Quality control in open versus closed approaches to authoring educational resources

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Background to this article

On Day 2 of the eL4C41 course, participants were requested to provide their thoughts on the following questions:

George Mubita

  • Do you have any concerns about the quality of educational resources developed using an open authoring approach? If so, what are your concerns? If not, how does an open authoring approach contribute to high quality learning materials?

In the current age and time of technological advancement, I believe an open authoring approach can make learning on a particular subject more quicker and exciting as experienced contributors can share and explore the subject at hand at great lengths. The quality of the materials also depends on the levels of participation and availability of time for the contributors. In any case you need a more knowledgeable facilitator to steer the all process of ensuring the quality of the materials shared. Otherwise, the only concern is authenticity; how does one judge on how authentic the resources being shared are? And how do you hold someone accountable to the errors or ommissions that can be found in such materials that are developed in an open authorising approach? Contributors should be held accountable for contestable materials by providing references that justify their position and inviting others to question their reasoning. These could be expressed as Guidelines for Contributors

  • In your opinion, should closed or open authoring approaches be used in the development of learning resources for use in education? Give reasons for your view?

My view is that a combination of both approaches should be adopted. The reason is that closed approaches can also be useful to abate the issues related to errors and ommissions that may be associated with the open authorising approach

  • What mechanisms can be adopted to assure quality of educational content developed in wiki environments?

- Assign quality time to learners to understand the material and provide more time for assignments and exercises on the various themes/topics - Encourage group assignments to encourage and motivate slow learners and in order to get quality feedback on some topics - Ask participants to give feedback on how they think the lesson was useful and encourage changes/adjustments were necessary to both the content and the course outline

The idea of this page is to synthesize the many replies received this way, so as to provide a practical demonstration of the matter at hand, while at the same time producing a reference document that may be of value in future discussions of the subject. Everyone is welcome to join in, either by editing this page directly, or by commenting on the discussion page.



Educational resource

Any piece of text or equipment or other media being used for learning or teaching.

Open authoring

The resource is being drafted in public, with the possibility of permanent feedback from interested parties, and with participants and observers having the possibility to learn from the evolution of the resource.

The term is also sometimes used to refer to resources being put under an open license by their authors. We shall stick to the more common former definition.

Closed authoring

The resource is being drafted in private, with limited or no possibility to provide feedback before the official release. The resource is published before it is availed to the users.

Blended open/closed approaches

The resource is being drafted in a mix of public and private, with mixed possibilities of feedback before the official release.

Looking into mixed approaches at a rather early stage might bring more pro/contra-arguments on the table, too.

Quality assurance

The set of processes that help a product meet a number of requirements. In an educational context, these requirements include correctness in content and language, coherence in style, and appropriateness in terms of complexity level and presentation.

To ensure quality learning content, we need 'content experts' to critique added contents. VFoliaki

Comparison between closed and open

  • Common points
  • Differences
  • Opportunities and pitfalls of blends between open and closed

Arguments pro and against each system

Pro closed

  • Easier to brand?
  • Less investment needed for pre-release debate?
  • Less investment needed for post-release debate?

Pro open

I do have concerns, and I’m sure many others do, about the quality of educational resources developed using an open authoring approach.

The concerns are as to the capacity for such materials & tools to provide effective and verifiable knowledge to the learners. Are these materials adapted to open learning?

An approach one might take to get to know why we often have concerns regarding quality in the educational resources developed using an open authoring approach is certainly to look for the reasons why, in the contrary, we often have less concerns regarding closed authoring. High on the top of the list will certainly comes the author’s credibility. By the mere credibility of the author, quality is supposedly contained in the materials developed in closed authoring. But, close to credibility, or rather what supports this credibility, stands the fact that in closed authoring, whole systems of assessment are put in place to give credit to the materials. My opinion is that while closed authoring is credited to produce quality materials for use in education, this approach may not be appropriate for open education, and therefore free or low-cost access to higher education. I suggest that experts or supporter of open authoring should try to adopt the assessment and review mechanisms used in the context of closed authoring to adapt it to the open authoring. This will be of great help for the enhancement of quality ressources

--Nboris3 15:12, 25 September 2011 (UTC)Boris N'DONG NGUEMA

Against closed

  • Mary Pringle highlights that closed authorship is not a guarantee of quality, as well as that they soon become outdated.

Against open

  • too many cooks spoil the soup (Vilimaka Foliaki
  • Lack of reliablity (User:Kangwa)
  • May deprive institutions of possible revenue streams (Bardo1000)
  • May include false information (User: Nivedita)

Examples of successes/failures for each system

Here's an example of a succesful emerging wiki learning project by James Neill a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Canberra. It is a free and open psychology textbook authoring exercise by students

Sarah Stuart at Otago Polytechnic Facilitating online communities


Personal Responsibility

  • One element that could contribute to increased responsibility on the content posted could be to require that users identify themselves by providing their real life name 'user name' (transparency/accountability).
  • Need to check credentials also brought up by Bardo1000

Page-level Responsibility

  • A user/s (lets call them curators, as at Scholarpedia) could be made responsible for following content changes on assigned pages. They would be responsible to ensure that changes adhere to quality standards, such as providing links to sources of information and ensuring contributors have provided their full identity. The talk page could be used to track approval of changes by providing version number followed by the signature of the page administrator. Any user can hence find on the talk page the latest version that fulfills quality standards.
  • Some of these issues were also raised by VFoliaki

Identification of Expertise

A team of volunteer experts and researchers in various fields can be constituted by wiki to serve as a sort of quality control board at some stage in the development process --Shining Star 15:23, 2 February 2011 (UTC)Ebiho Agun

  • It would be helpful to have a set of 'tags' associated with the users that signal their expertise. Users and those monitoring pages could then easily find an expert to consult before approving a page when content falls beyond their area of expertise. One advantage is that experts may be able to contribute when called upon without having the full responsibility of watching a page.
  • VFoliaki brings up the need for expert curation as well.

Identification of Audience

  • It is desirable that a significant subset of the "crowd" participating in the creation of an educational resource have more subject-matter expertise than the target audience.
  • People having experience can contribute in the creation of an educational resource.(Nivedita)


They do not solve the problem, but make users aware of its existence.


General Discussion

Open Questions on the matter

Open Questions on the structure and content of this article

Team Charter and Consensus

I'm inclined to think that a Team Charter is in order since we will likely need to reach a consensus at some point. What are your thoughts?

Another possibility is to have a set of Guidelines for Contributors

By the way, I like to idea of using the discussion page to exchange ideas, but to my knowledge, no one receives email notifications. I propose to add a feedback heading at the bottom of the page instead of using the discussion page at least until email notification works properly. We can always move discussions from the main page to the discussion page later. --Benjamin Stewart 13:46, 26 July 2010 (UTC)

It's just one article, and about one week to go, so a charter is probably not necessary. Besides, I do not think we have enough time and workforce to finish first a charter (even on the basis of the template you linked to) and then this article before the end of this course. So I would suggest to concentrate on writing this up, and if conflicts arise, I am confident we will find a way to handle them. --Daniel Mietchen 09:08, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
No problem. --Benjamin Stewart 17:31, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
Interesting discussion - might I point out, that in a community which is mature, where folks are united behind common purpose, and aligned in objectives, then chartering gives way to goodwill to work together, and get things done. Randy Fisher 15:29, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

I like the idea of a charter as it can serve as the basis upon which the entire community revolves. --Ellenfeig 21:12, 6 February 2011 (UTC)


I've noticed that many are including their user page link next to each respective thought, idea, or perspective. I propose that instead of citing this way, that each person include in the summary a brief description of the idea at the time of editing. When looking at the history, all the contributions can be viewed via the summary itself and/or by comparing various versions. I would think that eventually the final document would be in paragraph form which could get a bit messy if we continue citing the way it is now. Just a thought. --Benjamin Stewart 13:31, 26 July 2010 (UTC)

The 'user tags' were entered by me (kubke) to start documenting who said what on the workshop discussion page. Hope this clarifies.

Overview of "Thoughts on quality" pages

This course:

External discussion

Earlier courses:

Subsequent courses: