This week was a difficult reflection in our grant writing class. I think that the world of academia can be kind of contrived sometimes, so I believe it is a valuable push to try to think of academic research in a more real way. In this case, it means comparing it to the principles of startup building, funding, and sustenance. You should enjoy and have great bonus products inside free slots no deposit here. Will not skip the time being a lot more rich.
In the startup world, there is the notion of the MVP, or the minimum viable product. Essentially, what is the minimum amount of work that needs to be done to deliver some sort of product to the customers for feedback, profit, and iteration. I honestly am still pretty stumped as to what the minimum viable product is when it comes to research.
Is the MVP the smallest question you can ask? The smallest amount of results that you could return while still providing some kind of insight to your academic community? Is it a blog post versus a manuscript? I honestly really don’t know? For the purpose of this exercise, I think my most closely related understanding of the MVP is the smallest question I can ask while still providing new knowledge into the community.
In the case of my research, I think that question is: How do scholars decide how to use social media in support of their scholarship?
The video of Eric Reis (http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2009/08/minimum-viable-product-guide.html) posed the question: how can I fail as early as possible? I think in academia, it’s doing research that no one cares about or is based on unfounded assumptions. Fortunately, there are journals and communities that care about the research, and due to the limited literature, I have been able to read enough of the literature to feel informed that my assumptions that the research is built on are valid. In terms of being able to fail as early as possible, I think the way to actualize that is by conducing pilot studies. This isn’t going to launch me into complete failure, and I think there is some work that still needs to be done to get to the point where I have a solid pilot study designed, but I believe that this will help me to make the mistakes I need to make early, on a small scale, and learn from them for the studies that will matter, that will actually inform the research I’m doing.
I believe that my pilot study, or my MVP, is a set of interviews that ask questions on scholarly patterns of behavior as it pertains to social media use. This is where iteration comes in. I will iterate upon this pilot study, to create a larger scale survey, and then more informed interviews stacked on top of this survey which will have informed the questions I’m asking.
In terms of how I can structure all of this around what I’m learning, the principles learned in the cathedral and the bazaar becomes very valuable. Although some of these principles are specific to open source software development, there are many that apply perfectly to academia. I will list them below and expound upon how I think they can prove valuable to me.
- Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.
This is my personal itch! I find this so fascinating. Of course there will be times that the research seems tedious, or I won’t want to do the work, but the fact that it is something that I am interested in will allow me to keep going when the hard, tedious, or frustrating aspects of doing research present themselves
- Good programmers know what to write. Great ones know what to rewrite (and reuse).
I think in academia this can look like using grant proposals, using drafts of ideas. Don’t throw away work that has been done unnecessarily. Self-cite work, or build upon the work of others, and then spend all your energy creating new material and content. For me this looks like using my coursework to forward my research, and vise versa. This will hopefully get me to where I want to be with my research and one day, just maybe even graduated.
- Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers.
In academia, I believe this looks like getting feedback from those people who you value in the field. Advisors, fellow researchers, those doing work in your area. As Eric stated in his video about startups, we are psychologically wired against feedback because it’s scary. A goal of mine as I worked through my masters and now PhD programs, is to be better at getting feedback. None of it is personal, and it’s all going to push me towards getting to where I want to be and doing quality research. This has been the most valuable lesson I am still learning.
- If you treat your beta testers as if they’re you’re most valuable resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource
Treat your participants, fellow researchers, advisors, and reviewers with respect and value. I think this goes a long way in a community, especially in my case where the participants are scholars spending their own time trying to deal with all of the demands that come with being a faculty member. I believe that appreciation goes a long way in a community that often times takes advantage of free labor.
- Often, the most striking and innovative solutions come from realizing that your concept of the problem was wrong
I believe this principle states the importance of being willing to realize that not all of your assumptions are correct, you’re not always going to get the results you wanted, and your hypothesis isn’t always what you find to be true in your research. If it was, there would be no point of doing research. I think being open to mistakes and solutions, whether they be methodological, theoretical, or any other kind of mistakes, and taking that understanding and turning it around to make your research better is an important aspect of academic research.
Although I’m sure there are other ways in which I can skew the words of Eric Raymond, and the many that speak on the success of startups, I think this reflection was valuable and I think academics should more often push themselves to reflect more practical, action oriented fields in the work that they’re doing. Although it’s not something that I’m particularly excellent at doing, it’s a goal I have in continuing down an academic route.
I’ve shared this story a million times before because it was my aha moment when it came to educational technology, and it frames what I care about and the capacity that I think technology has to make in the classroom
When I was in high school, I had a teacher who liked to play around with technology. In my time in his classroom, and in my time helping out in the classroom, we had discussions on Twitter about social issues where we had strangers hopping in and sharing valuable insights. We wrote reviews of books that were read in class that they author found and made comments on. The author was able to distance into the classroom and participate into the discussion. Being able to share our classroom with the greater online community and see the value of (1) having members beyond those in our classroom community participating in our discussions and (2) having publicly available content allow us students to consider more deeply the quality of materials we were submitting because the whole world could see them. It was in these moments that I realized that technology, more specifically the connected web, has the capacity to transform learning.
If technology and online communities have the capacity to transform learning in this way, why are teachers not using these technologies more often? The primary reasons that teachers fear using these technologies due to issues of compliance, security, accessibility, privacy, efficacy in using the technology and other issues that arise as we bring students online in the classroom (Brescia & Miller 2006; Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik 2012; Lewis, Kaufman, Christakis 2008; Murray 2008).
How do we dispel these fears so that technology and connected online networks can have the capacity to transform classroom learning? We need to have a better understanding of where these tensions arise, and how we can model best practices in this online space. Unfortunately, there still has research yet to conducted on these negative impacts, and although some researchers and teachers have given examples of what they believe to be best practices, we don’t know enough across generalizable groups about how this transfers on a larger scale. The question of what are the explicit drawbacks of using technology and how can they be balanced with the benefits is still largely unanswered in the literature. Were we to know the answer to this question, we could have more specific instruction for preservice teachers regarding how to use these technologies effectively in the classroom, we could have university policies and trainings that align with this understanding, or at the very least we could have professors who are informed of the drawbacks and can weight them against the benefits, being careful to comply and respect some of these security and ethical considerations, while still getting the most out of using technology and the online community in a transformative way.
This week, we’ve been talking about Open Pedagogies. Now, the word open gets thrown around a lot so applying it to pedagogies warrants an explanation for what exactly that means.
David Wiley, on his blog, defines open pedagogy as:
“What makes this assignment an instance of open pedagogy instead of just another something we require students to do? As described, the assignment is impossible without the permissions granted by open licenses. This is the ultimate test of whether or not a particular approach or technique can rightly be called “open pedagogy” – is it possible without the free access and 4R permissions characteristic of open educational resources? If the answer is yes, then you may have an effective educational practice but you don’t have an instance of open pedagogy. Open pedagogy is that set of teaching and learning practices only possible in the context of the free access and 4R permissions characteristic of open educational resources.”
This means that open pedagogy takes advantage of the now 5 R permissions to retain, reuse, remix, revise, and redistribute course materials. But what can this actually do for students.
Well, in its simplest forms, it can help build quality content. If we are adopting open textbooks in a way that we just print them out and use them in our classroom, we are ignoring the potential impact that OER can have in our classroom. If we draw in different sources of openly licensed content, fill it with our own information that will glue content together, and present it to our students in a way that meaningfully follows course design. That is where we start to go wheels up with open.
When we truly embrace Open Pedagogy, we begin to find ways to use OER and our community in a partnership that can inspire meaningful learning experiences.
Maybe a student writes a blog post about a book they read and the author of the book comments back. See, Bryan Jackson’s classroom blog for more about this story. This is a meaningful learning experience that can help the student think critically about their reading and reflection. This would not happen in an LMS. Maybe a student a link to a video they created and it gets retweeted 10,000 times. As a result of this, many people engage in a discussion regarding the video and the student and community gain further understanding of the topic. There are many ways in which open pedagogy and embracing the benefits of community and sharing can enhance teaching and learning.
I worry though, about the ability for open pedagogy to gain traction amongst teachers who don’t hold high the values that the open community holds dear.
There are three questions, or maybe concerns that I have with open pedagogy:
- Are these success stories of openness and community the exception, or the rule? Are we replicating the LMS experience online and calling it more than it is? I hope not, but I have seen this to be true many times.
- How do we get faculty members who are stuck in their ways to uproot their teaching principles without them knowing that this can really impact their course learning outcomes?
- What are the ethical implications of expecting our students to share data online and pushing upon them a digital identity that may be fragmented from their own? How do we grapple with these questions and does this concern have a right or wrong answer?
I have high hope for the future of open pedagogy, but I think there are some concerns that are barriers to the adoption of open pedagogy more widely.
Copyright seems to make sense. People create things, they get to benefit from them, and so they create more things. The only problem is that I have never created something that I get monetary benefit from. Copyright isn’t what encouraged me to create anything. When I write, make, record, or do anything original I’m never thinking ‘wow I’m going to make a ton of money on this.’ I think about the benefit that it can bring to me but I also, I get excited to share it with my friends, colleagues, and peers.
I’ve always been a big proponent of quality over quantity. Well, I prefer a quantity of quality items but having been a student forever and being a student for the endless foreseeable future after which I will pursue a career in education, I’ll take what I can get.
When we make the argument you get what you pay for, we are often correct. You have to pay someone to hand craft a quality item that they put special care an attention into. You have to pay if you want real leather as opposed to fake leather, you have to shell out if you want the tasty diet coke and not the gross store brand kind. If I want a winter coat that I know is going to last, I’ll shell out. Notice that all those resources are not priced equally, and notice that they are all physical.
When we look at digital resources, we have to look at them differently. Not only are we not paying for materials to create digital resources, quality of these resources is very subjective. We also do not have to pay high production costs for these materials. When we make the you get what you pay for argument with digital resources, you’re not telling the full story of the cost of digital resources.
That is one of the biggest arguments made with OER. People are worried that if something is free, that it won’t be good quality. Let’s set aside the fact that students may not even look at the textbook and talk about quality. There are costs associated with content creation and hosting, but there are no physical costs associated with compiling and binding a textbook, shipping it out, and getting it to your consumer.
The costs associated with content creation and hosting are easily explained. To host those materials on a small scale, the cost is negligible at about $20 per year. To explain content creation, a lot of these materials are a result teaching and learning. When those materials are produced for publishers, the production costs are barely an incentive, and there aren’t particularly large royalties that incentivize production. In fact, when we’re talking about OER, these production costs are often circumvented with grant money. But now, instead of a publisher being able to collected money on the resource created, while the creator gets nothing, the knowledge is given to students and teachers as a public good. Pretty nice, isn’t it?
Nobody is arguing that there aren’t costs associated with creating and sharing OER, but for those who are arguing that free means low quality as a digital resource, I in turn give you the contents of the internet and welcome you to go look for some quality resources. I assure you, you won’t have a problem finding something you enjoy or is a quality educational resource on the internet that’s free.
Open content has been around almost as long as I’ve been alive. The purpose of this statement isn’t to make David Wiley feel old, and it isn’t to undercut my authority by revealing how young I am, but rather it is a statement of comfort.
I first became aware of open content when I was sixteen, and it drew me in. The idea of open, a commons, sharing, and the community that forms around openness captivated me. I saw pieces of content I created being shared, getting feedback on them, and I watched them improve in ways I never would have had I not shared. I formed relationships that I would not have had I not been willing to share. As I pursued a college education, I moved on, and I didn’t spend too much time thinking about open as it pertains to education. I can’t tell you the moment that I cam back to open, my significant learning experiences, or decided to take a path that brought me where I am today, but I can tell you one thing: open was compelling and open is the reason I am where I am today. It’s comforting to know that open has been around long enough to draw a sixteen year old into researching OER.
One of the biggest questions regarding OER is sustainability. I understand that there are a slew of issues that contribute to questions of sustainability, including questions about the economic sustainability, but I think that the lifespan of OER says something about sustainability. If open content and the principles of open can withstand the lifespan of one graduate researcher, and draw me back in after years of open on the back burner, there is something to be said for the sustainability of OER.
Watching the history of open content and pondering sustainability also got me thinking about quality. If we refer back to LInus’s Law that given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow, having open content out in the open for so many years has allowed for constant improvement, that open content has grown rapidly and in quality much quicker than something that hadn’t been out there, in the open, for constant feedback and improvement.
While I would love to create a meme series of the greying of David’s hair that has accompanied the stress and timespan of the life of the open content movement, I don’t think there’s enough out there in the open to generate such a creation. I will leave with this meme and a comforting reminder that for every addition to the next generation of humans, they are born into a world where people are working towards greater access to knowledge as a public good. I, for one, am grateful to have lived a life where time has passed almost parallel to OER.
There’s something that diners, software, textbooks, and academic journals have in common: they are better when they are open, always. Whether you want to go to Denny’s at 3 AM, or want to read the results of a research study, you should be able to do that whenever you want, without restriction.
Last week in introduction to open education, we discussed open source software, open access, and open data. While I’m almost crippled by the amount of things I could say on all these topics, I want to first recommend reading The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Raymond. Although reading the essay itself will provide a much deeper, eloquent, and knowledgable source for understanding the merits of open, I would like to attempt to highlight some the merits of open in different settings.
Open Source Software
- The sooner you get something out in the open, the sooner you will get feedback necessary for improvement
- The commons that you are a part of will provide support and members of that commons have meaningful contributions to make if they are afforded the opportunity
- Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. This is Linus’ law as asserted by Raymond. Essentially, the more eyes that look at a problem, the quicker someone can find a solution.
- A community will form around interesting problems, and there is value in community beyond the ability of the members to produce a product
Open Access Journals
- Equitable access to research, often collected with public funds
- Authors can maintain the copyright of the work that they have created rather than handing over the copyright to a publisher
- The ability to create a larger body of literature surrounding important topics
- Expand the scale and reach of journal articles
- Allow for the greatest amount of people to not only read, but use and expand upon this knowledge
- Allowing data to do their job: reaching wide audiences and having their collection impact something
- Transparency in research
- Transparency in government dealings that are publicly funded
While these lists aren’t all encompassing, mutually exclusive or authoritative, it’s easy to see the potential benefits of more things being open, especially as it pertains to public knowledge. What alarmed me most when reading these articles was the amount of times something will claim to be open (see openwashing) , especially as it pertains to open access journals.
Peter Suber, paraphrasing the BBB (Budapest, Bethesda, Berlin) definition of Open Access states:
“By “open access” to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”
After doing a review of the “open access journals” in the field of educational technology, very few meet these standards. If we want to be proponents of open, we need to hold open to its defined standards instead of just throwing around the term open and hope it gains some traction. It’s a comforting thought, though, to know that we aren’t the only ones working on open.
If you were to go and checkout at the grocery store, the textbook checkout line, or your amazon order and it gave you a notification that said ‘congratulations, your order today is free,’ I bet you would get pretty excited. At least, I know I would, as would any other reasonable person who likes to save money. This is essentially what happens when you use OER. Schools, faculty, and students get to walk out of the textbook line for free! That in and of itself is exciting, but what if there was something more exciting? Well, there is something that’s more exciting than free, and it’s open.
The reason that open is even better than getting something for free is because you have permissions to alter that material to best fit your needs. Whether you are a faculty member who wants to tailor the text of the course so it is more applicable or a student that likes to mix resources together and share their remixes with fellow students, open means you get free resources and more!
In order for something to qualify as OER, you must have permission to alter the material to be able to use it most effectively. The key tenets, or 5 R’s, that qualify a material as OER are the ability to:
This is what gets me excited about OER. It’s the adaptability, customizability, and ability to improve quality of resource use and instruction. Pawlyshyn, Braddlee, Casper, and Miller (2013) conducted a cross-institutional case study and asserted that ‘creative use of OER offers tangible benefits in student success and retention, resulting in measurable performance increases.’ Why wouldn’t faculty be using resources that not only lift financial burden from students but also could result in improved learning outcomes? I think that we can talk about cost until we are blue in the face and as much as faculty should care, and do care about burdensome costs for students, they don’t really care. I understand, and I know faculty that would never sacrifice quality for a few bucks saved, but I think it’s more than that. If we discussed with faculty the ability that OER have to improve teaching and learning, I think it would be a completely different discussion that would garner the attention of those that select the resources at their institution, those that could be the champions of OER.
I recently heard of open textbooks referred to as a potential thousand dollar scholarship for every student. I thought this was the perfect analogy for OER. Of course it’s not always going to be a thousand dollars, it may be six hundred a year, or even less, but it could be equated to a small stipend for each student. It’s easy to say free things save us money, and it’s even harder to try to write a blog post for class about how free things save money (it’s pretty obvious), but putting this money into the context of something we understand and using language that shares the impact of money saved is much more powerful.
Wouldn’t providing scholarships for every student and college be incredibly impactful? I can’t think of a university president, dean, leader, that if asked the question ‘would you like to offer a scholarship to every student that attends your school a scholarship’ would answer with a no. Thinking of the savings at one institution, mine of almost 30,000 students, is astounding.
What’s most important about the money saved is what students do with the savings. I was recently reading through survey data that I am helping analyze and students used money saved due to OER to buy groceries, pay for rent, pay for their transportation to internships, make payments on their loans, save for future education, take more classes, replace shoes with holes in them, buy diapers for their children, etc. There are students who funnel the money straight back to their education, and students who expressed not having to choose between rent and textbooks. The value of what in the grand scheme is a small amount of money, a small scholarship, often enables students to pursue an education and maintain reasonable quality of life. It’s not that free things save students money, it’s the impact that the money saved can have that’s the real topic of discussion.
While I’m normally someone who is proud to have surpassed the national average, I can’t say that I was particularly thrilled to spend $700 on one semester of used textbooks. When I showed up at the bookstore to pickup my online order, the bookstore employee told me that my order had garnered some attention due to the astounding volume of books. I had added the classes that totaled to the greatest amount of books of any other student. I laughed, and said something stupid like, ‘well that’s the life of a history major!’ Now, I’m not going to pretend to know the burden of a student who is barely going to make a rent payment and finds out they have textbook cost that exceeds the tuition payments they had very carefully budgeted for.
The most ethical problem textbooks carry, whether they cost students $600 or $1200 a year is the unanticipated cost. Why are colleges not communicating with students actual textbook costs, and why do colleges not regulate or consider textbook costs? I loved this recent study by Jeff Denning (BYU) that showed how reducing community college tuition by $1000 can increase enrollment by 5.1 percentage points. If only there was a way to reduce costs by one thousand dollars!!!!!!