Driving Awareness, Adoptions, and Affordability
The ninth International Open Ed Conference 2012 was held in Vancouver, British Columbia, from October 16 to 18. This conference brings together many of the thought leaders and practitioners in the open education movement from around the world to report on progress, compare notes, and collaborate. This year’s conference got off to a rousing start as the Honorable John Yap, Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology for British Columbia welcomed attendees and announced that British Columbia is set to become the first province in Canada to offer students free online, open textbooks for the 40 most popular post-secondary courses. The theme of this year’s conference, “Beyond Content,” encouraged a wide range of presentations that explored the full breadth of the open education movement.
As Open Education Resources (OER) proliferate, finding business models that support the promise of decreased costs for students but also allow authors and vendors to thrive is essential. David Harris, Editor-in-Chief of OpenStax College, kicked off the discussion by identifying the need for consistent quality standards, ways for adopters to easily find turnkey solutions, and a sustainable reward structure for content producers. Said Harris, “It’s not open source because it’s free; it’s open because it’s free to be improved.”
Ariel Diaz, co-founder and CEO of Boundless Learning, a for-profit provider of open textbooks and learning aids, noted that the cost of traditional education media is increasing at three times the rate of inflation while the cost of all other media is decreasing. He further observed that there has been a sharp increase in venture funding for educational technology but with relatively little going for open resources. This disparity may represent an opportunity for the open community to pursue venture funding more aggressively.
Members of the Mathematics Department at Scottsdale Community College presented the results of their effort to adopt, adapt and create OER in order to transform their entire department. So far, they have converted their complete Algebra track to the use of OER at nearly zero cost. A key outcome was the sense of community engendered among the faculty as they worked cooperatively to develop these materials. Students from the University of British Columbia reported on the UBC Wiki, an open knowledge repository, noting that a large number of UBC students contributed. When asked why so many were willing to contribute, the presenter replied that they simply believed that contributing was a good thing to do.
Megan Beckett, from the Siyavula Project in South Africa, reported on their effort to create free, open source texts in math and political science for all students in grades 10-12. The material is created in authoring workshops of volunteer educators. Again, the sense of community created among the contributors was an important outcome. Finally, members of the Kaleidoscope Project, a project of Lumen, presented data that suggests that learning outcomes can improve for students using OER. This important result begins to address concerns about the quality and efficacy of OER.
On the eve of their tenth anniversary, CC is preparing to release version 4.0 of the CC BY license suite. Additionally CC is increasing its education efforts, creating School of Open to educate open content producers and consumers alike on the ins and outs of open licensing, and Open Policy Institute to train advocates for open policy.
In their presentation, Casilli and Lee noted that Open Badges are gaining traction as evidence of informal learning and form a valuable complement to indicators of more formal learning.
And It Was Fun!
Attendees relaxed on a twilight dinner cruise around the bay and harbor. Entertainment was provided by a pick-up band from the open community.