Week3: Giving Knowledge for Free – OECD

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Well, into week 3 and just barely treading water…after reading some of your posts for this week (following a nasty struggle with the OPML file – which still continues), I now feel enlightened about a few things:

  • aggregating feeds is not as easy as it’s made out to be
  • I read the wrong reading for week 2, and this has carried over to week 3 – hope to sort myself out next week
  • I think I now get the difference between an OER (Open Educational Resource) and an LO (Learning Object). Thanks Darcy!

The discussion about drivers and barriers in the OER movement was, for me, the most interesting (and perhaps most relevant) part of the OECD document Giving Knowledge for Free. My interest is more on the practice end and less on the policy side – though I definitely see how policy influences large scale adoption of practice.

At my university, I’m working with both Faculty and students in helping devise ways that they can share and re-purpose content related to academic support. We’ve developed LEAP, an open-sharing content repository (after a fashion) using a Moveable Type pumped up blog as the starting point. The addition of feeds, free (beta) tools like RSSCalendar, wikis and del.icio.us make it easy to author, share and re-distribute content in other places (inside a CMS – for example).

The great thing is that we’ve worked with around 90 students on various aspects of this project in the 3 years we’ve been working on it. A third of those students have contributed content to the site. Faculty members are a bit slower on the uptake ( only a handful of bloggers so far – managing their content through Blogger or MT blogs and feeding it into the site.

The value proposition for Faculty in this venture (so far) has been (as Darcy says of his own involvement in CC) “it won’t cost anything (in time or resources)”. These were people who were already blogging (or planning to) and we just found a way to pull in the content that might be of wider interest to more students than just a class or two. The small investment of time and resource on our side to support these efforts was minimal compared to the potential payoff.

The value proposition for students in this was twofold: “to learn how to do something new that they didn’t know how to do before and that they might want to know how to do in future” AND (for the student bloggers) “to have a voice in how the University experience is portrated to first year students.”

In terms of the project, the drivers were (partly) economic (these technologies allowed us to do more with less), but it was also about access and relevance. Students needto be able to access resources that are relevant to them at the time when they need them most. Having 20 people with the capacity to add content on the fly – adapt to a changing need or solicit feedback quickly quickly proved to be a huge improvement over the old “walled garden” or “gate-keeping approach”.

Back to the OECD document… the authors spent some time in defining aspects of openness – which I found to be very helpful. At the risk of sounding anti-scholarly – I liked the pictures – the diagram on page 39 (Figure2.2: Aspects of Openness) and the Conceptual Map for Open Educational Resources on page 32 (Figure 2.1). I think these visuals could be very helpful to me in explaining the various components and considerations when thinking about content sharing.

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