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Open Assembly is cloud-based platform for collaborative knowledge creation with open educational resources (OER)

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Future direction of the OER Research Hub

Congrats to the whole team! Have greatly benefited from some of your research findings to date. They’ve helped me make the case for OER in numerous contexts.

Dropping the R opens up the horizon that OER illuminates when the “openness” engine is in full gear. Looking forward to learning more about your new activities and research going forward. Thanks and see you at OpenEd in Vancouver.

From another enthusiast in pursuit of (more) openness in education,

Domi Enders

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The OER Hub team prepare for launch

July marked the end of the initial phase of the OER Research Hub. It’s been a great three years, and Beck has pulled out some of the highlights. But what next, you are all asking! Well, we’re delighted to announce that we have received further funding form the Hewlett Foundation. The aim of the last grant was twofold: to try and develop an evidence base for many of the beliefs that people held about OER, and to raise the profile of quality research in the OER field. The new project seeks to continue these broad aims, by establishing the hub on an ongoing basis.

Having gathered data and developed tools for OER we also want to broaden our scope to other aspects of open education, including MOOCs, open educational practice, open access, etc. To this end we’re slightly rebranding by dropping an…

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Career Pathways, Part 1

The question of whether a college degree–especially a four-year college degree–is still “worth it” is being asked by many graduating students as they discover sobering truths about the cost of their education. Here are some facts to consider.

The 2013 report from the Project on Student Debt found that average debt for college seniors graduating in 2013 was $28,400, the highest on record, and up 2 percent from the 2012 figure of $27,850. In recent years, that average debt figure has grown steadily and has generally outpaced inflation, even as earnings for bachelor’s-degree holders have stagnated.

The unemployment rate of young four-year college graduates today is nearly 7.8 percent, about the same as the population at large. Of even greater concern are estimates that suggest that the percentage of young college graduates working in jobs that don’t really require a college education might be as high as 30 percent. And these numbers mask the fact that nearly half of those who start out in a four-year college do not finish. The point about statistics like these is that in today’s economy what you study matters more than how many years you study. Recent data from Florida tell us that 2009 graduates with a technical degree from Florida’s community colleges are outearning the average graduate from the state’s four-year institutions by over $10,000.

In recent years it has become increasingly clear that our current (and future) economy’s jobs are requiring a higher level of skills and formal credentials — particularly in high growth industry sectors, such as healthcare and STEM fields. Many of today’s employers report difficulties in finding talent to meet their skill needs, and job seekers of all backgrounds are experiencing difficulties obtaining sustainable employment without a formal post-secondary credential.

This pressing demand for skilled and credentialed workers — which many employers and workforce developers have termed the infamous “skills gap” — has also contributed to a growing trend in conversations around education and workforce solutions: Career Pathways.

Career Pathway programs, although diverse in their specific priorities and strategies, are generally designed to more closely align education and industry and to establish a streamlined pathway for students and job-seekers to transition from education into living-wage employment. Stakeholders across the nation have been implementing a wide range of career pathway programs, which have addressed various focus-areas such as:

Young adults: Beginning with career-focused high school programs, transitioning students into career and technical post-secondary certification and degree programs

Working and older adult populations: Focusing on the specific needs of job-seekers who have already been in the workforce for a significant period and are now in need of further training and job opportunities

Special populations: Tackling educational and workforce-related barriers specific to populations such as returning veterans and individuals with disabilities

Employer-driven: Centralizing the need for employers to invest in linking training activities with opportunities for formal credentialing

As summarized in this 2015 Department of Education-funded study, career pathway programs have been found to share a number of important common characteristics, including: collaboration and partnerships, data sharing, resource coordination, and employer engagement — among others.

So what does all this mean for learners?

As the post-secondary landscape continues to integrate new transformations and innovations (e.g. online learning, open educational resources, competency-based education), there now exists a broad array of customizable training and education options, which, although empowering, can also be confusing for learners seeking career-oriented credentials. Many adults — whether they are recent high school graduates or second-career baby boomers — often find themselves taking courses or engaging in educational programs that do not ultimately lead to a marketable credential.

Career pathway programming can play an important navigational role in linking such diverse, and often non-linear, educational activities with actual opportunities for living-wage employment. For a high-school student who is responsible for contributing to a family income, for example, this focused approach to education and job training could result in years of time and thousands of tuition dollars saved before s/he can start earning sustainable wages.

Thus far, the career pathway approach appears to be a promising solution to help address some of our economy’s most pressing workforce concerns. As the model continues to develop and expand through further transformations in higher education and our economic climate, so much remains to be seen about its impacts for our nation’s job-seeking learners, as well as what role new innovations will play in bringing these programs to scale.

Stay tuned for Career Pathways, Part 2, about our quest to introduce Open Educational Resources (OER) into career pathway projects.

“Made with Creative Commons” on Kickstarter

Sarah Pearson and Paul Stacey of Creative Commons have created a case study for the very substance of the book project they are crowdfunding on Kickstarter: they’re raising funds to support the development of a book that they will ultimately give away for free under a CC license. The waiting-to-be-written-book Made With Creative Commons is about the ways creators and businesses make money when sharing their work for free under CC licenses. The dynamic duo’s goal is to empower others to create businesses that build upon open content and open licensing. The book will be written collaboratively with backers of the campaign, and Sarah and Paul will be writing regularly throughout the research and writing process in a Medium publication called Made with Creative Commons.

At stake is the idea that if “open” is to go mainstream, we need to develop and support sustainable business models that don’t depend on the generosity of non-profits such as the Hewlett Foundation to promote the open exchange of the knowledge we create.

You can get involved as a contributor to the project (for $150 or more), or simply as a fan (with a contribution of any amount). There are 15 days left to support this campaign!

Open Assembly has been working with Sarah and Paul on our own open business model, using the Business Model Canvas template they modified for the “open” attribute. The experience so far has been wonderful, providing much clarity and reaffirming our sense of purpose–and even suggesting new possibilities we hadn’t quite considered yet. There is no doubt in our minds that Sarah and Paul are laying an important foundation for defining a new generation of business models that reward “openness” and “sharing.” We who are already on the “open” spectrum of activities and initiatives will benefit greatly from sharing our various experiences. And hopefully countless others will also be inspired by coming to understand the ways in which sharing can indeed be good for business.

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The Adjunct Problems That Too Few Talk About. Possible Solutions at Our Fingertips?

During National Adjunct Action Week, Feb. 23-27, union-represented adjuncts joined with actions that ranged from creative picketing to teach-ins to in-class explanations of adjunct issues. These were designed to call attention to and illustrate the stigma of being an adjunct and the commitment to changing adjuncts’ status from second-class workers to well-respected, well-trained, well-paid workers with benefits and supportive working conditions.

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On a much quieter note, and with the expectation that over time adjunct working conditions can and will be improved through various union and institutional initiatives, is there something that we (the ed-tech-for-adjunct-faculty fan club) can do to reduce the thorny prick of chronic daily irritants affecting part-time adjuncts–and their part-time students?

Picture a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, perhaps at sunrise or dusk. Two drivers sitin two parked cars on opposite sides of the lot. The drivers happen to be part-time instructors at the same community college, where they teach different sections of the same course. It would be great if they knew they were both dealing with the same classroom challenge—but they don’t: They’re so pressed for time, they have to steal an hour in the parking lot to work undisturbed…even though talking to each other to resolve that common problem would help them get a lot more work done a lot more efficiently.

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To me, this parking lot illustrates the challenges facing part-time students and part-time educators at community colleges: Commuters who travel back and forth between work, home, and school—in the case of adjuncts, between multiple campuses—and who often work in isolation from their peers.

National Adjunct Walkout Day, on Feb. 25, became Adjunct Action Week (Feb. 23-27 ). We heard activists demanding equal pay for equal work, decent benefits, job security, and supportive working conditions, including academic freedom, for contingent instructors. In the meantime, entrepreneurs and researchers have been quietly chipping away at smaller adjunct issues. Theirs isn’t the galvanizing fight over unionizing adjuncts, but rather, the workday struggles of adjuncts. With roughly 70% of community college instructors falling into the adjunct camp (and 70% of community college students attending school part-time), there are means at our disposable to start alleviating these everyday stresses now.

Where does the trouble start? On-demand access to teaching resources is one place.

Let’s look at technology. To do their jobs, contingent faculty rely primarily on learning management systems (LMS). But this technology often fails to meet instructor (and student) needs. For one thing, resources become confined within the LMS. Think of an adjunct who’s teaching a Political Science 101 course at multiple colleges. Our part-time adjunct (Prof. PT) has digital assets ready to go: syllabus, teaching resources, reference materials.

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The problem is, each college has its own LMS, which means Prof. PT can’t easily transfer those materials between college  ”walled gardens”…so our Prof. PT has to do the same prep work all over again, creating a new collection of materials and “courseware” for each college at which s/he teaches. Adjunct professors are freelance education professionals and need to protect their intellectual property. If they don’t, an institution can use or disseminate Prof. PT’s courseware without his/her consent—simply because it’s contained within the institution’s LMS.

Adjuncts also lack the resources that facilitate faculty-student interaction. Chances are that our part-time adjunct doesn’t have an on-campus office, which makes it pretty tough to schedule office hours with students. Yet the most important factor in student success, according to a 2013 report, is interaction with faculty. Limiting these opportunities hurts student performance.

In addition, adjuncts have limited access to two kinds of human resources: professional development support and peer communities. These are traditionally campus-based, but adjuncts are not based on campus—they’re on the go and largely on their own when it comes to professional development. The Coalition on the Academic Workforce considers this reality “another indicator that institutions are not investing in maintaining and improving the quality of instruction,” which—you guessed it—hits the neediest college students the hardest.

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Researchers and startups such as Open Assembly are collaborating to figure out how technology can provide the greatest benefit and user experience for faculty and students. By sheer numbers the majority of these users are adjuncts and the non-traditional “new student majority.” These companies are exploring tech solutions that use existing LMS technology more effectively by extending its capabilities.

Campus technology that first and foremost serves its core users, the students and instructors, helps everyone work more efficiently. For adjuncts teaching on multiple campuses or multiple courses within the same subject, user-focused tech reduces duplication of tasks—no more reinventing the curriculum wheel all over again. Serving teachers first also means recognizing their intellectual property and giving them control of the IP that they have created on their own time and their own dime. This can give adjunct faculty more agency and perhaps eventually, more academic freedom.

Community colleges also need to do a better job of fostering greater interaction between learners and educators, and between the instructors themselves. Since colleges don’t provide enough private campus spaces for student-instructor conversations, how about creating private virtual spaces? Under the current professional, and even technological, structure of community colleges, adjuncts also have limited opportunities to connect and interact with colleagues. Since contingent faculty are not rooted on any one campus, they need an on-demand digital space in which they can share best practices with peers and colleagues, and social media isn’t going to cut it. They need adjunct-managed, adjunct-centered peer communities.

If an institution provides the flexible technology that can handle these suggested solutions, along with support from campus administrators, colleges can achieve a high ROE: return on education. What does high ROE look like? For starters, increased student engagement and success; improved efficiency of instructors and instruction; lower turnover rates among contingent faculty. All of which drive down costs for institutions.

Group of People Using Digital Devices with Speech BubbleMaria Maisto, English instructor at Cuyahoga Community College, member of the MLA Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities,  and president of the New Faculty Majority, which advocates on behalf of contingent faculty, has said that “authentic learning cannot take place in isolation.” Teachers and students who participate in that learning must belong to a community.

When they don’t belong to a community, they end up like our lonely drivers at the beginning of our story, on opposite sides of that empty, sprawling parking lot: struggling to work in the in-between hours they have, with too little time, and no one to reach out to in a pinch.

Open Assembly Beta: OER Meets Web 2.0

Developing education technology that truly serves the everyday needs of college educators and learners is not an easy task. It’s actually an incredibly humbling undertaking, and you need to be prepared for failure before you can achieve any modicum of success.

And the metrics for success? Nudging the needle, to any degree, on any of the many challenges facing learners and educators in the trenches of higher education: college readiness, student debt, unaffordable course materials, poor student engagement, insufficient faculty-student interaction, recognition of competencies gained outside of formal education pathways, development of collaboration and other soft skills, coping with walled technology gardens, need to improve adjunct working conditions…and more.

Open Assembly is a team of social entrepreneurs and educators on a mission to provide instructors and students with user-friendly, personal technology tools made for learning and teaching—in an integrated interface or “toolset,” and at a price point all can afford. These tools are designed to help educators and learners nudge the needle on the challenges they face every day.

The Creative Power of Open

Must-have tools for learning and teaching include those that facilitate collaboration in various forms, those that support formation of user-driven learning communities, those that enable portable content and data management from one environment to another, and those that permit both students and instructors to engage in content curation. In the realm of content, Open Assembly prioritizes open educational resources (OER), and not only because they are free to access online.

OER are inherently shareable based on the terms of Creative Commons licensing. At the bleeding edge of openness, the CC BY license can inspire new, open pedagogies by leveraging the remixing and sharing potential of OER for co-creation—via collaboration, connection, and interaction. Between educators. Between learners. Between educators and learners.

Paradoxically, most OER used in the classroom, which at its best is free to Retain, Reuse, Remix, Revise and Redistribute, is typically deployed in an LMS (a walled garden). There’s a conflict between the openness of OER and the closed, by-invitation-only nature of the LMS. Phil Hill has eloquently described this problem in recent blog posts.

Open Assembly has built an extension to the LMS that effectively bridges the walled garden and the Web. This allows OER to operate at its greatest potential, deployed in a secure technology framework that supports flexible, open learning. A win-win for institutions, instructors, and students.

OER can also make a significant contribution to reducing costs, and yet between two-thirds and three-quarters of all faculty nationwide report that they are unaware of OER, such as open courseware (e.g., MIT OCW) and open textbooks. Educators familiar with OER find them difficult to adapt. We believe OER need to become modularized in order to make reuse and adaptation easy enough for many more educators to adopt and make their own. You can Browse OER on our site to see what this looks like.

Who Owns the Data? 

In an age where data privacy and IP ownership are issues of increasing relevance for individuals (whether or not they think about it), Open Assembly insists that you own your data. We will not share it with any institution, organization, association, or governmental entity without your permission. It’s yours to retain or remove from our platform at any time.

It’s also portable. We know that you create and manage content in more than one context, and Google Drive and Dropbox are OK but are not made for education. For instance, you can’t do more than keep content in folders, and you can’t share easily with others via multiple channels, including social media. The LMS has limitations, too. Content gets trapped in course shells that expire. Instructors have to recreate the same course in more than one LMS, and students lose their work if they forget to remove it before the end of the semester.

Moreover, we’re all learning everywhere, in settings both formal and informal. At home, at work, at school, on the go. With Open Assembly you can integrate your learning across all of these contexts. This way you remain at the center of your lifelong learning path.

Owning Our Learning

Our goal is for Open Assembly to become a truly “convivial toolset” that enables educators and learners to remain in control of their privacy, their networks, and their learning. As Audrey Watters points out in a recent talk, “We all need to own our learning.” Technology in and of itself is not the answer, but can perhaps help us all move toward a culture of openness in education—the only sustainable future we at Open Assembly can imagine.

Open Assembly v2.0 (Beta)

We soft-released Open Assembly v2.0 earlier this fall, and as of Dec. 1 we’re officially in public Beta. The free trial ends Jan. 31, 2015, just in time to breeze through spring semester with our portable toolset for learning and teaching.

We are very grateful to all of our early adopters and advisors for believing in us and for helping us shape and develop the platform. A special thanks to the Education Design Studio and our colleagues in the 2014 cohort for giving us the tools, mentorship and support to transition from dreamers into increasingly effective entrepreneurs.

OERRH OER Evidence Report 2013-2014

Valuable insights for learners, instructors, institutions about how OER is being used.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that OER Research Hub is now ready to release the first of its dissemination reports. The ‘OER Evidence Report 2013-2014’ brings together a range of evidence around the research hypotheses of the product and provides an overview of the impact OER is having on a range of teaching and learning practices.

OER Evidence Report 2013-2014

If you’re lucky enough to be at Open Education 2014 this week then the research team will be presenting some of the results in person on 20th November at 10.15am in the Virginia Ballroom.  But if you can’t make that and you want to discuss the report then just come find us at the conference, comment below, or get in touch online.

We’re interested to know how useful this information is to you, and whether the patterns we have found in OER impact correspond with your own experiences as teachers, learners…

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A Fine Hoax of Attitudes Towards Adjuncts in the Chronicle

Annals of an Adjunct: Open Assembly Test Drive

To better engage her students, this adjunct details how she used our platform to track their progress (and find out whether they were really paying attention in class).

This summer I had the opportunity to take the Open Assembly platform for a demo in my image-based humanities course at a large urban public institution.

As a teacher for 14 years in some way or another, I have developed my own style of teaching that I’ve honed over the semesters. I’ve found that as my confidence in my voice grew, I abandoned the podium to which I originally found myself tethered. Because of this style of instruction, I did not teach directly from the OA platform, but I did spend many hours crafting the course within OA using information that reinforced what we covered in class.

While some students are able to take notes and still follow along, for others this proves difficult.  This summer I had two foreign students who were somewhat new to the U.S. Their writing was fine, but when speaking with me, it became clear that they did not understand everything I was saying. This is problematic in an accelerated course where content is covered quite rapidly. Both of these students greatly benefited from reviewing the content on our OA course page, where they could review the learning materials at a slower pace and re-watch the video content until they understood.

This brings up the way I enjoyed using Open Assembly the most during these courses: taking advantage of the ANALYTICS function to track students’ access to resources that I uploaded for the course. Through blank stares and low test scores, I had a hunch that certain students were not following along. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw that they had not accessed either the readings or the modules on the OA platform. While it seems a little “Big Brother,” it is a useful tool that allowed me to follow up with students who were not accessing the course materials.

Another significant benefit of Open Assembly was that for the first time, every one of my students had access to the assigned textbook. Prior to this semester, I had not used an open textbook before. I found an excellent open educational resource (OER) alternative to the (somewhat costly) textbook I had been using before, and assigned it to my latest crop of students. For once I had a level playing field in my classroom, with every student being able to afford this (free & open) textbook.

One of the ways that I plan to use the Open Assembly platform in the future is for constructing debate and assignments that can take place outside of class time. Case in point: there is immense debate over a group of sculptures known as the Elgin marbles or Parthenon marbles. These relief sculptures decorated the interior and exterior of the Parthenon temple that sits on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Acquired by Lord Elgin during his time as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century, they are now on display in the British Museum. This debate involves repatriation of artifacts and the question of who rightfully “owns” the Parthenon marbles. The Greek government contends that they were taken out of the country illegally, and there are numerous documents and video clips giving alternate sides of the argument.

In a group-based discussion exercise, students often need prompting to start the debating, but once started, many join the conversation. Unfortunately there is not enough time in the semester to devote a whole class to this exercise, so this is how I plan to use the Open Assembly platform: through videos integrated within my curriculum, students will be able to form their opinions about the status of these sculptures, then make a statement through the COMMENTS interface, forcing them to take a position. This is followed up with a formal writing assignment where the student has to make a statement and then defend that decision in a two- to three-page written response. I’m really excited about the debate possibilities that Open Assembly can bring to my classroom.

A MOOC Runs Amok: Update

A pedagogical experiment conducted by a professor at the University of Zurich upset his institution, many of his students, and Coursera headquarters. The debacle surrounding his tinkering with a Coursera course highlighted important issues surrounding Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that are actually NOT “open;” meaning, NOT providing users with “the freedom to use, customize, improve and redistribute educational resources without constraint….as part of a worldwide effort to make education both more accessible and more effective. (Capetown Open Education Declaration)

The emphasis is mine and used to point out alignment with Coursera’s mission: “We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education. We aim to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.” i.e., accessible and effective.

Those of us committed to open education would argue that such a mission can only be accomplished if education, pedagogy, courses, content, data, etc., are actually and truly “open.”

Meanwhile, back to the MOOC that ran amok.

The professor’s intention was to see if he could get students to migrate to a non-Coursera platform and spur a discussion of the hazards of data-mining in free online courses. Unfortunately, he was not “open” with his students and therefore, many reacted with anger instead of engaging in reflection about the fact that their behavior and Non-open MOOC-cow.jpgemotions in the course’s online forum were being tracked by Coursera, without their consent and for the benefit of Coursera.

Professor Dehaye’s position was described in a Wired Campus blog post:

“The professor (or someone posting in his name) wrote about how he did not want to assist the company in its efforts to collect and monetize student data. He said he had been contacted repeatedly by the company about the data.

‘I feel they are fishing for business models, which I am certainly not going to give them,’ Mr. Dehaye wrote in the post, which was first reported by Inside Higher Ed. ‘I don’t want to tell them how to track you.’ “

George Siemens provides a thoughtful update in a recent blog post congratulating Dehaye for having the courage to “draw attention to Coursera policies and practices around data.” He concludes by saying:

“The MOOC Mystery was about an academic doing what we expect and need academics to do. Unfortunately it was poorly executed and not properly communicated so the message has been largely lost. Regardless, Dehaye has started a conversation, raised a real concern, pushed buttons, and put a spotlight on unfair or opaque practices by organizations who are growing in influence in education. Yes, there are ethical concerns that need to be addressed. But let’s not use those ethical concerns to silence an important concern or isolate a needed narrative around what MOOCs are, how they are impacting higher education and faculty, and how control is being wrested from the people who are vital counter-balancing agents in society’s power structure.”

Paul-Olivier – thanks. Let’s have more of this.

CCK08: Connectivism & Connective KnowledgeA lively exchange of comments follows, and at one point Siemens draws a comparison to analogous experimentation within the first (ever) massive open online course, CCK08,orchestrated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2008:

“Stephen Downes subscribed all learners to one of the discussion forums during the week on power and control in learning. Learners were understandably outraged. Suddenly their inbox was assaulted with dozens, hundreds, of emails. The point that he was trying to make was on the power that faculty have in a course. Numerous learners swore off the course and were understandably upset. The point was made clearly and concisely and most learners, once they finished deleted their forum notification emails, understood what had happened. Overall it was successful…”

Open Assembly firmly believes that the data that is aggregated on our platform belongs to our users. Users are free to request that data at any time, including its deletion from our databases. That is an important dimension of “open”, as important as the capability of engaging any course or other resource within usage rights defined by David Wiley’s 5Rs framework:

CONTENT  IS “OPEN” TO THE EXTENT THAT ITS LICENSE ALLOWS USERS TO ENGAGE IN THE 5R ACTIVITIES:

Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

10 Blended Learning Trends Infographic | e-Learning Infographics

Comprehensive infographic about blended learning: trends, components, aspects.

Via: www.dreambox.com

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Minoring in MOOCs

I have either the gift or curse of having eclectic interests. I major in engineering physics and environmental studies at a school that requires I take a range of liberal arts courses to graduate. Even so, I find myself interested in even more, to the point that employers have told me I have too large of a range of interests.

That’s where MOOCs come in handy. I have used online resources to supplement my education, and the ability to do this continues to grow. Since my school does not have a large course offering for engineering and I have little room to add courses that are not for my major or graduation requirements, resources such as MIT OpenCourseware (MIT OCW) come in handy. MIT OCW specifically is an amazing source, because it is not required to follow a class- although for many you can- lecture notes and videos are available just for reference! I also used MIT OCW in order to get an idea of what I would be dealing with when I took ‘Modern Physics,’ (totally mind boggling ideas in case you were wondering). From learning more about a topic I want to work with or preparing for next semester courses, their potential is invaluable.

Large universities are much more capable of providing of these courses. I have no way of taking courses specifically in nuclear energy and engineering at my home school, but online, the possibilities are endless. I can now tailor my skills to specific jobs, and while my transcript will not reflect it, I can still market myself in the workforce with the learning I have gained.

Beyond that, those of us that crave knowledge just for its sake have the opportunity to pursue it from open, high-quality sources.

CEO Domi Enders Presents at EdLab Demo Night 4/1/14

Julie’s Journey: Collaboration, or Why My Project is Getting Better Each Day

While my thesis and research this semester are technically independent, I’m starting to learn that not much can be done without collaboration. My work has developed and changed so much from when I first started, and a lot of that is due to discussions with peers and mentors. Going into the thesis, I only had an idea of what I might possibly want to accomplish. I went from broad ideas of different environmental issues to write my thesis on, to a project in which I am able to complete relevant and interesting research to include in my thesis as well as provide data on air quality around campus. It’s through conversations and trial-and-error of different ideas that I came to realize what would be possible, and what was too much of a stretch. Beyond that, the support I have received from my mentors is how I have gotten so far. This is my first time working with Arduinos, the micro-controllers I’ll be using to collect data on air quality, and with environmental monitoring in general. It’s also my first project that is this complex and large.

Embracing collaboration is just the culmination of how my education has been built. From English class in high school to my current physics courses, discussion and collaboration have played, and do play, important roles in how my peers and I have been taught and developed our knowledge. The tools available to support collaboration have come a long way from our 40-minute, in-class discussions about Shakespeare in high school. Now, courses use Blogger, Blackboard, Google Groups, and other resources to facilitate collaboration. Each has their own appeal, but these platforms are also lacking as far as trying to be the virtual classroom that teachers are attempting to create. Currently, my thesis class uses Google Groups as an email notification system and Blackboard for discussion. I find these limited compared to what I can do using Open Assembly.

Throughout my project development, I have had people sending relevant documents and information, others who just want a more detailed idea of what I am doing, and peers who have input and thoughts on my work. I have found that Open Assembly caters to all of these needs, more so than anything my professors have used to date. By inviting my mentors in my “course” with the role of  “Instructors”, they are able to upload pertinent material directly to the platform. Those collaborators invited as “Students” can comment on the work I have done, as well as upload other resources they think might be relevant and helpful. This set-up allows for fluid collaboration and discussion that would not be possible otherwise.

I’ll be sharing more about the collaborative power of Open Assembly further down the line. Stay tuned!

Julie’s Journey: Keeping Tabs on Tabs

If you’re anything like me, the more tabs you have open on your computer screen, the more time you spend browsing the Internet. When I’m doing research, it only gets worse.

As I’ve worked on my thesis, especially looking at preliminary materials, it has gotten to the point where I cannot see the complete titles of the tabs. Even worse is when I close a window or click another link and “lose” a link or document (because my screen is so crowded with tabs and open windows) and cannot find the web page that seemed to be exactly what I needed.

Luckily I came to my senses and realized I was not using Open Assembly’s platform to its full potential.

Instead of keeping a tab or document open if I like it, I try to immediately upload it to OA. Not only does this force me to quickly evaluate the link for description, use, and citation, it also enables me to go back and review all of the uploaded material in one place. Once I upload a tab and then close it, it can stay closed, since everything I put on the OA platform opens on the platform. And my screen can be a little tidier and less crowded.

Another feature I’ve been using is the CrocoDoc on the PDFs. This is an HTML5 feature that can be embedded within a platform, such as Open Assembly, to enable comments and highlighting on the uploaded documents.

A lot of the resources I am reading are downloaded from databases as PDFs. Since my work is on an environmental-oriented thesis, I would be a hypocrite if I wasted paper printing each piece of material that caught my interest. Instead, I have been highlighting and commenting on my uploaded documents using CrocoDoc on the OA platform.

While it is not completely the same as physically highlighting and writing on a hard-copy printout, it comes fairly close. It will make actually writing quite a bit easier because of the organization it provides, at least compared to the messes of physical papers and bookmarked webpages; plus the added bonus, again, of not having an unmanageable number of documents open.

I won’t lie and say that I don’t have a ridiculous amount of tabs open anymore, but my research organization just got easier.

As promised in the last episode, I’ve taken some time to tackle the question of copyright. It can certainly be confusing, but I’m finding it worthwhile to learn more about how to share content responsibly.

When uploading content to Open Assembly, there are three main license types to choose from, with a few options in the underlying tiers. I have outlined them in hopes of making the laws and pertinent court-case decisions a bit more clear and concise.

Public Domain (“No Rights Reserved”)

CC0

This is when the creator of the material waives all copyrights. It means that anyone can build upon, enhance, and reuse the work without any restrictions.

A Public Domain (abbreviated as PD or CC0) license should only be applied to your own work unless you have the right to apply CC0 to someone else’s work, as well.

Creative Commons (“Some Rights Reserved”)

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. The CC license allows creators to retain copyright while permitting others to copy, reuse, distribute, and make specific kinds of use of the work. There’s an alphabet soup’s worth of Creative Commons licenses, each defining how much liberty the creator will let others take with their work. All of them however require attribution to the author(s).

CC BY

Others can distribute, remix, tweak, and build on the work—even commercially—as long as the user gives credit to the creator. The gold standard of “open” works.

CC BY-SA

Similar to CC BY but all derivative works and new creations must apply the same license. This means that anyone who changes or reuses the work, must keep the material as CC BY-SA instead of something more open or more restrictive.

CC BY-ND

Allows for commercial and non-commercial redistribution but must remain unchanged and intact as well as credited to the original creator. This does not allow for any derivative works.

CC BY-NC

Others can remix, tweak, and build upon the work, but the original must be credited and new, derivative works must be non-commercial.

CC BY-NC-SA

Similar to CC-BY-NC but all new creations must be under the same licence as the original. This means all others that change or reuse the work, must keep the material CC BY-NC-SA instead of something more open or restrictive.

CC BY-NC-ND

Others can download and distribute the material, but it cannot be changed or used commercially, and the user has to credit the creator.

If you love charts, here’s an easy-to-read illustration of what we’ve covered so far:

distribute and share with others

must credit the creator

remix, tweak, and build upon to the heart’s content

only for non-commercial use

must have the same license as the original creation

CC BY

x

x

x

CC BY-SA

x

x

x

x

CC BY-ND

x

x

CC BY-NC

x

x

x

x

CC BY-NC-SA

x

x

x

x

x

CC BY-NC-ND

x

x

x

CC0

x

 

x

And, here’s a helpful interactive tool for determining which CC license might best apply to your material.

If you’re looking for content that you can freely and legally use, there is a giant pool of CC-licensed creativity available to you. There are hundreds of millions of works — from songs and videos to scientific and academic material — available to the public for free and legal use under the terms of CC copyright licenses, with more being contributed every day.

Traditional Copyright (“All Rights Reserved”)

This is the default for all works unless noted otherwise. There are many nuances to copyright and intellectual property, but I will try to keep this as basic as possible. In short, if all rights are reserved under a traditional copyright, the creator of the work is the only one who can reproduce the work, make changes (remix, tweak, or build upon) to the work, and use the work commercially. This copyright does expire, typically 70 years after the creator’s death, although this is another area with exceptions and limitations.

Fair Use

Under “all rights reserved” falls the often-misunderstood “fair use” designation. Fair use is is a set of guidelines (rather than legal directives) permitting limited use under certain conditions, based on four factors: purpose, nature, amount, and effect. It can be quite a murky area but is especially important in education. It really can only be said that a certain utilization of the work “favors” fair use. Below are some explanations that are pertinent to education. Check out this checklist here for more detail and examples.

When the purpose of the work is  criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, it is usually favorable for fair use. There is also favor for “transformative” uses such as being quoted in a paper or altered art for a mixed media project

The nature of the work is not favorable if it is not yet published or if it is and easily available material in the educational market.

The amount used can be difficult to determine, but it is not fair use if it is capturing the “heart” of the work, or too large of a portion of the work. This is qualitative as well as quantitative and really is a judgment call.

The effect concerns how the use will affect the market of the copyright. If it will cause market changes or loss in value for the original work, it is not favorable under Fair Use.

_______________________________________________________

Hopefully this information will help you as much as it’s helped me understand which license to use when uploading material. At the moment, Open Assembly has the default copyright set to CC BY as this is the “gold standard” of open licenses, especially in education, where it is enabling access to free textbooks and other resources for over a million students in the US alone.

If CC BY does not apply to your uploaded content, be sure to change it. Remember that this is a VERY BASIC guide and if you have ANY doubts about copyright licenses, err on the safe side and assume that all rights are reserved and carefully follow Fair Use–or look deeper into it.

Also, not to be forgotten, especially given the topic of the post, all my information was gathered from Columbia University’s Copyright Advisory Board, the Creative Commons website, and the U.S. government’s copyright site.

If you want to help the cause of Creative Commons for students and teachers in your circles, pass this info on. Let your teachers know about CC-based open textbook publishing, a growing and important trend improving access to education. You might even benefit one day with a much smaller textbook bill!

Open Assembly Moves to Next Level in Milken-Penn GSE Competition

Open Assembly is proud and tickled pink to have been selected to compete as a semifinalist for a series of prizes in the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC). Launched in 2010, it’s the first business plan competition to focus exclusively on educational ventures. The Milken Family Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (GSE), entities committed to innovation and excellence in education, formed this partnership with the intent to nurture entrepreneurial activity in the education space.

We’re competing in the categories of Innovation in Online Education and Open Educational Resources. Deadline to submit our biz plan is March 11, 11:59 pm.

Open Assembly Has Moved!

A big thank you to the Varick Incubator for being our home for two years as we began our startup journey. We’ve now relocated to the Centre for Social Innovation, a buzzing social venture community. It’s an inspiring and beautiful space in the Starrett Lehigh building, and we already feel at home. Thanks for welcoming us with open arms.

Upcoming news: release date for Open Assembly v2.0, with a new interface and social learning features. We’ve made sharing OER in the context of a course incredibly collaborative and social. Thanks to all our users for your input!

CEO Domi Enders Loves Audrey Watters Keynote

One of the high points for me at the Open Ed Conference was listening to Audrey Watters deliver her brilliant keynote. Audrey took on the language of the Apocalypse that dominates discussion and innovation in the education technology space, and took us on quite a journey.

You can enjoy it here.

Our CEO Attends the 2013 Open Education Conference in Park City, Utah

The Open Education Conference, held this year in Park City, Utah November 6-8, 2013, is the premiere international gathering of open education practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and advocates. 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of this historic event.

Open Assembly’s CEO Domitilla Enders will be attending.

For over a decade the focus of the open education community has been on creating and sharing open educational resources (OER). A vast, high quality open content infrastructure has been built atop which a new generation of educational innovations are being developed. The 10th annual Open Education 2013 Conference celebrates the success of that work and looks forward to the critical work of the next decade.

Program: http://openeducation2013.sched.org/

Open Assembly Unleashes the Power of Open

Open Assembly announces the upcoming release of a major update to its platform in the spring of 2014. This update empowers users sharing open educational resources (OER) by integrating robust networked learning capabilities.

Sign up here for an invite to preview and/or take it for a spin: Open Assembly v2.0 .

The textbook of the future has no spine, no fixed parts. It’s a born-digital playlist of affordable learning content accessible to every student. It can be customized, personalized, and is ever evolving. —Domitilla Enders, CEO, Open Assembly

Open Assembly Invited to Tech-Ed Day

Open Assembly will be presenting its platform for assembling and sharing resources to NYC-area educators at Tech-Ed Day on October 21, 2013 at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, NY.

Summer and Fall Pilots

After a successful summer pilot in classrooms throughout several local colleges, Open Assembly is kicking off the fall semester by inviting professors from CUNY, SUNY, and other New York schools to participate in its fall pilot. Participating professors will have the opportunity to test-drive our platform in their classrooms, with their students.

The majority of the instructors who participated in the summer pilot shared that they found Open Assembly to be a valuable tool for teaching and learning. They also universally said that compiling course materials in a single location using Open Assembly alleviated the pressure associated with having students buy books and/or link to various internet sites to access course materials. Of the students surveyed, 77% said that Open Assembly was more visually appealing than Blackboard. Combining drag-and-drop ease of use alongside attractive visual design, Open Assembly’s immersive CoursePilot was designed by educators, for educators (and students), with the learning experience as central to its core.

If you are interested in participating in our fall pilot (or if you know anyone who is), please click on the orange banner on our website to sign up.

Open Assembly at NYEdTech Meetup

When we heard that the topic of the August NYEdTech Meetup was “Open Educational Resources: standing higher on the shoulders of giants,” we knew that Open Assembly should be involved. Our CEO Domi Enders was invited to represent Open Assembly on the panel, alongside representatives from OERCommons/ISKME, MIT Open Courseware, and the Monterey Institute. Open Assembly was the sole NYC-based company (and the only start-up) featured in the Meetup.

After introductions, each presenter was given a few minutes to discuss OER before the session was opened to questions from the audience. A lively discussion ensued in person and on twitter. You can see more of the discussion on twitter under the hashtag #nyedtech.

Open Assembly at ETIS

The first annual Education Technology Innovation Summit was held in NYC, bringing together educators and entrepreneurs focused on the intersection of education and technology. Hosted by Baltimore-based Mindgrub, the one-day event featured Open Assembly CEO Domi Enders as an invited speakers amongst an impressive line-up. Sessions throughout the day focused on every aspect of EdTech, from mobile learning to game based learning and even professional development. In addition to Domi’s panel presentation, we were able to demo the Open Assembly platform during the networking portion of the day.

Open Assembly at EdLab

On July 17, 2013, the Open Assembly team traveled uptown to Columbia University’s Teachers College for an EdLab Seminar. Over lunch, Domi gave a demonstration of our site and spoke about a variety of topics, including open resources, the challenges of being the female CEO of a startup, and the need to keep our users’ needs at the forefront of our business decisions. The audience asked great questions of Domi and our tech team.

The presentation, and its associated comments, can be found on the EdLab Vialogues page: Video

Open Assembly at the Sloan Blended Learning Conference

Milwaukee, WI

8-9 July 2013

Open Assembly was excited to have the chance to meet with a dedicated group of educators at the 2013 Sloan Blended Learning conference. This year’s theme, Trend to Blend, featured “lessons from the field” on the past decade of blended learning.

As sponsors, Domi and Tracy represented Open Assembly in giving a well-received vendor showcase presentation on how to use Open Educational Resources in the classroom. We introduced the standing-room only crowd to what an OER is, how they can find them, and how they can best incorporate them into their teaching (with a demo of the Open Assembly platform).

If you’re looking for more information on OERs or on Open Assembly, attached here are the two handouts that we gave out during the Sloan Conference.

Intro to Open Assembly

Open Assembly is a free, cloud-based platform for social learning, collaborative teaching, and content curation using open textbooks, open courseware, and other open educational resources (OER).

By unleashing the Power of Open, we’re encouraging innovation based on networked learning in hybrid and online environments. The platform is free for any user–students, self-learners, instructors, admins, institutions–for open education purposes.

Assemble a playlist of learning resources. Remix, adapt, or clone an existing playlist.  Share it with a colleague or peer, at the course or module level. Engage with comments and resources of your own. Analyze engagement. Archive only what you want to keep when the course or project is over. Take it with you on your learning path from course to course, or from one learning goal to another. Accessible on any web-enabled browser device.

Open Assembly can be used in numerous ways: to create a playlist or course, to assemble a digital curriculum, a coursepack or collection of resources, and to undertake research, on your own or better yet, in collaboration with others.

Our goal is to make teaching and learning online more accessible, more engaging, more interactive, and a lot more intuitive. We’re setting a new standard for teaching and learning with others. We combine teacher-centric and learner-centric tools, which makes us learning-centric. 

Interested in checking us out? Open Assembly is currently in private Beta, but feel free to Request an Invite on our website if you would like to explore Open Assembly or pilot our platform in your hybrid or online classroom. Here’s a preview:

OpenAssembly

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