#oped12 Common Wisdom: Peer Production of Educational Materials, part I

Common Wisdom: Peer Production of Educational Materials
Not very cohesive, basically my the notes I took while reading.

“The critical change is that social production based on commons, rather than property, has become a significant force in the economy.”

Interesting examples for the impact of the commons, or the crowd, as it has been called recently. The first and foremost is obviously the open source software movement. Google considering in their algorithm the activities of webmasters linking pages and Yahoo! being replaced by The Open Directory Project are not so much movements, but still the influence of commons. And I like the example of the Slashdot technology news site.

Now to the question whether educational material can be produced if not with a crowd, then with peers. This question has two main aspects: quality and access4all.

I didn’t know that the K-12 textbook market in the US is dominated by less than a handful of publishers! And on top of that,  decisions in school administration of 3 states (California, Texas and Florida),  are decisions for a 1/4 (!) of all US textbooks. Economies of scales mean that those textbooks are used in the rest of the US as well. That surely makes life easier for lobbying. Unfortunate taht the three states seem to have very different cultures and so the books represent the lowest common denominator. Interesting question: “To what extent is it possible to use commons-based production of educational resources, and in particular peer production that pools the resources of teachers and interested members of the public more generally, to produce a much more varied and high-quality set of materials out of which teachers and schools could weave their own tapestries for their students?”

And the next question is, whether peer produced material can provide access to education to those who cannot afford textbooks. I recommend to have a look at OER Africa.

Economics of information - providing information does not cost anything once it has been produced. Open content is not new: a lot of free knowledge exchange has traditionally been connected to social activities and non-experts: amateur choirs, book clubs, any specialist hobby group on birds, stamps, history. Open Innovation immediately comes to mind.. Companies successfully involved in open innovation are very good at collaborating with other companies as well. This commons-based innovation is built on an important principle: take ideas from commons, use them to create something new and then give that new something back to the commons.
Peer production is not only commons-based, but also requires coordination of a number of people involved. Instead of motivation being triggered by monetary incentives or coordination depending on order and command, they depend on social rules and interaction.

Again open source as an exmaple: for peer-based (e.g. Linux) and commons based software of individual developers. Similarly for open education: individuals create commons based resources, a peer-based mechanisms helps assess, maintain and enhance, so they can be accessed as a coherent course or rather than a random collection of materials.

I wonder, does it make sense to evaluate the learning experience of single OERs? Although an OER can be a textbook as well as a single image - doesn’t a learning experience require more than just reading a book or playing one game? Learning has so many aspects; experience, practice, study, being taught, discussing with others, explaining to others.

Why OERs?

Cost reduction - save time and resources for putting together a primer or textbook

Manpower - the internet makes resources and information easily accessible and people have a lot of time spare time. Even with different levels of knowledge and creativity this is an unbeatable potential.

This resource allows niche information markets to grow, because it only takes a few of these peole with their time resources to create something. Topics are not overturned by the cash cows such as superstars, broadcast news or aforementioned lobbied textbooks.

Motivation. Interesting - what motivates people? I expect it to be a mix of the search of recognition by peers, the satisfaction of having produced something and the enjoyment of collaboration.

Alright, I forgot money as a motivator - but it apparently isn’t working well as a motivator. And there is no songle motivator, not for anyone and even less for all of us. It depends on the context. True - who would enjoy cooking dinner for a friend more because they offer money for it? Well, I wouldn’t…

Being connected through the internet not only allows easy access to material, but enables easy collaboration.

Yes, I agree: the problem therefore is ultimately not a lack of resources, but rather how to filter them, search for them and establish a certain quality level.

Take Google page rank: let the crowd do the quality assessment.
As a business model: Linux Red Hat; it is just a matter of packaging the right selection.
Giving back by providing a platform for community, share and expand the original resource. Creative commons license recommended: credit for creator, two-tiered pricing (commercial, non-commercial users)
Helps to integrate a company into the community and vice versa and avoids seeing each other as a threat.

Typical in academic environments: self-archiving and standard tagging of materials. Besides the advantages this may cause some challenges.

Self-archiving: visibility of resources. The Open Archives Initiative can help. Standard tags support easy search.

Or open access self-accession archives like ArXiv, which provides open access to 792,313 e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics. Wow!!

Collecting and accessing opbjects is one, the simpler, task. Creating a system for filtering and accrediation is more difficult. Again some peer-based projects are trying to solve this. Company-based initiatives by Altavista, Lycos, Yahoo! combined algorithms with human beings. Thgen google came along, using peer production instead. Now it looks like the success strategy needs to make creators also peer reviewers and accreditation provider. Accreditation has to be built into the aggregation, together with tools for users and creators of materials alike, allowing to comment, rank, categorize and modify content.

Wow - a lot of ideas in only half the paper… TBC

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