Open Education 2006 (II): eduCommons and MIT OpenCourseWare

Here come my notes on the Open Education 2006: Community, Culture, and Content that we are attending:

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Concurrent sessions

eduCommons: Lessons from the Field
John Dehlin, COSL/Utah State University

John briefly explains the main features of eduCommons, firstly stating that it is open source: runs on Python/Zope/Plone. He shows import/export tools, licensing, the workflow of publishing, bookmarking/tagging, multiple languages viewing (through a Plone plugin), etc.

As per “strategic” purposes, on how to begin, where to head, some hints:

  • Starting from scratch to produce materials might cost more than reusing/sharing
  • It’s good marketing/branding for your university to show online who you are, what you do
  • OpenCourseWare enters directly the web 2.0 track, with RSS,, blogging, wikiing, etc.
  • You must sit with the Faculty, talk with them about pedagogical goals, what would be the benefits of opencoursewaring for the professor (“what’s in it for me”), how to do it, etc. Some supporting staff is actually required for the professor to go OCW. Depending on the complexity of the materials to be issued (html, presentations, video) more support is required.

After the first programming/launching stages, funded by “seed capital”, the eduCommons tool/project is expected to be supported by volunteers of the eduCommons community of users.

Main comments by the audience:

  • Are we undermining our business model? Will libraries be all we’ll need?
  • What’s the difference among OCW managing system and LMS? Are they mergin?

Intellectual Property in Open Educational Resources
Lindsey Weeramuni & Steve Carson, MIT OpenCourseWare

Intro to MIT OCW’s goal: publish all of MIT’s courses (so far, 1449 of 1800). But, what is course ware? And most important, what is not? No MIT education, no interactive classroom environment, no degree-granting. It’s “just” material publication under a CC NC-BY-SA license.

[legal] Requirements:

  • Ownership of primary content
  • Ownership of third party embedded content, toughest part, but becoming “routine”
  • Licensing both to end users

How to move from C to CC?

The deal: how to clear “IP objects”.
The clearing includes only embedded objects, not recommended readings or the like, that might be subject to IP rights (i.e. articles in not open-access journals, book chapters, etc.).
Publication managers and department liaisons identify sources fo all third party content. Then the IP team seeks permission for all objects assigned to this process. IP audits are also performed biannually.

What makes a project available?

  • Planning materials: syllabus and calendar
  • Subject matter: lecture notes, reading lists
  • Learning activities: homework, exams, labs

Stressing on relevant objects, negociated with the publications manager and the faculty. If it’s not relevant we can (a) look for it wherever else with IP rights already cleared (i.e. Flickr image) or (b) just skip it.

Three approaches to third party content:

  • Remove it and put a citation of or link to its original source in its place
  • Replace it with an original commissioned image
  • Request permission

What more?

  • Leveraging other OER: Open Access Journals, Open Object Repositories, Open Textbooks (Connexions)
  • Blanket Publisher/Industry Permissions
  • Sharing previously cleared content among OCWs


Web 2.0 for Development related posts (2006)

Health Care opencoursewared

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is pleased to welcome you to the initial phase of its pilot OpenCourseWare (OCW) project, providing free and open access to the School’s most popular courses to students, self learners, and educators anywhere in the world. […]

[…] As part of its mission to protect health and prevent disease and disability, the School feels a moral imperative to provide equal and open access to information and knowledge about the obstacles to the public’s health and their potential solutions.

[via Stephen]


The OpenCourseWare Initiative: A New Model for Sharing

Anne H. Margulies, Executive Director of the MIT’s OpenCourseWare explains in a video what the whole thing is all about.

The video’s lenght is 37:35 and you can choose different qualities depending on your connection (including an audio-only version).

[Hat tip: César]


MIT: more on OpenCourseWare and Open Knowledge Initiative:

Plenty of stuff in two articles by Graeme Daniel at wwwtools for education, with information about MITs OpenCourseWare and Open Knowledge Initiative.

Worth reading or, at least, scanning.

[via sierto]


Heavy switchers in translearning: From formal learning to an effective use of the PLE

During the 2010 edition of the Open EdTech Summit, the people that attended the meeting we debated around Campus Life! Rethinking the Online Campus Life of the 21st Century and ended up drafting a call to action with ten strategies for change. These ten strategies dealt with personalization (flexibility, personal tools, decentralization), connections amongst people (real-life connections, relationships between one’s different social spheres and acquaintances) and platform considerations (portfolios, pathways, portability and open source solutions).

Underlying beneath many of these concepts was the ever-present concept of multitasking, most of the times understood in a negative way: too distracting, shallow in its use of information, etc. While I agree that multitasking can definitely be a problem, I am not sure that we are talking here about multitasking or task-switching. And, if this about task-switching, whether we are talking about beginning everything and not finishing anything, or about yet another thing.

I believe that there is an increasing set of learners that are heavy switchers that do not actually hop from task to task, but that understand the process of learning as a trip through different learning objects, and not as staying bound to a single learning space. As some industries do by having some piece of work done in a succession of countries, same happens with some learners learning through a succession of learning objects and, by doing so, going in and out formal education.

What is informal learning?

Mark K. Smith has collected an interesting bibliography around the topic for his Informal Learning article at The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education, but I’d rather choose the short, straightforward and clear definitions by Jenny Hughes in Defining Learning.

Nevertheless, it is my opinion that most definitions are too much focussed on the context (how) and not on the nature (what) of formal, informal or non-formal learning. Following the idea that Jenny Hughes points at about structured vs. unstructured learning, I suggest to speak about planned vs. just-in-time learning, and goal-set vs. serendipitous learning. The relationship, concepts and examples are pictured in the following image:

According to the planned/just-in-time and goal-set/serendipitous axes, we find four categories of learning:

  • Formal: Planned and curriculum-based learning, like the one that usually happens at school.
  • Non-formal: Planned but less structured learning than formal learning. It will usually take place in formal spaces, but with a less tight framework.
  • Informal: Like non-formal, it has no structured goals, but it happens outside of formal institutions, like the workspace.
  • Self-taught/autodidactic: Also focussed at achieving some specific goals, but more short-term- and competence-aimed instead of long-term- or generic-knowledge-aimed.

Of course this categories have blurry edges and they are more a guide, a conceptual framework rather than a faithful depiction of what takes place in reality.

But what is interesting about this categorization is not its definition in itself, but how the different categories “interact” with concepts like the syllabus, the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and the different kinds of existing “learning objects”, which we group into formal (e.g. the usual textbook), open (e.g. a piece of formal opencourseware) and informal (e.g. a blog post).

The following image presents five types of learning (the preceding four plus open formal learning, which is formal learning that uses open content). Blue pieces indicate formal learning objects, green ones open and red ones informal.

We can see that there is a normal transition from formal content through open content to informal content as long as we move from formal education to informal education. This is how things have always been.

The existence of open (formal) content brings in a new scenario, where this content can be both used inside the classroom (formal education) and outside of it (informal learning).

I would like to witness, in a not-very-far future, two more scenarios.


The first one, here labelled as translearning, would include not only open content in the classroom, but also acknowledging that informal learning is possible on a formal environment. Credit recognition is a first way to do so, but being those credits not from e.g. other universities but from informal learning such as work experience.

The rational behind the “trans-” part of the name is that Information and Communication Technologies have made possible what trucks, trains, planes and ships made possible in an industrial society. Still in many industrial sectors, multinational corporations are but performing transnational commerce: cotton is collected in one country, weaved in another one, cut and sewed in a third one and sold in a last fourth one.

Translearning is just about that: the learner begins in the classroom, at their handbook table of contents, then shifts to an informal environment, then to some open content and at last back to their classroom for final assessment (the scheme and its order can grow as complex as you’d like).

The good thing about translearning is its openness beyond the classroom’s and the syllabus’s boundaries. The bad thing about it is, still, structure, planning.

The PLE in translearning is a heavily monitored, piloted, top-down driven one, even a Hybrid Institutional-Personal Learning Environment (HIPLE).

Open Social Learning

A next step towards a more un-structured scenario is shifting from translearning to (fully) open social learning. In this scenario, a sort of syllabus can be agreed, but the inner structure is totally free. The learner can actually choose from a wide range of resources that will make up their PLE. Accreditation of what’s learnt can requite — as we saw in translearning — a first and last formal module. But the rest is totally free.

As said, this is where the Personal Learning Environment can really develop its full potential, as it is the learner, self-positioned in their own environment, that has full responsibility of their own learning path.

Now, coming back to where we started. One of the increasingly common complaints from educators is that their students continuously switch tasks, that they attention time-spans are narrowing, that they are bored, that they’d rather work in what they want or, especially, the way they like. On the other hand, learners are increasingly aware — this is even truer in adult learners and/or in informal learners — of the many possibilities they have to reach knowledge, to acquire it, to share it and to improve it by feeding back rich conversations with peers onto their own learning process.

Heavy switching is definitely an issue. And in many cases, an issue that might be solved but directly fighting against it.

Notwithstanding, heavy switching — call it, even, multitasking — might be leveraged to enrich one’s learning process by diversifying or opening up one’s learning path.

More information

An evolution of these reflections has been published as an academic paper. Please see Heavy switchers in translearning: From formal teaching to ubiquitous learning for more information.


Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (II): Web 2.0 Applications and Access to ICTs in Information Systems

Notes from the first II Conferencia Internacional Brecha Digital e Inclusión Social (II International Conference on the Digital Divide and Social Inclusion held at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid will be hosting at their campus in Leganés (Spain) on October 28th to 30th, 2009.

Parallel session: Web 2.0 Applications and Access to ICTs in Information Systems
Moderator: Belén Pérez Lorenzo, Consultant and Professor de la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Development and application of a blog to publish content on the net and communicate for senior users
Fausto Sainz de Salces; Guillermina Franco Álvarez; Antonio Borondo Cobo

Goal: test, from a human-computer interaction (HCI) point of view, how such a blog should be designed and built so to match specific characteristics of senior users. The end goals being: foster communication amongst elder people, train digital competences, fight the digital divide.

Aspects to improve:

  • Colors need to be adapted to the user. Not only to their physical needs, but also to their attitudes and feelings.
  • Some concepts with which most users are familiar with, have to be explained to new users or to other kinds of users

Towards the library 2.0: the project of the UC3M library.
Francisco López Hernández

How to turn a passive (library) user into an active one.


Presence in Social Networking Sites

  • Profile in Facebook: aim is to adapt content to the specific user, avoiding replication of content between different sites
  • Profile in Tuenti, a Spanish social networking site, very popular amongst teens
  • Profile in Twitter
  • Forum: reading club
  • Campus in Second Life

The Library has to be present in the spaces of the students, but without interfering in their lives.

Access and usage of ICTs in enterprises in Costa Rica
Alejandro Rodríguez Solís

Enterprises see ICTs as ways to support training and improve decision-taking. But most of SMEs entrepreneurs are digitally illiterate and are not even aware of the potential benefits of ICTs (not to mention using them).

Goal of research: find out reasons of ICT adoption. Based on a survey to SMEs in Costa Rica, following the guidelines of the OSILAC.

In general, most enterprises have computers, access to Internet and LAN, though the penetration decreases as the size of the enterprise does. Intranets, extranets, wifi access, use of e-commerce (to sell and buy) and other issues are less and less present in enterprises in Costa Rica.

Nevertheless, there is a major acknowledgement that ICTs have eased communication with customers and providers and have had a positive impact on sales or on cutting costs down.


  • digital divide between big enterprises and SMEs;
  • in general, all enterprises are late adopters of technology in many issues;
  • urgent need for research on the impact of ICTs on the enterprise so to raise awareness.

Economic and political factors of the digital divide
Sonia Sánchez-Cuadrado; Jorge
Morato Lara; José Antonio Moreiro González; Vicente Palacios Madrid

We tend to think that the basis of the digital divide is economic, a matter of income. But there are many initiatives to bridge the digital divide: search engines, free software, automatic translators, the Wikipedia itself, open access to educational resources (e.g. OpenCourseWare), etc.

Of course, it is true that wealth and education are determinant for Internet access. But there also exists a cultural divide that comes from a lack of a certain level of education, not speaking English, etc.

There are, luckily, plenty of international initiatives to foster content creation and content sharing. Notwithstanding, other initiatives are just going the opposite way: micro-payments to access digital content, illegal downloading of copyrighted content (not judging whether is it a good or a bad thing to do, but certainly contributing to the digital divide), censorship or self-censorship, manipulation of the public opinion, spam, credibility of websites, certain criteria to award grants, etc.

Conclusions: a digital divide due to socioeconomic and cultural reasons; nationalist and business policies that negatively affect the digital divide.

Solutions: multinational initiatives and bring credibility to the content that resides on the Web.

Difusión y reproducción digital de obras de arte por medio de bibliotecas virtuales y
consecuencias de una revolución cultural
Ilia Galán

Factum Arte clones works of art, hard (if able) to distinguish from the original piece. In a sense, what happened with digital products could be happening in real/analogue products, putting into struggle e.g. museums. Dilemma: enable the diffusion of culture through perfect copies, or caring about the originals and their holders? Are we universalizing culture or trivializing it?

The good thing about digitizing the original is that (a) it can be reproduced with highest quality (b) it can be stored at lowest cost by just keeping the digital copy (c) it can be recovered from a backup in case of destruction of the original.

On the other hand, the drawback is that these technologies would be expensive and somehow help to increase the digital divide.

Los sistemas de gestión de contenidos como generadores de sinergias y redes de
colaboración: relato de dos experiencias peruanas
Luis Miguel Arias Martínez;
Carlos Vílchez Román

Sociologia7’s Blog colaborativo de la Sociología Faustiniana, a blog about Sociology made by the students.

He, notwithstanding, prefers Drupal to WordPress.

Libraries 2.0: tools to bridge the digital divide
Belén Pérez Lorenzo; Ana
Mª Morales García; Mª Teresa Monje Jiménez; Fátima García López

[Pérez introduces the concept of the web 2.0]

Why web 2.0 applications can bridge the digital divide? How are they being used by libraries?

Free; low cost to participate; easy to manage; the web as the platform; accessible through any computer connected to the Internet; independent from proprietary software; always up-to-date (perpetual beta).

Web 2.0 apps are collaborative and participative; new models of usage; free and open knowledge; used by digital natives.

Example: the Biblioteca Públcia de San Miguel de Salinas.

Farkas, M. (2007) Social software in libraries: building collaboration, communication and community online. Medford, N.J: Information Today

More information


II International Conference on the Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (2009)