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I have decided to move openmind.ed from server space provided by The Open University and onto a general WordPress.com site. This will make the site more independent and give me a bit more control over how it works – but the content is essentially the same. I will only be updating the new site from now on although some of the stuff in the sidebar will continue to update automatically.You can find the new version of this site at:
I studied the work of Stephen M Kosslyn back when I was in graduate school. At the time, he was defending a sophisticated 'picture theory' model of mind against cognitivists such as Jerry Fodor and Xenon Pylyshyn (who argue it's all rules, representations and sentences). I had a lot more sympathy with Kosslyn (though I've since before more of an advocate of J.J. Gibson). Anyhow, this article profiles Minerva - "what sets it apart most jarringly from traditional universities, is a proprietary online platform developed to apply pedagogical practices that have been studied and vetted by ... Stephen M. Kosslyn, who joined Minerva in 2012." I haven't been following Kosslyn recently, but maybe I should have been. Though - frankly - I don't think the Minerva approach described in this article is not one I would support - small and expensive doesn't really do it for me.[Link] [Comment]
OK, first of all, people don't actually believe that the average student loan debt is more than $50K, so the supposed 'myth' being busted here is a straw man. Second, by focusing on the average balance the article focuses only on the amount still owing, not the amount that has already been paid back. Finally, it includes both large and small loans in the same calculation, thus lumping together people who need a lot of support and people who don't - it's like taking rich people and poor people and averaging their incomes together, and then using the result to say poor people are not really poor. It's a terrible biased presentation created by a conservative lobby group to understate the need for public education support and people in educational technology (you know who you are) should not be sharing this piece of tripe. Not, at least, without disclaimers.[Link] [Comment]
Jose Ferriera, the CEO of Knewton, recently published a piece on edSurge arguing that scaling OER cannot “break the textbook industry” because, according to him, it has low production values, no instructional design, and is not enterprise grade. Unsurprisingly, David Wiley disagrees. I also disagree, but for somewhat different reasons than David’s.
When talking about Open Educational Resources or, for that matter, open source software, it is important to distinguish between license and sustainability model, as well as distinguishing between current sustainability models and possible sustainability models. It all starts with a license. Specifically, at starts with a copyright licenses. Whether we are talking about Creative Commons or GPL, an open license grants copyright permission to anyone who wants it, provided that the people who want to reuse the content are willing to abide by the terms of the license. By granting blanket permission, the copyright owner of the resource chooses to give up certain (theoretical) revenue earning potential. If the resource is available for free, then why would you pay for it?
This raises a question for any resource that needs to be maintained and improved over time about how it will be supported. In the early days of open source, projects were typically supported through individual volunteers or small collections of volunteers, which limited the kinds and size of open source software projects that could be created. This is also largely the state of OER today. Much of it is built by volunteers. Sometimes it is grant funded, but there typically is not grant money to maintain and update it. Under these circumstances, if the project is of the type that can be adequately well maintained through committed volunteer efforts, then it can survive and potentially thrive. If not, then it will languish and potentially die.
But open resources don’t have to be supported through volunteerism. It is possible to build revenue models that can pay for their upkeep. For example, it is possible to charge for uses of materials other than those permitted by the open license. Khan Academy releases their videos under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Share-Alike (CC NC-SA) license. Everyday students and teachers can use it for free under normal classroom circumstances. But if a textbook publisher wants to bundle that content with copyrighted material and sell it for a fee, the license does not give them permission to do so. Khan Academy can (and, as far as I know, does) charge for commercial reuse of the content.
Another possibility is to sell services related to the content. In open source software, this is typically in the form of support and maintenance services. For education content, it might be access to testing or analytics software, or curriculum planning and implementation services. This is a non-exhaustive list. The point is that it is possible to generate revenue from open content. And revenue can pay for resources to support high production values, instructional design, and enterprise scaling, particularly when paired with grant funding and volunteer efforts. These other options don’t necessarily generate as much revenue as traditional copyright-based licensing, but that’s often a moot point. Business models based on open licenses generally get traction when the market for licensed product is beginning to commodify, meaning that companies are beginning to lose their ability to charge high prices for their copyrighted materials anyway.
That’s the revenue side. It’s also important to consider the cost side. On the one hand, the degree to which educational content needs high production values and “enterprise scaling” is arguable. Going back to Khan Academy for a moment, Sal Khan popularized the understanding that one need not have an expensive three-camera professional studio production to create educational videos that have reach and impact. That’s just one of the better known of many examples of OER that is considered high-quality even though it doesn’t have what publishing professionals traditionally have thought of as “high production values.” On the other hand, it is important to recognize that a big portion of textbook revenues go into sales and marketing, and for good reason. Despite multiple efforts by multiple parties to create portals through which faculty and students can find good educational resources, the adoption process in higher education remains badly broken. So far with a few exceptions, the only good way to get widespread adoption of curricular still seems to be to hire an army of sales reps to go knock on faculty doors. It is unclear when or how this will change.
This brings us to the hard truth of why the question of whether OER can “win” is harder than it seems. Neither the OER advocates nor the textbook publishers have a working economic model right now. The textbook publishers were very successful for many years but have grown unsustainable cost structures which they can no longer prop up through appeals to high production values and enterprise support. But the OER advocates have not yet cracked the sales and marketing nut or proven out revenue models that enable them to do what is necessary to drive adoption at scale. If everybody is losing, then nobody is winning. At least at the moment.
This is where Knewton enters the picture. As you read Jose’s perspective, it is important to keep in mind that his company has a dog in this fight. (To be fair at the risk of stating the obvious, so does David’s.) While Knewton is making noises about releasing a product that will enable end users to create adaptive content with any materials (including, presumably, OER), their current revenues come from textbook publishers and other educational content companies. Further, adaptive capabilities such as the ones Knewton offers add to the cost of an educational content product, both directly through the fees that the company charges and indirectly through the additional effort required to design, produce, and maintain adaptive products. To me, the most compelling argument David makes in favor of OER “winning” is that it is much easier to lower the price of educational materials than it is to increase their efficacy. So if you’re measuring the value of the product by standard deviations per dollar, then smart thing is to aim for the denominator (while hopefully not totally ignoring the numerator). The weak link in this argument is that it works best in a relatively rational and low-friction market that limits the need for non-product-development-related expenses such as sales and marketing. In other words, it works best in the antithesis of the conditions that exist today. Knewton, on the other hand, needs there to be enough revenue for curricular materials to pay for the direct and indirect costs of their platform. This is not necessarily a bad thing for education if Knewton-enhanced products can actually raise the numerator as much as or more than OER advocates can lower the denominator. But their perspective—both in terms of how they think about the question of value in curricular materials and in terms of how they need to build a business capable of paying back $105 million in venture capital investment—tilts toward higher costs that one hopes would result in commensurately higher value.
All of this analysis assumes that in David’s ratio of standard deviations per dollar, all that matters is the ratio itself, independently of the individual numbers that make it up. But that cannot be uniformly true. Some students cannot afford educational resources above a certain price no matter how effective they are. (I would love to lower my carbon footprint by buying a Tesla. Alas….) In other cases, getting the most effective educational resources possible is most important and the extra money is not a big issue. This comes down to not only how much the students themselves can afford to pay but also how education is funded and subsidized in general. So there are complex issues in play here regarding “value.” But on the first-order question of whether OER can “break the textbook industry,” my answer is, “it depends.”
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to participate on a panel about OER at the Knewton Education Symposium. Earlier this week, Knewton CEO Jose Ferreira blogged about ‘OER and the Future of Publishing’ for EdSurge, briefly mentioning the panel. I was surprised by his post, which goes out of its way to reassure publishers that OER will not break the textbook industry.
Much of the article is spent criticizing the low production values, lack of instructional design, and missing support that often characterize OER. The article argues that there is a potential role for publishers to play in each of these service categories, leveraging OER to lower their costs and improve their products. But it’s been over 15 years since the first openly licensed educational materials were published, and major publishers have yet to publish a single textbook based on pre-existing OER. Why?Exclusivity, Publishing, and OER
The primary reason is that publishers are – quite rationally – committed to the business models that made them incredibly successful businesses. And the core of that model is exclusivity – the contractual right to be the only entity that can offer the print or digital manifestation of Professor Y’s expertise on subject X. Exclusivity is the foundation bedrock of the publishing industry, and no publisher will ever meaningfully invest in building up the reputation and brand of a body of work which is openly licensed. Publisher B would simply sit on the sidelines while Publisher A exhausts its marketing budget persuading the world that it’s version of Professor Y’s open materials are the best in their field. Once Professor Y’s brand is firmly associated with high quality, Publisher B will release it’s own version of Professor Y’s open materials, free-riding on Publisher A’s marketing spend. Publisher A’s marketing efforts actually end up promoting Publisher B’s competing product in a very real way. No, publishers will never put OER at the core of their offerings, because open licensing – guaranteed nonexclusivity – is the antithesis of their entire industrial model. Some playing around in the supplementals market is the closest major publishers will ever come to engaging with OER.New Models Enabled by OER
However, we are seeing the emergence of a new kind of organization, which is neither invested in preserving existing business models nor burdened with the huge content creation, distribution, and sales infrastructure that a large commercial publisher must support. (This sizable infrastructure, that once represented an insurmountable barrier to entry, is quickly becoming a millstone around the neck of big publishers facing the threat of OER.) The new breed of organization is only too happy to take the role of IBM or Red Hat and provide all the services necessary to make OER a viable alternative to commercial offerings. I had to chuckle a little reading the advice to publishers Jose provides in his post, because that list of services could almost have been copied and pasted my company’s website (Lumen Learning): iterative cycles of instructional design informed by data, integration services, faculty support, etc. I agree wholeheartedly that these are the kinds of services that must be offered to make OER a true competitor to commercial textbooks in the market – but I disagree with the idea that publishers will ever be willing to offer them. That realization is part of what led me to quit a tenured faculty job in a prestigious graduate program to co-found Lumen Learning.
All that said, the emergence of these organizations won’t spell the end of large textbook publishers as we know them. Instead, that distinction will go to the simplest possible metric by which we could measure the impact of the educational materials US students spend billions of dollars per year on: learning outcomes per dollar.Learning Outcomes per Dollar
No educator would ever consciously make a choice that harmed student learning in order to save money. But what if you could save students significant amounts of money without doing them any academic harm? Going further, what if you could simultaneously save them significant money and improve their learning outcomes? Research on OER is showing, time and again, that this latter scenario is entirely possible. One brief example will demonstrate the point.
A recent article published in Educause Review describes Mercy College’s recent change from a popular math textbook and online practice system bundle provided by a major publisher (~$180 per student), to OER and an open source online practice system. Here are some of the results they reported after a successful pilot semester using OER in 6 sections of basic math:
- At pilot’s end, Mercy’s Mathematics Department chair announced that, starting in fall 2012, all 27 sections (695 students) in basic mathematics would use [OER].
- Between spring 2011 [no sections using OER] and fall 2012 [all sections using OER], the math pass rate increased from 48.40 percent to 68.90 percent.
- Algebra courses dropped their previously used licenses and costly math textbooks and resources, saving students a total of $125,000 the first year.
By switching all sections of basic math to OER, Mercy College saved its students $125,000 in one year and changed their pass rate from 48 to 69 percent – a 44% improvement.
If you read the article carefully, you’ll see that Mercy actually received a fair amount of support in their implementation of OER, which was funded through a grant. So let’s be honest and put the full cost-related details on the table. Mercy (and many other schools) are still receiving the support they previously received for free through their participation in the Kaleidoscope Open Course Initiative. Lumen Learning, whose personnel led the KOCI, now provides those same services to Mercy and other schools for $5 per enrollment.
So let’s do the learning outcomes per dollar math:
- Popular commercial offering: 48.4% students passing / $180 textbook and online system cost per student = 0.27% students passing per required textbook dollar
- OER offering: 68.9% students passing / $5 textbook and online system cost per student = 13.78% students passing per required textbook dollar
For the number I call the “OER Impact Factor,” we simply divide these two ratios with OER on top:
- 13.78% students passing per required textbook dollar / 0.27% students passing per required textbook dollar = 51.03
This basic computation shows that, in Mercy’s basic math example, using OER led to an over 50x increase (i.e., a 5000% improvement) in percentage passing per dollar. No matter how you look at it, that’s a radical improvement.
If similar performance data were available for two construction companies, and a state procurement officer awarded a contract to the vendor that produces demonstrably worse results while costing significantly more, that person would lose his job, if not worse. (As an aside, I’m not aware of any source where a taxpayer can find out what percentage of federal financial aid (for higher ed) or their state public education budget (for K-12) is spent on textbooks, making it impossible to even begin asking these kinds of questions at any scale.) While faculty and departments aren’t subject to exactly the same accountability pressures as state procurement officers, how long can they continue choosing commercial textbook options over OER as this body of research grows?#winning
Jose ends his post by saying “Publishers who can’t beat OER deserve to go out of business,” and he’s absolutely right. But in this context, “beat” means something very different for OER than it does for publishers. For OER, “beat” means being selected by faculty or departments as the only required textbook listed on the syllabus (I call this a “displacing adoption”). Without a displacing adoption – that is, if OER are adopted in addition to required publisher materials – students may experience an improvement in learning outcomes but will definitely not see a decrease in the price of going to college. Hence, OER “beat” publishers only in the case of a displacing adoption. For publishers, the bar is much lower – to “beat” OER, publishers simply need to remain on the syllabus under the “required” heading.
How are OER supposed to clear this higher bar, particularly given the head start publishers have? OER have only recently started to catch up with publishers in many of the areas where publishers have enjoyed historical advantages, like packaging and distribution (c.f. the amazing work being done by OpenStax, BCCampus OpenEd, Lumen Learning, and others). But OER have been beating publishers on price and learning outcomes for several years now, and proponents of OER would be wise to keep the conversation laser-focused on these two selection criteria. In a fortunate coincidence for us, I believe these are the two criteria that matter most.
OER offerings are always going to win on price – no publisher is ever going to offer their content, hosting platform, analytics, and faculty-facing services in the same zip code as $5 per student. (And when we see the emergence of completely adaptive offerings based on OER – which we will – even if they are more expensive than $5 per student they will still be significantly less expensive than publishers’ adaptive offerings.) Even if OER only manage to produce the same learning results as commercial textbooks (a “no significant difference” research result), they still win on price. “How would you feel about getting the same outcomes for 95% off?” All OER have to do is not produce worse learning results than commercial offerings.
So the best hope for publishers is in creating offerings that genuinely promote significantly better learning outcomes. (I can’t describe how happy I am to have typed that last sentence.) The best opportunity for publishers to soundly defeat OER is through offerings that result in learning outcomes so superior to OER that their increased price is justified. Would you switch from a $5 offering that resulted in a 65% passing rate to a $100 offering that resulted in a 67% passing rate? Would you switch to a $225 offering that resulted in a 70% passing rate? There is obviously some performance threshold at which a rational actor would choose to pay 20 or 40 times more, but it’s not immediately apparent to me where it is.
However, if OER can beat publishers on both price and learning outcomes, as we’re seeing them do, then OER deserve to be selected by faculty and departments over traditional commercial offerings in displacing adoptions.
I was the member of the panel Jose quoted as saying that ’80% of all general education courses taught in the US will transition to OER in the next 5 years,’ and I honestly believe that’s true. The combined forces of the innovator’s dilemma, the emergence of new, Red Hat-like organizations supporting the ecosystem around OER, the learning outcomes per dollar metric, and the growing national frustration over the cost of higher education all seem to point clearly in this direction.
I have now published the first four chapters of my open textbook ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’. These chapters have greatly benefited from your feedback.
I am now working on Chapter 5, ‘The design of teaching and learning.’
I’m offering you here my first thoughts on the design of teaching and learning, with a particular focus on creating and working with a rich learning environment that will support students’ learning.Overview of the whole chapter
- introduction to the design of teaching/learning design
- learning environments
- learner characteristics: digital natives and digital literacy; learning styles; family and work contexts
- content: structure; sources; quantity/depth
- skills: opportunities for skills development and practice; competency based learning,
- learner support: activities; feedback;
- resources: time; facilities;, technology
- assessment: methods
- learning design models (objectivist lectures/LMSs, ADDIE, online collaborative learning, communities of practice, flexible design models, PLEs/MOOC of One, AI approaches).
It is one thing to have a good theory of learning and a choice of appropriate teaching method, but it is quite another to implement the chosen teaching method successfully. As noted in the previous chapter, teachers and instructors may need a mix of methods, depending on the circumstances. This means deliberately planning methods of teaching and a broad learning environment that will facilitate the development of the knowledge and skills that are needed.
Once again, though, there is extensive research and experience that point to the key factors to be taken into consideration in the successful implementation of teaching. In essence we are talking about using best practices in the design of teaching – sometimes called learning design.
We shall see that these principles may vary somewhat, depending on the chosen teaching method and the underlying epistemological position of each teacher, but a large number of the core principles in learning design extend across several of the teaching methods. These main principles can be summarised as follows:
- know your students: identifying the key characteristics of the students you will be or could be teaching, and how that will/should influence your methods of teaching
- know what you are trying to achieve: in any particular course or program what are the critical areas of content and in particular the particular skills or learning outcomes that students need to achieve as a result of your teaching? What is the best way to identify and assess these desired outcomes?
- know how students learn: what drives learning for your students? How do you engage or motivate students? How can you best support that learning?
- know how to implement this knowledge: what learning design model(s) will work best for you? What kind of learning environment do you need to create to support student learning?
- know how to use technology to support your teaching: this is really a sub-set of the previous point, and will be discussed in much more detail in later chapters.
In order to implement these core principles of design, we need to construct effective learning environments for our students.5.2 Learning environments Definitions
Environment: ‘The surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.’
‘Learning environment refers to the diverse physical locations, contexts, and cultures in which students learn. Since students may learn in a wide variety of settings, such as outside-of-school locations and outdoor environments, the term is often used as a more accurate or preferred alternative to classroom, which has more limited and traditional connotations—a room with rows of desks and a chalkboard, for example.
The term also encompasses the culture of a school or class—its presiding ethos and characteristics, including how individuals interact with and treat one another—as well as the ways in which teachers may organize an educational setting to facilitate learning…..’
The Glossary of Educational Reform, 29 August, 2013
The latter definition recognises that students learn in many different ways in very different contexts. Since learners must do the learning, the aim is to create a total environment for learning that optimises the ability of students to learn.
There is of course no single optimum learning environment. There is an infinite number of possible learning environments, which is what makes teaching so interesting. Developing a total learning environment for students in a particular course or program is probably the most creative part of teaching.
There is a tendency in the literature to focus on either physical institutional learning environments (such as classrooms, lecture theatres and labs) or on the technologies used to to create online personal learning environments (PLEs), but as the definitions quoted above make clear, learning environments are broader than just the physical components. They include the goals for teaching and learning, what engages or motivates students to learn, what student activities will best support learning, and what assessment strategies best measure and drive student learning.
Thus one place to start in designing a learning environment for a course or program is to identify some of the key components.
Figure 5.1 illustrates one possible learning environment from the perspective of a teacher or instructor. It should be pointed out that this represents both a set of components that it may be difficult for an instructor to change (learner characteristics, resources, etc.), but which may nevertheless have important implications for how the course should be taught, and other components (content, skills to be taught, etc.) over which an instructor may have more choice or control. Within each of the main components there are a set of sub-components that will need to be considered. In fact, it is in the sub-components (content structure, practical activities, feedback, use of technology, assessment methods, etc.) where the real decisions need to be made.
I have listed just a few components in Figure 5.1 and the set is not meant to be comprehensive. For instance it could have included attitudes or social factors as well as content and skills, institutional factors (policies, priorities,etc.) and personal factors (being a part-time or adjunct faculty, a dual role as instructor and family carer, etc.), all of which might also affect the learning environment in which a teacher or instructor has to work. Creating a model of a learning environment then is a heuristic device that aims to provide a comprehensive view of the whole teaching context for a particular course or program, by a particular instructor or teacher with a particular view of learning. It is also not enough to list the components; they need to be organized, scheduled and integrated. The more detailed design of a course will then be built around and take best advantage of the learning environment.
Once again, our choice of components and their perceived importance will be driven to some extent by our personal epistemologies and beliefs about knowledge, learning and teaching methods. The preferred teaching method and epistemological position will influence which components of the learning environment get the most attention from a teacher or instructor. For instance, an instructor with a transmissive or objectivist view of teaching is likely to focus mainly on content and certain kinds of assessment tools, while a more constructivist or nurturing teacher will pay particular attention to learner characteristics (particularly their goals), and learner support.
Lastly, I have deliberately suggested a learning environment from the perspective of a teacher, as the teacher has the main responsibility for creating an appropriate learning environment, but it is also important to consider learning environments from the learners’ perspectives. Indeed, adult or mature learners are capable of creating their own, personal, relatively autonomous learning environments, and this will also be discussed in more depth later in the chapter.
The significant point here is that it is important to identify those components that need to be considered in teaching a course or program, and in particular that there are many components in addition to content or curriculum. The key components of a learning environment will be discussed in more detail in later posts. After that, different learning design models will be discussed.Up next
My next post will be on learner characteristics and their potential influence on the design of teaching – especially in a digital age.Over to you
1. Is it legitimate to focus on a learning environment from a teacher’s perspective rather than a learner’s perspective?
2. What would you add (or remove) from the learning environment in Figure 5.1?
3. Does thinking about the whole learning environment overly complicate the teaching endeavour? Why not just get on with it?
Ver AQUÍ el nuevo documento de síntesis (versión-4).
Agradeceré opiniones personales y sugerencias para mejorar esta propuesta.
Ver AQUÍ el nuevo documento de síntesis (versión-4).
Agradeceré opiniones personales y sugerencias para mejorar esta propuesta.
I don't think there's a "war" on trolls, exactly (the last thing the world needs is another war) but it seems clear that the web is becoming increasingly uncivil. But rather than simply blaming the usual culprits - users and trolls - I invite readers to consider some related items to question whether it's a structural defect:
- Reddit launches 'pressiquette' guidelines for journalists - "Reddit, the social news site, is encouraging journalists who use it to follow new guidelines on ethical sourcing... Gawker reported that more than 4,000 BuzzFeed posts have been removed from the site."
- What happens to #Ferguson affects Ferguson - leave aside the presumption that #Ferguson should be international news (it shouldn't). This is nonetheless an important discussion of the idea of algorithms deciding what is important.
- Twitter vows to 'improve our policies'... - "Internet trolls bullied Robin Williams' daughter off of Twitter and Instagram just days after her father's death."
- I liked everything on Facebook for two days... - "After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages... My feed become a cavalcade of brands and politics and as I interacted with them, Facebook dutifully reported this to all my friends and followers."
- The Internet's Original Sin - "Cegłowski explains, 'We’ re addicted to ‘ big data’ not because it’ s effective now, but because we need it to tell better stories.' So we build businesses that promise investors that advertising will be more invasive, ubiquitous, and targeted and that we will collect more data about our users and their behavior."
It's not simply that there are trolls and it's not simply that our privacy is now for sale, but rather, it's that the fruits of this surveillance are being put to purposes that are mean, nasty and corrosive. The primary use of data analytics has been misuse. We need to build better before we lose the web entirely.[Link] [Comment]
Aug 17, 2014
So I've been thinking more about data security lately. Not data security in the sense of preventing the NSA or Chinese hackers from getting at my files if they really want to - that's probably not possible. But security in the sense of preventing average criminals and companies like Google from trolling my data and using it for commercial purposes. To make this more difficult, I depend on the cloud. I can't use my employer's security or cloud, because these are now completely quarantined. So I think I need two things. First, something that encrypts text files. I've settled on NotepadCrypt, which uses standard encryption and pass phrases. Then, I upload this data to BoxCryptor, which encrypts everything I store on my various cloud services. Finally, I use proXPN to secure my communications between my computer and the remote site. Perfect? No. Way better than average? Yeah. Eventually all of this will be built in to any application you use.[Link] [Comment]