Internationalising online programs/International Projects
Terra Incognita, OSS and OER in Education Series
Description of the Activity
The OSS and OER Impact on Education Series is a low risk low barrier of entry project, which is run on a Penn State World Campus blog called Terra Incognita and WikiEducator. From my perspective both of these resources are free.
Beginning on March 12, 2007, a collection of international authors started posting brief online articles featuring their perspectives on the impact of Open Educational Resources and Open Source Software (OSS) on education. The posts appear biweekly on Terra Incognita, the official blog of Penn State’s World Campus. In addition to posting their perspectives, the authors spent time responding to questions and engaging in dialog during the weeks following their initial postings. After two weeks of dialog about the posting a summary is produced and together along with the postings, discussion, and some biographical information on the author the content is meant to be reformatted and made available on WikiEducator as Open Educational Resources (OER).
The Impact of Open Source Software on Education series has been organized to elicit a variety of perspectives from across the globe with authors from numerous countries including the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the West Indies, South Africa, Kenya, Iran and others. The topics presented and discussed range from how OER and OSS has impacted pedagogy, the cost of eLearning, access, and the digital divide, life long learning, and learning design, while also pointing to national policy decisions, software evaluation challenges, training, institutional collaboration, resource sharing, and faculty development. Themes that have emerged across postings have included the nature of “freedom” as applied to information assets, the construction and impact of commons-based peer production, design for localization, and the role of OER and OSS on operational sustainability.
The project is “international” in the sense that participants are international, readership is international, and the topic of discussion is distinctly international. In effect, through the series, we have created an international community that exchanges ideas of commonly held interest.
Benefits of the Activity
There are a number of tangible and intangible benefits of running the Series. First, it is fun and is a topic of interest that is connects a small group of faculty and administrators at Penn State to a larger community that experiences education differently. So, it provides common points of interest across international contexts. This is very important for a university that is located in Central Pennsylvania. It also serves as a single to the rest of the World that Penn State World Campus is interested in more than developing and delivering courses and programs and that we are actively interested in trends that are lager than state and national boarders. It also provides an example to other folks on the World Campus team that there are low barrier ways to contribute to, influence, and experience an international community without incurring much risk or cost.
Success Factors for the Activity
There are a number of factors that I think have helped this project along:
- The organization was willing to lend its “brand” to the blog and Series. Basically, we could link from the campus home page, use the logo, and run the service from our domain.
- As the founder and coordinator of the Series I had to be willing to dedicate ample time to running the project, most of which occurs “out of the Office”.
- Because the benefits and outputs of the Series are not measured by the organization or considered in our quantitative goals, the project had to be low cost.
- There is a critical mass of individuals who are committed enough to OSS and OER to volunteer their time as authors and will refer colleagues to participate.
Organizational Readiness Factors
Once again, this is a very low risk activity, but even so, there are organizational readiness factors:
- We are able to brand and run a blog.
- We are willing to be open enough to have a publicly facing blog be monitored lightly.
- The World Campus was able to allocate a person to configure and “run” the blog and help out with the postings.
Exit and Sustainability Plans
Because the organization does not measure the outputs of the Series, there is really no mandate for such planning. Basically, I assess the situation on a semester-by-semester basis to ensure that I have the time to coordinate the Series. If I was at some point told that it was inappropriate to run this Series using Penn State assets, I would post some notices and move the Series to another site.