OpenCourseWare Consortium Announces Winners of 2013 Course Awards for Excellence

At the recent OCW Consortium meeting in Bali, Indonesia, awards were given in two categories of open courses – text-based and multimedia.

Text based courses include written materials for the course, including lecture notes, assessments, syllabi, calendars and readings.

Multimedia courses also include video, audio or other type of multimedia presentation of materials.

These courses are produced in a variety of languages and developed by institutions committed to increasing access to high quality higher education for everyone.

America certainly does not dominate the winners.

2013 Course winners – text based courses:

·       An American Constitutional History Course for Non American Students, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
·       Delft Design Guide, Delft University of Technology
·       Atomic Physics, African Virtual University
·       Fisiología Humana, Universidad de Cantabria
·       Conocimientos Básicos de Matemáticas para Primeros Cursos Universitarios, Universidad de Zaragoza

2013 Course winners – multimedia courses:

·       Thermal and Statistical Physics, National Tsing Hua University Opencourseware
·       Productos de apoyo y tecnologías de la información y las telecomunicaciones, UNED: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia
·       Basic Arithmetic, Scottsdale Community College
·       Developmental Math, The NROC Project
·       Introduction to Aerospace Engineering I, Delft University of Technology

More Open Courses for the K12 Community Now Offered By, a longtime member of the open education community, announced a new K12 program of open online courses.

The academic courses are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and use open educational resources (OER) extensively, making the courses, as well as their contents, widely reusable by students, teachers, and parents nationwide.

The list of the K12 courses also suggests ways to use and reuse the courses.

Teachers can flip their classroom without shooting thei own videos and incorporate more engaging digital content into classes.

Schools can get current, Common Core-aligned materials for free.

Parents can provide extra resources to supplement what kids learn in school and accelerate or review subjects. It offers a self-contained curriculum for home school families.

And, on their own, students can do more challenging work or subjects their school might not offer. It will give you experience in learning in a different way and acclimate to an online learning environment which is common in colleges.  You can also review material you learned in school and go further and prepare for your SATs/college.

(And I made it through this entire post without once saying "MOOC.")

Educating K12 Teachers With MOOCs and Open Education

If MOOCs, or more accurately, open education, is going to actually "revolutionize" education, it will have to change not only how we learn but how we teach.

Coursera, probably the biggest player in massive open online courses now, announced a partnership with 12 top professional development programs and schools of education to open up training and development courses (28 to start) to teachers worldwide. The company says it wants to "create a hub of teacher professional development courses aimed at providing teachers, parents, and anyone else who teaches with the tools and skills to help build stronger education systems.”

There is also a new project called MOOC-Ed (for "massive open online courses for educators) from the Alliance for Excellent Education which is an advocacy organization involved in encouraging digital education in partnership with North Carolina State University’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, at the College of Education.

The first free online class they offered aims at providing thousands of regional administrators in the U.S. help using technology effectively to meet the needs of their school.  The seven-week course was set for April 8 to May 24 and was designed for principals, curriculum directors, superintendents, finance officials, tech directors, and others that plan technology use for K-12th grade.

It is always difficult to pick a "good time" of the year, week, or day to get educators to commit to a few hours of professional development. Asynchronous, online courses may be the best solution to scheduling. For the MOOC-Ed course, it was recommended that you needed to commit 2-4 hours per week for the course.

MOOCs for students in the K-12 environment might have more issues than in higher education. (Although all the MOOC reports I have seen on demographics, including my own course, report high school age students participating.) But using open courses to assist in teacher professional development and increase their their knowledge of technology might work very well.

In the "Academia and the MOOC" course I just completed, even though the participants were mostly from higher education, threads of discussion emerged on using MOOCs in K12 education, corporate training, professional development and, of course, lifelong learners who just want to learn new things without any concern for credit.

Coursera has partnered with the College of Education, University of Washington; Curry School of Education, University of Virginia; Johns Hopkins University School of Education; Match Education’s Sposato Graduate School of Education; Peabody College of education and human development, Vanderbilt University; Relay Graduate School of Education; and University of California, Irvine Extension. They also are partnering with institutions and museums, including the American Museum of Natural History, The Commonwealth Education Trust, Exploratorium, The Museum of Modern Art, and New Teacher Center. This is the first time Coursera is partnering with non-degree-bearing institutions and their first attempt to work with early childhood and K-12-level education.

As with the university courses Coursera offers, these education courses will have video lectures, peer forums, supplemental
materials and interactive components.

In their newly-added category “Teacher Professional Development,” you will find:

“Common Core in Action: Literacy Across Content Areas,” from the New Teacher Center
“Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classroom,” from Relay Graduate School of Education taught by Dave Levin, the co-founder of KIPP
“The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model for 21st Century Schools” taught by Mariale Hardiman of John Hopkins School of Education
“Effective Classroom Interactions: Supporting Young Children’s Development,” from UVA, taught by Bridget Hamre, Grace Funk, Allison Leach and Kathy Neesen
“Tinkering Fundamentals: Integrating Making Activities into Your STEM Classroom,” from the Exploratorium
“Student Thinking at the Core,” taught by Barbara Stengel and Marcy Singer-Gabella of Vanderbilt University
“Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick,” taught by Orin Gutlerner of Match Education
Three science content focused courses for Educators taught by the American Museum of Natural History
Eight part series on the Foundations of Teaching for Learning aimed at teachers in the developing world taught by Commonwealth Education Trust

Opening the Access to Scholarly Research

Open Access promo material
Open Access promo buttons - photo by biblioteekje, on Flickr

I was listening recently to an episode of The Chronicle's Tech Therapy podcast on the "Moral Imperative" for Open Access to scholarly research featuring David Parry. He is an Assistant Professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas and his main point was that scholars have an obligation to publish their research in journals that make free copies available online.

This is a topic that I am interested in and I agree with Parry. This is also a hot and debatable topic tight now. Unfortunately, it was the suicide of Aaron Swartz after he was being prosecuted for trying to free such research that brought it to many mainstream news outlets.

"Information is power," Swartz wrote. "But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves."  He had made unauthorized downloads of more than four million articles from JSTOR and the federal indictment against him said that he did it in order to then upload them to the Internet and make them available for free.

His approach was radical and was compared on news outlets to Wikleaks. The tragedy in his case was that even though the civil complaints against him were dropped and he had returned all the downloaded data, the case was still being pursued.

David Parry calls sites like JSTOR "knowledge cartels."

The term "open" and open access (OA) has a number of meanings. According to Wikipedia (itself an open site), open access can be defined as "the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles. There are a growing number of theses, scholarly monographs, articles and book chapters that are provided with open access to all.

There are two degrees of open access: gratis OA meaning no-cost online access, and libre OA which is like gratis but with some additional usage rights.

Similarly, we use the term "open content" with materials available online where the author(s) gives the right to modify the work and reuse it.  Most of us went through school learning to use content intact and to associate it with an author(s).

You might be familiar with Creative Commons licenses that can be used to make content accessible and yet to specify usage rights (such as attribution or non-commercial usage). This blog uses a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license for the content.

The open access concept was pushed forward at a rapid pace by the Internet, and in education it was pushed by its extension into learning objects and other resources used in online learning.

Scholarly publishing, much like the music and film industry and traditional publishing, has resisted open access, and may very well find that resistance to be why it will disappear.

You can listen to the Tech Therapy podcast on The Chronicle site or subscribe to it with iTunes.


If you read about the Open SUNY announcement recently, you probably thought of it as another MOOC story. But it's more than that. You have one of the largest statewide systems in the U.S. trying to shorten up their time-to-graduation rate and also lower student costs.

The way they are planning to do that is in part by using Open SUNY to expand access to public higher education by leveraging existing programs or experiments already in place at member campuses or at the system level.

It has strong ties to Open Educational Resources (OER) concepts.

It build upon on SUNY’s current open and online initiatives. They claim that Open SUNY has "the potential to be America’s most extensive distance learning environment." That's strong language, but they are big enough to make the claim as a system.

The hope is to provide students with affordable, innovative, and flexible education in a full range of instructional formats, both online and on site.

It will network students with faculty and peers from across the state and throughout the world using social technologies and linking to open educational resources.

I knew about Open SUNY mainly because of their connection with the College Open Textbook group which I have participated in for several years. Open SUNY has their own Open Textbooks initiative and when they offered a course through Blackboard’s CourseSites, I registered for their "Locating, Creating, Licensing and Utilizing OERs" to see the content and how they were using CourseSites.

One of the stated goals of Open SUNY is to expand access to public higher education:

Launch of Open SUNY in 2014, including 10 online bachelor’s degree programs that meet high-need workforce demands, three
of which will be piloted in the fall. Open SUNY will leverage online degree offerings at every SUNY campus, making them available to students system-wide using a common set of online tools, including a financial aid consortium so that credits and aid can be received by students across campuses. Chancellor Zimpher said Open SUNY enrollment will reach 100,000 students within three years, making it the largest online education presence of any public institution in the nation.

These are some of the measures that Open SUNY will use to see how significant the experiment contributes to:

  1. reducing the time to degree;

  2. reducing the overall cost of obtaining a SUNY degree;

  3. meeting workforce and societal needs;

  4. improved graduate outcomes;

  5. increasing the SUNY completion rates;

  6. increasing the number of online learners;

  7. enhancing the profile of SUNY as an innovative leader in teaching and learning