Three kinds of open

Last week, David Kernohan and myself attended three conferences in North America, all with a common underlying theme of open. But, as many of us know, there are many types/flavours/definitions of open in education today. This post tries to make sense of some of the common themes across the week.

The Ithaka Sustainable Scholarly Research Conference and OpenEd 2012 were in some ways at opposite sides of the open spectrum. The former being research and (research) publisher orientated, with Open Access featuring prominently, and OpenEd being very much focused on the use and development of open content and open educational practice. We also attended a half day Open Forum hosted by BCcampus which was designed to initiate discussions and action around developing a province wide approach to open education in general which again had a different flavour (visually noted by Guilia Forsythe )

Why is Open Education Important, Roundtable discussions

As I’ve been trying to focus and write up coherent account of the week, a couple of posts have come to mind. Firstly, Amber Thomas’s diagram of openness;

A Diagram of Opens, Amber Thomas, 2012
A Diagram of Opens, Amber Thomas, 2012

which is really useful it setting out the areas covered last week, with an emphasis on the open content and open practices areas.

There were lots of cross over points, which is how it should be. As Amber points out in her original post “There is not ever going to be a total transformation to open. The reality is a mixed economy.” And I was really heartened to see how a number of presentations at OpenEd are embracing this point of view. I’ve always had a niggling concern that the OER movement might be guilty of a form of self ghettoisation, by just talking to itself about what it is doing and not embracing the wider community. In particular the presentation by Emily Puckett Rodgers and Dave Malicke from Open Michigan outlined the more inclusive approach they have developed in engaging practitioners with open practice, sharing and OERs was a great example of wider community engagement.

Their approach is now far more about understanding motivations for sharing and then working with staff and students to build confidence, understanding and sharing of content in appropriately open ways rather than trying to ensure content is in the “right” format.

Open Access was also a linking theme. The Ithaka conference was situated squarely within the research and publishing sphere. I am very much on the periphery of this area (please read the rest of this section with that in mind), but it was quite fascinating to sit in on some of the discussions, particularly those around new models of publishing and peer review. As this is Open Access Week, I found it timely to read far more informed comment on the OA debate from both Peter Murray Rest and Martin Weller yesterday.

I rather naively anticipated general support and consensus about OA. During the conference I got an insight into another side of the debate. A round table session featuring a university press, and two subject associations highlighted their pressures around OA. Whilst recognising the need to evolve and change, it was pointed out many smaller associations and publishers exist for their publication, not to make profit. Many of them don’t receive any other funding so rely on their sales just to survive. But there was general recognition that a journal alone was no longer a sustainable model. There needs to be more exploration of new models including moving from print to wholly online publishing, looking at extending value through increased and improved access to scholarly databases and/or bibliographies, exploring the potential of producing more case studies with teaching notes and industry reports and surveys. Journals need to change from just being text based to including other types of content (video, data etc).

The need for hybrid OA approaches with more community/crowdsourced approaches to peer review was also a common theme. This was followed up in in a session called “Next Generation Peer Review”, where a number of OA platforms such as PLOS One, F1000 Research, Rubriq and a new addition to the market PeerJ were highlighted. PeerJ is launching next month, and is being designed to take have a very community driven approach. Initial membership is $99 per year, and they are hoping to reduce that to zero by selling other data. Exactly what/how that would work is as yet unclear. But that certainly seemed to chime with what the smaller publishers were saying the day before. This approach also seemed to be drawing on ideals of scholarly societies where membership and reviews are trusted and more importantly open processes.

Obviously there needs to be more experimentation around open review processes which was discussed but there are certainly opportunities to expand OA approaches and perhaps open peer review could be a disruptive force in this area. I’ve pulled my twitter notes from these sessions together in a storify as they capture the essence of the discussions.

The need for more open access, particularly for publicly funded research was the starting point for John Willinsky’s keynote at OpenEd, where he made a rallying cry for the extended right to and power of open access, open data and open education. Again more merging and mixing of the elements of Amber’s diagram.

One other thing that really stuck out for me (and a couple of other delegates) at OpenEd was the omnipresence of the e-book. Whilst I fully appreciate that bringing down the cost of text books, and of course making as many texts as possible available under open licences such as CC, is a great thing (not least for the amount of money it can save students and institutions); it did seem that e-books were the only concern of some presentations. I did feel slightly uneasy about the tyranny of text book particularly as theme of the conference was “beyond content”. But, given the cost of some text books and the fact that you don’t seem to be able to pass any college courses in North America without access to set texts I can see why many sessions were centered around this. Maybe it’s just a British thing, and I should feel fortunate that, as yet, we don’t have similar pressures. I think (hope!) the presentation David and I did on the history of OER from a UK perspective highlighted a non-content centric view of development.

The BC Openforum also had a strong element of the absurdity of some book costs – particularly in the K-12 sector. Both David Wiley and Cable Green (Creative Commons) highlighted how taking open approaches to the creation and extension of text books can save money and so allow for more time and money to be spent on staff development and in turn more creative approaches to teaching and learning. Moving to more open practices, Brian Lamb also shared a number open approaches, including DS106 – couldn’t do a post on OpenEd without mentioning it somewhere 🙂 It was good to hear an embracing of the “proudly borrowed from here” spirit advocated by Cable in the delegate discussion sessions. In the spirit of openness, collated notes from the discussion sessions are available online.

So all in all a mixed mode week of open-ness, but it was great to see more and more interconnectedness of the jigsaw of open education.

IMS and ISO Agreement

The IMS Global Learning Consortium has announced the signing of a general permission agreement with ISO/IEC JTC 1 SC 36. Their press releases states that the “agreement supports continuing expansion of IMS standards adoption to support digital learning across the globe.” This formal announcement is great news for all those who have been working across both organisations to bring about closer alignment of standards.

From the press release:
This agreement follows from successful collaboration between SC 36 and IMS in enabling ISO/IEC versions of IMS Access for All (ISO/IEC 24751) and IMS Content Packaging (ISO/IEC 12785).

SC 36 is chartered to produce IT international standards and guidance in the learning, education and training markets. SC 36 promotes international consensus in standards development and adoption of quality standards.

“The IMS specifications have proven support in industry and are already implemented in many countries,” commented Erlend Øverby, Chair of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC36. “Having IMS specifications as ISO standards benefits all and SC36 are looking forward to a close and fruitful collaboration in developing standards for the best of Learning, Education and Training for a global audience.”

The collaboration with SC-36 benefits IMS member organizations by opening up a path for adoption of IMS work in additional regions of the world.

“As we enter a new era of ubiquitous digital learning it is important that to IMS play a role in opening up new opportunities worldwide and this agreement with ISO/IEC is aimed at that purpose,” commented Dr. Rob Abel, Chief Executive of IMS. “My thanks to the IMS member organizations for their support in developing and sustaining a world-class organization with the means to help make global adoption of digital learning a reality.”

IMS Global Learning and SIF Association set goals for organizational alignment

Just a quick post to share the latest update from IMS and SIF on their plans for “organisational alignment”. A joint press release has just been issued the text of which is below.

IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS Global) and SIF Association announce they are furthering the organizational alignment that began almost one year ago with the formation of the Assessment Interoperability Framework (AIF) project. The alignment activities are supported by the Boards of Directors of both organizations and designed to accelerate progress in developing and deploying interoperability standards in support of digital learning. The details of the collaboration are captured in a letter signed by both boards and posted on both organization’s web sites: and

With the release of the letter of intent, both communities have outlined specific collaboration goals to:

*Facilitate the development and support of a single technical standards community model that promotes an ongoing dialogue around the interoperability needs of preK-20 education across the globe.
*Collectively create and foster the development, adoption and implementation of open technical specifications for learning and educational technology interoperability.
*Enable technology-based personalizing learning opportunities and create opportunities for the sharing of effective practices to further the educational marketplace.

For countries around the world to evolve to better results from their educational systems, the need for a complete “picture” of the learner is critical to link the appropriate resources, programs and content to allow for a successful personalized learning progression. It is then critical that this information and its linkages be available for use throughout the learner’s life, including preK-12, vocational, higher education and/or the workplace.

IMS Global and the SIF Association are currently exploring cooperative projects and aligned operational efficiencies similar in structure to the highly successful AIF project, which is currently reshaping the landscape of U.S. assessment in cooperation with the U.S. Race to the Top Assessment program.

Dr. Larry Fruth II, Executive Director, SIF Association states, “The AIF opportunity began our community alignment and made obvious other areas of leverage and leadership in interoperable standards critical to the education marketplace. By collaborating we are able to make huge strides forward in ensuring we improve learning experiences and enhancing the open-standard even further to fulfill the needs of the marketplace.”

“To enable the next generation of digital learning it is essential that educational applications interoperate with data analytics so that usage of digital content can be correlated with student achievement,” said Dr. Rob Abel, Chief Executive Officer, IMS Global. “As the two leading standards consortia worldwide, IMS and SIF are well-positioned to lead this charge – and the progress of the last 12 months indicates we are well on our way.”

Books from blogs

This blog is a major dissemination channel for my work, thoughts and general ponderings. In some ways it is my memory! Although it is searchable particularly by tags and topics, there are times when a straightforward and simple way of collating several posts and converting them to another format would be really useful. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now, but never actually got round to doing anything about it.

Just now the final synthesis of the JISC Curriculum Design Programme is being produced. Over the programme life-cycle I have written quite a few posts relating directly to the programme and in particular a number of technical summaries and reviews. So yesterday I decided to try and actually stop thinking about collating them and actually try doing it.

My first port of call was Martin Hawskey as I know he has looked at this before and has the rather neat MASHezine PDF available on his blog. Unfortunately I can’t easily and quickly update my blog to include his plug in. This is due to the way our blogs are centrally hosted in CETIS. I’d need to ask someone else to do a wider upgrade -which isn’t impossible but not a huge priority and so could take a bit of time. However Martin did remind me of blog booker. Using this system you can export the content of a wordpress (and other major blogging platforms) and upload the file to the site, and it will automagically create a PDF “book” of your blog posts.

Again because of the way our CETIS blogs are set up, I had to export the content of my work blog into another wordpress site, export and then import in to the system. It works well, but didn’t give me quite the level of control of selection of posts I would have liked. I could get all the posts for a topic such as curriculum design (which again is one of the central topics our CETIS blogging system uses for aggregation on our website) but I couldn’t get just the posts with the programme tag which is what I really wanted. Note to self to discuss topics/tags in blogs. However, as a quick and (almost) free (you can donate to keep the service running) way to create a PDF book of blogs posts it’s certainly worth exploring.

This morning I had a wee search for alternatives and came across zinepal – another free (but with paid for options) which creates a variety of formats ( PDF, ePub, Kindle and Mobipocket). Again using an RSS feed or just a blog url the system will automagically create a book based on blog posts.

There is slightly more control on the actual posts you want to include once you enter a feed/url. You generally get the most recent 10 posts from any site/feed, so you may have to do a bit of feed manipulation if you want to use older posts. There are various controls over layout – number of columns, font etc, It is also possible to re-order and edit posts, and to add introductory text. If you pay $5 you can get extra features such as adding a logo and getting rid of their advertising. You can see the finished result (and download whatever version you like) here . Below is a screenshot of the PDF version.

Screen shot of zinepal PDF
Screen shot of zinepal PDF

Martin has also experimented with the service today and his alternative MASHezine using the free version of zinepal is available here.

If you have used any similar services or have any thoughts/tips, I’d love to hear about them.