Filed under: Open Educational Resources (OER) | Tags: Angel, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Connexions, creative commons, educational technology, IMS commons cartridge, open course library, open educational resources, open textbooks, Quality Matters, strategic technology plan, Washington, Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges
I spent April 26-27, 2010 in Vancouver Washington attending the Open Course Library Kick-Off meeting of the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.
The Open Course Library initiative is one of four Washington higher education programs being funded through a $5.3 million Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation three year grant. The Open Course Library portion of the grant is $1.8 million.
The Open Course Library initiative has the following goals:
– design 81 high enrollment, high quality courses for face-to-face (FTF), hybrid, and online delivery
– lower textbook costs for students (< $30)
– provide new resources for faculty to use in their courses
– fully engage Washington's college system in the global Open Educational Resources (OER) movement
– improve completion rates through good design and affordability
The kick-off meeting is for developers from across the college system who have received grants to support development of the first 43 courses. Phase 2 for the remaining 38 courses is slated for 2011.
I attended this event as a guest at the kind invitation of Cable Green who is Project Director for the Open Course Library initiative.
I went with a number of goals:
1. Assess the degree of state level support for the initiative vs. foundation level support
2. Learn more about the open/low cost textbook strategy being used as part of Open Course Library
3. Compare and contrast the Open Course Library initiative with BCcampus' own open educational resource initiative
4. Explore the potential for some kind of collaboration or partnership between our initiatives
The Open Course Library initiative is fascinating in many ways.
At the state level a Strategic Technology Plan for Washington State Community and Technical Colleges notes that: “Using open educational resources – and contributing to them – requires significant change in the culture of higher education. It requires thinking about content as a common resource that raises all boats when shared. It requires replacing our “not invented here” attitude with a “proudly borrowed from there” orientation. And it requires a new willingness to share and distribute the best of our own course content and software, and to participate in creating and maintaining open textbooks.”
The Plan goes on to list a number of guiding principles which includes one that states: “We will cultivate the culture and practice of using and contributing to open educational resources.”
Kudos to the state for producing a Strategic Technology Plan and supporting OER!
I particularly like the way Open Course Library is targeting development of high enrollment courses. Of the 43 courses being developed in the first phase the top ten in terms of annual enrollments are:
1. English Composition I with enrollments of 42,301
2. Intermediate Algebra with enrollments of 25,747
3. Intermediate Algebra with enrollments of 25,255
4. General Psychology with enrollments of 24,611
5. Pre-college English with enrollments of 17,658
6. English Composition II with enrollments of 16,165
7. Introduction to Chemistry with enrollments of 10,382
8. Precalculus I with enrollments of 9,307
9. General Biology with enrollments of 8,830
10. Lifespan Psychology with enrollments of 7,853
By targeting high enrollment courses the Open Course Library initiative immediately generates benefits for over 188,109 students annually. Thats a lot of students!
Enhanced design and digital resources for these courses will improve the teaching and learning experience for students and faculty alike.
I also really like the cost savings/affordability goals of the Open Course Library initiative. As part of the development of these courses the accompanying textbook must be $30 or less. The text can be in digital or print form. Publishers have been given the list of courses being developed and asked to inform developers what they can make available for that price. In Washington annual tuition is around $3K/year with textbooks adding a further $1K. Many textbooks are in the $100 to $200 range and textbook prices have been increasing at approximately 6%/year, a rate higher than annual inflation. A strategy that reduces textbook price to less than $30, when multiplied by annual enrollments represents a significant cost savings to students.
The Open Course Library grants will produce a complete digital course including:
– syllabus with clear learning outcomes
– course curriculum
– instructional materials
– formative and summative assessments
– grading rubric
– cover letter describing tips and tricks of how to teach the course
– cover letter for licensing
All the files for the entire course are submitted at the end of development. They will then be ported into the Angel Learning Management System (LMS) and exported in IMS Common Course Cartridge format that allows use in any LMS. Twenty eight of the states thirty four colleges use Angel so this requirement is far easier to meet than ours in BC where institutions are using Moodle, Desire2Learn and Blackboard.
All courses will be licensed for open sharing using Creative Commons (CC_BY). Third party copyright material used in the course must be documented.
Courses will be shared within the state via the Washington Online Angel system and with the world via Connexions http://cnx.org.
It will be interesting to see how this strategy plays out. Sharing with the world through Connexions requires breaking a course down into modules. Anyone else wanting to use that content within their own LMS will not easily be able to do so as Connexions content requires use of the Connexions web site or export as a .pdf which is inherently non-modifiable.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Open Course Library initiative is the recognition that development of digital courses is a team effort. Each faculty course designer gets a grant of $15K. When the call for proposals went out other complementary grants were also made available. Complementing the faculty course designers who provide the subject matter expertise are grants awarded to:
– instructional designers
– institutional researchers
– ADA/Disability universal designers, and
– global citizen/multicultural experts
These complementary team members are responsible for supporting the development of all 43 courses. Each instructional designer, librarian, institutional researcher, etc. also has received a $15K grant. A comprehensive team approach like this has tremendous potential for creating exemplary courses. As introductions and presentations were made by all groups over the two days enthusiasm and excitement built as it became apparent support needed to ensure success was in place.
To further enhance the liklihood of producing great courses the instructional design team will use the Quality Matters Program http://www.qualitymatters.org. This program, uses a peer review process and national standards of best practices to ensure a course is designed to promote student learning. I’m particularly impressed with the Quality Matters rubric standards. In addition faculty are required to get feedback on their course design plan with at least two other system faculty in their discipline who are not part of the grant project.
Finally, it is wonderful to see a program like this walk the talk. Communication and sharing about the program and ensuing development is being openly posted at:
In looking around at all the OER initiatives taking place I see a need for more interaction and collaboration between initiatives. It seems everyone is willing to enter into development of OER but few are interested in actually reusing the OER of others or collaborating around building OER collectively to create credentials. Going forward this year I see this as a strategy for BCcampus.
In discussion with Cable Green I committed to assessing what OER resources the BCcampus initiative has generated that could contribute to the development efforts of the 43 high enrollment courses being developed through the Open Course Library. We also discussed the potential to create collaborations and interactions between developers working on OER resources in a common field of study across OER initiatives. I’d love to see a “swap meet” where all developers creating say, biology OER resources, meet and show each other what they’ve developed along with exploring the potential to collaborate together going forward.
This is such an exciting field and I thank all participants at the Open Course Library Kick Off for allowing me to be a guest. It’s fantastic to see the enthusiasm and drive from all involved.
Filed under: web-based science | Tags: online labs, remote controlled instrumentation, web-based science
This week my friend and colleague Gina Bennett sent me an e-mail with a subject line saying, “Science for all, from big to small”.
She went on to tell me some of the latest news about a Web-Based Associate of Science curriculum project BCcampus has supported over the years. The project has been running for 3+ years now. Ron Evans, of North Island College, has been the project leader with Gina and the College of The Rockies where she works playing a supporting role and being joined along the way by a variety of other college & university partners.
The Web-based Associate of Science project started as an ambitious extension of Ron Evan’s distance-delivered astronomy course. In his astronomy courses, students are able to remotely control a telescope equipped with a camera situated at Tatla Lake in northern British Columbia. Using the photos & data obtained to complete their lab reports students learn about some of the largest objects (planets, stars, galaxies, etc.) in the study of science. See http://rwsl.nic.bc.ca/tloo/ for more.
Just last week the project acquired an online microscope which is now being configured for remote access so that students can learn about some of the smallest objects (bacterial cells etc.) in the study of science.
Gina went on to say, “it just occurred to me how cool this is that such breadth in the study of science is becoming available to ALL postsecondary students in BC, regardless of location or time constraints.”
It is totally cool and I thought I’d provide more context and links regarding this project.
The Web‐based Associate of Science Project envisions an entirely web deliverable option for the BC Associate of Science degree program. It includes both the theory and lab components of the curriculum. Delivering the lab components over the web is the crucial challenge in this project.
To meet this challenge Ron and his partners are creating a Remote Web‐based Science Laboratory (RWSL) which provides a web‐based and robotic interface between the student and the lab equipment allowing actual laboratory exercises to be performed in real time while collecting authentic data and even making mistakes.
I encourage you to check out the Remote Web-based Science Laboratory web site at:
Of special interest in terms of understanding the idea are the videos at:
RWSL consists of the LabVIEW web interface, from National Instruments (http://www.ni.com/labview).
Students can remotely control cameras, sensors, and manipulation tools like the robotic arm
While non‐science educational content has moved to web‐based formats with relative ease, the laboratory components of science courses have proven difficult to deliver via the web. Simulations are instructive, but they are not widely accepted as valid lab experience. RWSL allows laboratory based exercises to be delivered entirely over the Internet to student lab groups who perform these actual lab exercises in real time by controlling the lab equipment remotely. The data collected in this way is authentic data from a real‐world experience and students analyze it in the same way that they would if they had collected it while in the laboratory themselves.
As Ron, points out in one of his proposals “This is analogous to scientists collecting data through a robotic deep‐sea submersible or through the Mars Exploration Rovers and is something that is occurring more and more in science today. The scientists cannot be on site, but the data they are collecting is every bit as valid as it would be if they were.”