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Martin Weller's contribution to the OSS and OER in Education Series. In this post, he discusses the Open University’s attempt to create an open API-based social networking system for learning.

Author - Martin Weller, "Exploring new ways of being open". Originally submitted October 14th, 2008 to the OSS and OER in Education Series, Terra Incognita blog (Penn State World Campus), edited by Ken Udas.

When the Open University (OU) in the UK was founded in 1969, ‘open’ had a rather specific meaning in education. It meant open access, and this was realised through part time study and open entry. In choosing the term ‘Open’ the university’s founders chose wisely as it is a term which has, if anything, gained in currency. When we think of openness in education now we probably think of open source software, open educational resources, open APIs, open journals, etc. In this post I want to highlight how the OU is embracing these different forms of openness, and to make the argument that it is doing so through technology projects. In this sense, openness is not just a technical or pedagogic decision even, but rather a fundamental mindset, and one which we need to continually reinterpret in the light of changing technology and society.

I will concentrate on the project I am currently directing, SocialLearn , which aims to build a social network for learning. This project comes on the back of two other major OU ventures, namely the OU adoption of the open source platform Moodle as its learning management system, and the OU’s Hewlett Foundation funded open educational resource initiative, OpenLearn . My colleague Andy Lane will talk about the latter in detail in his post, which will be posted on this blog soon after mine. The adoption of Moodle was significant for the OU for two main reasons: firstly, it signaled to the education community that we believed open source was a robust and sensible option; secondly, it gave out a strong message that the OU was still current and willing to take risks. In this sense it was as much a political decision as a technical one.

SocialLearn is the latest in these types of initiatives. Its aim is to develop a social network for learners, which is based around an open API, thus allowing any application to write to it. In this sense it could be one form of the almost mythical ‘ eduglu ’ that binds together a range of third party applications to create a Personal Learning Environment. What is perhaps more intriguing, though, is what will happen when we can mine the social graph data to help structure a learner’s experience. When a learner creates a goal, similar goals, relevant resources, and potential third party offerings (eg mentorship, tuition, formal courses) can all be assembled. The system, in effect, can do much of the filtering process that is currently performed by an educator (although it does not seek to provide the support or expertise of the educator, filtering is only one function). The potential of this is that the currently top-down, restricted curriculum is democratised. People learn about whatever is of interest to them - in effect we have an open curriculum.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, The impact of open source software on education. OpenStax CNX. Mar 30, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10431/1.7
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