2809CWhy I Deserve an OpenEd 2008 Scholarship.2809D

August 24, 2008, [MD]

Since I kind of “began” my journey in open education through David Wiley’s course, attending COSL’s Open Education Conference 2008in Utah is almost like coming full circle for me. Since I also think it’s extremely important to get more students involved in this movement, and conversation, I was very excited to see that the Hewlett Foundation had provided for four student scholarships, to be determined by an essay. And now I have just been told that I am one of the winners, which is a real honor. After spending my own money attending the conference in Dalian, and iCommons last year, it feels like a wonderful recognition. I was encouraged by a friend to post my essay online, so here is what I submitted. I am hoping to see a lot of you in Logan, and I am also excited to meet the three others that won the scholarships.

A few days ago, I was visiting the university library of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi, India, one of the most well known universities in India. Although it is housed in a grand building, I was struck by the extremely bad condition of the books, and the almost complete lack of any recent literature. In the section on libraries, the most recent book was from 1980, and books about library automatization from 1965 were prominently displayed. While seeing this, I tried to imagine studying or conducting research in such an atmosphere.

The various open movements carry the promise of broadening access to learning and research to much larger parts of the world, and to enable the students at BHU not only to receive a top-class education, but also later to conduct cutting-edge research, and to share their research with the rest of the world. Open access to research is crucially important for researchers, but also for students. Open educational resources introduce students to a field, and at higher levels, provide the contextual and pedagogical glue between pieces of research. New models of open and collaborative learning and teaching, such as the “Wiley wikis”, provide models of the process through which open learning can happen.

Although a participant in the North-American and worldwide English-speaking community of educators and thinkers, I come to the field with a number of perspectives. My mother tongue is Norwegian, spoken by only five million people, and this, together with my childhood experiences with Esperanto, incalculated in me an understanding of inequality in linguistic issues, and a deep passion for supporting national and regional languages. My educational background is in development studies, and spending more than 1,5 years in China, 1 year in Indonesia and several months each in Mexico, Russia and India, as well as speaking fluently eight languages has allowed me begin to see things from a multitude of national and cultural perspectives.

Having a background as a technology tinkerer, I am fascinated by the different new platforms offered for online teaching and learning. Having been active in political and social groups, I am extremely curious about ways of online cooperation and equitable governance that we can develop (especially across language barriers). I am also participating in a long-ranging conversation about “the future of the university”, or the peer2peer university - which includes thinking about factors that support informal learning, as well as accreditation, and rethinking the structure of “courses” or “degrees”. I got involved in this conversation at iCommons in 2007, and it resurfaced at the Open Learning conference in Dalian, and will be discussed both at the iCommons 2008 and the Open Education conference in Utah (if our proposal is accepted).

Two of the most interesting research (and advocacy) topics for me are how open educational resources are being used - whether by self-learners, or by educators who adapt them, as well as the issue of translation and cultural adaptation. I bring these two topics together in my MA thesis proposal, where I plan to do a qualitative study of the adaptation and use of MIT OCW materials in Chinese university courses. China is perhaps the country after the USA that has most aggressively both adapted foreign OCW, and began producing their own (Chinese Quality OCW, CQOCW), supported by organizations like CORE. Statistics show that several hundred Chinese courses are currently based partially on translated MIT OCW materials, but we know very little about what part of the material they use, how they adapt it, and what the pedagogical and non-pedagogical outcomes of this is.

Participating in the Dalian Open Learning conference was a wonderful experience for me, meeting many of the people active in the open learning community in person. At the same time, it made me sad to see the great divide between the Chinese researchers (almost 50% of the participants), and the rest. Both because of linguistic and cultural differences, there was sadly far too little exchange and mutual learning going on - and the non-Chinese participants probably lost out the most.

The different open movements are ideally leading to a “flatter” world, which can highlight the best quality material no matter where in the world it is produced. Yet so far, the spread of materials has been very one-sided, with material being produced in the US and translated into other languages. The Indian IIT’s, which some say are on par with or better than MIT, have began publishing lectures on Youtube, and English-speaking students can now choose if they want physics explained by an MIT professor, or one from IIT. But I have yet to hear a single US university or organization announce that they will begin translating Chinese courses (of which there are over a thousand available online currently) into English.

I expect to learn a huge amount from the conference, and come home with my mind swirling with new ideas. I hope to make new connections - people from around the world with whom I can collaborate and learn from long after the conference has ended. Hopefully I will hear about great intiatives that I can emulate through the Open & Free @ University of Toronto network, which I will try to revitalize this fall. But I also hope to be injecting my own perspectives into the debates - perspectives of multilingualism, of developing countries, of end-users, and of undergraduate students - having just graduated from an undergraduate degree myself. And of course, I will spread what I learn - through my blog (syndicated at oerblogs.org), lectures and activities at the University of Toronto School of Education, and in other ways.

Thank you for considering my application.\ Stian Haklev

Stian Håklev August 24, 2008 Toronto, Canada
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