Club Admiralty

v7.0 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Multilitteratus Incognitus

Traversing the path of the doctoral degree

It's the end of the MOOC as we know it, and I feel...

...ambivalent?  I am not sure if ambivalence is the word I am going for because I am getting hints of nostalgia too.  Perhaps though I should take a step back, and start from the beginning.

This past weekend two things happened:

The first thing is that I've completed reading full books as part of my literature review for my dissertation, and I have moved onto academic articles, articles I've been collecting on MOOCs and collaboration in general. While MOOCs aren't really the main focus of my dissertation study, they do form the basis, or rather the campgrounds on which the collaborative activities occurred on, and it's those collaborative activities I want to examine. This review of MOOC articles (while still relatively in the early stages) made me reflect back on  my own MOOC experiences since 2011.

The second thing is that I received a message from FutureLearn which was a little jarring and made me ponder.  Here is a screenshot:

My usual process, when it comes to MOOCs these days, is to go through  the course listings of the usual suspects (coursera, edx, futurelearn) and sign-up for courses that seem interesting.  Then, as time permits I go through these courses.  I usually carve out an hour every other Friday to do some MOOCing these days since most of my "free" time is spent on dissertation-related pursuits.  It would not be an understatement to say that I have quite a few courses that are not completed yet (even though I registered for them about six months ago).  What can I say? I find a ton of things interesting.

If you're new to MOOCs you might say "well, it was a free course, and now it's going back into paid land - you should have done it while it was available". Perhaps you're right, perhaps not.  For a MOOC old-timer, like me (ha!), this type of message is really disheartening, and it really speaks quite well to the co-opting  and transmogrification of the MOOC term (and concept) and making something that is not really recognizable when compared to the original MOOCs of 2008-2012; or perhaps it's a bit even like an erasure - erasing it form the past, but luckily at least articles exist to prove that it existed, and cMOOC is still recognized as a concept.

I am convinced that platforms like coursera and futurelearn can no longer be considered MOOC platforms, and should be referred to  as either a learning management system (which they are), or online learning platform. Over the past few years things that seemed like a given for an open learning platform are starting to not be there.  First the 5Rs started being not applicable.  You couldn't always revise or remix materials that you found on these platforms...but you could download copies of the materials so that you could retain your own copy, and this meant that you could potentially reuse and redistribute.  Redistribution was the next freedom that went,  and after that was reuse.  You could still download materials though (at least on coursera and edx).  Then a coursera redesign made video download not an option... (still an option in edx, not sure if it was an option in futurelearn), and now courses are becoming time-gated... argh.

The certificate of completion was an interesting concept - a nice gift from the people who offered the course if you jumped through their hoops to do the course as they intended, but it was really only valuable when it was free of cost. This freebie has also been lost (not a great loss since it doesn't really mean much - at least not yet).

All of this closing off of designs and materials (closing in a variety of ways) makes me long for the days gone by, day not long ago, and MOOCs only about 10 years in the past.  Although, I suppose in EdTech terms 10 years might as well be centuries.

I do wonder when might be a good time to reclaim the name and offer up connectivist courses again - or perhaps it's time to kill the term (wonder what Dave thinks of this ;-) ), and create something that doesn't have such  commercial interests infused into it right now.



The vConnecting about Cupcakes and Pokemon!

Another docublog from virtually connecting from a few weeks ago, at OpenEd Berlin with Alec Couros.  This one has the innovation of being the first "pop up" virtually connecting session.  Enjoy!


EDDE 806 - Post VII - Now what was that about Open Ended Questions???

Last evening I joined 806 (which seemed to have a very small group of people attending) for their bi-weekly meetup.  I think that for this post I will write more about my 2 take-aways from the session in general, rather than recap both presentations.:

Take-away #1: Small sample sizes aren't necessarily a problem.  Both Tracy and Leslie (presenters of the evening) were taking about their work (well, the work they are gearing up to do), and they both have between 6 and 12 participants for their research.  I am thinking about my own dissertation process, my own "problem" (which isn't a problem, so I hate using that term, but whatever), and how many people can be my informants (at most 16, but most likely 10 or so will agree to be part of it).   I've been thinking that AU might have issues with such small sample sizes. However, considering that I am not aiming at generalization (and neither are the presenters from last night's session), I am encouraged to continue on my current path for a dissertation proposal.  It seems that AU is open to qualitative, small-sample, research for dissertations.  I had a fear that I'd be stuck in a qualitative, "you must have something generalization" nightmare - a nightmare because that's now where I come from in my own research views :-)

Take-away #2: Just like the boy-scouts: Estote Parati (Be prepared).  When you're doing interviews (live interviews) make sure you have a back-up.  Good advice.  I had never thought about it (perhaps because I am not at that stage of data collection yet).  I was considering using Google Hangouts and perhaps using something like Camtasia to record it.  This way I could (if there were video) also record any paralanguage that exists in our interviews and it could be an additional data point for analysis.

In terms of interviews and transcription, I was also thinking of outsourcing the transcription to a company.  Looking briefly into this, it seems that $1/minute (or $2/minute if the audio isn't that great).  If I assume that 8 people sign-on to be my study participants, at 2 interviews per person, between 40 and 60 minutes (making sure that I don't monopolize their time), the cost come out to around $1000 (wow!)   Comparatively, Dragon 13 Premium (the educational version) costs $100, but I'd have to go back and review everything and cross check text produced with audio. That is 1000 minutes of audio maximum, so if we assume 3 minutes of corrections for each minute of audio, that's 3000 minutes, which works out to 50 hours of work.  Hmm....  wonder if there is a grant to pay for transcription work ;-)  I think there is a benefit of having to do the hard work yourself - it makes you more intimately familiar with the data you are working with, but from a student's perspective (who is on the clock to be done with their dissertation in by year 5), is that the best place to spend your time?  I don't know, but we will find out ;-)

Some bits and ends:

  • IPA was mentioned in Tracy's presentation (Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis).  I just find it funny how acronyms bleed through to other disciplines.  For me IPA means International Phonetic Alphabet and it's associated with linguistics.  A good reminder to define your acronyms and your terms! (Thanks Tracy!)
  • Have someone interview you with your open-ended questions!  This seems like a given, but to me this was an "aha!" moment.  Since I am interviewing some potential colleagues for my dissertation research (on group/collaborative processes), and I was a member of those collaborations, it makes sense to have someone ask me those questions.  I was going to answer them anyway, from my perspective (researcher as the person being research, too!) but I think a dialogic approach makes a ton more sense (Thanks Leslie!)
  • Finally, Leslie's point about not sending transcripts to participants without giving them some direction as to what to do with them is important.  I wasn't even thinking about sending transcripts back for checking because I plan to bring in the participants' voices at many parts of the dissertation: case study approach, open document when I have more down, which will be open for commenting, suggestions, and corrections! So, I didn't want to inundate my fellow participants with too much stuff (granted it's all optional), but this gave me something to think about.
That's all for now - until the next 806 session :)


EDDE 806 - Post VI.III - The one with Sir John Daniel

OK, I am almost 'caught up' with the stuff I missed while I was on vacation (at least as far as 806 goes).  I remember receiving an email from Pearl indicating that Sir John Daniel would be presenting. Too bad the internet wasn't that reliable :-/  Oh well, thank goodness for recordings ;-)

Sir John Daniel seemed like a pretty interesting  person, and very knowledgeable (with over 300 publications to his name) and he must be a respectable human being because he wouldn't hold 32 honorary degrees from 17 different countries if people only liked him for his scholarship.  I guess the bar has been set for me (haha! :-) ). The only area where I surpass him is in the amount of MOOCs I've taken vs how many he's taken.  Even as a recording it was great to get to 'meet' such a distance education heavyweight (maybe I can email him and we can go for some coffee and discuss the future of DE next time I am around his neck of the woods in Canada ;-)  ).

In any case, there were some interesting connections drawn between Open Universities (OU) and MOOCs. The OU UK was created so that it would be Open to People, Open to Places, Open to Methods, and Open to Ideas.  MOOCs, as he argued, could be seen as Open to People (Massive), Open to Places (Open), Open to Methods (Online)...but what about the "C" in MOOC?  What about the course?  I ask what does it mean to pursue a 'course' in something?  And, does the course have some sort of assessment?  He discussed a little about badges (whether or not there is assessment), and he brought up an interesting question: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (who watches the watchers?)  This was brought up in reference to ePortfolios, and to badging.  It's a good question and I think it's quite pertinent to higher education in general as well.

We - as a profession - have put a lot of emphasis and currency (κύρος) in lots of old institutions.  As Sir John mentioned, MOOCs may not be the transformative change in higher education that they were (wrongly I would argue) claimed to be back in 2012, however they've made online education more respectable. After all, as Sir John said - if Harvard is doing it, it must be OK.  While I don't have anything against Harvard, I think that this type of attitude is potentially damaging to our field (in general, not just DE), because people don't pay attention to the good work done by DE researchers until Harvard starts paying attention... and even then, they do reinvent the wheel at times because they haven't been paying attention.

This type of blindness is replicated in the scholarly publishing industry (MOOCs and Open Access are good threads between this presentation/discussion and the one with Alec Couros). It's hard to break into established journals and OA, so any new journal has an uphill battle regarding their  journal's rank.  University rankings are based on where you publish (at least to some extent?) so that influences where people try to publish.  A bit of a vicious circle.

But, it's not all doom and gloom. I think we can make a dent, and make OA, and Open Institutions who have been doing DE for a while now, more 'respectable' - and perhaps have those institutions viewed in the same respect terms as Harvard when it comes to DE courses and programs.

One take away for me, as something to look more into, is looking into the African Virtual University.  I don't know much about it, and it seems pretty interesting (both from its history, and what it does now).

Your thoughts?

EDDE 806 - Post VI.II - Attack of the Greeks!


Now that I am back from vacation (was off to Spain, but spent a little time in Istanbul on the way to and from), it's time to catch up a bit on EDDE 806. On the day that I was flying out to begin my vacation Alec Couros was presenting....D'oh!  I missed the opportunity to be live in that 806.  Not only was Alec on, but there was also a fellow EDDE student who is also Greek.  It would have been glorious to have so many Greeks on on 806 session. Oh well - maybe next time :p

In any case, Alec's presentation was titled "The Making of an Open & Connected Educator" which was really interesting.  Parts of what he presented on were familiar to me because I've been following Alec since 2011 when I got into MOOCs, and I learned more about ED&C 831 (his open course). Parts of what he presented were new to me.  For instance I didn't know he was a school teacher before he got into his current career.  Props to anyone who is a school teacher - I don't think I'd have the patience for that line of work :-).   I find it interesting that he was criticized as a "techo communist" (maybe I should pull out my vintage soviet beret and join the band?) because he wanted to be out in the open.  I also find it interesting that his dissertation was the first dissertation to be available in an open access means.

This presentation reminded me of (and kicked into mental gear) a few of things:

1.  I was around for the kick-off of Linux (mentioned in the presentation), and I do remember a time before that.  However I also acknowledge that I feel like I am living in "internet time" where things seem much more compact.  Like Peggy Lynn wrote (in the chat) - we've already drank the kool aid when it comes to being an open educator, but it's also important to realize that just because we've subscribed to it, and we (well, I do anyway) feel like this open thing has been around for ages, it's actually still in an infantile form and still needs people to support it.

2. I've been thinking about taking the open access pledge (for lack of a better term) for my work but not being sure where I might end up after the EdD program I don't know how feasible it is at the moment. Whenever possible, and when I collaborate with others (my preferred form of working on projects) I often advocate for OA, but that's not always possible (most time it is).  I am wondering if (for younger scholars, and those before tenure) if publishing in a closed journal or book is fine, provided that you get a pre-print version into your institution's (or your own) repository.

3. Alec in this presentation, and friends and fellow collaborators through twitter, reminded me of how much is on my "to read" list that I've added onto it but forgotten about it (talk about digital hoarding, eh Alec!).  This makes me wonder two things:  (a)  Does my mind feel like a leaky colander because I am working on many projects at once, including my dissertation proposal? Or am I just getting old? Or am I just human and this is normal?;  and (b)  there are people in my network (some of whom Alex mentioned) that have written about topics that would fit into my dissertation research and I just need to be kindly reminded about them.

4. Relating to open access, and the open access pledge - this is a though that I have been pondering since I started 805.  In my research I want to privilege OA sources. This to me means getting as many of my literature review items from open access journals.  However, I worry that my committee might say "well AK, you've missed some really important stuff by not looking at ALL journals" (a valid point, it could be #yoda).  If I am to make my dissertation available via OA, can I reasonably (as a researcher) aim to only (or mostly) use OA journals for my literature review and have that be part of my perspective as a researcher? Or am I shooting myself in the foot?

I enjoyed the presentation by Alec.  Maybe we can have him on as a guest again so I won't miss the presentation :-)

Getting paid in exposure...not!


One of the items I've wanted to comment on for a while was a blog post posted by friend and colleague Rebecca Hogue.  Rebecca writes that she teaches courses (similar, or the same courses as I do at UMB anyway) and these courses would be well served by a decent eBook that is published (and updated) for the course.  I wholeheartedly agree!  For the past half a decade I've been thinking about trying to put together an edited volume for the introductory course in instructional design†, or just write the book myself.

I've been thinking that this should be open access, given my philosophical leanings toward open access for education, however - just like Rebecca - I am not paid to teach full time. I teach because I like it, and I like to mentor others. Writing a book (or putting something edited together) takes up a lot of time and effort, and of course that needs to be maintained.  Expecting that someone will do it for free is not realistic.  It's a good thing that I was too busy to write about this topic before, because some of my artist friends recently also posted on their facebook feeds on a related matter: artists being asked to do creative work for free and the only benefit to them is "exposure".  Exposure you will get anyway once your work is out there, so the client is basically getting a free ride.  Just as artists should not work for free (ahem...for "exposure"), so too academics should not be working for free.

Now, this doesn't mean that you - as an academic - should give up on open publishing! I do think that employees need some level of permanence in their positions, and their evaluations need to reflect his open ethos as well.  For example, when an adjunct is considered "full time" when he or she teachers 4 courses per semester, mathematically that breaks down to each course counting as 25% time‡.  If you are being compensated only for teaching, then there is no expectation of creating resources that would be valuable to others.  For the tenure track folks, open publishing should be valued the same as closed publishing♠.  What's valued in annual faculty reviews (from my own experience) are publications in "high impact" journals. Those journals are usually closed access. There is a lot of academic labor that goes into publishing, reviewing for, and editing for journals that don't pay the authors (or their institutions for that matter) for their academic output, but rather expect to be paid in order to access the work done by those faculty members. This is nuts to me. The moral here is that in order to have this type of open academic output done by faculty members there need to be appropriate mechanisms within the institutional organization to make it happen.

This aspect of payment - and who's producing OER, brings me to Rebecca's concluding questions:

Does the OER movement create/promote some of the disparities that it is trying to break down? Does it mean that only scholars who are paid by institutions have the freedom and ability to participate in creation? What about those living in developed countries? How do they participate in the creation of open scholarship? Is it just another form of colonization by the well off academy?
I think that in order to actually create OER you need to have certain prerequisites taken care of.  As a person you need to be able to support yourself before you're able to give away all of the fruits of your labor.  You can give away some things for free (and get exposure that way) but those need to be strategic and calculated. For example, publishing in open access journals costs you nothing (to publish), it's free for others to access, and you are losing no money because you wouldn't be paid for a journal article even if it were in a closed access journal.  Journal articles also take less time (comparatively) to write than books.  Books on the other hand can be sold, and some money can be made from them.

The question of colonization is interesting to ponder, and I don't have an answer.  To some extent it reminds me  of the old riddle: if a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?   Let me explain my framing here:

  1. If I write a book, and sell it. If there exists someone who can't afford to buy the book then they don't read it.  What is the net impact?
  2. If I write a book, and sell it. If there exists someone who can't afford to buy the book but they read it anyway through the library or through some book "piracy" site.  What is the net impact
  3. If I write a book, and make it open access. If there exists someone who can't afford to get to a venue where that book is available (i.e. online)  What is the net impact?
  4. If I write a book, and make it open access. If there exists someone who can read it.  What is the net impact?

When an author writes a book they write from their own perspective, whatever that perspective might be. I think it's up to the reader to determine what the impact is for them. Do they take and assimilate the author's perspective? Or do they take it as initial data and formulate their own results and outcomes from it?  Not knowing how things work on the other end (the reading/consuming end of things) makes it a little hard to decide whether OER can be considered a colonizing force.

As far as how people in developing countries participate in open scholarship - I am not sure. I think that we are in a privileged position  to consider issues of open scholarship.  If I worked for minimum wage (or less!) and needed to work 60-80 (or more!) hours per week to make ends meet I (personally) wouldn't be thinking of open scholarship. I think this is where things like Universal Basic Income start playing a role in what we do as societies. If certain basic needs are met we are free to explore other areas (good ol' Maslow). Until then, we grind along to live another day.

Your thoughts?

† something I've reconsidered in light of recent experiences trying to get pieces for edited volumes!
‡ 25% time for those keeping score at home means 10 hours per week - which seems crazy to me since I end up spending more time with my learners than that...
♠ personally argue that open publishing should count for more since that is much more accessible to others than closed publishing

No more blatantly openwashing

I am a little behind the times in this breakneck-speed of development in the world of MOOCs, but some things (namely EDDE 804) have priority over the comings and goings of xMOOC providers. Close to a month ago IHE had reported in their quick takes section that coursera will remove the option of free for some of their courses.  Blink, and you may have missed it.  I also don't recall seeing much discussion about it in my usual edTech circles.

My original thought was that coursera was just barring access (period) to some courses if you don't pay, however it seems that the actual process is a little more nuanced.  From the coursera blog:

Starting today, when you enroll in certain courses, you’ll be asked to pay a fee (or apply for Coursera’s financial aid program) if you’d like to submit required graded assignments and earn a Course Certificate. You can also choose to explore the course for free, in which case you’ll have full access to videos, discussions, and practice assignments, and view-only access to graded assignments. You’ll see the options for each individual course when you click “enroll” on the course information page; courses that aren’t part of this change will continue to show the options to enroll in the course either with or without a Certificate. Most courses that are part of Specializations will begin offering this new experience this week, and certain other courses will follow later this year.

Now, to anyone who does not know how coursera 'graded' courses work, there is no instructor who grades your assignment.  If payment were required to compensate a human being for their time to grade, and provide feedback, on your assignment it would make sense.  However graded assignments are multiple choice exams - done by computer, and peer-reviewed assignments, done for free by your peers.  To some extent this seems to me like a replication of the peer reviewed journal publication model where a lot of work is done for free by volunteers, and then those same volunteers (or rather their institutions) are asked to subscribe to very costly databases to access those journals articles that were written or reviewed by their members for free.

Coursera, in a sense, if becoming a bit like a temporary-access YouTube for educational videos.  If you want something for free, you can come in and access it when it's available  - or if you're lucky it's "on demand" and hence perpetually accessible...until it isn't - and you can watch videos on (mostly) their schedule, because once the course is's over and you no longer have access to videos.  At least EdX (up to now) still allows you to go back and view your past course videos.  In the past, before the new interface, coursera actually had a little download button for the videos in their courses, and I availed myself of the use of that button to keep some archival copies of those videos.  They've come in handy when I've wanted to view them on my tablet or smartphone and I am offline.  Now that capability is gone.

It seems to me that the trend here is to continue to openwash their products while we uncritically accept them as yet another provider of "open" content.  I do get it.  I have an MBA.  I get the responsibility to turn a profit and returning the initial investment (plus some extra for their faith in you) to the investors that put money into coursera.  However, I think you're going about it wrong, and openwashing isn't a great (or ethical in my book) practice.  If you are more honest about what you are doing and completely shed the "open" adjective then we're cool.  But let me ask you this, from a business perspective, how are you different from self-paced elearning outfits like; and how are you going to avoid the same mistakes as FATHOM?  I am not seeing a plan for you...


Why Open?


The other day I was reading a recent post by Jenny Mackness on questions about being open. Jenny had attended the recent ALT-C conference and was responding to a fellow ALT-C participant's questions on openness.  Specifically Viv Rofle ponders:

I’m questioning not just openness by my motives behind wanting to contribute to it.

  • What motivates academics and teachers to get involved in areas of practice that are NOT supported by their institutions? 
  • Why invest even longer hours in supporting educational practice? My dentist doesn’t give me free root canal treatment outside of work? 
  • Why personally finance conference attendance and travel, and what are the implications of this for the education sector? 
  • What is in it for those willing to ‘go open’?
These are good questions, and I think that the fact that I, a non-participant in ALT-C, am able to view, ponder, and engage with such questions and discussions is really the reason why you'd want to be open. Even things such as virtually connecting is only possible due to the openness of others. I don't see it as freeloading (as some might) but I see openness as an opportunity to augment, enhance, and expand the conference and learning experience.

I guess, like Jenny did, I want to address Viv's specific questions one at a time.

What motivates academics and teachers to get involved in areas of practice that are NOT supported by their institutions? 

Well, I don't know.  I guess I'd need to do some research on that in order to come up with some sort of answer that is generalizable. If I take some anecdotal evidence, both from my own lived experience and from stories I hear from other open colleagues, I would make the bold claim that to be in academia means that you should ascribe to notions of openness.  I know that this is a philosophical stance, and that others may not share in my views of academics, however why would someone devote their life to teaching and/or to research if they are not willing to be open about what they do?  In research results need to be validated and vetted. One of the ways to do this is to be open (and honest) about your methodology and how you obtained your results.  In teaching if you are closed you don't share anything. 

How does one teach without sharing?  I often am perplexed with academics who throw copyright statements on their syllabi.  What the heck for? Have you found the most awesome and most effective way to teach Introduction to Biology or Intermediate Accounting? I am sure that there are others who approach the subject in both similar and different manners but students still learn.  I often think that such crazy actions on the part of academics is driven by fear and uncertainty rather than selfishness.  I do think, however, that the path out of fear and uncertainty is openness.  Those who are open - again my small anecdotal sample size - find themselves with more opportunities.  In the end I think that the original motivation for being open is the wish to connect with others, and to share know-how, and to engage with them. There may be benefits beyond this as well, beyond the altruism.

Why invest even longer hours in supporting educational practice? My dentist doesn’t give me free root canal treatment outside of work? 

I am not sure that the analogy is apt. I also think that it depends on where you work.  Even as a professional staff member (not a faculty), many of my previous departments were open to me spending some time engaging professionally and intellectually outside of my department's work. So long as department work was done and there were no issues, I had some academic freedom†. That said, I think that many of us do not see our jobs as simply something that pays the bills. I am not going to go so far as to call the job "a calling" - I often roll my eyes when I hear that, but I do think that we have fun with what we do, even if there are things in our jobs that grind us down.

As such, there isn't this on/off moment whereby during the hours of 9am and 5pm we turn off our interests and focus on mundane work, and a 5:01 we turn off work and we focus on what makes us happy.  There is often an overlap - which does have the real danger of losing balance between work and fun.  That said, being open doesn't mean being open all the time.  If you need to take time off, or don't feel like posting your syllabus as Creative Commons document right now, that's perfectly fine.  You are open on your own terms, and there are shades of open. I know that there are people out there that would disagree with me, but from where I stand open is not an all or nothing proposition.

Why personally finance conference attendance and travel, and what are the implications of this for the education sector? 

I think that this is a personal choice of individuals.  I personally don't personally finance conference costs and attendance.  The money that I save for vacation goes toward vacations where I can see new sights, explore new cultures, and eat new food (also toward seeing the same ancient Greek monuments and eating the same yummy Greek food). I have a philosophical issue with paying my own money to attend conferences.  I try to find conference attendance on the cheap.  I look for conferences that I can attend for free if my conference paper is accepted.  I look for conferences that my employer can foot the bill for.  And I look for conferences that are local where I don't have to pay for hotels or airfare.  This generally means that I only really attend one or two conferences per year (one in Boston, MA and one in Providence, RI) but that doesn't matter to me. What being open means to me is that the entire year can be a conference. Between virtually connecting, cMOOCs, and other impromptu work that I do with my open colleagues, I end up learning more, and meeting more people than attending a paid conference.

What is in it for those willing to ‘go open’?

I think the WIIFM (what's in it for me) question is also the wrong question to ask.  While an exchange mentality is OK in some contexts (negotiating work salary for example), I think it's the wrong frame of mind for open.  If you are asking the question, my gut reaction is that you are not ready to be 'open'.  It might sound a little yoda-like in its philosophy, but the benefits of open (at least in my own small sample size) are not always visible, immediate, or quantifiable.  For instance connections with fellow colleagues aren't something you can monetize or take advantage of.  Opportunities may arise in the networks that you are part of, and hence by being part of an open network you could reap some rewards down the road, such as landing a new job, learning of a publishing opportunity you didn't know about before, or participating in research that interests you but would have gone under your radar.

For me being open - keeping in mind that I've defined open as 'degrees of openness' - is sort of along the same lines as 'being kind to people'. No one ever asks WIIFM to be kind to others, unless of course you are philosopher.

Your thoughts?

† obviously I am not using academic freedom in the same sense as faculty do :-)

Appropriateness of primary materials? Thoughts on peer review

It's been a while, but I am finally (sort of) getting back to addressing some feedback that my colleague and I got on an article we are working on with regard to MOOCs.  My colleague, Zaharias, thought it would be a great idea to sit down and make an (initial) typology of issues around the development of MOOCs. The abstract was accepted for a special issue of a journal, but our final version was not.  This I found a bit odd, but I've taken the peer reviewer's comments to heart, and I am thinking of ways of addressing them.  Some, in my mind, are valid.  I "live" in my head, so for me terms like cMOOC, xMOOC, FSLT12, CCK11, MobiMOOC, connectivism and so on are second nature.  I think to some audiences there might be some need to explain what this alphabet soup means.  Other comments that I also took to heart revolve around typos that just sneaked under our radars. After 8200 words, and multiple readings, who could blame us ;-) As a newly minted editor, though, for the CIEE journal I realize how annoying this might be for peer reviewers and editors :)

Anyway, there was some feedback, though, that I take issue with. In order to do this initial typology our literature review spanned over 100 sources ranging from academic, peer reviewed articles, to conference presentations, to news items from Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle, as well as blog posts from respected leaders in the field, such as Stephen Downes, George Siemens, and people who've run their own MOOCs.  We opted to only use academic literature that was free on the web in an open access format.  I do have access to library research databases, however I find it very odd, philosophically, to study open education and to rely on so many closed access journals in order to do my research.  I could definitely see the peer reviewer's point that we should go after more (closed access) academic articles  to increase the pool of our data, however I take serious issue with the following advice that we got:
The collected materials in this manuscript are not high quality document owing that most of them are informal documents. The authors should collect academic high quality papers to survey and analyze.
Just because something is not in an academic, peer-reviewed, journal doesn't mean that it does not have some sort of quality, and it does not deserve attention.  There have been quite a few blog posts out there that were pre-cursors to academic articles that someone in an academic article down the road deemed to have sufficient quality to publish. Furthermore, if someone has published in peer reviewed articles, and regularly gives conference presentations and keynotes, don't their blog posts carry more weight than mine or someone who's a novice in the subject?  And, last but not least, what happens in professional publications such as the Chronicle and IHE never makes it to academic publishing (see for example the issues with FOE MOOC and #massiveteaching). These things need accounting and addressing, and if they never make it to publication, for one reason or another, they become invisible to educational research. This seems like a big failure to me.

Another thing that piqued my interest is the idea of laying down the groundwork.  I understand that there needs to be some level of definition of terms in academic research, and when I eventually do a dissertation I expect that I will be defining a lot of terms before I get to the heart of my own experiments.  That said, in an academic article, which usually has a limit on the amount of words you can put in it, how much space do you use for definition of terms, and how much do you devote to the heart of the matter? How reasonable is it to expect that, in the age of Google and in light of your providing of a full reference list, that you don't necessarily need to briefly describe terms like xMOOC, cMOOC, CCK, and PLENK? At the end of the day, I am not averse to defining such terms (in addition to any existing citations) but I do wonder how this is counted against the authors of papers when there are defined word limits for articles?

Your thoughts? Any other peculiarities of peer review you have a bone to pick with? :)

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What Openness means to me

With coursera MOOCs kind of slow this time of year, I decided to try out a MOOC on the subject of "Open" on P2PU. After my first P2PU course, #rhizo14, I thought I would flex the mental muscle a bit and get some P2PU experience.  The topic of this week asks us to ponder what Openness means to us as individual participants.  To be honest I haven't really sat down to write up what I think of Openess.  I've certainly discussed the topic with colleagues and friends over beer or coffee, but it's been on specific topics, like MOOCs.  Many in the xMOOC arena consider "open" to mean "free".  The previous post I wrote should have you convinced, to some degree, that Open isn't free. There is some cost associated with it whether or not you get it gratis.

That said, for me Open is about a philosophy.  It may mean a number of things:

1. free-of-cost:  In some instances, such as all those free MOOCs that you can sign up for (even this one!) you can get something for nothing.  It doesn't mean that there wasn't some cost associated with it, such as labor-hours, or server space and bandwidth, but to you as the end-user, or consumer, it's available at no cost. As an aside, I was download Ubuntu the other day, and right before the download link appeared it asked you if you wanted to donate to the project.  If I ever built and offered a MOOC I was thinking of having a tip-jar link to see if people would contribute, and what they would contribute for (similar to Ubuntu's site indicating what you'd like to support)

2. Open Access: When I think of Open, I often tend to think of Open Access, and Creative Commons. These would be academic articles, professional publications images and media that I can use for free for a variety of tasks (depending of course on the compatibility of the license). The reason that CC and Open Access is important is that our academic output costs us time and effort, however someone else (journals and book publishers) are profiting for it by selling our work back to our institutions. I don't want to open up a whole can of worms here by starting a "down with journals" debate, but I am a firm believer that my work, which I am not compensated for, should be free so that people can read it and let me know if they found it useful, or if there are flaws in my work, so I can improve my work. Sure, these things go through peer review, but you usually only get one or two people to peer review your work. Open Access means that the whole world can peer review your work and make it better. 

3. Looking under the hood: One of the things I do each semester (at least when I teach) is to post my syllabus under Creative Commons to Scribd. I do this for a couple of reasons.  First, the students have access to it before the semester starts so they can mentally prepare for the course if they need to.  Secondly I am hoping that other educators will look at the modules I've designed (or modified if I based it off someone else's work) and take whatever is of use to them as professionals.  I do the same thing. When I come across syllabi on the internet that are similar to the course I teach, I look at what they do, I look at their sources, and if I find something that escaped my radar, but it's useful and it's in someone else's syllabus, I use it in my course.  By contributing my syllabus out there, openly, I am part of this ecosystem that drives toward perpetual improvement

4. Open Data: Now, this is something that I don't think of very often when I think of Open because I am not in the physical sciences.  That said, this past spring I  co-authored a paper for a special issue of a journal. This paper was a typology of MOOC issues (or rough spots) that need further investigation and thought.  This was a meta-analysis of published MOOC literature, but not just academic literature, but also professional and blogs from people who have established themselves as influential MOOCers (like Siemens and Downes for example).  The academic articles came from open access journals and materials that were available on the open web via Google Scholar.  The reason for this methodology was quite simple: this is open data, and if someone wants to verify our work they can do it.  We didn't bother explaining this, so at least one reviewer was wondering why we didn't go with journals like the British Journal of Educational Technology.  While I, and my colleague, has access to this, it's "open" only to a select group of individuals, so it's not really open in the traditional sense. Our article was not accepted, and we did get some wonderful feedback which we will use to improve our article, but at the end of the day, I don't think our methodology of using Open Data will change.

5. Finally, Open to me is a conundrum! I've been trying to get a couple of books out on the subject of MOOCs.  I, as editor, emailed a number of people who would have fantastic things to say about specific subjects on MOOCs and invited them to contribute a chapter.  Some said yes, some said that they only publish Open Access so they would not be able to contribute to a closed access traditional book.  I think that following your belief in open is great, especially when you're well established and can have your pick of where you publish, but as someone new to the game, what does one do? It seems that at the very beginning you may need to publish in closed access, to get the gravitas in the field, to be able to only publish open access in the future.  Furthermore, finding publishers to do open access book is like searching for a life in the cosmos ;-) They exist somewhere, but pretty hard to catch. So, my tactic at the moment is to give up on books, and focus strictly on OA journals.
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