Wide Open Spaces: the Pros and Cons of Open Education

The infographic was suggested to us by the company Value Colleges. Believing that educational field is in need of more agencies and more new players, we are posting this view of Open Education. Your comments are welcome, as always.

Open education is defined as, “the institutional practices and initiatives that broaden access to learning and training through formal education systems”. The two main systems of open education is Open Educational Resources and Massively Open Online Courses. Learn just how hugely open education is catching on. The pros of open education lie with it being more iterative and interactive with online communities, live feedback, student services and more. Regardless of educational background and history, only about 4% of students actually complete an entire MOOC. In the future there will be better ways to identify students and enhance the instructional quality of the programs. 75 percent of students said they enrolled in a MOOC because it was free and nearly half said they would take another course if it cost a small amount, but only 18 percent were willing to pay a larger sum. University presidents have different views on open education, most agreeing that it can foster creative pedagogical studies.


The state of MOOCs in Europe analyzed

eadtu homeThe report “Institutional MOOC Strategies in Europe” is part of the European Union-funded HOME project (Higher Education Online: MOOCs the European Way) led by EADTU. Released a few weeks ago, it presents data on the perception and objectives of European higher education institutions on MOOCs and the main drivers behind the MOOC movement. The methodology consisted on a survey answered by 67 institutions from 22 countries serving 2.8 million students.

Respondents were generally reluctant to introducing fees on MOOCs with a few exceptions, e.g. MOOCs leading to formal credit as part of an accredited curriculum. Also, it appears to be no general consensus when it comes to the limits of “openness”. Some respondents described fixing a start and end date as necessary, while others defended self-paced courses. Another finding was that from 10 MOOC-drivers gathered from relevant literature, three were in general defined as not relevant: increasing shared services and unbundling (that is, outsourcing internal processes), reducing the costs of higher education and envisioning MOOCs as a new method in a big [$7 trillion] business.

The attitude toward MOOCs in Europe is currently much more positive than it is in the US. One reason is the presence of the ECTS framework in Europe, which provides a sound base for recognition of credentials across institutions and borders – though this recognition has not been implemented yet at any institution. Also, while in Europe about half of surveyed population believes MOOCs are a sustainable method for offering courses, the rate drops to 20% for the US.

The conclusions above are only a sample of the many contained in the report. The full document with complete information can be downloaded here.

A Goal for Google and Carnegie Mellon´s MOOC Research?

Under the Google Focused Research Award program, Carnegie Melon University received a two-year grant for research on and development of MOOCs platforms intelligent enough to mimic the traditional classroom experience” (from the Chronicle Higher Education article: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/google-will-finance-carnegie-mellons-mooc-research/53521)
It remains unclear if the word choice was a mishap or the concept was fuzzy but readers reaction was immediate and almost unanimous (the latter does not happen often!):

    -The traditional classroom experience is a dismal failure. Why try to mimic it?
    -Why emullate dinosaurs in the digital world?
    -Unless the MOOCs pay attention to how people actually learn, they will not be able to improve effectiveness..?. Much of “traditional” instruction has also failed to respond to our emerging understanding of how people learn.
    –Dumbest thing Google has ever done

In a VB News article , Google´s reference to the project goals is more plausible:

Google and Carnegie Mellon University researchers unite to change the e-learning landscape     

CMU is definitely a forward-thinking university… we think they’ll do great work on modeling learners, and making technology-based education more adaptive.


N.Y. Public Library Plans Face-to-Face 'Classes' for MOOC Students

In a pilot program with Coursera, the New York Public Library plans to organize meet-ups at which people taking massive open online courses can gather and discuss the courses with help from “trained facilitators.”

The partnership is part the MOOC company’s effort to build an infrastructure for in-person learning around its free online courses. Research has suggested that MOOC students who receive offline help earn higher scores on their assessments.

Read the article in full:


Call For Papers: Special Issue on E-learning

Journal of Information Technology and Application in Education (JITAE) is an international open-access and refereed journal publishing the latest advancements in information technology and application in education. Research areas include e-learning and knowledge management, evaluation of learning technologies, mobile learning or informatics for social inclusion, among others.

The Journal has  released a Call for Papers with focus on e-learning, which submission deadline is May 15. Subject areas include many fields, which can be found on the Journal’s website.

You might be interested in submitting your original articles to this Special Issue.

Open Access to Research: trying to throw light on a chain of misunderstandings

Open AccessOpen Access to research outcomes is a well  known and discussed issue, but there is still much misunderstanding and many questions remain unanswered. To illustrate that, The Guardian recently published an article about some OA myths that have not been undermined yet. For instance, the article points out that many scholars still think that the only way to provide OA to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in O.A. journals, overlooking institutional repositories; or that many still believe that publishing in a conventional journals closes the door to “liberating” the same work later – thoroughly false.

To throw light on such arguments, UNESCO recently published Policy Guidelines for the Development and the Promotion of Open Access. The Guidelines distinguish the so-called Green Route to O.A., which refers to repositories, from the Golden Route, relative to OA journals. Both are common ways to openly publish research outcomes. UNESCO recommends making research immediately available or after a short period of embargo, as well as warns authors to retain enough rights to be able to decide whether or not make publications freely available – even though Institutions or funders can also retain these rights if they are more effective in ensuring open access. The Guidelines also stress to promote OA rather than imposing it,  by drawing a range of incentives –such as future promotions.

Also, researchers, publishers and librarians usually clash over Open Access dimension as it happened at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting early this year. One of the strong arguments was that gold OA would minimize cost while protecting against inflated acceptance rates and decline in quality standards. Some see OA as a durable feature of the landscape of scholarly communication, maybe replacing current dissemination models; whereas others state it would only complement the traditional publication patterns or some even consider it “a passing fad”.

UNESCO Guidelines aim at settling that debate as well, by not dismissing the current publication systems but pointing out some traditional fee-based business models which are often abusive and unsustainable.  As repositories do not require any money to be spent –or very little of it, the Guidelines focus on cost of  peer-reviews and possible sources of funding: an institution, the community (donations or other support), sponsors, users (via subscription) or advertisers). OA books also may somewhat gain their momentum as they can be backed by sponsors, subsidizers as well as hard copies might be sold to offset the costs.

No consensus has been reached so far and maybe controversy came to stay. However, with governments increasingly pushing universities into making research freely available, steps towards open access are unlikely to stop here.

A Break-through Step Toward Open Access and OER Movement?

vimeoIn a Memo to the faculty members released on Nov.18, The University of California system informed its faculty that after two years of evaluations and reviews,  the Academic Council voted in July 2013 to adopt a new Open Access Policy for publishing scholarly articles.  The policy was released, on a pilot basis, in three out of ten campuses, on Nov.1, 2013 and will be officially rolled out at the other campuses in one year, if the outcome of the pilot would be positive.

The new policy allows- but does not require– faculty to publish in OA journals;  instead, it commits faculty to making a version of each article available publicly in an OA repository  (UC´s  eScholarship  digital repository  or another  OA repository).It is important that the faculty will keep legal control over their publications, if they  wish, by opting out of the policy for any given article, by delaying  the release of the open version (“embargo” it) or by stating their terms of use (commercial vs non-commercial reuse).

This UC policy might become a vital catalyst to the whole community of informed  but  not convinced researchers who would like to be socially responsible  but to do so on their   own terms.  Policies like this one have been adopted by more than 175 universities and  by larger systems, however, they often remain  an emphatic manifesto  not  provided by means or mechanisms to implement them.  In this case, when a large,  influential  player like the University of California sends a strong signal of commitment   to the cause, it may help the OA and OER Movement  finally break through.

To read more:

UCLA  details on implementing, costs, OA license waivers, embargos, etc

 Watch a 90-second video about the policy.

 How easy it is to deposit your articles in eScholarship

The extensive policy Q&A list

Open Access and Education: a work in progress

Open Access Week

Last week, Oct. 21-27, the International Open Access Week was celebrated: a global event, now in its 6th year, promoting Open Access as a new norm in scolarship and research. The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) took part of it by preparing a competition consisting in a questionnaire on copy rights and open access and a Workshop on OER, which were organized by Cristina Vaquer from the UOC Virtual Library. The workshop was broadcasted.

 This year the University decided to focus on licenses and copyright, so the workshop was named “Open Access, repositories and copyleft“. It was conducted by Julià Minguillón and Ignasi Labastida. Julià Minguillón, faculty member at the Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunication Dept. of the UOC, who is a strong advocate and expert in OER research and use, spoke about the concept and uses of Open Educational Resources. He emphasized the importance of interacting with and feedback from users and also pointed out some threats and weaknesses, as cultural differences may bring distinct, sometimes opposite meanings to an original material, or language can act as a boundary making resources not feasible to be used anywhere.

 An UNESCO survey in 2006 showed that there was a huge need for awareness of the OER potential. However, Minguillón considers that the impact of OER now is growing and many new initiatives have been launched. Open Up Education is an example of the increasing presence of OER and the boost given to the movement by institutions and professionals, e.g. Andrew Valls from the Oregon State University, who wrote in CHE:

 “we should look upon online lectures and similar materials as a way to draw on others’ expertise…One should hope that eventually there would be a wide variety of lectures available online from which professors and students could choose”.

 Ignasi Labastida from the University of Barcelona, who represents Creative Commons (CC) in Spain focused on open licenses. Producing open content entails providing creators and users with open formats that make possible that these are copied and freely accessible but also that authorship is publicly recognized. In this regard, CC licenses display a wide range of possibilities: authors can allow or forbid commercial usages of their work, as well as permit or refuse that their resources are used in further research or OER, and so forth.

 CC licenses are not the only ones but the most often used by authors who share their materials in the UOC Institutional Repository. 5000 documents are available on that platform with more than 2 million downloads to date. The UOC promotes open access to research and teaching resources produced by the UOC community in order to make them available not only in UOC but also in similar portals in Catalonia, Spain and the European Union.

The European Commission launches "Opening Up Education" to challenge the lack of digitalization of Education


According to the European Commission’s data, education throughout the European Union is far from reaching the digital penetration which is needed to guarantee that students acquire the digital skills that are increasingly indispensable. The Commission states that by 2020, 90% of the jobs will require wide digital knowledge from job seekers. These skills need to be gained since a very early education stage and consolidated later on.

To face all these challenges, the European Commission launched the “Opening Up Education” project on September 25th. There are three objectives set:

  • To promote Innovation for organizations, teachers and students by granting support in developing new business and educational models and ensuring that open online resources are available.
  • Access to Open Education Resources (OER) in order to strengthen its centrality by ensuring that all educational materials supported by Erasmus + program are available under open licenses; encouraging partnerships between content to increase the supply of OER; and launching the Open Education Europa portal, which will be introduced below.
  • Fostering Connectivity and Innovation by promoting research on cutting-edge learning technologies, applications, services and resources.

Although there is public interest and even enthusiasm about such an initiative towards a digital revolution, it still has a long way to walk. Actually, no budget has been allocated yet to the project, except that it will be funded by the Erasmus + and Horizon 2020 programs. The Erasmus + program (2014-2020) has been set aside €19 billion, whereas the Horizon 2020 budget is still under consideration.

In the meanwhile, the Open Education Europa portal has been launched. There are many resources available to organizations, teachers and students such as Massive Open Online Courses and platforms to exchange good practices and experiences. So far, that might give just a taste of what is yet to come: the will to undertake the modernization and digitalization of education in the European Union.

For more information:

EC Staff Working Document

EC Press Release

EC Communication Opening Up Education

A University's Offer of Credit for a MOOC Gets No Takers

MOOCs and credit and profitBy Steve Kolowich, July 8, 2013

It was big news last fall when Colorado State University-Global Campus became the first college in the United States to grant credit to students who passed a MOOC, or massive open online course.

For students, it meant a chance to get college credit on the cheap: $89, the cost of the required proctored exam, compared with the $1,050 that Colorado State charges for a comparable three-credit course.

That is a big discount.

Yet almost a year after Global Campus made the announcement, officials are still waiting for their first credit bargain-hunters.

Not one student has taken the university up on its offer.

Read the article in full, and then 24 comments which, as usual for CHE, are very informative and often indispensible part of the articles: