Permalink for this paragraph 0 Although survey results can help us understand some of the ways that liberal arts colleges are approaching open education, case studies enable us to develop a much more detailed perspective. With these case studies, we hope to describe some of the innovative ways that liberal arts colleges are experimenting with open education to promote strategic goals such as improving learning, building community, and broadening access to education. Often this work on open education occurs more at the faculty level than the institutional level. For example, faculty at liberal arts colleges are producing freely available resources, crafting wiki assignments for their students, offering MOOCs, and integrating OER into their courses. At a more institutional level, liberal arts colleges are adopting (and in some cases enhancing) open learning systems such as Moodle and WordPress. Still, liberal arts colleges seem to be scattered and fragmented in their efforts around open education. What is the strategic significance of open education for small liberal arts colleges? What are colleges doing and why, and what should they be doing? This working paper offers case studies of several approaches as well as recommendations for colleges interested in exploring their own open education initiatives.
8.1: Openness as Academic Mission: Empire State College
Permalink for this paragraph 2 As a university committed to enlarging access to education, Empire State College makes openness and social justice core to its academic mission. Founded in 1971 by Ernest Boyer, then the chancellor of the SUNY System, Empire State College (ESC) takes as its mandate providing educational opportunities to adult learners. In celebrating ESC’s fortieth anniversary, president Alan R. Davis affirmed that open education is an important part of its institutional identity and pointed to “its future as New York’s open university, a mandate we proudly share with other SUNY institutions. Like open universities around the world, the college is committed to eliminating barriers that restrict access to higher education.” Such barriers include “those limiting access, affordability, and quality; obstacles having to do with time and distance; the lack of recognition for prior and informal learning; the lack of diversity within a student body; inappropriate pacing relative to learners’ abilities; and the absence of relevance to each learner’s experience.” To clear away those barriers, Empire State delivers learning in a variety of ways (online, face-to-face, small groups) and enables the student to design his or her own program in consultation with a mentor. Mentoring is a key part of ESC’s learning model, as the mentor works with the student to define his or her goals and guide the learning process. Through the Prior Learning Assessment, students can receive credit for work and other educational experiences based on essays, interviews, or other means.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 From its early days, Empire State focused not on residential education, but on providing flexible education to under-served learners, supporting different “modes of study” from a range of locations. As Ernest Boyer declared in a 1971 memo explaining the vision for Empire State, “With rising aspirations and the impact of the communications and transportation revolution, we now see the need for institutions that are more open, more imaginative, more versatile, and more flexible, both in their structure and their style… We are now beginning to understand that the university of tomorrow will be more like a public library than a private club.” The example of Empire State demonstrates that the ideals of open education and educational reform pre-date the emergence of the open education movement in the early 2000s and that they have been tied to ongoing transformations in information technologies. Of course, the communications revolution of 1971 involved delivering learning through television and cassette tapes, but even then Empire State planned to use technology, experiential learning, and independent study to “bring the university to the student.” In planning Empire State, its founders challenged some inherited notions about higher education, such its emphasis on time (hours spent in a classroom) and place (the campus). As its first president James W. Hall stated, “At Empire State, the places for learning will become the places where it works best, and this frequently means at the place where the student is. And the time for learning will be integrated with the times people have, and the times when they can best learn.” Rather than focusing on fixed inputs, Empire State emphasized outputs, what the student learned. In re-envisioning the model for education, Empire State explored independent learning, lifelong learning, technology, and the college/community relationship. Hall spoke to the need to use technology wisely to support learning, not replacing teachers with a cassette, but using media to free up time for the instructor to provide more specialized, human support.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Empire State now has 35 regional learning centers in New York, as well as several international locations; in addition, it operates the Center for Distance Learning and is the largest provider of online learning in the SUNY system. Empire State facilitates learning through independent study guided by a mentor, online learning, small seminars, and study groups, or a combination. Most of its students are adults between 25 and 55 years old, with over 18,000 from New York State and about 1200 students coming from all 50 states and 50 other countries. About 50% go to one of the regional learning centers, while 40% attend classes via the Center for Distance Learning. Initially distance learning meant mailing course packets to students, but the operation moved fully to the Web in 2005. Empire State’s 11 undergraduate degree programs include cultural studies, business, management and economics, historical studies, and educational studies. Although Empire State is not a traditional liberal arts college—its student body is large, its focus is on adults, it is non-residential—it does embrace liberal education by taking an interdisciplinary approach, offering degree programs in the liberal arts, and promoting the values of liberal education, including lifelong learning and curiosity. Empire State’s first president emphasized that the college both values people’s jobs as part of their learning and “brings the perspectives of the liberal arts to the illumination and service of the things people do,” so that liberal education helps people do their work better and gives that work meaning and context.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Under the leadership of president Alan Davis, who previously served as vice president at Athabasca University (“Canada’s Open University”), the college has affirmed its commitment to being an open university. As part of its efforts in global, open learning, ESC is the first US anchor partner for the new OERu, “a virtual collaboration of like-minded institutions committed to creating flexible pathways for OER learners to gain formal academic credit.” OERu is engaging in a transparent planning process through its wiki, which covers elements such as open curriculum, pedagogy, student support, and technical infrastructure. Currently, partners (which include Athabasca University, University of Southern Queensland, and Southern New Hampshire University) are prototyping courses on topics such as College Composition, General and Applied Psychology, and Mathematical Journey (Empire State’s contribution). OERu aims to respect each institution’s individuality while developing common practices. Partners are still working out how credits will be awarded, but one aim is that a student who completes a course offered by one of the partners would be given credit at his or her home institution. All courses must use only open educational resources, although host institutions have freedom in defining how learning will be facilitated and assessed. Mathematical Journey will ask students to build a portfolio demonstrating their learning, while other courses will use Moodle-based quizzes, learning journals, and discussion forums. By joining OERu, Empire State hopes to internationalize, enlarging its impact and upholding its mission to promote social justice. As Alan Davis remarked, “we will join the global community of learners who contribute to and benefit from the expansion and dissemination of open educational resources.”
Permalink for this paragraph 0 As part of Empire State’s experimentation with open, networked learning models, in the fall of 2011 faculty members Betty Hurley-Dasgupta and Carol Yeager collaborated to offer a 13-week MOOC on Creativity and Multicultural Communication. The course attracted approximately 350 registrants from around the world as well as 13 students who registered for credit. Since the course included global participants, it provided “a natural environment for thinking about multicultural creativity.” The course was free unless students registered to take the course for credit through Empire State (which required students to keep a blog, do a project, and report on the project to other enrolled students through a closed Blackboard Collaborate session). To facilitate a networked community, the MOOC used a number of channels for communication, including weekly live sessions via Blackboard Collaborate, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and GoogleSites. (Facebook proved more active than LinkedIn and GoogleSites.) By using the RSS aggregator and “personal web environment” gRSShopper, the instructors pulled together feeds from registered blogs as well as Twitter feeds and discussion posts made to the CMC11 site, which took some time to manage. According to student evaluations, the course transformed “how they thought about creativity and life long learning.” As is typical with MOOCs, it was difficult to keep up with all the course-related feeds, and some participants who did not take the course for credit lost focus. Both the MOOC and OERu more generally illustrate the intersections between open education and liberal education, in that people can share their passion for learning with others in a global networked environment. Open education can enrich lifelong learning by providing people with flexible opportunities to engage in the academic experience and pursue a wide range of topics.
Permalink for this paragraph 2 Further expanding the possibilities of open education, Empire State faculty are developing the Project for Online Open Learning (POOL), a social learning model that opens up the “iron triangle” constraining higher education: the calendar (the semester), content (the pre-determined syllabus), and the credit (the standardized measure of learning). In a typical college course, students do not exercise much control over what they study, how long the course runs, or how many credits they attain. If a student gets interested in questions raised in a course, the close of the semester brings those explorations to an artificial, often premature ending. Instead, says POOL creator Frank Vander Valk, the project “re-negotiates the contract with the student” to build on what was already learned and enable him or her to take learning into new directions, in a more seamless way than is possible in an independent study course. For the 2011-2012 academic year, POOL focuses on the broad theme of “Freedom,” offering twelve interrelated one-credit units that cover disciplinary perspectives such as political theory, public history, economics, religion, and sexuality. Students can put together their individualized combination of units, exercising control over how they shape their studies. Students can either enroll in advance, as most do, or test out the project. Those enrolling in advance can register for 1-8 credits, which commits them to completing the corresponding number of units. Since students have so much flexibility in enrolling, POOL uses open educational resources so that students do not have to purchase books they will not necessarily use; however, many students end up buying course readings, preferring hard copy. Empire State’s Center for Mentoring and Learning provided support for the initial development of POOL.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 POOL also seeks to break down the walls dividing classes. Instead of operating within the confines of a course management system, students and faculty participate in an open online community that aggregates feeds from all of the units on a landing page and highlights outstanding content. Students pursue their own questions and report back to the group, contributing to a base of knowledge and engaging in larger discussions within this community space. For example, one group of students was investigating the cultural and legal contexts surrounding the use of water, while another was reading John Locke, who wrote a passage on water rights. These two groups came together for common discussions, during which a paralegal shared her extensive knowledge of water rights, something that would not have happened if the two groups of students were in separate spaces, as happens with traditional approaches. In the spring term, 42 students are participating in the program; around 35 took part last term, and some are continuing into the spring. POOL works particularly well for students eager to try out social learning strategies and approaches, including prospective teachers. Students who are primarily interested in the content appreciate the flexibility but don’t necessarily seek to break down the iron triangle, while students who prefer a more linear approach to learning (often those who have been at Empire State the longest) sometimes feel overwhelmed by the choice. POOL has faced some challenges, including technical issues like figuring out how to handle enrollments, dealing with on-the-fly changes, and communicating what the program is all about. Ultimately POOL creator Frank Vander Valk hopes that this open approach “encourages students to practice and live the values of liberal education by developing the capacity for self-directed critical inquiry in the context of an open learning framework.” Students have the freedom to follow through on their questions and search for answers with the guidance of faculty, investigating what matters to them, why it matters, and how to put their values into practice. In recognition for his work in promoting a new approach to open learning, Vander Valk received Empire State’s Hall Innovation Award as well as Honorable Mention for the National University Technology Network’s 2011 Distance Education Innovation Award. As Empire State‘s vice president for external affairs commented, “Within this new system, students are able to not only design their own degrees, but also design the pace and direction of their learning.”
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Empire State’s mission and history both frame its approach to openness as enlarging access and foster its innovative approaches to learning. From its early days, Empire State has focused on experiential learning and offered a more flexible learning model. By harnessing networked technologies, Empire State can continue to evolve its approach to learner-centered education, building learning communities and delivering learning with even greater flexibility. According to Mackey, faculty at Empire State tend to innovate because the college’s model supports collaboration, flexibility, and creativity. Faculty already have some experience and comfort with online learning, so making the jump to a MOOC is not as challenging as it would be for novice faculty. Likewise, Vander Valk says that ESC faculty are accustomed to a certain amount of ambiguity, since the institution has a rich history of individual study and encourages faculty to invent new ways of operating.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Liberal arts colleges pride themselves on the high quality educational experiences that they offer, which typically feature small classes, rich face-to-face interaction with faculty and peers, a residential experience, civic engagement, and undergraduate research. Indeed, commentators such as Kevin Carey, Clayton Christensen, and Henry Eyring suggest that elite liberal arts colleges are not as vulnerable to the disruptions of online education as many other universities are. Some see blended and online learning as opposed to what makes liberal arts colleges unique and effective, perhaps fearing that face-to-face learning will be undermined. But blended learning—which Bryn Mawr defines loosely as courses in which students both participate in face-to-face classes and work through computer-based, interactive tutorials and quizzes that provide customized learning and instant feedback—can support the goals of liberal education. Recently Bryn Mawr won a $250,000 grant from the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) to explore blended learning from a liberal arts perspective, making use of modules developed by Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative and other sources. As Bryn Mawr’s provost Kim Cassidy said in introducing the blended learning workshop it hosted this summer, its fundamental goal is to “improve student learning.” Bryn Mawr’s project is not yet complete, but already there are some promising results that point to the potential of using open educational resources (particularly OLI) and other interactive materials to enhance learning.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 A number of students who enter college aspiring to science, engineering, or medical careers abandon those plans, often because they lack strong pre-college preparation and thus struggle in introductory courses. As part of its efforts to address the disparities in preparation for college science and math courses, Bryn Mawr is experimenting with blended learning, providing targeted opportunities for students to practice and get immediate feedback on their learning. OLI courses help address these goals by focusing on specific, “measurable” learning objectives and providing content, interactive exercises, and intelligent tutors. Studies have demonstrated that OLI can accelerate learning (particularly in a blended environment) and increase completion of courses at a large public university. By using OLI modules and other blended learning materials, Bryn Mawr hopes to devote more class time to discussion and problem solving and increase the number of students who complete STEM courses (and, ultimately, majors).
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Originally Bryn Mawr proposed to focus on four courses, but faculty interest was so high that it enlarged the program to approximately twenty courses (including multiple sections) in subjects such as biology, chemistry, computer science, quantitative skills, environmental science, geology, and psychology taught in the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012. Faculty are turning to blended learning to address a range of pedagogical goals, such as accommodating students’ diverse backgrounds, enabling students to practice key skills, and freeing up class time to delve into more complex issues. For example, in a half-semester introductory chemistry course designed for students with weak science and math backgrounds, students work through the OLI chemistry modulesprior to coming to class, honing their understanding of key concepts. By having students use OLI to study and practice basic concepts, the instructor can devote class time to focus on problem solving instead of lecturing and target areas where students need the most help. In a general chemistry class, instructors are testing OLI as an alternative to commercial software. Prior success with interactive commercial software piqued instructors’ interest in an open alternative, since the price for the proprietary software is increasing and students experienced login problems.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 In some classes, appropriate OLI resources were not available, so instructors either found other open or freely available resources, adopted commercial resources, or developed their own tutorials, primarily using Moodle. For a quantitative (developmental math) seminar, no single open course resource was available, so the instructor used a combination of online resources, including the Khan Academy, Open University, and the OLI Probability and Statistics modules. For a half-semester biology fundamentals class that explores biology through the lens of cystic fibrosis, the instructor could not find a single textbook that addressed diverse topics such as genetics, proteins, and ethical issues as they relate to cystic fibrosis, so she is curating her own readings, drawing from open educational resources. In addition, she uses frequent Moodle quizzes to assess student comprehension, so she can come into class with a better sense of what students need. Likewise, a professor who is teaching an introductory course for the geology major is developing a series of Moodle practice quizzes that draw from a database of images of minerals. By enabling students to test and reinforce this basic knowledge at home, the professor can free up class time to explore the more compelling aspects of the field.
Permalink for this paragraph 1 The Bryn Mawr experience demonstrates that there is no “one size fits all” approach to integrating educational resources into the curriculum. In some cases, appropriate OER are not available or don’t serve the instructor’s and students’ needs. In domains such as in chemistry, excellent commercial resources are already available, which raises the larger question of when it makes sense to go with the commercial option. Commercial content often comes with support, whereas open materials may lack a sufficient user community to keep them up-to-date and bug-free. At the same time, commercial materials can be expensive, or may only be used for part of the course. Open educational resources can be particularly useful for reviewing core concepts, since students may not have textbooks covering prerequisite material.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Ultimately faculty will use what works best for their course—or even produce it themselves. Most faculty begin by using already available content (whether open or commercial), in part because they do not necessarily have the time or technical expertise to create their own materials. But content isn’t available to support some courses, especially interdisciplinary, thematic courses, such as the course on cystic fibrosis. Thus some faculty create their own blended learning resources. Developing such materials requires a “significant up-front time investment,” so it is most efficient if course resources can be re-used. Some of these resources are so focused on the particular needs of one course that they may be difficult for other faculty to customize for their own courses. These examples suggest a range of approaches to OER, from using OLI as a cornerstone of the course to choosing course content from multiple sources to producing educational resources independently.
Permalink for this paragraph 1 Although results of Bryn Mawr’s program are still preliminary, they are on the whole positive. Students report appreciating being able to practice until they understand a concept or approach, which enables them to improve without risking their grades. They also like getting immediate feedback on their performance. However, students see a computer-based resource as being a “waste of time” if they need to invest too much time in figuring out the interface, have to wait for content to load, or struggle to input data in an appropriate format. In particular, entering chemical symbols and mathematical formulas on a web browser has proven to be a hassle, a problem that Bryn Mawr is addressing by loading a WYSIWG equation editor into Moodle.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Likewise, instructors are on balance enthusiastic about their experiences with blended learning. Instructors most appreciate the dashboards provided by OLI and some other systems that allow them to monitor how either individual students or the entire class perform on particular projects. By examining data on student performance, instructors can tailor their lectures and assignments to meet student needs, practicing “agile teaching.” Instructors say that students ask more sophisticated questions and can be more specific in pointing to where they are confused. In selecting OER, faculty may want to consider the extent of support for tracking the learner’s progress. According to Spohrer, Moodle provides performance data on quizzes and lessons that are equivalent to OLI and many commercial systems, and Moodle developers continue to make improvements. Unfortunately, dashboards aren’t as robust for older OLI courses, and with the Open University, the instructor does not have access to data about the learner’s progress.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Ultimately, according to Spohrer, blended learning can support several pedagogical innovations. OLI and other systems support formative assessment, so that students can detect gaps in their knowledge and instructors can draw on the learner data to improve teaching. Likewise, blended learning materials like OLI can promote mastery, providing low-stakes testing that enables students to practice until they master material without fearing that they will get a bad grade for making multiple attempts. As Spohrer says, liberal education aims to help students learn how to learn and direct their own education. OLI and other assessment-driven learning materials help students reflect on their own knowledge (metacognition), see where they have weaknesses, practice key skills, and grow in their knowledge and abilities. Likewise, these technologies can help faculty deliver the support that students need, eliminating some of the guesswork while retaining, perhaps even deepening, and the human connection.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 In addition to Bryn Mawr, faculty members at other liberal arts colleges have been experimenting with OLI. At the Bryn Mawr workshop, Lisa Dierker of Wesleyan University spoke about how OLI helped her bring her “best stuff” to her statistics class. By providing customized hints and feedback, OLI delivers whatever support individuals need to make progress. The Learning Dashboards make it easier for faculty to track what students are learning, particularly in larger classes, and intervene where necessary. The statistics tutor engages students and taps into their curiosity, so that they are not just performing calculations but thinking about the data they are working with. Dierker did identify some weaknesses with OLI. For instance, she would like to customize an OLI course more easily, cutting out particular sections and pulling in components from other OLI courses. She also wonders how to incorporate social learning into OLI. Integrating OLI into existing courses can also be a challenge, since doing so requires changing the syllabus and instructional approach. OLI faces challenges such as scaling up its approach (given the significant expense of developing new courses); providing more flexibility and modularity so that instructors can more easily adapt OLI courses; and supporting different formats for reading. As Thille noted at the Bryn Mawr workshop, new authoring and course builder tools may help address these challenges, as well as a partnership with Knowledge Forum to explore integrating OLI with social spaces.
8.3 Open education and the MOOC: University of Mary Washington
Permalink for this paragraph 2 The massively open online course (MOOC) can be seen as a way of combining open education with online learning. Jim Groom has pioneered a different form of that emerging class structure at the University of Mary Washington, through his innovative digital storytelling class, DS106. Like other MOOCs, DS106 is open to interested learners without formal campus registration. However, it differs in several important ways. First, it is anchored firmly on a face-to-face, registrar-enrolled UMW class. That component matters crucially to the class, impacting even distance-only learners and audiences. In fact, the interpenetration of online and offline ways of learning helps structure the class. Second, it is not as “massive” as others. Third, instructor and learners collaboratively create class content. Students actually help design the class itself. Fourth, there is no single, stable DS 106 model. It changes with each iteration. Other classes at other institutions can use and remix DS106 components, in the spirit of openness. Groom reports being inspired by the “Looking for Whitman” inter-institutional class, which linked together courses on Whitman at four different institution through a shared curricular focus and the use of BuddyPress, a plug-in that brings social networking features to the blogging platform WordPress.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Moreover, DS106 not only performs online teaching, but also encourages students to reflect on what it means to teach and learn in the digital world. This last point connects DS106 in logistical, operational, and content levels, as students use technologies to learn, then to socially respond to that learning. For Groom, the class allows students (and instructors) to ask major questions for liberal education: what does it mean to teach interactively? How can we use the online experience to extend the face-to-face? How can we more fully use the Web in teaching and learning? If we are still in the early days of online learning, and MOOCs are a transition stage from classical university learning, to what new pedagogical forms do they point?
Permalink for this paragraph 0 That next stage could be a liberal arts approach to distance learning. Groom argues that DS106 is structured in ways consonant with the liberal education tradition: high-level student-learner interaction, a focus on community relationships, and a civic emphasis, using tools while reflecting critically on them. The class ethos of creativity, intimacy, and high-touch experience fully translates the liberal arts online. For Groom, open education is essential to this way of thinking. For example, since classes are not housed in digital siloes, inter-class commenting occurs, which expands class discussion while building a larger community. Similarly former students and alumni can reconnect with the class and current students, with alumni serving as mentors. At a curricular level DS106’s openness makes it easier for classes to connect across disciplinary boundaries. Groom notes that humanities and social sciences tend to be more fully represented in this than STEM fields, but has hopes for connections across the entire curriculum. “The DS106 experience makes the life of the mind… more transparent.”
8.4 Faculty production of open textbooks: Southwestern University, Washington and Lee University, and DePauw University
Permalink for this paragraph 0 A group of classicists is collaboratively producing an open ebook for Greek courses. The Cyropaedia is based on one text (so far), Xenophon’s Education of Cyrus. In a sense the project resembles a familiar primary source documentary presentation: a document or collection of documents, complemented by student-oriented annotations, not unlike a Norton Critical Edition. But the Cyropaedia differs by taking advantage of two elements of open education. First, an open source platform, the WordPress blogging engine, hosts the documentation, offering the classic advantages of open source: greater control over format, freedom from external policy changes, and no licensing cost. Second, at some point Cyropaedia will be released to the world for open commentary. Any user will be able to add questions, translations, reflections, or answers to any item within Cyrus’ text, or in response to other commentators. This is also an example of open source’s versatility, as the software enabling that commentary is another piece of open source software, the CommentPress plugin (developed by the Institute for the Future of the Book).
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Why have classical studies professors chosen this open strategy for their project? First, the ease of Web-based collaboration through social media (WordPress, a blogging engine) allows faculty to see this edition in use more rapidly than if it were built via non-digital processes. Second, the ongoing nature of commentary will let readers “witness scholarship in action and stay abreast of the newest developments.” In other words, Cyropaedia should function as a living document. Third, there are fewer limitations on the length and medium of digital contributions, as compared to the non-digital options (i.e., print).
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Another case of liberal arts faculty producing open textbooks comes from the sciences. David Harvey (professor of chemistry and biochemistry and vice president of academic affairs at DePauw University) published an analytical chemistry textbook to the Web as a Creative Commons-licensed open e-book. This is actually the second edition of his Modern Analytical Chemistry, which McGraw-Hill published in print form in 1999. The publisher declined to publish a second edition, returning the copyright to Dr. Harvey and thereby legally freeing him to make new use of the materials.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 How did Harvey actually perform the necessary work, and how did DePauw support it?
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Dr. Harvey used a variety of software tools, beginning with the original textbook’s Microsoft Word files, revising them to reflect updates and rethinking. He then migrated the content to Adobe InDesign for improved layout. Lacking permissions to reuse the print book’s art, Harvey created new illustrations, using two other Adobe products, Photoshop and Illustrator. The finished e-book first appeared on DePauw’s Web site, then moved to Apple’s me.com hosting service. One form of outside support came from the Analytical Science Digital Library, which hosted a copy of the e-book. DePauw supported this work primarily by a sabbatical, which Harvey devoted to his book project; without this support, the project would have taken much longer.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 One benefit ascribed to open content is wider access to materials, and Analytical Chemistry 2.0 seems to be on track to realize that good. Some of Dr. Harvey’s DePauw colleagues have used it, as have “a number of people” beyond DePauw, including residents of other countries and ASDL peers.”
Permalink for this paragraph 1 Harvey is now considering next steps for his 2.0, or a possible 3.0. He wonders about Apple’s textbook model, including a relatively easy-to-use authoring tool, and what it means for higher education.
8.5 Student Production of Open Resources: Vassar College and Kenyon College
Permalink for this paragraph 0 At several liberal arts colleges, students as well as professors are contributing to open education projects such as wikis, blogs, and digital collections, verifying the truism that the best way to learn is to teach. By working on such projects, students can enhance their information fluency skills as they learn how to find, evaluate, analyze and present information in a public forum. For example, students largely produce Kenyon College’s MicrobeWiki, a web reference source on microbes and microbiology. Dr. Joan Slonczewski founded the wiki because she wanted students to produce writing for audiences other than the professor, thinking they would take the assignment more seriously. Students see their work as part of a community of knowledge on the Internet, and indeed Slonczewski hears from people around the world who use it as a “quick research site”; some report corrections (as is typical with wikis). Often Slonczewski’s students select topics that reflect a broad liberal arts approach and have public relevance, such as silver as an antimicrobial or the health potential of yogurt. Classes around the country contribute to it, including at University of California at San Diego, Sacred Heart University, Loyola University Chicago, and Michigan State University. As a result of collaborating with other classes to add to the wiki, Slonczewski can broaden its content, learn about a range of approaches (such as collaborative student authoring) and advance outreach for Kenyon. Building and maintaining MicrobeWiki has not required many resources; it uses the Wikimedia Foundation’s free wiki software, although an IT staff member occasionally has to upgrade the software and fix bugs. When the wiki got started, Slonczewski used some grant funds to hire a student over the summer to add content, which gave it a critical mass; now a student spends a couple hours of a week approving new accounts and maintaining the wiki. Since the site is a wiki, it is easy to edit, add links and figures, and roll back to previous versions if necessary. MicrobeWiki’s story suggests that a wiki project can benefit student learning and public knowledge without requiring large expenditures.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 For professors who don’t want to take on coordinating the production of open resources, they can challenge students to hone their research and writing skills by contributing to an open content project such as Wikipedia. Through its US Education initiative, the Wikimedia Foundation, the parent organization for Wikipedia, is partnering with American colleges and universities to increase participation in the Wikipedia community, enhance the quality of Wikipedia, and improve students’ research, writing, and collaborative skills. Several liberal arts colleges are currently participating or recently took part in Wikipedia’s campus initiatives, including Shenandoah University, Davidson College, Mills College, St. Edward’s University, and Vassar College.
Permalink for this paragraph 1 At Vassar, Senior Academic Computing Consultant Cristián Opazo, a Wikipedia Campus Ambassador, has supported classes that integrate Wikipedia into the curriculum since 2009. An overarching goal of Vassar’s Wikipedia initiative and Wikipedia campus programs more generally is to advance digital literacy of students (and faculty), so that they can find evaluate, analyze, use, and produce digital media. In surveying students about Wikipedia, Opazo found that 100% (n=43) have used it for academic purposes, but 0% have edited a Wikipedia article related to their academic needs. According to Opazo, the passive way that students approach Wikipedia reflects an attitude that it is “extraneous to them,” but one of his goals is to convince them that this open resource is “us, not them.” We have collective responsibility for ensuring the quality of this common resource. For Associate Professor of Chemistry Christoper Smart, who used a Wikipedia assignment in his Vassar course on Advanced Organic Chemistry, the openness of Wikipedia is its attraction, as students were motivated in contributing to this public resource and participating in an active community: “The academic world tends to quickly dismiss Wikipedia on the basis of its openness and its lack of formal peer-review by experts, but the way I see it is that this openness is precisely what makes it a great resource: you have this huge community of contributors all over the world that care about particular topics, and many of them are committed enough to criticize existing content, and to go to great lengths to make a certain article accurate and cohesive.” By contributing to Wikipedia, students learn about the strengths and weakness of how this open online community works, as well as how to write well-supported, concise encyclopedia entries. In Smart’s chemistry class, students transformed stubs (brief starting points for an article) on chemical reactions into Wikipedia articles. Rather than just passively consuming information, students actively contributed to public knowledge. Many students even continued to edit the articles after the assignment was officially completed. In addition, the instructor learned more evaluating the Wikipedia articles than he did grading typical papers.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Likewise, Vassar Professor Katherine Hite found that a Wikipedia assignment engaged students in her course “Conceptualization of Latin and Latino(a) America.” An intensive six-week class that introduces students to interdisciplinary approaches to Latin America, the course aimed to “take students out of their intellectual comfort zones.” Students worked in pairs to expand a stub. In the process, they gained a deeper, more hands-on understanding of the open source paradigm, enhanced their research skills (including how to conduct library research and evaluate sources), developed deeper subject knowledge, and learned how to write a succinct, well-supported article for a much larger audience. Although the instructor found it frustrating to identify and select stubs, she believes that the assignment turned out well. Students liked producing something of “real meaning,” as well as the opportunity to work together and the novelty of writing a Wikipedia entry instead of a traditional paper. As Opazo, the Campus Ambassador, noted, students commented on “how engaged they were, how much ownership they took.” Openness was part of the appeal, since students felt that they were contributing to public knowledge. Likewise, the instructor appreciated the way the assignment fostered collaboration and motivated students to think about writing for larger audiences. People in her field have commented that they are happy to have Wikipedia articles on the topics they study, so the student work has had a “concrete impact” on colleagues. A key component of the success of this curricular initiative was the long-term involvement of the Campus Ambassador, who was formally associated with the class as a co-instructor, had input in the course design, conducted in-class sessions and did individual consultations with students.
8.6 Open courseware and multi-campus collaboration: the case of CLAMP
Permalink for this paragraph 0 A group of liberal arts colleges and universities has been leveraging the combined powers of open source software and inter-institutional collaboration to better support campus learning management systems (LMS). The Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project (CLAMP) began in 2006, as six schools from across the United States launched a peer support network using Moodle, a leading open source tool. (NITLE provided early support for the project.) Instructional technologists and other support staff pool their knowledge, share implementation experiences, identify and fix bugs, seek answers to challenges, and develop Moodle code together. While most collaboration occurs online, participants sometimes meet face-to-face for “Hack/Doc Fests”. They were able to help each other transition LMS systems away from very large, challenging platforms, such as Blackboard.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 CLAMP has grown into a robust and fruitful tool for these campuses, whose number has grown to twenty-three as of this writing. By 2010 CLAMP was able to publish its own edition of Moodle, aimed specifically at the liberal arts campus. Benefits are numerous, according to participants, starting with the ability to use multi-campus feedback to identify code development priorities, usage pain points, and needed features. CLAMP participants have focused on the American small college experience, which is very different from the broader Moodle world, consisting of institutions around the world, many K-12 schools, community colleges, and public state universities. Participation saves IT staff time, as debugging and coding help from many peers reduces the number of hours one single team would otherwise require. Staff can apply patches and fixes more rapidly. Learning from others’ experience allows workflow streamlining. As one IT leader put it, “I’ve gotten way more out of CLAMP than I would have on my own.”
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Alan Davis, “SUNY Empire State College: 40 Years of Innovation in Higher Education,” January 3, 2011, http://suny-empire.esc.edu/40th-anniversary/innovation-higher-ed/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Alan Davis and Ed Warzala, “Talk About Big and Hairy!: What Open SUNY Could Mean,” Vision 2025, April 11, 2011, http://commons.esc.edu/vision2025/2011/04/11/talk-about-big-and-hairy-what-open-suny-could-mean/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Interview with Tom Mackey,” interview by Lisa Spiro, February 13, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Ernest Boyer, “Background of the Recommendation for the Creation of a Non-residential Degree-granting College Within State University,” January 27, 1971, 1, http://suny-empire.esc.edu/media/ocgr/anniversary/esc40th/board-resolution-1971.pdf.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 5] Ibid., 2.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  James W. Hall, “Investiture Address” (Empire State College, September 1972), 2, http://suny-empire.esc.edu/media/ocgr/anniversary/documents/Sept-20-72-ESC-Newsletter.pdf.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Alan Davis, “What’s a Nice US College of Open Learning Like Ours Doing for International Social Justice?”, September 25, 2011, http://www2.open.ac.uk/r06/conference/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Interview with Tom Mackey,” interview by Lisa Spiro, February 13, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Hall, “Investiture Address.”
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “OER University.”
Permalink for this paragraph 0  OERu supports the open source e-portfolio and social networking software Mahara.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Interview with Jill Buban and Betty Hurley-Dasgupta,” interview by Lisa Spiro, March 14, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “SUNY Empire State College Joins Open Education Resource University,” SUNY Empire State College, October 4, 2011, http://www.esc.edu/news/releases/2011/-suny-empire-state-college-joins-open-education-resource-university-.html.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Interview with Jill Buban and Betty Hurley-Dasgupta.”
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Ibid.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Ibid.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Lisa Spiro, “Interview with Frank Vander Valk,” March 13, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Lisa Spiro, “Interview with Frank Vander Valk,” March 13, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Frank Vander Valk Receives Hall Innovation Award.” Empire State College, March 31, 2011. http://www.esc.edu/news/releases/2011/frank-vander-valk-receives-hall-innovation-award.html.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Lisa Spiro, “Interview with Frank Vander Valk,” March 13, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  This section revises Lisa Spiro’s “Blended Learning and the Open Learning Initiative in a Liberal Arts Context: Bryn Mawr’s Next Generation Learning Challenge Grant,” New Learning Resources, December 23, 2011, http://newlearningresources.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/blended-learning-and-the-open-learning-initiative-in-a-liberal-arts-context-bryn-mawrs-next-generation-learning-challenge-grant/. It is based upon a November 15, 2011, interview with Jennifer Spohrer, who is the educational technologist supporting Bryn Mawr’s Next Generation Learning project, as well as Bryn Mawr’s December 15 webinar (http://nextgenlearning.blogs.brynmawr.edu/2011/12/20/webinar-presentation-video-posted/)about the project and the three videos(http://nextgenlearning.blogs.brynmawr.edu/conferences/june-2011-blended-learning-workshop/ )documenting the Blended Learning workshop that Bryn Mawr hosted in the summer of 2011.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Kevin Carey, “College for $99 a Month,” Washington Monthly, October 2009, http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/feature/college_for_99_a_month.php; Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring, The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out, 1st ed. (Jossey-Bass, 2011).
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Christopher Drew, “Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard),” The New York Times, November 4, 2011, sec. Education / Education Life, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/education/edlife/why-science-majors-change-their-mind-its-just-so-darn-hard.html.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Josh Fischman, “Liberal-Arts Colleges Venture Into Unlikely Territory: Online Courses,” Wired Campus (The Chronicle of Higher Education), June 29, 2011, http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/liberal-arts-colleges-venture-into-unlikely-territory-online-courses/32029; “Next Generation Learning”, http://nextgenlearning.blogs.brynmawr.edu/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Lisa Dierker, “Faculty Panel: ‘Using OLI and Opportunities and Challenges in the Classroom’” (presented at the June 2011 Blended Learning Workshop, Bryn Mawr College, June 28, 2011), http://nextgenlearning.blogs.brynmawr.edu/conferences/june-2011-blended-learning-workshop/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  http://www.knowledgeforum.com/index.htm
Permalink for this paragraph 0  http://web.me.com/dtharvey1213/Analytical_Chemistry_2.0/Welcome.html, accessed March 12, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 http://www.asdlib.org/onlineArticles/ecourseware/Analytical Chemistry 2.0/Welcome.html, accessed March 12, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Interview with Joan Slonczewski,” interview by Lisa Spiro, March 8, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Disclosure: Co-author Lisa Spiro is a former Wikipedia Campus Ambassador.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Richard Knipel, Cristian Opazo, and Christopher Smart, “Wikipedia and Academia, Friends at Last: Curricular Initiatives in Higher Education” (presented at the EDUCAUSE 2011, Philadelphia, PA, October 19, 2011), http://www.educause.edu/E2011/Program/SESS055.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Interview with Cristián Opazo,” interview by Lisa Spiro, February 15, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  Cristián Opazo, “Your Homework Today: Improve Wikipedia,” Techademia, September 13, 2010, http://blogs.vassar.edu/acs/your-homework-today-improve-wikipedia/.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Interview with Katherine Hite,” interview by Lisa Spiro, February 24, 2012.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Interview with Cristián Opazo.”
Permalink for this paragraph 0  “Interview with Katherine Hite.”
Permalink for this paragraph 0  A good introduction and survey is Joanne Cannon, Joseph Murphy, Jason Meinzer, Kenneth Newquist, Mark Pearson, Bob Puffer, and Fritz Vandover, “The Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project: A Case Study”, Academic Commons, September 9th, 2009. http://www.academiccommons.org/commons/essay/collaborative-liberal-arts-moodle-project . Accessed 3/12/12.
Permalink for this paragraph 0  From the CLAMP site, http://www.clamp-it.org/: Anderson University, Beloit College, Bucknell University, Carleton College, Connecticut College, Davidson College, Dickinson College, Eckerd College, Furman University, Hampshire College, College of the Holy Cross, Lafayette College, Luther College, Macalester College, Mid-Michigan Community College, Millsaps College, Purchase College SUNY, Regis College, Smith College, University of Redlands, Vassar College, Wheaton College, Williams College.