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I agree that it would take a lot of time, and that teachers are already very busy, but ultimately I think the current alternative is worse. If student are mostly just memorising for automated tests, and then forgetting almost everything they memorised soon after the test, then the educational process is not achieving much real learning anyway. Given this, I think we could change our educational processes to focus on less content delivery (and hence less fact testing), and spend more time on the types of learning outlined above.

I hasten to add that I’m not advocating content-free education - far from it - it is only through a rich engagement with real content, real events, real discoveries, that the broader types of learning will come alive and be retained by students. But by changing assessment practices, and giving much more time to this element of education, we change the way that students learn (and the way teachers teach), and may have a better chance at achieving these broader types of learning.

While Learning Design could help with more authentic learning and assessment tasks, it could also help with educators’ lack of time. Instead of the inefficiencies of each educator around the world re-inventing the wheel for commonly taught topics, the re-use of existing “good practice” Learning Designs could reduce preparation times, and hence free educators to spend more time on authentic and individualised assessment.

I believe this is a dream worth fighting for, and I sense I’m not alone.

14. ken udas - may 24th, 2007 at 5:11 pm

James, thanks again for your thorough response. Am with you on the deficits of automated testing and with you on the potential of not having to reinvent new Learning Designs and content. Following from a number of earlier discussion it seems that building an economy of open educational resources is predicated on ability to easily localize content, which I think points to having a ubiquitous and reliable “run-time” environment.

James, I know that you have been investing a lot of time in this posting, and I very much appreciate it. I have another quick question that I think relates to the development of a strong community supporting the development and use of “Open Source Teaching” resources. How much complexity would having a collaborative authoring environment create? In Kim Tucker’s recent posting, we talked a bit about Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP), which seemed to me to be a rather important notion. Do you have any thoughts about CBPP, that is, have you seen evidence of it practically in the development of Learning Designs, or is it just a good idea, but not very practical. Finally, what would have to be done in LAMS to support group development?

15. james dalziel – may 28th, 2007 at 5:06 am

Ken, Regarding Commons-Based Peer Production, I think Learning Design in general, and LAMS in particular, are very much in keeping with this idea. From one perspective, the whole point of Learning Design is to try to capture the educational processes we use in online courses so that these can be made explicit, and then shared, localised and adapted. This is compared to the usual alternative which is that an instructor does some innovative things in their Course Management System in connecting content resources to forums and other tools to foster collaborative student learning, but then at the end of the course there is no easily shared “thing” that represents this structuring of links between content, forums, etc.

So having made the educational process shareable, Learning Design supports different kinds of peer production. It could be a course team within a single institution where different individual s with different skills (content expert, learning designer, graphic artist, etc) work together to create online courses. These may never be shared with the wider world, but by making the elements shareable, collaborative development is made easier. LAMS has always supported this through both export of Learning Design files, as well as authors being part of “shared” areas with others on the same server. In LAMS V2, we now support multiple shared areas, so different teams of course developers can work together, each with in their own shared “space”.

In other cases, the focus may be more “global”, in the sense that individual educators share resources with the world in the hope that others will be able to use, adapt and improve these resources, but without this being part of any specific local team effort. I think this more global approach will usually require open content licenses to work (as it is difficult to harness the collective development effort without clear freedoms to use and adapt), whereas this not necessarily a requirement (although still desirable!) for local team production.

The LAMS Community is an example of this second kind of “global” sharing. As at 28th May 2007, we have 2262 users sharing 190 sequences which have been downloaded 5377 times - so this illustrates the Commons-Based Peer Production model applied to Learning Design. It is modest in scale compared to some other initiatives, but nonetheless it provides a first indication of the potential of CBPP applied to Learning Design.

One surprise (for me) from the history of the LAMS Community to date is that we haven’t yet seen much direct adaptation and sharing back - most sequences are new contributions, rather than modifications of existing sequences. This may be just part of an evolutionary process (perhaps we need a large body of original work before adaptation becomes common), but when I’ve talked to educators about this issue, many have noted that they like reviewing other people’s sequences for ideas and tips, but that they tend to start a fresh sequence that is *informed* by their review of other sequences, rather than direct adaptation. I’ve experienced this myself.

If this proves to be a persistent issue, it might limit the potential benefits of using open source style development processes to improve the quality of Learning Design through peer collaboration. This will be worth watching closely over the coming years.

For a more detailed article about the rationale for the development of the LAMS Community, and some reflections on experiences to date, see

(External Link)&attachment_id=311750

16. ken udas - may 28th, 2007 at 8:53 am

James, Simon, Wayne, and all others who are following along - thank you very much your thoughtful post and follow-up comments. This, and a number of other posts have me thinking about some of the similarities and differences between open source software and open educational resources relative to the creation and distribution of intellectual information products, and the organization and effort it takes to sustain an open community-based endeavor of this nature. I think that the notion of Open Source Teaching provides an interesting perspective. In the near future, I would like to tease some of this out in terms of commons-based peer production.

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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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