APROPIATIC (V). Larry Cooperman: Higher Education, Virtual Education, Open Education

Notes from the VI Encuentro académico: Apropiatic. Uso y apropiación de la tecnología para el aprendizaje, organized by UNIMINUTO, and held in Bogotá, Colombia, on November 30 and December 1, 2015.

Larry Cooperman
Higher Education, Virtual Education, Open Education

Martin Trow (Reflections on the transition fro elite to mass to universal access: forms and phases of higher education in modern societies since WWII, 2007) reflects on how attitudes before access and functions of higher education have changed as we move from bringing higher education to an elite (0-15% of the population), to the masses (15-50%) to providing it universally (>50%).

  • Attitudes before access move from being a privilege, to a right to some qualified ones to an obligation.
  • Functions of higher education move from being a preparation for the roles of the elites, to the transmission of skills and a preparation for some technical and economic functions, to adapting the whole population to a quick social and technological change.

Though, some problems arise: the university system cannot accommodate everyone aiming at accessing higher education. What the university can offer — content, experience, certification — usually comes with a trade-off with quality. And, thus, quality has decreased in the higher education system. More people gets in the system, the level of education remains stable (or decreases) and less (in relative terms) people graduates. There is a new iron triangle: access, cost and success.

But now we have the Internet. Now what? What should be done in higher education, given those problems and the fact that we now have the Internet?

A first answer was open courseware: digitize all the existing “knowledge” and make it available for free.

Now, MOOCs have brought yet another debate on the table, again related to access. But access to what? Is there an instructional path? Does even having an instructional path equal learning? Four aspects for the debate about MOOCs:

  • Do they scale?
  • How do we manage the huge amount of data that they generate?
  • Do they represent a different pedagogic approach?
  • Where are the learning outcomes?

Weaknesses of the MOOC model:

  • Traditional/handmade model of instructional design. Why are we still working individually in teaching and instructional design? MOOCs reproduce the lecture hall and reproduces it online: videos, quizzes… they are not much different — from a pedagogic point of view — from the traditional way. Not that it is wrong, but can we go a step further? For instance, we know that active learning is much better for the building of new knowledge.
  • Inability to produce relevant research. For instance, we do know that socialization plays an important role in learning, but most MOOCs do not take that into account. Many of them ignore the possibilities of study groups.
  • P2P virtual environments are based on social networks. Peers help each other to learn how to learn. How are MOOCs approaching this fact?

What about scale? Communities of experts, co-creation models, are very much related with communities of learning. Thus, learning environments should not be intimate.

About research, one has to begin to put the right questions, and then gather data to try to answer them. Like what is the best predictor of academic performance in the last year of undergrad education. Is it family income? Social class? How well they did in their admission test? Other factors?

In the future, one would like to see communities of experts that make up the curricula and then inform communities of learners. A community of learners should be supported at any time by a community of experts that can, in an informal environment, help them through their learning process: peer-based learning environments. We need open information, we need problems that need being solved in groups. There are digital platforms — or mixes of digital tools — that come very handy to create these P2P learning environments.

Combine technology, virtuality and openness, to be used by individuals, by classrooms, by institutions or by groups of peers. This is what is being done at UCI OpenChem.


Q: what elements should MOOCs have to (a) guarantee learning and to (b) reduce drop out rates? Cooperman: there has to be interaction among the peers. The key of learning is about facilitating communities of learning, P2P learning environments.


Apropiatic (2015)

APROPIATIC (IV). Larry Cooperman: Open education: what is it, why is it, for whom is it and how to begin

Notes from the VI Encuentro académico: Apropiatic. Uso y apropiación de la tecnología para el aprendizaje, organized by UNIMINUTO, and held in Bogotá, Colombia, on November 30 and December 1, 2015.

Larry Cooperman
Open education: what is it, why is it, for whom is it and how to begin

Activity: What is the topic more difficult to understand for my students at the introductory level of my teaching? Look for a resource that can help them understand the topic in an easy way and with no additional cost. Answers:

  • [my answer] In e-Government, ironically it is difficult to define the context and all the different approaches to the topic. So I invite them to follow some given hashtags (one of them the one belonging to the subject I am teaching) so that they get on with the community of practice that works in this field.
  • A video about the physics of power by Foucault.
  • Use of mindmapping tools to create conceptual networks.
  • See films and then comment them on a hangout.
  • Grammar assignments for free available on a website.

Most of the materials that we find online are copyrighted and cannot actually be used for education. The idea behind open education is to eliminate the frictions between copyright holders and users of educational materials. How to use materials without permission? With a license.

But open content is only a small fraction of what constitutes open education. Open education is about resources, tools and practices within a participatory open framework to improve access to education. Without sharing there is no education.

Why should open content be free (as in free beer)? Is it enough for open content to be free?

  • Free, but quality content.
  • Context matters.
  • Knowledge is a social construction, comes from dialogue, thus cannot be captured or enclosed.
  • It’s not about being free, but accessible. Again, social context matters: content is neither teaching nor learning.
  • Comprehensiveness or completion: content has to be enough to achieve a certain learning goal, not require extensions, enhancements or upgrades.

Whom is open education for?

  • For everyone.
  • As a support for any kind of learning.
  • [my own answer] For the educators, to enable communities of practice by sharing open education resources and practices.
  • To enable communities of learning, besides (or complementing) what happens in the educational system.

How do we proceed? Step 1, the simplest one, is to tell the world what anyone can do with your stuff: choose a license.

  • OER: 0, BY, BY-SA, BY-NC, BY-NC-SA.
  • Not OER: BY-ND, BY-NC-ND.

The 5Rs of Openness, by David Wiley:

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content.
  • Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video).
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language).
  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

In an open education project, we should think about who benefits the project. Especificaly:

  • The students.
  • The community.
  • The society at large.
  • The promoting institution.

Strategies for open education:

  • Audience.
  • Institutional change.
  • Help people access formal education.
  • Etc.


Apropiatic (2015)