OER and Open Education at NUTN 2008

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Ken Udas and Christine Geith are using this site to support a presentation they are making titled Access for Open Education and the Impact of Open Source Software and Open Educational Resources at the 2008 annual meeting of the National University Telecommunications Network (NUTN). We are using space on WikiEducator to support development of the presentation, distribute presentation content, develop some community around the presentation, and provide a resource for OER and Open Education to conference participants.

Presentation Description

Access for Open Education and the Impact of Open Source Software and Open Educational Resources

Many educators have turned to Open Source Software (OSS) and Open Educational Resources (OER) as part of a strategy to increased access to education. We will explore some of the characteristics of OSS and OER that hold such promise with a focus on economically developing countries.

There has been much dialog about the potential impact of Open Source Software (OSS) and Open Educational Resources (OER) on education. OSS and OER are social phenomena that change the relationship between digital asset creators, managers, users, teachers, and learners. The increasing use and central role of educational technologies and digital content in the learning enterprise has put OSS and OER at the center of numerous, and occasionally impassioned, conversations. In this session, as a starting point, we will explore OSS and OER from the multiple perspectives that have been made available through a presentation series that has been hosted by the Penn State World Campus and supported by the contributions of numerous leaders in education. In addition to providing an overview of themes developed during the Series, we will extend the dialog by identifying characteristics of OSS and OER that reduce barriers to accessibility and support sustainability with a focus on economically developing counties.

Beginning on March 12, 2007, a collection of international authors started posting brief online articles featuring their perspectives on the impact of OSS and OER on education. The posts appeared 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. The Series provides an excellent foundation because it 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.

Also in 2007, six international scientific journals jointly created "Distances and Access to Education" focused on distance education and the right to education. OER figured prominently in many of the published articles as a means for achieving the United Nations Millenium Development Goals. One of the papers included in this special publication, “Access to education with online learning and open educational resources: can they close the GAP?” by Geith and Vignare, provides the basis for some of what will be discussed in the NUTN presentation.

The presentation by Udas and Geith is founded on the notion of an “open” distance learning provider, which reduces and eliminates access barriers to education. Distance education has historically been tied closely with open universities and colleges because it reduces some of the time and geographic access barriers that classroom-based education imposes on learners who are not able to attend classes in physical locations at specific times. The advent of the Internet opened opportunities for Online Learning (eLearning) to supplement and replace traditional correspondence and video-based distance learning methods. Simultaneously, during the past decade, open source software (OSS) has become an important part of the technology infrastructure through which online learning has been delivered and educational resources have been developed. Furthermore, the licensing, distribution, and development methods used in OSS have been adopted by producers of educational resources (OER).

The openness in OSS and OER promises to enable the free use and reuse of resources that are critical to the educational enterprise. OSS and OER could reduce the cost barriers to education in so far as it is fee free, and reduce cultural access barriers in so far as it is free for modification and reuse to meet local educational needs. Many open education providers are turning to OSS and OER to help them better meet their mission of widening access to high quality education. There is dialog about applying the general principles and economic models that underlie OSS and OER to other functions of the university such as teaching, research, and student services.


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There are trends and factors that have professional educators and stakeholders in higher education asking serious questions about the viability of higher education to meet the needs of a changing economy and social patterns that are emerging among learners.
  • The continued growth of eLearning and distance education.
  • Growing interest in alternatives to traditional teacher-focused approaches to online learning.
  • Growing investment in creating repositories of educational content.
  • Interest in alternative ways of assessing learning outcomes and knowledge.
  • Increasing use of information technologies in daily life and for social purposes.
  • The emergence of “Web 2.0” technologies, including blogs, podcasts, social interaction tools, which shift the Web from principally supporting presentation, to supporting interaction, personal, and collaborative publishing.
  • Free and open source software.
  • The development of alternative licensing approaches that allow transparent ways of communicating the rights authors reserve and conditions of distribution, promoting the sharing, use, modification, and reuse of (educational) content.

These trends and patterns have opened new possibilities for wider access to education, and alternative ways of meeting global educational need.

Advances in communication and information technologies, reduced barriers to access, and patterns of social interaction have helped accelerate and enrich the connections and integration between individuals and organizations across the globe.

Not only are we becoming increasing aware of the need for quality tertiary education on a global level, we are imagining possibilities to do it, and identifying what might change if we really tired.

There has been significant advancement in our understanding of the catalytic force that “Free” and “Open” resources, information, and knowledge can be for education and social capacity building. Much of the substance of Open Educational Resources (OER) is captured in the underlying principles of Freedom and is captured in the Open Source Software (OSS) and Freedom Culture dialog. There are many excellent sources and forums that support this dialog including the Impact of OSS and OER on Education Series[1], which is hosted on Terra Incognita[2], and organized on WikiEducator[3].

As we globalize we find ourselves encountering needs and situations that have different a) political, b) social, and c) economic orientations.

Openness Framework


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Open Educational Resources, and Open Source Software, are just the "tip of the iceberg" - they are the most visible expressions of economic, social and political ideas being brought to life through the enabling power of the social web.


Openness from the economic perspective is about goods and services that use a common resource - like a fishery, or air. Knowledge is a common good. Only knowledge doesn't decrease with use, it increases. And, with digital knowledge, the cost of each use is virtually zero. What does this mean for education? Re-using, re-mimxing and distributing existing resources (like content and software) can lower your costs. More importantly, sharing your resources as a public good continues the virtuous cycle of knowledge creation and enables others to build upon your work - and isn't that one of our core values in education and research? But, if you have your business hat on, think of content and software as pre-competitive space. You earn your money through the value you add with your goods and services. In education, those value-adds could be the learning experiences you create, your student support services, your connections with industry, your research and technology transfer, and the solutions you offer through community engagement and service.

Two examples of education-related businesses built on the idea of adding value around open content are Flatworld Knowledge and the National Repository of Open Resources (NROC).


From the social perspective, openness is about trusting others. It's about trusting them to build on your work in positive ways. It's about trusting them with the tools to tinker with your work. It's about trusting people you don't even know to improve upon and build and create something even better than you could imagine. Sometimes that trust will be violated, but more often than not, that trust is the background in which you operate - just like when you drive; you trust others will follow the rules too or the system fails.

The Social dimensions of openness are visible when faculty collaborate with their peers and others to create new curriculum and course materials. You see it when students work in teams. You see it in constructivist and social learning designs. You also see it when the barriers between the teacher role and the student role disappear, and when the role between novice and expert disappear: in communities of interest. All of these are amplified and accelerated using open approaches.

An example of an academic and research community is NanoHUB. An example of a community sharing learning designs is the LAMS Community.


From the political perspective, openness is about freedom. Knowledge enables freedom of thought. Software enables freedom of action. Where knowledge and software are locked up due to licensing or price, it shuts individuals out of the benefits of the common good. The Cape Town Declaration, for example, is an attempt to raise awareness of these conditions around the world and a call to action to unlock the commons of knowledge in the form of educational resources.



Open Source Teaching & Learning (OLD, OER, OSS)


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James Dalziel introduced the notion of “Open Source Teaching” when he started to build a community to exchange learning designs generated through the use of LAMS. He discussed the concept in a blog posting on Terra Incognita, titled Learning Design and Open Source Teaching.

  • The core elements of a learning design are a series of activities that include details about whom is involved in each activity and their roles; what is to be done and how to do it; an overarching description of the “flow” of these activities; and potentially the reason for this learning design.
  • If learning designs capture the heart of the education process, then could we, by analogy, call them the “source code” of teaching? If teachers then share their learning designs with each other under Open Content licenses, this might represent the birth of Open Source Teaching and Learning.
  • Furthermore, associating Open Educational Resources with an Open Learning Design, running on Open Source Software would potentially open the possibilities for totally open, modifiable, and reusable educational assets and infrastructure to support contextually relevant and localized experiences.

Open Source Teaching and Learning Supports the economic, social, and political value of OER:

  • Localization for General Relevance and Reuse: Reusability is one of the principal and most commonly cited potential benefits of OER. Because educational and learning needs vary across contexts, for reusability in education to become a major benefit of OER, localization and recontextualisation is critical.
  • Localization as a Form of Empowerment: The ability to localize educational resources such as software and content is an important enabler for educators and service providers (e.g., IT departments) supporting education. Localization empowers individuals and organizations to create environments and educational experiences that are economically and culturally coherent with local operational contexts, cultural preferences, and organizational goals for which the resources were not originally designed. It recognizes and validates diversity and liberates the ability to express self-identity.

Education 3.0

Derek Keats and Phillip Schmitt have been developing some thinking and dialog around a concept that they are calling “Education 3.0.” The concept ties together changes in technology, patterns in relationships and communications among people living in networked societies, and educational need. The ,model, which is very much under development is also tied closely with open educational resources as an foundation. The table provided below is based on the a publication of Derek and Phillip’s titled The genesis and emergence of Education 3.0 in higher education and its potential for Africa. Currently a very nice conversation is happening on Terra Incognita that is based on a blog posting by Derek titled Evolution to Education 3.0.

Education 3.0 points to a changing environment that has been behind the development and growth of Open Educational Resources, and sits very much at the center of the “Freedom Culture.”

Three Generations of Education

The table and content in this section is based on the article, The genesis and emergence of Education 3.0 in higher education and its potential for Africa by Derek W. Keats and J. Philipp Schmidt, First Monday, volume 12, number 3 (March 2007). It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License, and is open for remixing, distribution, and reuse. So, have at it!

  • Education 1.0 is, like the first generation of the Web, a largely one-way process. Students go to universities to get education from professors, who supply them with information in the form of a stand up routine that may include the use of class notes, handouts, textbooks, videos, and in recent times the World Wide Web. Students are largely consumers of information resources that are delivered to them, and although they may engage in activities based around those resources, those activities are for the most part undertaken in isolation or in isolated local groups. Rarely do the results of those activities contribute back to the information resources that students consume in carrying them out.
  • Education 2.0 happens when the technologies of Web 2.0 are used to enhance traditional approaches to education. Education 2.0 involves the use of blogs, podcasts, social bookmarking and related participation technologies but the circumstances under which the technologies are used are still largely embedded within the framework of Education 1.0. The process of education itself is not transformed significantly although the groundwork for broader transformation is being laid down.
  • Education 3.0 is characterized by rich, cross-institutional, cross-cultural educational opportunities within which the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artifacts that are shared, and where social networking and social benefits outside the immediate scope of activity play a strong role. The distinction between artifacts, people and process becomes blurred, as do distinctions of space and time. Institutional arrangements, including policies and strategies, change to meet the challenges of opportunities presented.

Characteristics Education 1.0 Education 2.0 Education 3.0
Primary Role of Professor Source of knowledge Guides students to sources of information and serves as the source of knowledge Orchestrator of collaborative knowledge creation, facilitating peer production, learner generated content, and immersive learning experiences
Content Arrangements Use and creation of traditional copyright materials Copyright and free/open educational resources for students within discipline, sometimes across institutions Free/open educational resources created, shared, modified, fused, and reused by students across multiple institutions, disciplines, nations, supplemented by original materials created for them. Open knowlege creation and open sharing of the resulting artifacts.
Learning Activities Traditional, essays, assignments, tests, some groupwork within classroom Traditional assignment approaches transferred to more open technologies; increasing collaboration in learning activities; still largely confined to institutional and classroom boundaries. Outcomes and outputs are relatively predictable and controlled. Open, flexible learning activities that focus on creating room for student creativity; social networking outside traditional boundaries of discipline, institution, nation. Due to wide number of variables being introduced into the learning experience, outputs and outcomes are difficult to predict. Creativity is liberated.
Institutional Arrangements Campus-based with fixed boundaries between institutions; teaching, assessment, and accreditation provided by one institution Increasing (also international) collaboration between universities; still one-to-one affiliation between students and universities Loose institutional affiliations and relations; entry of new institutions that provide higher education services; regional and institutional boundaries breakdown. Organic means of recognizing, assessing, and transferring knowledge and experience to support "certification" process and life-long-learning.
Student Behaviour Largely passive absorptive Passive to active, emerging sense of ownership of the education process Active, strong sense of ownership of own education, co-creation of resources and opportunities, active choice. Value is recognized in collaborative and individual knowledge creation and discovery and acts of communication and connection.
Technology E-learning enabled through an electronic learning management system and limited to participation within one institution E-learning collaborations involving other universities, largely within the confines of learning management systems but integrating other applications E-learning driven from the perspective of personal distributed learning environments; consisting of a portfolio of applications; with tools and content provided based on personal and group profiles.
Student Affairs & Student Services  ?  ?  ?
Faculty Development & Support  ?  ?  ?

Ongoing (post presentation) Work and Contribution Space

Please feel free to register on WikiEducator and edit this document. All f the content n WikiEducator is licensed to promote sharing, use, modification, and reuse. So, feel free to go at it. Feel free to include comments about the topic being presented, add resources, provide examples and information on open educational resrouces, build on the Education 3.0 model outlined in the table above, etc.

Are there additional categories that you would include in table above? If so, what would they be and what characteristics do they have under Education 1.0 and 2.0, or would they have under Education 3.0?

Role of Professor

Content Arrangements

Learning Activities

Institutional Arrangements

Student Behaviour


Student Affiars & Student Services

Faculty Development

Assessment of Student Competence

Background Work

  • How would higher education be different?
  • What would the role be of the University?
  • Would we have to look so different that we would not recognize ourselves?

How do we provide it?

First, let's look at some ideals to which we can aspire in the "how" of providing education. The 4A Framework, from the dialog about the right to education, reaches beyond access to rights "in" education (Geith & Vignare, 2008):

  • Availability
  • Accessibility
  • Acceptability
  • Adaptability

The 4A's go beyond making education available and accessible, to include acceptability by parents and their children, as well as adults, of education characteristics including: meeting minimum standards for quality, safety and environmental health; using an acceptable language of instruction; educating in a matter that is free of censorship; and educating in ways that respect the rights of learners of all ages. The 4A's also include adaptability to the unique needs and cultures of a wide range of constituents such as minorities, indigenous people, workers, people with disabilities and migrants.

Another set of ideals are the four tenents of open education. These 4 tenents were declared 40 years ago at the opening of the pioneering Open University of the United Kingdom (Daniel, 2008):

  • Open as to people
  • Open as to places
  • Open as to methods
  • Open as to ideas

The 4A's and the 4 tenents are ideals for the provision of education. OER and OSS are enablers of these ideals - not only as methods for lowering costs of some of the important components in the system (content and software) but more importantly, by enabling us to live up to these ideals in teaching, research and service.

Second, let's look at some of the constraints that are lifted by a combination of the ideals of openess, today's social web, OSS and OER:

  • Social systems that are NOT place bound or time bound
  • Knowledge tools that do NOT require us to pay 3rd parties to use, improve and customize them
  • Knowledge and learning resources that do NOT require special status to use, make derivatives or to distribute
  • Individuals empowered to learn and achieve without membership in a formal learning organization

How would higher education be different?

One way to frame this question is to look at what traditional higher education institutions have always done and see this as yet another way to increase access, improve quality and decrease costs - the holy grail of technology innovations.

Another way to frame this question is to look at the underserved population - those that can't participate in traditional means - and create new solutions using the affordances enabled by these new ideals and technologies.

So, here's a puzzle: How can we achieve the ends of higher education through means with these characteristics?

  • Empowers individuals to teach, learn and achieve when, where and how they can
  • Enables social systems anytime and anywhere
  • Creates and uses knowledge tools and resources that are free for use, improvement, customization and distribution
  • Enables options for individuals to earn recognition and/or credit for achievement
  • Serves society through research and service
  • Embodies the ideals of the 4A's and the 4 tenents

Or, we could ask a more specific question: how can we meet the higher education needs of a specific region or community using these ideals and technologies?

A number of solutions could result from this exercise. Some have already been proposed by Ken Udas and Jim Taylor, for example.

Much of what we talk about if teaching, what about research and service?

It is important, I think to recognize, that if we really are thinking about education on a global scale, there is room for all sorts of institutions, some of which will be very traditional, destination campuses that assume in loco parentis very seriously as part of their mission. This is fine. In fact, the role of community colleges, organizations with strong cultural ties to Normal School mission, regional affiliation, etc. Have a role in the larger education economy. Is there a common thread here, that will act as Magnetic North, drawing us to some sort of tipping point as Derek Keats has suggested about “Education 3.0?” By the way, I REALLY do not like using version numbers as labels for social phenomena. But is there something in the first two table from Derek and Phillip’s work?


What would be the role of universities?

Would we recognize ourselves?


Open Students Students for open access to research

An Open Source Online University OSS and OER Factors in Developing Countries: Article from MITLinc 2007

International Journals Special Issue: Distances and Access to Education http://www.distanceandaccesstoeducation.org/

Access to education with online learning and open educational resources: can they close the GAP? (Geith & Vignare) http://www.distanceandaccesstoeducation.org/contents/JALN_v12n1_Geith.pdf

Linking Academic Credit and OpenCourseWare (Geith) http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=df9f5w7f_6hs7fg8cj

OpenCourseWare Futures: Creating a Parallel Universe (Taylor) http://www.usq.edu.au/electpub/e-jist/docs/vol10_no1/papers/full_papers/taylorj.htm

Open Education: Remarks by Sir John Daniel http://www.col.org/colweb/site/pid/5236

A Review of the Open Educational Resources Movement http://cohesion.rice.edu/Conferences/Hewlett/emplibrary/A%20Review%20of%20the%20Open%20Educational%20Resources%20%28OER%29%20Movement_BlogLink.pdf

The genesis and emergence of Education 3.0 in higher education and its potential for Africa: http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_3/keats/index.html

URL Links

  1. http://blog.worldcampus.psu.edu/index.php/category/oss-and-oer-in-education-series/
  2. http://blog.worldcampus.psu.edu/
  3. http://www.wikieducator.org/Open_Source_Software_in_Education_Series_on_Terra_Incognita
  4. http://freedomdefined.org/Definition
  5. http://wikieducator.org/Archbiship_Emeritus_Desmond_Tutu_on_the_importance_of_freedom
  6. http://www.wikieducator.org
  7. http://www.capetowndeclaration.org/
  8. http://www.ocwconsortium.org
  9. http://uocwa.org
  10. http://wikieducator.org/Otago_Polytechnic:_An_IP_policy_for_the_times