OCWC Logan 08: news and reflections

September 23, 2008, [MD]

I just attended the second day of the Open Courseware Consortium conference in Logan, UT (the first day was for board members only), and thought I’d report on some of the things that caught my attention, and also comment on my own thoughts. There was lot’s of other things that I didn’t cover, much of it can be found in the wiki.

**Plenary session\ **Lot’s of organization nitty-gritty, new staff, etc. OCWC now independent of MIT, next Open Education conference will be at University of British Columbia, probably aiming for one major international conference a year, and one smaller topical/regional conference. Thinking about enabling individual membership in the organization, corporate members. A special discipline focus on health - possibly other discipline projects later. An upcoming toolkit (or toolshed) with information about software products, ways of “selling OCW” to an institution, best practices in copyright clearance etc.

Connexions arranging an open education conference in Houston in February 2009 and I think Tecnologico de Monterey arranging one in April 2009.

The Open University of the Netherlands: funding for OCW ends in summer ‘08, but they decided to continue. Dutch high school students have many “free hours”, and schools are eager for them to try out university courses. High schools pay for training teachers to use the material, and for giving exams that provide accreditation of the learning.

MIT has developed a portal for high school students, which presents the material most likely to be useful to them - they are considering other similar portals in the future, perhaps one for example on energy and the environment. (Wouldn’t it be great if people were able to interract with MIT’s site, remixing content, creating lenses or their own portals?)

They also syndicate their content through for example iTunes University and their YouTube channel. An interesting new initiative to make content more accessible is to provide closed captioning on YouTube videos - like this one (while this is awesome, why not upload it to dotSub, which allows you to downlod videos with subtitles, and allow collaborative subtitling online - so that groups like Universia and CORE could contribute translated subtitles?). They’ve been working with 3playmedia, who I think will present later this week, on developing the transcription system.

Finally, MIT was proud of their publisher agreements with for example Elsevier, which enables MIT to publish select material from Elsevier journals as part of MIT courses, with Creative Commons licenses.

Universia gave a curious presentation. They talked about the fact that they had translated metadata for OCW courses into ten languages, and also normalized the tags used to tag lectures or courses, so that they were consistent accross languages and courses. The main reason for this seemed to be search-engine optimization (SEO) for OCW, and they proudly showed off the statistics showing the numbers of hits increasing - noting for example that the first Google hit on a particular search in Arabic was a course in Universia. But if the user clicks through, she finds out that all the material is still in Spanish… Is this particularly helpful to an Arabic user? We obviously want to increase the visibility and findability of our offerings, but by translating huge amounts of metadata before translating the courses, one runs the risk of being accused of spamming search engines, and annoying people instead of helping them.

Japanese OCW is interesting, in that they currently have 21 university members, 5 non-profit organizations and 11 companies. I would like to know more about the role of the company members, whether they are using the OCW internally (and paying to get around the non-commercial license?), or even producing their own OCW? (So far, these companies are not listed on JOCW’s homepage either, which is quite unhelpful, since it doesn’t even link to the different courses. They are supposed to have 806 Japanese courses and 172 in English, but do I have to click on each institution’s page to find these English courses?)

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has developed a very interesting image library of medical images and graphs that can be used in OCW, much of them harvested from already existing OCWs. It’s nice if material inside an OCW - pictures, sound files, illustrations, texts - are made easily available for remix and reuse outside of the whole package, and this is a good example of that.

OpenUniversity UKis distributing their content in many innovative ways. Because it is all stored as XML, they can automatically generate a wide variety of formats. In addition, they make DVDs which are used by prisoners (OpenUniversity has 1,500 students who are imprisoned). They are also thinking about making their content available within a hospital setting. Very innovative.


Photo credits: srharris, joiseyshowaa & jpellgen

Stian Håklev September 23, 2008 Toronto, Canada
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