in New Zealand which could form the basis of a model that can be adapted and replicated in other countries around the world. For instance, Samoa has indicated their intent to establish a national WikiEducator node, and this project will encourage other countries to mirror our initiative in their respective countries as all corresponding resources will be available as OER.
- Notwithstanding the extent and detail of the statistics WikiEducator records and tracks through the servers and online surveys, metrics which provide a deeper understanding of how this OER community develops and the nature and extent of its outcomes are restricted. Consequently we seek to institute and implement a more robust and analytical monitoring and evaluation plan for the WikiEducator initiative.
New Zealand provides a fertile environment for developing emergent strategies for OER sustainability. With a relatively small population (4.2 million) there is a close relationship between national policy (Government) and implementation (Society). The New Zealand school sector is representative of a broad spectrum of ICT enabled schools ranging from large technologically advanced schools in the urban centres to small rural schools where the digital-divide is still evident. These factors combined with a strong New Zealand culture for innovation provides an ideal environment for modelling approaches to establish national OER collaborations.
Sustainability strategy of the OER Foundation through open network models pioneered by the free and open source software movement. Wiki-based projects have the advantage of significantly lower break-even thresholds (where revenue equals operational costs) due to significant cost efficiencies possible through mass-collaboration when compared to other approaches. As a non-profit entity registered for charitable educational purposes, the OER Foundation will reinvest surplus funds to support further development of open content (depicted by the green shaded area in the graphic) by remunerating authors and learning design professionals for the development of commissioned OER materials and open textbooks.
The business plan for the OER Foundation and WikiEducator will achieve economic sustainability through multiple and diverse revenue streams, including:
- Membership contributions from educational institutions (national and international) to support the technical infrastructure of the initiative while benefiting from value added services provided by the OER Foundation and profiled access to an international OER network of educators;
- Government contributions most notably in supporting the realisation of national education priorities through OER and sector-wide savings in selected open textbook projects and ear-marked funding for the collaborative development of OER content resources for eLearning. In addition, the project will source funding from national aid agencies in support of WikiEducator's extensive reach in the the developing world;
- Grant funding from international donor agencies and foundations. This category of funding is reserved for strategic investments in building a participatory OER learning infrastructure so as to avoid dependencies on donor funding for operations;
- Corporate philanthropy where corporate citizenship divisions can sponsor key projects of WikiEducator and the OER Foundation. For instance, the OER Foundation plans to implement a FTE4WikiEducator project whereby institutions in the developing world, who may not be able to afford contributing membership status, may join the initiative by allocating a nominal staff-time allotment to work on the project and OERs for their institution. The OER Foundation will seek corporate sponsorship for these FTE4WikiEducator members as a contribution to supporting the technology infrastructure of a large international OER collaboration.
- Public philanthropy through voluntary electronic contributions (for example, automated micro payment systems like PayPal for donations);
- Building corporate revenue streams for value added services around OER. For example, partnerships with the publishing industry whereby a nominal commission is levied for OER texts published and distributed. This provides a "win-win" solution for all stakeholders:
- Surplus revenue generated through partnerships with the corporate sector are reinvested back into further OER content development;
- Publishers can reduce the risks and upfront development costs associated with educational texts utilising the benefits of print-on-demand publishing and opportunities for cost-effective distribution of highly customised texts. The OER movement benefits from marketing expertise and distribution channels of the publishing world thus widening access to OER and promoting local income generation.
- Students benefit from lower cost textbooks. The market price will be regulated through the principles of self-organisation because there will always be a digital version of the content available for free download on WikiEducator thus avoiding the threat of monopolies and promoting cost-efficient publishing. Implementing mass-customisation approaches and cost-efficiencies of industrial-scale printing technologies, publishers will be able to produce texts at market prices which are less than the comparable cost of an individual printing locally on a desktop printer while still maintaining a feasible profit margin for parallel OER publishing.
Alignment with Hewlett grant-making priorities
The work of the OER Foundation and WikiEducator is well aligned with the OER grant-making priorities for 2009. WikiEducator, in collaboration with the free knowledge community, will contribute to the attainment of these priorities, most notably:
- Sustainability: The mission of the OER Foundation and WikiEducator is to foster the development of a scalable and sustainable OER ecosystem using free content and open networks. WikiEducator is a highly adaptive and open system driven by the gifting culture of thousands of teachers, lecturers and trainers committed to the core educational value of sharing knowledge freely. Herein lies our greatest asset for sustainable futures -- namely, a commited community which has demonstrated positive growth in both membership and content development since its inception.
- Research and metrics: WikiEducator keeps detailed statistics of growth, editing trends, and feedback from user surveys. We are an active participant in Hewlett's metrics project using Google Analytics. However, we require more robust and detailed analysis of the key trends and patterns, and this proposal seeks to implement a detailed monitoring and evaluation plan developed for this purpose.
- Open textbooks / Courses: WikiEducator is a unique project which spans a wide range of OER approaches from the production of more traditional texts to innovative online courses based on emergent theories of connectivism (Siemens 2004). For example: WikiEducator, in partnership with COSL, has used collaborative authoring to produce the OER Handbook for Educators, a textbook available for free download or in a bound printed version which can be purchased through Lulu.com; Leigh Blackall and Bronwyn Hegarty from Otago Polytechnic have pioneered an OER course on Flexible Learning which uses a unique combination of activities hosted on WikiEducator, a course blog site, and participant reflections using individual blogs. WikiEducator has pioneered the use of pedagogical templates which is conflating the boundaries between traditional textbooks and flexible learning approaches by incorporating educational activities and formative assessment within OER content in ways that will facilitate reuse in different learning contexts.
- Intellectual property awareness: This is a high priority for WikiEducator. Our community has developed OER training materials on the meaning of "free content" in accordance with the requirements of the free cultural works definition. The Executive Director of CC Learn is a member of the WikiEducator Community Council and the Learning4Content training project continues to raise awareness around intellectual property issues as evidenced by approximately 70% of visitors to the WikiEducator tutorials viewing the training resource on "free content".
The Council of Otago Polytechnic have approved the establishment of the OER Foundation, a new non-profit entity founded for charitable education purposes. The OER Foundation is the legal entity for administering the funding of WikiEducator and is driven by the strategic vision of building a scalable and sustainable OER ecosystem. As an independent project, WikiEducator will now be able to expand its focus beyond the Commonwealth countries to support multiple language wiki installations. It will also be able to secure the funding necessary to invest in strategic software development features including, for example, building content interoperability among different OER projects and the implementation of rich text editing to lower the barriers of participation. The WikiEducator initiative has planned for continuity to ensure effective succession during this new phase of growth:
- Dr Wayne Mackintosh, founder of the WikiEducator project and elected member of the Community Council will assume an executive role as Director of the International Centre for Open Education at Otago Polytechnic and Deputy Chair on the Board of Directors of the OER Foundation, thus continuing his leadership role in WikiEducator.
- Dr Robin Day, Deputy Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic is Chair of the Board of Directors of the OER Foundation, and has played a leadership role instituting a progressive OER intellectual property policy at the Polytechnic.
- WikiEducator's Community Governance Council continues to lead the governance of the project.
- COL's president and Chief Executive Officer has confirmed that the agency will make a financial contribution to the project.
Otago Polytechnic are leaders in open education. They are the first New Zealand tertiary education institution to sign the Cape Town Open Education Declaration . Moreover, Otago Polytechnic is one of the first institutions in the world to implement an Intellectual Property policy which defaults content developments to a Creative Commons Attribution license. An innovative and highly skilled team based at the Educational Development Centre, together with a progressive intellectual property policy, have been the catalysts for prolific growth in OER content development at the Polytechnic . Otago Polytechnic has initiated an open process by recently hosting the "Heywire8 Think Tank" to bring together key educational practitioners, policy makers and decision makers to explore opportunities and pathways for establishing a New Zealand national OER collaboration. This open planning meeting included representation from Universities, the Wānanga (a type of publicly owned tertiary institution that provides education in a Maori cultural context), Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics, the Ministry of Education and the Commonwealth of Learning . This open process provides a solid foundation for progressing a national OER collaboration under this funding proposal.
With generous funding support from the William and Flora Hewlett foundation, the WikiEducator community have successfully launched and implemented the Learning4Content training project which is likely the world's largest attempt to develop wiki skills for education. As of 31 March 2009, 2360 participants have registered for 73 Learning4Content workshops since the inception of the training initiative in January 2008. On average, WikiEducator has succeeded in presenting 1.14 workshops per week for the duration of the project. This represents 23 online and 50 face-to-face workshops in 30 different countries, including: Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Canada, Cameroon, Israel, India, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Kenya, Kingdom of Tonga, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda and Zambia.
The inputs for this project proposal and corresponding outputs and outcomes should be read in conjunction with the corporate logical framework for the WikiEducator project summarised in the strategy section below.
The WikiEducator strategic plan
What are WE doing?
The OER Foundation's strategic objective is to foster the development of a thriving and sustainable global OER ecosystem dedicated to the design, development and delivery of free content resources in support of national education curricula.
Why are WE doing this?
OER shows considerable potential for reducing the cost of education for both institutions and learners alike with corresponding opportunities to widen access and improve the quality of education around the world.
How are WE doing this?
The WikiEducator strategy focuses on the four "C's":
- Fostering and enabling a thriving and sustainable community of individuals (teachers, lecturers, trainers, policy makers, and other educational professionals) and institutions (schools, tertiary education providers, publishers, ministries of education, research institutes, and foundations) committed to the OER movement.
- Building the capacity and skills of the community to engage meaningfully in the mass-collaboration required for the design and development of high quality OER learning resources, for example through the Learning4Content training project.
- Developing free content and knowledge to support the development of open communities and OER developers so that resources can be reused in multiple contexts.
- Ensuring smart connections through appropriate networks, ecosystems and the smart implementation of free software solutions to fill the gaps between existing mainstream technologies and the unique requirements of asynchronous learning, thus widening the reach and access of free content in the developing world.
The three phases of our strategic plan
Given the complexity and scale of enabling a global OER collaboration and sustainable ecosystem, WikiEducator has adopted a phased approach in realising our strategic plan. The primary focus of each phase is summarised below:
Establishing the foundations
|June 2006 - Dec 2007|| This phase focused on setting up the technologies, processes and content resources to facilitate community development and international collaboration on OER using wiki technology. During this phase the foundations for a community governance structure were established.|
Cumulative outcomes (Dec 2007)
Scaling up OER content development
|January 2008 - December 2008||The prime purpose of Phase 2 was to scale up the rate of OER content development, building on the foundations established during Phase 1. Phase 2 focused primarily in building capacity among individual educators to participate in the project and instituting the first WikiEducator Community Council.
Cumulative outcomes (Dec 2008)
Implementation and sustainable OER development
|January 2009 - ongoing||The purpose of this phase is to prioritise activities which implement OERs into mainstream educational activities in achieving a sustainable OER ecosystem. This phase will focus on institutional-level membership and establishing creative partnerships with the education supply chain network, for instance: textbook publishers, ministries of education, international agencies, IT solutions providers, open source communities, research institutes, foundations etc.
Cumulative outcomes (Mar 2009)
The successful implementation of this project proposal is based on the following inputs:
- Technology infrastructure: WikiEducator uses open source software which is a core value commitment of our community to the essential freedoms and intents of the OER movement to share, reuse and remix educational materials as a social good. WikiEducator uses Mediawiki, the same software which powers Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation projects, and therefore has a solid foundation on which to grow as an international OER initiative using software with a proven track record in supporting a top ten website.
- Training resources for Learning4Content: WikiEducator has developed 11 OER tutorials which support the Learning4Content training project. In addition, there is a workshop toolkit and facilitator's manual to assist new trainers in organising and presenting workshops.
- Facilitators for Learning4Content workshops: WikiEducator has a team of experienced Learning4Content facilitators based in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, North America and the Pacific region. Our base of prospective trainers continues to grow with each workshop and we have implemented a system whereby new trainers can gain experience by co-facilitating with one of WikiEducator's more accomplished facilitators.
- Software developers: WikiEducator's technical team include senior and experienced open source software development capability. In addition, the team includes senior-level management experience in leading open source development projects and our system administrator has extensive experience as Lead Software Engineer on numerous projects. WikiEducator has a proven track record of collaboration on software development with the Wikimedia Foundation who are the custodians of the Mediawiki software.
- School teachers: This project proposal seeks to prioritise a national OER collaboration for the school sector. WikiEducator is working in close collaboration with the New Zealand Ministry of Education on the development of reusable and portable OER content, which has been identified as one of five priority tasks under the Ministry's Managed Learning Environment initiative. This will enable the project to extend participation and reach with New Zealand teachers on a national scale.
- External funding: The constitution and policy statement of the OER Foundation requires this charitable institution to "raise and administer funds for the purpose of supporting the adoption and implementation of open education resources for the benefit of education institutions and the learner communities they serve". In the context of this project proposal, the OER Foundation will raise funding and sponsorship to: extend the number of workshops and educators trained under the Learning4Content training initiative, and to support the development of dedicated tools and MediaWiki extensions to lower the technology related barriers of entry to participation in collaborative OER development.
- Project leadership: The founder of WikiEducator, Dr Wayne Mackintosh will be leading this project. Dr Mackintosh has a proven international track record in free software and free content for education, and he will be working full time towards the attainment of sustainable OER ecosystems in his new role as founding Director of the International Centre for Open Education at Otago Polytechnic. Jim Tittsler, with more than 30 years experience in computer hardware and software design will be joining the project as Lead Software Engineer. WikiEducator plans to implement a rigorous monitoring and evaluation plan to improve metrics, reporting and knowledge on peer-collaboration approaches to OER development. Dr Jonathan Miller, a leading authority on ICT policy and practice for developing countries and co-author of the World Bank's publication, Monitoring and Evaluation of ICT in Education Projects: A Handbook for Developing Countries will assist as external evaluator for the implementation of WikiEducator's monitoring and evaluation plan. (See curriculum vitae of key participants appended.)
D. Activities, Outputs and Outcomes
Build OER content interoperability and improve pedagogical reusability between the Connexions and WikiEducator/MediaWiki platforms
- Improve remixing and reuse of OER content through content interoperability between Connexions, WikiEducator and MediaWiki OER installations.
- Improve potential for pedagogical reuse in different contexts by defining educational elements (iDevices) as identifiable components of digital OERs, thus adding value to Connexions and all MediaWiki installations used for education by providing a practical solution to the reusability paradox. This will enable OER developers to embed learning activities and incorporate formative assessment elements without compromising reuse potential.
- Content interoperability
- Exporting a Connexions page or content module into WikiEducator for collaborative wiki editing.
- Importing a Wikieducator page or content collection into Connexions for enhanced work flow and hosting of static instances of wiki produced content.
- Adding pedagogical value to both platforms through the incorporation of iDevices (educational elements) into OER content.
- Improving reuse potential of the Wikimedia Commons repository, and content collaborations among Connexions, WikiEducator, and the WikiMedia Foundation projects, which all subscribe to licensing which meet the free cultural works definition.
- Pedagogical reusability
- Describe the content and form elements of a set of iDevices (instructional devices) typically used by educators when developing educational materials based on the work of the eLearning XHTML Editor (eXe) open source authoring tool.
- Define anticipated behaviours of the learner-content interactions (e.g. teacher feedback on learner activities) for alternate delivery options (e.g. online and print-based materials).
- Specify user options for different reuse scenarios, for example:
- exporting OER without iDevices
- exporting OER with placeholders for iDevice content
- exporting OER with selected or all orginal iDevices.
- Extend the Connexions XML schema (CNXML) to incorporate iDevices.
- Develop self-contained MediaWiki extension for iDevices.
- Define import/export behaviours for OER technologies which do not support the use of iDevices.
- Develop import/export capability of iDevices between Connexions and WikiEducator/MediaWiki.
Estimated budget: $120,000
|Activity||Obstacles and risk management strategy||Monitoring mechanism|
|Develop use cases||Limited experience of reuse between Connexions content and MediaWiki installations: Low risk
The iDevice concept is not currently a mainstream OER authoring approach thus impeding the development of appropriate use cases: Low risk
|Requirements specification||Incompatible systems architecture to facilitate content interoperability: Low risk
iDevices prove difficult to identify and define for structured mark-up languages: Low risk'
|Development, implementation and testing||Technically, the development task proves too complex for the time/budget limitations of the project: Low risk'
|Maintenance and user training||Connexions and WikiEducator/MediaWiki do not succeed in achieving a sustainable software development and user community for these technologies: Medium risk
Build OER capacity through Learning4Content (L4C) training workshops
- Double the number of WikiEducator users by 31 July 2011 targeting 17,000 educators.
- Double the output of OER content production by 31 July 2011 targeting 120 OER book equivalents.
- Expand the base of OER training materials on how to develop OER in collaborative authoring environments.
- Train 1,470 teachers/educators in basic wiki skills.
- Schedule and present 40 workshops (30 online and 10 face-to-face).
- Develop 4 - 6 intermediate-level L4C tutorials.
- Secure a minimum of $20 000 additional sponsorship for Learning4Content training to increase the stated outputs and widen access to wiki training in education around the world.
- $65,000 (Excluding external sponsorship target which will increase the stated outputs proportionality)
|Activity||Obstacles and risk management strategy||Monitoring mechanism|
|Recruit participants, organise and present L4C workshops||Unable to scale L4C training due to shortage of facilitators and/or demand for training: Low risk
|Complete needs analysis, development and implementation of L4C intermediate-level tutorials||Low demand for more advanced wiki training & corresponding challenges in determining training priorities: Low risk
|Secure funding/sponsorship for additional L4C workshops||External funders/sponsors do not regard L4C representing a high "return on investment": Low risk
Establish a national OER collaboration for the New Zealand school sector
- Increase proportional representation of educators from the school sector to 35% of the total number of WikiEducator users.
- Support the New Zealand school sector in utilising WikiEducator as a national OER Repository for reusable and portable content under the Managed Learning Environment (MLE) initiative of the Ministry of Education.
- Establish a New Zealand community of teachers working collaboratively on OER and sharing of best practices.
- Train 300 New Zealand teachers in developing OERs to support teaching in the classroom.
- Train a minimum of 20 facilitators to extend the base of New Zealand trainers to scale professional development and support for the national OER collaboration.
- Research, consult and implement a selection of OER lesson plan templates and formats appropriate for use in the school sector.
- Commission 150 demonstrator lessons to be developed by New Zealand teachers and mapped to the New Zealand national curriculum.
- Secure $30,000 additional funding to support the development of dedicated tools and MediaWiki extensions customised for use and adoption by the school sector.
- $40,000 (excluding additional funding for tool development).
|Activity||Obstacles and risk management strategy||Monitoring mechanism|
|Train 300 teachers and 20 New Zealand facilitators||Targets too ambitious to achieve within the alloted time frame: Low risk
|Develop templates for lesson plans and digital OER resources for the school sector||Unable to develop a representative sample of OER templates for use in the school sector: Low risk
|Commission the development of 150 demonstrator OER lessons / digital resources.||Project fails to identify teachers to participate in the development of demonstrator OERs: Low risk
WikiEducator has developed a detailed monitoring and evaluation plan for the initiative and will appoint an independent consultant for the evaluation of the project.
- Anticipated budget: $15,000
The logical framework for the monitoring and evaluation plan specifies: the expected results, objectively verifiable indicators and means of verification against WikiEducator's strategic objectives. A copy of the monitoring and evaluation plan is provided:
The following evaluation activities are scheduled for the duration of this proposal:
- Refinement of the monitoring and evaluation plan based on project status at the inception of the plan.
- Establishing baseline data and recalibration of the plan as required.
- Development of survey instruments.
- Four data collection points (six monthly).
- Two external evaluation reports by independent evaluator.
F. Intellectual property rights
The OER Foundation and WikiEducator subscribe to the Free Cultural Works definition which defines the licenses which meet the essential freedoms espoused by the Free Software Foundation. Otago Polytechnic -- as host institution of the OER Foundation -- has approved and adopted an intellectual property policy which defaults to a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY). Therefore all content resources developed by the OER Foundation will default to a Creative Commons Attribution license. However, some content contributions from third party participants may choose to use the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license (CC-BY-SA) as the Copyleft alternative. (Both licenses meet the requirements of the Free Cultural Works definition and the OER Foundation will NOT entertain non-free license alternatives).
G. Compelling Reasons for the Grant
This proposal addresses three strategic shortcomings in the OER movement:
- OER content interoperability between mainstream initiatives which restrict pedagogical reuse and remixing of open digital content resources.
- Establishing national OER collaborations and models for replication in other countries.
- Dedicated institutional focus on building sustainable OER ecosystems at an international level.
Section 3: Logic model
Section 4: Program chart
|Main Activities||Indicators of Progress||Sub activities||Targets/Baselines||Target Date|
|Develop use cases for interoperable OER content and pedagogical iDevices||
|Development, implementation and testing||
Following minimum release dates are scheduled:
|Recruit participants, organise and present L4C workshops||
1 Aug 2009 - 31 Jan 2010
1 Feb 2009 - 31 Jul 2010
1 Aug 2010 - 31 Jan 2011
1 Feb 2011 - 31 Jul 2011
|Establish a national OER collaboration for the New Zealand school sector||
30 Sep 2009
31 Oct 2009
1 Nov 2009 to 31 May 2010
1 June to 31 Dec 2010
1 Jan 2011 - 31 July 2010
|WikiEducator monitoring and evaluation||
30 Sept 2009
31 Oct 2009
31 January 2010
28 Feb 2010
31 July 2010
31 Aug 2010
31 Jan 2011
28 Feb 2011
31 July 2011
31 Aug 2011
Links and references
- D. Tapscott & A. D. Williams (2006). Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Online: http://www.wikinomics.com/book/)
- D.E. Atkins, J.S. Brown & A.L. Hammond. 2007. A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities. Report to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Online: http://www.hewlett.org/download?guid=745fe08c-54de-102c-ae2b-0002b3e9a4de
- D. Wiley. 2004. The Reusability Paradox, Online: Connexions, April 20, 2004, http://cnx.org/content/m11898/1.18/.
- S. Downes. 2006. Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources, Online: http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=33401
- U. M. Dholakia, J. King, and R. G. Baraniuk. 2006. What Makes an Open Education Program Sustainable? The Case of Connexions. OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) Closed Workshop Report. Online: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/3/6/36781781.pdf
- G.Siemens. 2004. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Online: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
- The targeted growth represents an increase of 184% when compared to the average growth of WikiEducator's first 3 years of operation.
- Estimated numbers calculated as follows: 50 participants per basic level online workshop; 15 participants for each face-to-face workshop; and 20 participants for each online intermediate level workshop