explorations in the ed tech world

same sounds-different meanings

Tag: open access

Really EBSCO??

A while back I posted a rant about doing a lit search and coming across an EBSCO page that failed to explicitly point to a journal’s wide open CC license.  I was a bit uncomfortable doing so since I felt like maybe I was missing a piece of the copyright/open access puzzle, but it generated a favourable action-oriented response from EBSCO and a few librarians chimed in as well encouraging me that I wasn’t completely crazy with my expectations.  

To recap – in case you don’t want to click on the link above – EBSCO’s initial response to my rant was this:

Per your request, I have submitted an Enhancement Request with our Content Team to have the CC License display within the Copyright information.

About a week ago, I received this response from EBSCO:

I hope you are having a lovely day.

In regards to your inquiry to have the Copyright Information display the Creative Commons License.

EBSCO holds a license for the content with the publisher, Governors of Athabasca University. We followed the publisher’s lead as to how they wanted to handle the copyright statement. Any change would have to be requested by the publisher. 

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

My first reaction to this was “Huh??…”.  But I let it go, because how am I to know the politics that may have lead the Governors of Athabasca to basically lock down their open journal by EBSCO proxy if that is indeed the case.  

But here I am again, searching around on Google Scholar and clicking on this link that that takes me to an EBSCO page that denies me entry to yet another IRRODL article.  There is no way to get to the article that I should have access to as a CC BY licensed journal. In fact clicking on the Login link does nothing to indicate that I should even have access unless I have the privilege of belonging to an institution that subscribes to this esteemed service.

I get that EBSCO probably lawyered up and is doing what was agreed to by the parties involved.  I get that Athabasca no doubt agreed to whatever terms and legalese within a CC BY license.  But I’m disappointed as a user and academic that the spirit of CC BY and open access journals isn’t being respected and I think that matters. 


Being visible with open access

Late in the evening on Saturday I was searching around in the EBSCO databases and came across this page and subsequently chirped about it on Twitter. Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 1.23.34 PM In that cursory way that I sometimes throw things out on Twitter at 10pm I didn’t really expect an audience for it or to have to do any explaining. It was favourited by somebody at Proquest, and this morning I received a very cordial email from a Senior Technical Support Representative at EBSCO, asking if I could point him to the example in question.  At this point I felt like I owed him an explanation as to why the presentation of the page rubbed me the wrong way.

For starters, let me explain that I’m pretty passionate about the importance of open access scholarly publishing.  I committed to publishing  in only open journals in 2008 which I recall resulted in a good discussion with the co-authors of this article.  I sort of lost that debate obviously, but I continue to host a draft on this site.  In 2008 I also I submitted my dissertation to the UBC Grad Studies with a CC license before it was even an option.  And when we began the Digital Learners in Higher Education research project in 2008 we committed as team to make the research artefacts open and to only publish in open journals.

There are still relatively few open journals in distance education and educational technology, and as many of us know, the open access movement feels increasingly co-opted for the wrong reasons.  I felt the EBSCO page was disingenuous to how I’ve perceived IRRODL as an open access, CC  licensed journal with a large global audience.   Specifically, I suspect that the copyright statement is confusing to the many users who are familiar with what open access or CC licensing actually means. I’m aware that in 2010 there were changes to the CC licensing at IRRODL. Yet, if a journal has a declared CC license, I think that that should appear on this particular EBSCO page so it can be referenced and recognized for what it is, rather than adopt the legalese of the indexer. As somebody who has published in IRRODL because of its unambiguous open access commitment, I shouldn’t have to be a librarian to understand the nuances of EBSCO’s copyright and user information blurb.

Happily, EBSCO was proactive, opened a ticket, and let me know that:

“Per your request, I have submitted an Enhancement Request with our Content Team to have the CC License display within the Copyright information.”

I think this is progress.

Open models and open teaching in the bricks and mortar institution

With mostly excitement and some anxiety, I’ve been thinking ahead to the OpenEd 2009 conference this August at UBC and have been working with Stephen to think about the focus we want to take with our presentation.  Most conference time slots are frustrating in that they really only let you breeze through the surface of your presentation, and hopefully elicit some good questions from the audience who hopefully got something out of your drive-by.  But we’re at a stage with our topic on Open Models where we want to be challenged and pressed to think differently about the topic and what potential might lie with the model.  I think this requires greater articulation of the rationale for this model, and some concrete examples where it has the most potential.  If time allows, we’re going to go in this direction:

1.  In our presentation and paper at the ICDE 2009 conference I mentioned (Bourdieu’s)  notion of English (and higher ed in English) as social/cultural capital, but I think this needs more explanation in relation to the importance of allowing access for global participation (with credits) in our bricks and mortar institutions.  This is also related to a need for models where barriers such as institutional bureaucracies and TOEFL scores can be by-passed to make this happen.

2.  We made the point that the OER movement to date has largely focussed on content and distribution of this content, but needs to move into the development of new models for education that allow for greater participation (with credits) to a more global population.   We feel it is timely to be reminded that in some constructivist views of formal education, content is actually not the most important piece of the education puzzle, but the interactions and engagement that take place in the learning space (broadly defined) and the multiple perspectives that are encountered in those interactions are where learning occurs.  Therefore, a model that embraces open access needs to account for this, which is why our model creates access for global participation with credits, and doesn’t spend much time on how OER content is being used.

3.  Our model evolved out of a desire create more opportunity to bring in local (globally dispersed) perspectives into a global forum in order to provide multiple perspectives on a topic in an authentic manner.  We’ve described this in terms of making the “local knowledge global” and the “global knowledge local”).  Stephen has since come up with the term “ecology of knowledge” but we have now discovered there is a well established discipline of “knowledge ecology“.  We’re going to tie in with this idea if appropriate.

3.  Stephen has a mild horror/fascination with global pandemics (he wouldn’t agree:)) and in his last few presentations has expressed the value of the model for disciplines such as the health sciences.  Specifically, a PBL medicine course would have students from geographically dispersed locations working together on cases, again making the local global and vice versa.  The urgency and the interest that has been expressed in ensuring that the developing world has access to current medical publications and up to date information has obviously influenced this example, coupled with Stephen’s observation that with any global health crisis there is no one solution or strategy that can be applied to any local context, while at the same time there is a need for global cooperation and collaboration.  It’s an interesting tension, and obviously one that applies to other disciplines such as  international development. 

The crux of our argument is that we feel that open course models integrated into traditional bricks and mortar institutions are critical in not only expanding the internationalisation agendas of these institutions, but in expanding the boundaries that these institutions have come to place on access, pedagogy, and knowledge.  One model is admittedly a micro step, but if it succeeds in altering the current course-based paradigm that we are in, then perhaps there will be more innovation of the educational experience these institutions currently provide.

Why open is not only good, but necessary

From David Wiley, this is one of the most persuasive set of slides arguing for  institutions to consider the benefits of being more open about content. My institution needs to begin this conversation in a more coordinated way, and this presentation really nails the argument in my opinion.

Quotes of relevance

I’ve been revisiting some old articles/books that I collected when I was researching autonomy, self-access and language learning. This one from Gill Sturtridge seemed to have relevance to current discussions of informal learning, and open access in general.

The information explosion, information technology and increasing student numbers may not only mean the integration and acceptance of self-access centres within the traditional classroom-based teaching institution, but also the complete re-assessment of the mode of delivery of education generally. Institutions could become total providers of self-access learning and the traditional classroom could disappear entirely in some institutions” (1997, p. 68).

Sturtridge, G. (1997). Teaching and learning in self-access centres: changing roles? in P. Benson and P.Voller (eds): Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning. London: Longman.

some updates

I’ve begun uploading copies of articles and presentations to the Publications and Presentations part of this site.  It’s a great relief to pull them off my collection of drives, discs, etc, and get them into one place, although I still haven’t located a digital copy of my MA.  Almost all of the articles and presentations are co-authored and co-presented (dissertation excepted, obviously) since I generally prefer the collaboration part of the process.  I’ve also posted drafts of stuff published in locked-down journals, which I have unofficially vowed to avoid in the future.  It really makes no sense to publish in a subscription only journal on so many levels, so I’m not sure why anybody bothers to go that route anymore.  My first publication was published in a journal that doesn’t even exist online (obviously very obscure), so I’m not even sure how I would even go about getting a copy at this point.  

Anyhow, comments or questions about any of the stuff on that page are always welcome.

EDEN research workshop

I’ve been meaning to gather my thoughts on the European Distance Education Network (EDEN) Research Workshop that I recently attended in Paris.  It was my first time attending a European conference, and there was a lot to like. Paris is one of those places that you have to visit at least once in your life, so the location got top marks.  Actually being inside the UNESCO building was admittedly surreal.  The airport-like security to enter the building was one thing, but once inside, the combination of the highly preserved mid-century artifacts and architecture (photos coming) along with energy that only a world organization headquarters can provide made the epic adventure in and out of Charles de Gaulle airport worth the trouble.

I have mixed feelings about the EDEN research workshop itself, partly due to my own inflated expectations.  Research workshop suggests less presenting, more discussion, neither of which happened.  Keynote panelists went way over their time, creating a domino effect that lead to confusion during the workshop sessions, where presenters rushed to get through their presentations at the expense of discussion periods. Some keynotes were also left with no time–I for one would have like to have heard more from Sara Guri-Rosenblit from the Open University in Israel. There was a lot of talking to, at the expense of discussing with (and way too many government officials saying very little in too much time), which lead me to feel extremely frustrated by the end of Day 2.  Plus, this being Paris, and conference fees in the 500 Euro range, I expected a little more quality coffee and snacks, neither of which seemed to be available in any sort of abundance.  On the plus side, the wines from Bordeaux at the end of Day 2 were a nice touch.

The theme of the conference was Open Access, and the big takeaway for me was realizing that many of us are talking about different things when we talk about Open Access.  In fact, one of the keynotes from the US even ranted a bit about individuals not respecting copyright agreements, which had a few of us shaking our heads and wondering whether she’d travelled to the wrong conference, and had me wondering what exactly about the semantics of open and access lead her to adopt this position.  However, there is value in recognizing how vastly different we are, and I realized that perhaps the Canadian in me has lead me to adopt a view of open access that is undoubtedly left of centre.

On the plus side, I had the pleasure of meeting some key distance education people who have made such a contribution to DE that I consider them celebrities.  This is the really nice part of attending a conference in person, and the informal conversations that came with this were the highlight of this conference for me, and are one of the reasons that I’ll attempt to attend the next one.

Some of the sessions were recorded (I’ll try and post the link when I can find it), and the papers are being made available, but only temporarily and only to members, if my information is correct, which seems like a bit of a contradiction in the context of the theme of the conference, and the considerable effort that went into the excellent Six Journals Call.

open learning and language

An interesting (old) quote from geolinguist and sociolinguist extraordinaire, William Mackey.  I’m parking it here because it’s related to discussions on open learning, and in line with my last post on language and the open access movement.

“The combined impact of this accelerating mobility, globalization of instant information and uniformization of mass media has lessened the contact between neighbours while increasing the impact of dominant cultures whose massive loudspeakers silence the small voices of local speech and minority cultures.  In sum, the far erodes the near and eventually drives it out.”

Mackey, W.F.  (1992).  Mother tongues, other tongues and link languages: What they mean in a changing world.  Prospects, 22, 81.

Higher ed hacks–the other elephant in the room

Metapizza kindly pointed to the second option that I offered up as a higher ed hack, noting that it was more of a distributed learning system than a truly open system. I think the point is that distributed learning systems can, and perhaps should be open.  The models I put out there in my last post are really addressing the accreditation problem by working within existing (and seemingly impenetrable) higher ed structures – they are essentially parasitic models, although I would argue that all parties benefit. So maybe they are actually complementary.  

There was obviously an international bent to the second model, which was an attempt to address 2 things that seem to be happening in higher ed (in Canada at least).  First, there appears to be an increased emphasis on an internationalization agenda at Canadian higher education institutions (AUCC 2006) resulting in the development of jointly offered programs, partnerships, and study abroad exchanges. However, current university models have not addressed how international participation can occur in these institutions and programs without barriers of entrance requirements, including academic English literacy,  tuition fees, and the financial ability to travel and stay at  the host institution.  Second, there seems to be some recognition that nobody “owns” knowledge (not a new idea, obviously), therefore there should be some effort to engage with ideas outside of one’s own ivory tower.  Since both of these issues have already been discussed to some extent in relation to OERs, the model we used at UBC seemed to be feasible option.

I do think there is potentially yet another elephant in the room, one that is continually being contested in academic publishing, internet culture, and life in general–that of the predominance of English as the lingua franca of just about everything these days.  This is obviously not going to be a problem if there is a balanced effort to ensure that OERs are available in languages of anybody who needs to access them.  But geolinguistic history tells us that this is difficult to achieve, regardless of a national language policies. 

I know there has been some discussion about OERs being translated into other languages, building on a practice that is already taking place with opencourseware.  This is obviously a valid option, however there are a couple of challenges to this.  First,  translation is hardly neutral, and this may or may not matter when ideas/knowledge/concepts are being translated.  Secondly, translation is resource heavy (just ask any Canadian federal civil servant) and I expect it’s not a feasible option for those working in less resource privileged contexts.  I think that if OERs are going to be discussed in relation to benefits to developing countries, this should continue to be acknowledged.

Some facts:

1.  There are more EOLs (English as and Other Language) speakers in the world than there are native speakers.

2. While some countries are known for their highly functional in EOL population (eg. India), it must be remembered that the proportion of the population for whom this is the case may be relatively small.

After living for a time in Asia and Mexico, and working at a large Canadian university, I have observed that for international students an education in English from a “Western” university represents considerable cultural capital that students can leverage when they return to their home countries, or in their efforts to stay in the host country when they seek employment.  I wish I had something more tangible to reference this statement, but for now it’s simply an observation.

This can be viewed in a couple of ways.  First, if the majority of OERs end up being in English it could be seen as a vehicle for acquiring academic literacy in English.  On the other hand, OERs in English could be seen as a threat to local languages in the same way that it has played out in the academic publishing world (c.f. Hamel’s thorough analysis–abstract available here, but full article is unfortunately locked down. Plus, lots of related discussions in the entire issue, if you can get your hands on it). Regardless, it is recognized that academic literacy remains a  recalcitrant barrier for EOL students and faculty globally (Flowerdew, 2007, also locked down).  It will be interesting to see how this can be accounted for in the open models that continue to emerge.

Higher Ed hacks #1–open models

I’ll borrow the phrase from David Wiley’s recent post and offer my own hack on addressing the accreditation conundrum with OERs.  I’m fairly new to the interesting conversations around open learning, open teaching, open content and open courseware, but as a instructional developer with two feet firmly planted in the distance education world I see these worlds as colliding quite nicely, especially since distance education in Canada has traditionally been driven by a social agenda that sought to provide access to non-traditional learners (of course, it’s up for argument whether this is still the case…).  

Accreditation is undeniably the big problem remaining to be solved if open learning is going to secure a place in higher education (in agreement with the “elephant in the room” comment from D’arcy here).  And while it’s hardly debateable that learning need not inhabit formal academic structures, accreditation is predominently the currency of choice, whether it’s economic or cultural capital that is being sought.   I look forward to seeing the efforts and the open models that evolve from the creative hacking.  I expect that some of these models might sit in structures that bypass universities altogether, some might sit in a university, and some might involve a combination of the two.  

The way I’m understanding it, the current OER-inspired models range from self-directed-access-on-your-own type learning to open-course-with-open teaching (with credits for some). Personally, while I applaud the open teaching efforts of David Wiley’s course, Alec Couros’ course, and George and Stephen’s Connectivism course, it might not be attractive to late adopters, once the novelty of this type of model has worn off, since would appear to potentially require a good deal of unpaid effort on the part of the instructor.   

So, this leads me to two possibilities that I’m putting out there as models for a happy marriage between OERs, accreditation, and teaching:

Option 1.  Accredited self-access centres

Self-access centres have existed since at least the 1970s (which I suspect evolved out of language education’s own Edupunk movement that saw the emergence of some very *creative* methods–look up suggestopedia if you’re interested) and offer several models of independent or self-directed learning with a range of instructor/expert support, while providing accreditation.   It’s not hard to see how this could be translated into a model for OER  

The upside:  

1.  Centres are associated with a bricks and mortar university, therefore presumably the student learning plan negotiated with and agreed to by the centre would provide credits from the university. 

The downside: 

1.  Institutional bureaucracy.  I suspect that the facility of this model would be impeded by concerns about quality of content, and how the open content measures against the institution.    

Option 2.  Inter-Institutionally Shared  Course Components

This is a model that we’ve actually tested and used multiple times since 2000 at the department of language and literacy education at UBC. It evolved out of a desire to add a more global perspective to a course by engaging with students at international institutions.  However, institutional bureaucracies and policies make it very challenging to enroll international students not associated with the university into courses and programs for accreditation.  

The model works on the assumption that university courses are generally composed of three central components—content, interactions, and assessed activities. It also works on the (social-constructivist) assumption that while content is important, the value of a course largely comes from the instructor-student and/or student-student interactions.

This is how it works, via an example of a 2001 iteration that we implemented with students located in Canada, Russia, and Mexico:

1. Course A (Canada) decided that the course content in a course on global issues and language could benefit from engagement with international partners.  The course was being delivered f2f.

2.  A Russian professor/acquaintance teaching an English course to business students was contacted  to see whether a component of her course (Course B) could benefit from an international discussion.  This course was being delivered f2f.

3.  An instructor in Mexico teaching an Advanced English course on Popular culture and media (course C) was contacted to see whether her course could benefit from an international discussion.  This course was being delivered f2f.

Being circa 2001, the 3 sites decided to include a graded 6 week online discussion forum activity (hosted by UBC) around topics that benefitted their own course objectives.  Each site allocated different percentages to the activity, and different criteria for assessment and participation.  Each instructor was responsible for grading their own students.  Students received credits for their course activity from their own institution.  Although this example did not require the use of OERs, it could, with the added benefit of introducing a more glocalised perspective by including international partners.  We also considered how this model might be applied to other disciplines where global perspectives are of particular importance (eg. business, ecology, medicine). 

The upside:

1. students received credit

2. students had access to 3 professors, not 1.

3.  departmental and institutional approvals weren’t required

4.  course content and discussions were greatly enriched (and validated) through exposure to the perspectives of the international partners

5.  students gained considerable academic literacy in English (English was not a first language for any of the students)

The downside:

1.  there were varying levels of internet access among the 3 partners

2. some challenges in coordinating the participation of the 3 instructors

We visualised the model like this, with a Pediatric Dentistry course as an example: