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

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Julie’s Journey: Make It Open

As in my last post concerning collaboration, I have been doing some research about Open Research. More about that in a moment.

What am I researching? My goal is to extend the thesis I will be turning in for a grade this semester into an on-going research project that collects data about air quality on my school campus. The whole point of this project is to make more people aware of greenhouse emissions, something we cannot directly see, so it is a given that my results will be open access. The end goal is to create a website with the data, similar to what UC-Berkeley has done with BeACON.

So, I have found out a few new things. What I will be doing with my project is called “open access data.” Meaning all of the data, and results models and graphs, will be available to anyone. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is a great example of efforts to create ways that data and research can be more available.

Then what makes “open research” different than what I described above? The answer: collaboration. A project can be considered open research if the “end goal,” or the final output, is likely to change, since multiple research entities are adding input and thoughts to the overall research. Besides the availability of data and results, as in open access, the experimental methodologies and techniques are also available for your studying pleasure and are open to improvement.

There are many websites that are trying to support this type of collaboration, and while Open Assembly is not specifically designed for research, it IS optimized for collaboration. As such, its tools can be adapted for any collaborative teaching or learning context. For example, with a research topic or project taking the place of an official college course and syllabus, the “Comments” feature allows other users to add notes, pertinent resources, and materials.

My current project has a certain end goal, but if you’re interested in providing input or getting a closer look, be sure to email me at julie@openassembly.com to gain access to the course and experience how I am using Open Assembly for Open Research.

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.

Julie’s Journey: Pilot Season Starts

This is the first in a semester-long series taking an up-close look at the functionalities and potential of the latest release of Open Assembly’s platform for networked learning in open education environments. Open Assembly is a powerful framework for easily developing or remixing courseware, curating content, and managing research projects. Work on your own—or better yet, in teaching and learning networks you create by inviting others into your process.

I’m Julie. I’ve been working at Open Assembly for several months, and after seeing the development of the revamped platform, I was beyond excited when I got the go-ahead to use v2.0.

Some background: I’m a junior at Fordham University studying engineering physics and environmental policy, with interests in technology, coding, and economics. The time has come for me to write a thesis for my environmental policy major; my thesis, at the moment at least, will concern dangerous gases in the atmosphere.

I will be using the Open Assembly platform as a project management tool, compiling materials, resources, and drafts for my thesis. I will be blogging about my progress, experience, and varying relevant topics every week. I will also be curating the topic “Julie’s Journey: Developing a Thesis on Open Assembly” on Scoop.it. You’ll be able to find my posts, as well at other relevant material on my thesis topic, educational technology, and other pertinent information.

If you’d like to follow closer and have even more of an inside look, contact me at julie@openassembly.com, and I can give you access to my course. Not only will this let you experience Open Assembly as I develop my thesis during this pilot season, but you will also be able to comment on anything I’ve posted—and even post content and links you think might be relevant to my research!

Episode 1

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