OpenEd: week 13 – The future of Open Education

I wish I had only a little part of the David’s imagination for writing an “alternate future” for OE, but unfortunately, I haven’t!

Then, I tried to elaborate on the OpenCourseWars paper, adding some thoughts while also reducing its US-centric point of view with some considerations ..from an Italian point of view :-):

  1. The role of the government. I’m convinced that without a clear pronouncement from political institutions on this field OER will not have a real future. In Italy the government is presently (nominally..) committed to Open Source Software but there are still no signals of attention for Open Education (please try this search on Google… You’ll find that the fifth result is …my own blog (!), no comment for the first result… :-)). Maybe we (I and my wonderful Italian classmates) will try to take the role of OE evangelists.. 🙂
  2. Licensing. David is suggesting two important points. The first is the imageweakness of the NC and SA clauses of the Creative Commons license. In David’s vision, NC would not resist to a well organized attack launched by publishers while SA would survive. Is it a realistic future? What if would happen the contrary? I feel these licences are still fragile… The most important point (and I was happy to read what I too think) is the need for a someway unified license. I’m ready to add some (few.. I’m only a poor teacher…) euros to the Hewlett Foundation bounty 🙂 if, over the compatibilty between FSF and CC, they’d further simplify the scene. I can deal no more with this terrific compatibility graph!!
  3. Going beyond the OCW model. I agree with the David’s vision that OCWs are little sustainable. We discussed about it in the past weeks. OCWs are now in their early steps, financed by foundations and encouraged by University boards but their future is uncertain. Of course they are precious resources, validated by prestigious institutions but they are read-only, have generally olny course-level granularity, are high-cost producing and maintaining… My opinion (which I previously expressed) is that a “Wikipedia-like model” may be the winner. In fact, right now we can observe that Wikipedia is presently the very unique image planetary project on OER, really multilingual, multi-prospective, crowd-feeded. For now, we in Italy have no OER/OCW initiatives in high education (nor in lower…) but we do have Wikipedia in Italian! And it is vital and growing! It is a real challenge for us: in Italy Universities are just approaching the “traditional e-learning”, generally based on LMSs, with high-protectionist policies: faculty generally live in fear for colleagues eventually spying and stealing ideas and materials.. It’s a long way to OER.. 🙂
  4. Trib. This point is strictly connected with the “Wikipedia model”. I’m sure this is a key point: maybe the future OER will not be named OER but they will be a mix of institutional content and user (students, teachers, parents, …)-created content. An OCW course could be really a disruptive resource if real students could add their comments, or materials from the real classroom. I’m figuring a sort of balanced content, not only institutional (it would be too read-only…) but also not only user-created (it would be not entirely reliable..). A good OER could result form a dialogue. This course and its evolution may be a good example: some valuable readings from the instructor but also very good content from the students’ assignments, the syllabus modified based on the interaction between the instructor and the students. Wow!
  5. The competency-based Universities. I’m a little puzzled by the WGU example stated in the paper. Really could the future of higher education be based only on assessments for earning a diploma? This model seems very similar to the already diffused corporate certifications by Microsoft, Cisco and others.. e.g. you can obtain a certification from Microsoft by passing an online test that measures very specific skills. Of course, there is a wide offer of preparation courses.. Well, Image by George Siemensit seems to me this is very far from the university-as-a-community model… and I’m still devoted to this old, good model… But I have to admit that OER may have a disruptive role for the evolution of educational institutions. Maybe the community will evolve as global networks, breaking the walls of schools and universities, which will retain only a certification role: in the future people will learn from the network and in the network (we can refer to the learning networks by Stephen Downes, grounded on the connectivism by George Siemens), and will only ask to institutions to assess the acquired skills. It might work!
  6. Mixing free content and paid services. I talked of such a model too. I guess it could be a very reasonable way for sustainibility.
  7. The general context.
    1. An e-book reader has recently been launched by Amazon… It’s quite affordable (even if not yet “a $100 piece of hardware”, it’s wireless and… for now … it’s sold out!!! Is it a sign?
    2. The digital culture is growing among the young people. It’s a pre-requisite for OER.. but, for example, we in Italy have still a large cohort of digital illiterate teachers in any grade of school, including universities. I argue this may be an obstacle because the production of high-quality and valuable resources cannot prescind totally from the participation of the “teaching staff”…
    3. Language and localization. Will we all have to speak English for full benefit of OER? It’s a point connected with the model: why do we have an Italian version of Wikipedia but no OER initiatives? Is it only a problem of lack of awareness by our educational institutions? Or lack of sponsors? Or a combination of them? I argue that there is no (or very little) space for an “Italian OCW” by a single University, then only if we’ll have a shift in the general (and academic..) culture and the model will be the “wikipedia model” or anycase a bottom-up, trib-based model, maybe we too, as a “province of the Empire”, will have a chance… Alternatively, we can still translate, and translate, and translate…

Some final words for briefly answering to my friends Alessandro and Stian (hey guys, the syllabus was so poor, that you felt encouraged to add a couple of questions? ;-)):

  • I don’t see significative effects in K-12 due to the minor impact of “content” in this area. Yes, there are textbooks for elementary and first secondary schools and maybe we’ll arrive to define open curricula, alternative to commercial ones, but we’d have to print them since I don’t think that children should necessarily use electronic media in their early age. For now, I’m convinced that the real effective impact of OER is for high education and lifelong learning.
  • For developing countries, OER could be a real opportunity, an alternative to the “market model” that is dominant in education too… Yes, there are significative problems (in the previous weeks we talked about the risk of a “cultural colonization” by means of “western culture” OER) but I see more possibile benefits than threats. I consider especially important the signal that OER, Free Software and Open Education are carrying: it is that knowledge and instruction are not commercial products but they are a right for all the mankind. We, as citizens of the richest countries, have some obligation in this sense.

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7 Responses to “OpenEd: week 13 – The future of Open Education”


  1. 1 Emanuela Zibordi Nov 25th, 2007 at 16:10

    Hi Antonio,
    I?d want to show you wikiversità:
    http://it.wikiversity.org/wiki/Pagina_principale
    if you don’t know it yet. Is it the first open university in Italy? I think so.

    About OER in school I wrote something on my post. Contrary to the common thought in the Primary and K12, ICT are quite used, I don’t know how much of OER. The hight school, instead, wants to look like a little university, but a little university of 50 years ago! So high school is the most backlog school of Italy. Every innovation is seen as a destabilize thing. Who use techical tools for its didactics is a knowledge terrorist! Believe me. 🙂
    ciao 🙂

  2. 2 Elisa Nov 28th, 2007 at 15:29

    Antonio, your blog is the third result in the google search now, and it is in good company!
    😉
    I think your imagination is as good as Wiley’s, I’ve found many interesting and stimulating points, most of all the one about the assessment and the idea of “diploma factories”, a risk that some universities can take with time. We very well know what happens in higher education in Italy, with overcrowded universities and shortage of funds. “Humanizing” the relationship among the members of a community is essential for its sustainability. Think to the model of the university campus, a dream in our reality …

  3. 3 Megan in Canada Nov 29th, 2007 at 18:25

    Antonio, totally agree with your comments on the competency-based universities, and the loss of the university-as-a-community model. I mean, I look at my field/research, which is on how civil societies affect education policy in developing countries. How on earth could there be a “competency-based” test on this?? Knowledge growth in this area is all about university-as-a-community!! Your comments made me think deeper, and realize that competency-measures often are just replicating “banking knowledge” or “tabula rasa”.

  4. 4 Rob Barton Nov 30th, 2007 at 6:06

    It’s been great having you guys over in Europe localizing Wiley’s syllabus and his writings.

    For WGU, it’s not a diploma mill or a certificate-granting institution, but an accredited degree. You’ve definitely got a point about the lack of community, though. That is unfortunate, because there are so many people you get to know in college when you attend in person.

  5. 5 K-12 Dic 2nd, 2007 at 13:17

    Dear Anto,
    I understand your critics about spreading usage of OER and similars to K-12 education.
    Neverthless I have to remark strongly that my idea and, hopefully, not only mine, is that OERs (or any digitalised content and activity) are not to be taken as surrogating medias for traditional education.
    I try to explain it through points:
    a. open curricula: I was reading some of the posts for week 13, and found out the recursive idea of competence as a goal, a final point in the educational project. In the italian school we are working now a lot around competences, trying to define them, to give them a sense and a shareable profile. If I get my pupils to the pc and let them learn something in a passive modality, such as a test, or a lesson I prepared before, I’m doing nothing different from a lesson without computer, without OER and so on. But if I get in my didactical practice and proposals some instruments which call each single student in the “game” as first actor, I am doing something else, something different.
    It’s far too easy to say that children shouldn’t use electronic media in their early age. They do use electronic medias much better than their parents and much better than a lot of their teachers.
    But how do they use them? Whichi of them do they use? How do they spend their time really?
    Did you forget about Catepol’s discussione in LTever about badoo?
    I am not the person persuaded of a substitution of textbooks and material objects through computers and immaterial objects. But I am steadly convinced that we – teachers – must be masters in using them, masters in choosing when and which and how much and how often they must be used in the classroom, and last but not least, we should use them in order to inform and form children’s character so that they can defend themselves from internet’s backside’s problems

  6. 6 Catia Dic 2nd, 2007 at 21:22

    Hi, Antonio!
    Your blog is rich with much useful information.
    Well, 3 main points called my attention: 1) that you stress the responsability of government in initiatives linked to open education: I can also say that the situation in Brazil is not much different. Most of the OE projects that I know of are connected to the Brazilian Ministry of Education (still in of a very incipient and experimental nature); 2) the need of lincense compatibility: it really is a burden to deal with the differences and how they affect education; 3) OERs and the opportunities for developing countries: I agree with you, but one needs to know the reality and how things are processed there in order to understand how the best intentions can be killed. Also, as you mentioned, more needs to be done than mere translation of the courses.

  7. 7 Nuccia Silvana Pirruccello Dic 4th, 2007 at 16:44

    “maybe we too, as a “province of the Empire”, will have a chance… Alternatively, we can still translate, and translate, and translate…”

    The other alternative for us Italians might be ‘working with English’ from the very begining and trib, sort of good quality international dialogue on more specific issues of a specific OER…why not?

    Isn’t it something we are still experiencing in this course with David Wiley?

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