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

October 18th, 2012

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

#oped12 OERs and Low Riders and some more

October 18th, 2012

OERs and Low Riders
“Centrally organized open educational initiatives have a single point of failure: funding.”
I expected that much.

“There is a solution: systemization.”
What does that mean? If I understood it correct, the author complains that openness is applied at a point in time when the important decisions have been made: for example the curriculum is not open for discussion.

What does all that mean for the EU ICT Call 11? The call asks for proposals for Holistic learning solutions (here is an example for creative writing..); they actually mean projects for “managing, reaching and engaging learners in the public administrations. The use of open education resources as well as open source learning and rapid application development tools is encouraged.”

To come back to the initial question: it can mean, that openness in education has to be open for changes of the curriculum - a lot easier for workplace training than for 3rd level education.
All this reminds me a bit of software product lines. Develop a core set of features and branch off depending on individual needs. That might be an idea. Any thoughts?

#oped12 It is week 5 already?? No, worse, it is week 6!

October 18th, 2012

Working my way through the week 5; OMG week 6 is almost over already..

So what are the learning objectives again?
- Describe differences between peer-produced and expert-based educational resources

That should be inetersting. Is it about who does the better job or whether you actually still need the experts? We or I shall see..

- Detail impact of OER development models on resource quality

So we are looking at quality. I’m really curious to see what the literature presents on that aspect.. Speaking of literature: obviously it will be intersting what kind of resources present which position :)

- Analyze organizational impact of OERs on universities

Not only interested in impact on universities alone - but I guess, since it is a course on Open Education we are mostly talking about formal secondary and 3r level education.

#oped12 - OER conference next spring

October 2nd, 2012

I just went over the conferences & journals I’d like to submit to in the coming months. Here is a conference, that might be interesting for everyone on the MOOC Openness in Education: OER13. The conference is in Nottingham, UK next spring.

The deadline for submissions is October 31 - almost a full month to go! Typing this, I realize I have fallen behind schedule with my writing. I’ll try to catch up until next week…

MOOCs are all around me - #oped12, Current/Future State of Higher Education and & MobiMOOC

September 11th, 2012

I just had a discussion on skype last night with one of my webgrrls colleagues, Cornelie Picht , about all the MOOCs and interesting events and discussions on Twitter- and how these are such a different experience depending on where they originate. It seems the English-speaking world has embraced the concepts a lot better than the German-speaking “scene”.  But the main problem is: what to choose and where to stop?

A nice problem - admittedly.. So right now there are at least three MOOCs  I find really interesting and worth spending my time on. And then there is the colearncamp (German) in Frankfurt coming up at the end of this month! The colearn, or Corporate Learning, Camp has ~90 participants registered for each of the 2 days. That looks like an interesting Saturday :) But back to the three MOOCs..

First of all: what is a MOOC? MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. Just recently I looked at the usability, accessibility and UX of a widely advertised MOOC, the MITx course on Circuits&Electronics. I presented the results at AISHE-C . Over 150′000 people from around the world had signed up for the MITx course - that certainly makes it Massive. It is online and still open for guest users and it was free all along - that makes it online (first O) and sort of open (2nd O). Actually, as a registered user it was even possible to download the textbook. So, yes, open it was/is. And it had a course structure - actually very much so. So there you have it: Massive, Online, Open and a Course. It allows for the massive student population to learn and discuss - MITx provided a Wiki for that. Impressive speed: no matter what time of day, questions would receive at least 1 answer within minutes. There was always someone awake and logged in.

MobiMOOC started on Saturday. The topic list is as long as it is impressive: global impact of mobile devices, mobile learning curriculum framework, mLearning for development, train-the-trainer, corporate learning, mobile activism in education, augmented learning, mLearning pedagogy and theory, mobile gaming,  mobile health (mHealth) and a collaborative exchange on mLearning tools. Should be interesting to see how that will fit into 3 weeks. They have a schedule outlined - unfortunatley I missed the first 2 webinars, both scheduled yesterday. But no problem, I can watch them later on.

Yesterday was the start of oped12 - Openness in Education, a MOOC on, well, the title really gives it away. I received the first Daily, followed the instructions and registered this blog. So you will find more about oped here over the coming weeks. It is the longest course; it runs for 12 weeks until the end of November. I just went back and checked -loads of other blogs registered already!! I am really looking forward to what and how people share.

And last, but not least, the CFHE12-MOOC on Current/Future State of Higher Education. The course starts 8 October and runs for 6 weeks until mid-November. I am particularly interested in the topics in week 2, Net pedagogies: New models of teaching and learning, week 4, Big data and Analytics and the topic in week 6, Distributed Research: new models of inquiry. Looks like this will be a busy fall;)

Looking forward to seeing / reading many of you in one or all three MOOCs :D

Table Quiz, DCU NuBar, Wed 18 July, 6.30pm

July 9th, 2012

I am organizing a table quiz and proceeds go to Foot2Africa .

Teams of up to 4.
10€ per Person, 6€ for students.
Sign up on the evening; come as a team or join a team.

I went to Tanzania last year - not traveling this year myself, but one of my colleagues from Engineering will go together with his wife and deliver money, cameras and other much needed items.

We will have a
1) table quiz
2) raffle 

The (growing) list of prizes you can see below ;)

You can
1) bring your friends
2) drop off used digital cameras with rechargeable batteries for the Msamaria Photo project
3) buy Rudisha products (bags, aprons, jewellery)
4) buy Tanzania postcards with pictures from the Msamaria photo project and more.

Update (16 July)

Some fantatsic new team prizes for the Table Quiz on Wednesday:
team voucher for 4 gâteau at Le Petit Cafe, the French coffee shop with home-made cake at the corner of Ballymun Road and St Pappins Road!
All you have to do is come and win the table quiz :)

Prizes for the Table Quiz & the Raffle: 

Some of the team prizes
2 Swahili classes for a team from www.swahili.ie
Home-made Cake
NuBar Team Voucher

Wine & more
Extra dry Prosecco
Organic Elderflower Cordial
Dry White Wine

Food & stuff
Italian Pudding & Ice Dishes
Sardinian Torrone
Gourmet Jelly Beans
Rosey Tea pot & tea cup

All kinds of things
2 Salsa Classes with Christiano Colucci
Spring toy for your desk
Souvenir from South Africa

Ian Rankin, Exit Music
The Culchie’s Guide to Dublin & a Dublin Street Atlas
Robert Kee, Ireland’s History

How to Write A Literature Review

April 23rd, 2012

It seems there are a lot of questions around this topic, especially among Engineering students.
But there are also a variety of resources available to quickly learn how to write such a document.

What goes into a literature review and why do I have to write one?
A literature review provides an overview of the literature, in other words, the work that has been done already in the area you are studying. It might also give you some ideas and helps to define your own study area. In most cases you won’t get a pass for repeating work that has been published already; so doing a thorough literature review helps you avoid that trap. A literature review should inform your research question, but if you do it well it will actually give you your research question.

An outline of what a literature review is, what to do for preliminary research, how to analyze the literature and finally some information on structure and writing has been put together into a short paper on Writing a Literature Review by my colleague Dr Aoife MacCormac from BDI. The Learning Centre of the University of New South Wales also provides a summary and short examples and you can find out How To Come Up With A Perfect Literature Review In Some Simple Steps.

A lot of advice on phraseology is given in The Academic Phrasebank from the University of Manchester. And if scientific writing is new to you, the Scientific Writing Booklet might help.

Then you need to find out which referencing system to use. If there are no guidelines, pick one and stick to it. The most common ones are APA and Harvard, but there are others around. UCD provides a guide for the Harvard Referencing Style, the University of Waikato provides an APA Referencing Guide. The University of Exeter provides a general introduction to Hardvard referencing. The main point is to follow one system and not to mix them in one paper.

If you want to see if someone has done a literature review already, ask Google Scholar ;) There are loads of literature reviews, for example on Photovoltaics and it also provides information on literature review itself.

If you are new to writing a literature review you can do this exercise and discuss the answers with your supervisor.

Your viva is coming up in a couple of weeks?

October 27th, 2011

I went through a lot of stuff lying on my desktop and I found this list of questions. It was put together by Andrew Broad. He has more advice on his website to prepare you for your viva, but this list is what people have asked me for again and again. So I decided to put it up here:

1.    What is the area in which you wish to be examined? Particularly difficult and important if your thesis fits into several areas, or has several aspects, or seems to fit into an area of its own.

2.    In one sentence, what is your thesis? Resist the temptation to run from the room!

3.    What have you done that merits a PhD?

4.    Summarise your key findings.

5.    What are you most proud of, and why? This may be asked (again) towards the end of the viva.

6.    What’s original about your work? Where is the novelty? Don’t leave it to the examiners to make up their own minds - they may get it wrong!

7.    What are the contributions (to knowledge) of your thesis?

8.    Which topics overlap with your area?

9.    For topic X:

9.1. How does your work relate to X?

9.2. What do you know about the history of X?

9.3. What is the current state of the art in X? (Capabilities and limitations of existing systems)

9.4. What techniques are commonly used?

9.5. Where do current technologies fail such that you (could) make a contribution?

9.6. How does/could your work enhance the state of the art in X?

9.7. Who are the main `players’ in X? (Hint: you should cluster together papers written by the same people)

10. Who are your closest competitors?

11. What do you do better than them? What do you do worse?

12. Which are the three most important papers in X?

13. What are the recent major developments in X?

14. How do you expect X to progress over the next five years? How long-term is your contribution, given the anticipated future developments in X?

15. What did you do for your MPhil, and how does your PhD extend it? Did you make any changes to the system you implemented for your MPhil?

16. What are the strongest/weakest parts of your work?

17. Where did you go wrong?

18. Why have you done it this way? You need to justify your approach - don’t assume the examiners share your views.

19. What are the alternatives to your approach?

20. What do you gain by your approach?

21. What would you gain by approach X?

22. Why didn’t you do it this way (the way everyone else does it)? This requires having done extensive reading. Be honest if you never thought of the alternative they’re suggesting, or if you just didn’t get around to it. If you try to bluff your way out, they’ll trap you in your own words.

23. Looking back, what might you have done differently? This requires a thoughtful answer, whilst defending what you did at the time.

24. How do scientists/philosophers carry out experiments?

25. How have you evaluated your work?

26. Intrinsic evaluation: how have you demonstrated that it works, and how well it performs?

27. Extrinsic evaluation: how have you demonstrated its usefulness for a specific application context?

28. What do your results mean?

29. How would your system cope with bigger examples? Does it scale up? This is especially important if you have only run your system on `toy’ examples, and they think it has `learned its test-data’.

30. How do you know that your algorithm/rules are correct?

31. How could you improve your work?

32. What are the motivations for your research? Why is the problem you have tackled worth tackling?

33. What is the relevance of your contributions? To other researchers? To industry?

34. What is the implication of your work in your area? What does it change?

35. How do/would you cope with known problems in your field? (e.g. combinatorial explosion)

36. Have you solved the field’s problem that you claim to have solved? For example, if something is too slow, and you can make it go faster - how much increase in speed is needed for the applications you claim to support?

37. Is your field going in the right direction? For example, if everyone’s been concentrating on speed, but the real issue is space (if the issue is time, you can just wait it out (unless it’s combinatorially explosive), but if the issue is space, the system could fall over). This is kind of justifying why you have gone into the field you’re working in.

38. Who are your envisioned users? What use would your work be in situation X?

39. How do your contributions generalise?

40. To what extent would they generalise to systems other than the one you’ve worked on?

41. Under what circumstances would your approach be useable? (Again, does it scale up?)

42. Where will you publish your work? Think about which journals and conferences your research would best suit. Just as popular musicians promote their latest albums by releasing singles and going on tour, you should promote your thesis by publishing papers in journals and presenting them at conferences. This takes your work to a much wider audience; this is how academics establish themselves.

43. Which aspects of your thesis could be published?

44. What have you learned from the process of doing your PhD? Remember that the aim of the PhD process is to train you to be a fully professional researcher - passing your PhD means that you know the state of the art in your area and the directions in which it could be extended, and that you have proved you are capable of making such extensions.

45. Where did your research-project come from? How did your research-questions emerge? You can’t just say “my supervisor told me to do it” - if this is the case, you need to talk it over with your supervisor before the viva. Think out a succinct answer (2 to 5 minutes).

46. Has your view of your research topic changed during the course of the research?

47. You discuss future work in your conclusion chapter. How long would it take to implement X, and what are the likely problems you envisage? Do not underestimate the time and the difficulties - you might be talking about your own resubmission-order! ;-)

To ethnography or not to ethnography

October 21st, 2011

Ethnographic research in information systems research is not new, but what is it?

It is a very in-depth research method and a way of describing the real world. The researcher usually spends several months “in the field”, in this research area the field usually is a company. Typically the researchers immerse themselves in the life of the people they study. It has been used to investigate social and organizational contexts of information systems.

In ethnography data is collected through interviews, documentary evidence, participant observation and informal social contact.

The Benefits of ethnographic research are the in-depth understanding of people, organization and context of work. The researcher sees what people are doing and hears what they are saying. This enables the researcher to question what is taken for granted. For example people might have the perception that they follow a certain process, while observation might unveil they are following a completely different process or none at all. Your observation might cause you to question what standard and best practice is and it unravels the actual practice.

The Disadvantages of ethnographic research are that the data collection and the analysis process is long. The research has a narrow focus, as it concentrates on one company.

For the researcher this means it is important to think about what are the parameters which make the company comparable to others and are these parameters relevant for the findings. However, if it is valid to generalize from case study research, it is similarly valid to apply this principle here.

I am preparing ethnographic research to explore requirements for a software engineering framework. So I read a bit about it and talked to some ethnographic experts I know.

After talking to people who have done ethnographic studies in information systems research, I came up with the following list of issues to consider:

1.       Get involved, get a job to do in the company that is of use to the people you are observing

2.       Follow one project from the beginning as far as your timeline allows

3.       Introduce an observation instrument from the beginning:

·         Keep a diary; write ½ hour at the end of each day

·         Analyze and then follow the structure after the 1st week
Write about people, profiles, tasks, projects

·         Collect data so it suits your research; have a plan!

·         Interviews should be written up at the same day with at least a brief summary - if there is a recording.

·         Regularly review your ideas and develop ideas; write analytic memos

4.       Organize a workshop and report what you found or saw

·         A happened like that

·         B happened like that

·         Then ask:

a.       What is best for you? (ask people in the company)

·         Ask yourself:

a.       What are the parameters to consider?

·         Come up with a prototype process together with the people involved

·         Be prepared that people might not like what you report back

Some things to consider: things written in your diary might be without much reflection, just to document them and you will know that, but someone else reading it might be upset.

Reporting your findings

To report the findings, methods of participatory design have been used. In particular Eva Brandt has done a lot of research on that.

Ulrike Schultze wrote a useful tutorial on methodologies for ethnographic research. That’s where the next entry will continue J


Myers, M.D. (1999). Investigating Information Systems with Ethnographic Research. In: Communications of the Association for Information Systems, Volume 2.

Ely, M., Anzul, M., Friedman, T., Garner, D. & McCormack Steinmetz, A. (2003) Doing Qualitative Research: Circles within Circles. Taylor & Francis eLibrary. Available from http://www.scribd.com/doc/49851619/27/Analytic-Memos [Accessed 20 October 2011]

Schultze, U. (2000). A Confessional Account of an Ethnography about  Knowledgework. In: MIS Quarterly 24 (1) p. 3-41

Brandt, E. (2006).Designing exploratory design games: a framework for participation in Participatory Design? In: Proceedings of the ninth Participatory Design Conference


October 14th, 2011

ACCESSIBLE is an EU project that ran out in September 2011. The main goal was the development of a methodology to allow designers to make initial accessibility assessments before involving users in evaluations. The effectiveness of guidelines like WCAG 2.0 is questioned. Instead a scalable simulation system that consists of methodology and tools has been proposed. The methodology aims at automated exploitation of existing guidelines. The simulation system will integrate combinations of disabilities. The website supports a sourceforge page where a number of its tool sare available for download. In particular it provides a web accessibility tool (opens in new window) and a mobile web accessibility tool (opens in new window). The project also presents a number of links to project-related ontologies (opens in new window); however, most of those do not work..