All the raw notes from my MA thesis: Chinese National Top Level Courses

May 18, 2011, [MD]

I completed my MA thesis on the Chinese National Top Level Courses Project in September 2010, and since then, I have been experimenting with publishing the results in a variety of different formats. I not only made available the classic double-spaced nicely formatted PDF, but also a more compressed two-column single-spaced version fit for printing, and DOC, RTF and ODT versions of both of the above. In addition, since I am a big proponent of e-readers (and love my Kindle), I created epub and mobi files.

I also syndicated the "best parts" of my thesis on this blog over several months last fall, which served two purposes. First, it meant that people who ordinarily might never get around to reading a 100 page PDF, could simply get it "drip-fed" every day. (I know I have many MA and PhD theses on my harddrive which I will "get around to some day", but I also read many blogs daily). I know from personal feedback that several people read the whole thesis in this way.

In addition, it gives each individual "chunk" of the thesis it's own URL. This makes it much easier to link to, reblog or retweet (which happened with a number of the pieces, they were picked up by Stephen Downes, Open Education News, etc).

I am committed to being an open scholar, but for various reasons, the research process leading up to the publication of my MA was not very "open". However, in addition to publishing the polished end-result in a variety of formats, I also wanted to make available some of the ephemera that was generated in the production process, the stuff that is usually left on the cutting floor.

I used DevonThink to keep downloaded PDFs, webpages, and initial notes, and I later moved all the notes into Scrivener, which I used for the entire writing process. I absolutely love Scrivener, and couldn't imagine writing this thesis without it. (See a gallery of screenshots from my Scrivener database).

After completing the thesis, I had the idea that I wanted to make all my raw notes from the writing process available. I was not planning on this from the outset, and so made no effort at structuring these in any useful way, they are a complete mess. However, it might be interesting to some, both to see how I structured the writing process, and to find extra material that did not make it into the finished thesis.

Scrivener can export a database to HTML files, however it does not generate any kind of index for these files. I wrote a little Ruby-script which goes through a folder hierarchy and creates a web-view, either with two or three panes. I used this to publish my entire Scrivener database on the web. The entire Scrivener file is also available, so if you have Scrivener (there is a free trial version available), this is probably easier.

The only thing I have removed is all references to my interview participants, because of privacy, and the Chinese transcripts, because I need more time to go through them and make sure there is no identifying information there. I am almost ready to publish the Chinese translation of my entire thesis, and I will try to get the full interview transcripts up at that time as well.

Would love some feedback, whether you find this useful or not. You can also find the script I used to convert the folder hierarchy on github. For my PhD research, I am trying to be much more open from the beginning, with my PhD wiki.

This blog is about the MA Thesis "The Chinese National Top Level Courses Project: Using Open Educational Resources to Promote Quality in Undergraduate Teaching" by Stian Håklev, University of Toronto 2010.

Stian Håklev May 18, 2011 Toronto, Canada
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