Thursday, November 29, 2012

Inclusive Learning Design Handbook

OPEN! Noon-6pm today!
I am reviewing the "Floe" website today. I am particularly interested in their "Inclusive Learning Handbook." What is Floe? According to their website:
"Learners learn best when the experience is personalized to individual needs. OER is an ideal learning environment to meet the diverse needs of learners, including learners with disabilities. The Floe (Flexible Learning for Open Education) Project supports the OER community in providing a sustainable, integrated approach to accessible learning, addressing the needs of learners who currently face barriers."
I like this approach because it includes a lot of principles of Universal Design but also addresses other access issues - including cost. Their handbook creates a very innovative context for the creation of OER. It includes not just the content itself but tagging that content with metadata, a profile for learners that the students create for themselves, and the use of open formats. Here are the suggestions for the "Technique" section of the handbook:
  • Label resources to indicate what learning needs the resource addresses 
  • Allow the creation of variations and enhancements 
  • Support learning profiles 
  • Support flexible styling 
  • Support keyboard control of functions and navigation 
  • Provide audio or text descriptions of non-text information presented in videos, graphics or images 
  • Provide text captions of information presented in audio format 
  • Separate text that can be read in the interface from underlying code 
  • Use open formats wherever possible
  "Open formats are typically published freely and don't require software developers or users to pay licensing royalties to use them in a variety of applications. As a result, open formats make it easier for content to be used and exchanged freely within different operating systems, applications, and software tools."
 This is one of the few platforms that pays attention to the learner - there are tools to help learners assess how they prefer to learn.

Ironically, I find the default font in the handbook almost impossible to read - but fortunately their platform includes an easy preferences button that will allow me to adjust the font, color, and contrast of the text AND it is openly licensed and not behind a pay-wall so I can use what ever font I want to read it. 

Floe allows you to customize how you view pages.

This is a very important project: it includes content, instructions, and tools for making sustainable, accessible content that will render all of the questions about $ustainability in OERs irrelevant.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

OER: DE 101 Self-paced version

This is the stand-alone version of DE 101,  the curriculum we developed for our student orientation. It is released to the public with a Creative Commons license. Distance Education 101 is a two-week orientation on how to take an online class and how to be a successful online student. In this seminar, students learn specifically about College of the Redwoods' "MyCR" (Sakai) and how to use other tools to manage their time, work with others, and their information online. In this orientation students have an opportunity to create and participate in an online community where they can find help and make their connection to the online college.

We believe that our research shows that the two-week, free online orientation was largely responsible for the increase in online student success and retention. Our research is in the presentation below. I have written about DE 101 here before as well.

These course materials were designed for a student population new to technology, broad-band internet, and online communication. That is why there is such a 90s feel to the material. These materials need to be expanded to include more on online collaboration and personal learning networks. This is one of the reasons why we are releasing this on a wiki using the Creative Common's license - we want to collaborate with others who would also like to share their materials.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Kaleidoscope Grant Research Findings

College of the Redwoods is a participant in the Kaleidoscope grant. This grant helped faculty partner with other colleges to develop free, openly licensed textbooks to help students save a significant amount of money. The Community College Consortium for Open Education Resources is sponsoring a webinar with a few of the participants to discuss the results of the grant. Their invitation is below:

Pie Chart
(Photo credit: Dmitry Baranovskiy)
Please join us Tuesday, December 4, 10:00 am PST for a webinar on OER Research findings on student outcomes and faculty and student feedback. The Kaleidoscope project, a collaboration between six community colleges and two 4-year colleges, developed OER for eight General Education courses and will report on student learning outcomes and faculty satisfaction. Florida Virtual Campus has been administering surveys to both faculty and students using open textbooks and open educational resources at their college and university campuses through their Open Access Textbook project and will share their findings from the last three years. Another Next Generation Learning Grant funded project Bridge-2-Success has worked with non-traditional students transitioning back to college or entering for the first time to improve college success. Working with Open University UK adapted open educational resources (OER) and online data gathering, they will share student outcome data from Anne Arundel and their 20 pilot colleges.

Dr. Robin Donaldson, Director of Open Access Textbooks and Project Manager of Orange Grove, Florida Virtual Campus Robin will give us an overview of the student and faculty survey feedback from 2010 and 2011 and will compare how data has changed over time.

Dr. Nassim Ebrahimi, Ann Arundel Community College Nassim will report on student learning outcomes finding from the Bridge-2-Success project at Ann Arundel and the 20 pilot community colleges that participated.

Kim Thanos, Lumen Learning. Kim will share differences in how students performed in classrooms using OER compared to those who continued to use publisher materials. She will also report on satisfaction among faculty participants.

No pre-registration necessary. 
On the day of the webinar, please click here to login and then press the Connect button.
You may use a headset or dial-in to speak live:
Phone: (888) 886-3951
Passcode: 367247

*0 – Contact the operator for audio assistance
*6 – Mute/unmute your individual line


CCC Confer Client Services – Monday – Friday between 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Telephone:  760-744-1150  ext 1537, 1554 or 1542
Email: clientservices@cccconfer.orgImage licensed for reuse by loft42 cc-by-nc-sa

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Part of MOOC Don't You Understand?

Stephen Downes
Stephen Downes (Photo credit: WordShore)
Educators who have not taken a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and do not understand their history, are currently writing about these courses which is causing them to be inaccurately represented in the press. The main problem is there is all the publicity around Coursera and Edx that ignores other kinds of MOOCs.

I also think part of the problem comes from the age-old issue of looking at new technologies through the lens of the old - the "horseless carriage" problem (a car is not "horseless" because it never needed one). I think an example of this is found in the essay "A New Era of Unfounded Hyperbole" by Siva Vaidhayanathan, which gives us an example of a typical misunderstanding MOOCs:
"MOOCs, on the other hand, are more like fancy textbooks. They are all about the mass market and not the rich connectivity that established online courses offer their limited collection of students."
This is a gross generalization of MOOCs. I would go so far as to call the statement above "unfounded hyperbole." The first MOOC I participated in "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2008" was one of the most interactive and engaging experiences in my education. There were a couple thousand participants who all self-organized into study groups and communities. This happened not on accident, but through the example and facilitation of the MOOCs teachers, George Siemens and Stephen Downes. They would not like the work "teacher" I think because it represents the traditional, hierarchical structure of traditional classes. I have never taken a class that was "all about the mass market." The reason why we wanted a class with a lot of people is because we learn in those networks - we get to take advantage of the the collective knowledge and talents of thousands of people. If your MOOC doesn't do that, you might not be in a "class."

When Vaidhayanathan is writing about MOOCs, I assume he is not writing about the MOOCs that came from David Wiley, George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Cormier, or Jim Groom. I am sure he is writing about Coursera and Edx. I would not make any generalizations about those because I have never taken a class in Coursera or Edx. What I will say is that their pedagogy and methods are different from what are sometimes called "cMOOCs" or "Connectivist MOOCs."

Another of Vaidhayanathan's generalizations says that
"The classroom has rich value in itself. It’s a safe, almost sacred space where students can try on ideas for size in real time, gently criticize others, challenge authority, and drive conversations in new directions."
They can also be stultifying places where new ideas are not encouraged, where there is no real criticism, challenges to authority are not rewarded, and discussion discouraged (often because the lecturer won't/can't allow for the time). There are good face-to-face classes and bad. There are good online classes and bad. The same goes with MOOCs: my experience in CCK08 rivals my best classes at Berkeley or Sonoma State (both of which had some amazing classes).

Vaidhayanathan is not alone. I keep reading about the possibility of MOOCs going international when Canada has been in for four or five years ahead of the Ivy Leaguers. There are also a number of stories about how we might be able to take MOOCs for credit when this has been the case at University of Manitoba and Athabasca for years.

I do appreciate the last part of his article where he lists some possible upsides to MOOCs and asks that we "...focus on what we can learn and accomplish from the MOOC experiment and leave behind the unfounded hyperbole."

I would like to see less hyperbole and generalizations on both sides and more research.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

WritingCommons.Org and Community-Based OER Models

Kicking the OERs old school.
I read a great posting at Writing Commons this morning entitled "Flat World Knowledge, Textbook Affordability, and a Call for More Collaborative Efforts" that really echoes my thinking on this. Since Flat World Knowledge is no longer open (as defined by Hewlett and many other definitions of OER), it makes the community efforts around open textbooks all the more important. I have long been a proponent of community developed, vetted, and maintained OERs and open textbooks. Please note that I did not say "I am against business." I am for efforts that are truly open to make open textbooks and other OERs freely available to students. This is not some radical notion - it is a return to the original intent of textbooks which is to support student learning rather than to support "sustainable business models." If someone figures out how to do both, more power to them. In the meantime, we need to support Writing Commons, an online composition textbook.
"We at Writing Commons have been working to provide quality open-access articles about writing and research and will continue to do so. While our materials are not yet comprehensive, we are adding new peer-reviewed material every month. We encourage instructors to email us about any gaps in our coverage (suggestions may be sent to, and we can work suggestions into future calls for papers. And while we have not yet made our open textbook customizable, as had Flat World Knowledge, our site does enable instructors looking to incorporate WC articles into their lesson plans to select and assign material as needed. (See for a table of contents.) Currently, WC editors are developing an instructional video that will guide users through the site; we hope that this video will help teachers efficiently select the material most relevant to their courses."
These kinds of efforts need our support. I used to teach English and I have a lot of teaching materials and workbooks that I have written that I am planning on contributing time and materials to this community. Please pass this on to others you many know who can contribute materials or time for reviewing materials. OERs from an open community of instructors, administrators, instructional designers is going to be the truly sustainable model.  
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Friday, November 09, 2012

A World Map of Open Educational Resources Initiatives

Open Educational Resources
Open Educational Resources (Wikipedia)
A world map of Open Educational Resources initiatives: Can the global OER community design and build it together?

 First, an International discussion 12 – 30 November 2012 *

Next, local discussions – organized locally An international online conversation –

The objective is to explore whether the OER community worldwide could work together to design and build an OER world map – starting with institutional initiatives and basic information.

 A definition – Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. They may be full courses or course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation).

 Now a decade of development – a global movement with more and more OER initiatives, in more and more countries. The vision of increasing access to the world’s knowledge through making resources open and accessible is beginning to be realized.

 But we still have a problem – we do not have a comprehensive overview of OER projects in the world – how do I know what is going on in my own country? And how do I find contacts in other countries, or contacts working in my own language? An OER world map – A map would give us the big picture of the global OER movement. It would help us communicate the story of OER. Furthermore, it could be enhanced with information such as OER initiatives by language, and with links to other maps. And it would help us connect.

 Community collaboration – Working together the OER community could design and build the map, and then regularly update it. With time, energy and collaboration, the map could become a door to the OER world, helping us communicate with stakeholders and connect with each other.

 Outline of the international discussion
 Week 1: What could an OER world map look like? - 12-16 November
  • Why map the OER landscape 
  • Essential information and visual presentation 
Week 2: Could a world map be built collaboratively? - 19-23 November
  • Organizational approach for collaboration 
  • Ensuring the quality of the information 
 Week 3: Reflection and next steps - 26-30 November
  • Design of an “OER World Map”
  • Organization Resources available/needed 
  • Next steps 
Join the International Conversation 
Send an email to and type subscribe in the subject line.

Share this announcement with your colleagues and networks.

Plan a parallel or follow up discussion in your own language and network and give your feedback for the final report of all the discussions.

 For more information or questions, contact Susan D’Antoni at
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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Premium Free Range OER

English: Free Range Poultry and Shed, near Sei...
Free Range Poultry and Shed, near Seisdon, Staffordshire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I don't want Flat World Knowledge to corner the market in charging students for free textbooks. I am announcing here that CainCo EduProducts will also be offering premium free textbooks at a relatively fair and competitive cost. How can we put a price on free textbooks? We are taking a page from the poultry industry. And the definition of "free" is different here. My books will be "free" as in "free range" hence the premium price. Each textbook will be:
  • Free range
  • All natural
  • Clearly labeled GMO free
  • Fat free
  • Low sodium
  • Electronic versions made from only the best AMERICAN MADE electrons
Each lovingly crafted paper version of our textbooks will be made from sustainably harvested, hormone free trees and turned into pulp through non-traumatic, humane Ayurvedic massage process. 

How will our textbooks help students save money? To afford these textbooks, students will have to become experts at saving money. The lessons they learn from that they will carry with them the rest of their lives (a lot like their student loans). 
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Saturday, November 03, 2012

Flat World Knowledge Falls Flat

For use to open - free- education resources.
For use to open - free- education resources. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am very disappointed in Flat World Knowledge's decision to end free access to students as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I was always very suspect of this company from the beginning. I am getting sick of businesses saying that they are a part of the open source movement, OER, or for Open Text Books and then coming up with some lame excuse to go back to business as usual - lets make money on the backs of students in the name of "sustainability"! In the article they admit that they are not really committed to the open license.

We should call companies like FWK businesses then and not advocates or proponents of open education resources. The idea behind OER is that faculty would freely develop their textbooks for students to freely use. I am not against business but lets call it business and not OER. I am really not interested in the content reviewers from commercial publishers because they are not in the business of creating, vetting, and customizing for my students or my college in my community with its unique issues - they are interested in packaging their material for a mass market and getting some Phd's name on the box to make it acceptable to colleges who are not quite ready to take the plunge into OER. I almost wrote a book for FWK but I realized that my content would be at the mercy of the market. I knew that at any time they could change their business model and the students would be the ones to suffer. The business of businesses is business. The business of education should be education. There are great textbooks out there with Creative Commons licenses that students do not have to pay for. We have a moral obligation to make education accessible to as many students as possible. OERs and open textbooks are a way to do that. Freedom as in free to charge the students is not the kind of freedom that I am interested in.

And what does this mean for the Creative Commons license? If a text is really CC, shouldn't a student have access to that text under the same license as FWK?

Look at any of the articles below for an alternative model of commercial businesses managing academic content.
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