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Here’s a Canadian’s perspective on why university education should be free by Heather Mallick. Of course, I think it well worth considering, even if the perspective comes across as more cold hard economic rationalism.. the comments therefore represent that line – but when in Rome hey! I still appear to be the only one in NZ giving free vocational education and training serious thought and development, that’s a worry. Any links anyone?

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This is a draft version of a mini open source documentary we are putting together about Otago Polytechnic and its open educational resources and practices. Please help us to improve it by identifying errors or making suggestions. We’ve had a headache with camera codecs not matching up with the editor, so any compliments would help with production moral as well 🙂
Santtu at the helm by wili_hybrid

Santtu at the helm by wili_hybrid

When I get a free minute I try to get through some of my feedreader. Unfortunately I don’t get very far into it because Abject Learning is first in the list.

This time Brian is questioning the need for OER, and I have to say I largely share his position, it is over rated in the grand scheme of things.

One of the other participants asked a question that resonated with me: if we live in an era of information abundance, why is the primary drive around OERs the publication of more content? And what other activities around the open education movement might be an effective use of our energies? What other needs have to be met?

The predictable response from content centric OER proponents relates to copyright and freedom, OER content is “free”.

But as Brian points out, this is increasingly a non issue:

I staked out something of a confrontational stance… that higher education is still conducting its business as if information is scarce when we now live in an era of unprecedented information abundance. That we in the institutions can endlessly discuss what content we deign to share via our clunky platforms, while Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, TED Talks, the blogs and other networked media just get on with it… That I might not be able to legally reproduce much of the copyrighted media on the web, but I can link to it, maybe embed it, or simply tell students to search for it.

Already, formal education is out of the picture in every way. Our educational services are locked up in Blackboard, and our teachers are too afraid to professionally network online. Online education is a dark web. Stepping up to the plate then is Open Education services like Wikieducator, but bringing another set of restrictive criteria that effectively keep people in a twilight zone – adherence to one form of copyright. While the Internetworked cultural development powers on, largely ignoring copyright or bypassing it with hyperlinks, embedding and data sharing, OER efforts want to declare a point of difference because we think copyright is still even relevant! Trouble is we are held back because the user base we rely on to produce this “free culture” still have no idea or just don’t want to have to worry about copyright – they just want to get on with the teaching with what ever the best content is on the day, and with the least amount of practical restriction as possible.

The rhetoric about freedom and moralistic argument in OER amps up non-the-less. We fail to see that we are loosing our freedom as it relates to effective and efficient educational practice. Not to mention the role we play in assisting with the erosion and missed opportunities in Fair Use and Fair Dealings.

The distinction here is between educational practice and content production. Instructional designers have long confused the two. For an educational practitioner (and a student) there is more usable content than we could possibly need for education, more is good and more will come. Most of the good stuff is already openly accessible and in many instances copy-able! The communication channels around it all are open too, why would we want to limit our options with some complex and practically irrelevant detail about copyright, effectively giving ourselves another form of lock in?

As a content producer it is a diffferent story, we need more content with less restrictive copyrights, but even for us it is less of an issue now with linking and embedding, not to mention how quick it can be to simply ask for permission.

In short, OER can be a distraction and can lead us back to content centric thinking that is not the real issue we need to be talking about. OER should stand for Open Educational Reform (appropriating that from Alex Hayes), where we talk about access and equity, connectivity, relevence, flexible assessment, and efficiencies. I am increasingly trying to look at the OER services like Wikieducator more for their platform feature sets relevant to what I need to do, and less (if at all) for its stunted content and contradictory ideas about freedom.

When MIT publish one it seems.

MIT have published a text called Opening Up Education, but under a copyright license that is one step short of All Rights Reserved. MIT is just not getting the message are they? They are not really about open education at all!

On the other hand, Utah State University in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning and individual designers have published the OER Handbook. Available under a free and practically nonrestrictive license, in both a wiki and a printed and bound text on Lulu.

I like to think that Utah followed Otago Polytechnic’s lead when we published Ruth Lawson’s Anatomy and Physiology of Animals text on Wikibooks, with lesson plans and activities on Wikieducator, and a printed version on

We are working on a number of other texts as we speak (not to mention videos and stuff all over the place!), all of it under CC By.

MIT should stop their work in “open courseware” and “open education” or risk influencing a second wave of OER developers to basically construct educational resources that may as well be All Rights Reserved and leave us in a position not much better than where we started.

Risks like the trend that MIT are setting necessitate a project like the Free Cultural Works Definition were it sets out to clearly delineate what is free and what is restrictive. It prevents by way of stating a principle, oganisations cashing in on the hard work of OER campaigners.

In my books, CC By is the only free license.

PS. It was way back in November 2004 we started to get suspicious of MIT

I spoke at the Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) 2008 Conference yesterday.

Educational Development at Otago Polytechnic.

An inverted IP policy, intensive use of social media, and prolific development of Open Educational Resources and practices

Here’s the:

  1. audio recording
  2. the slides
  3. the paper

HeyWire8 Think Tank

Otago Polytechnic in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning are hosting an open think tank for New Zealand educational practitioners, policy makers and decision makers to explore opportunities and pathways for building a national OER initiative.

  • Place: Otago Polytechnic Forth St Campus, F Block, Level 3 – The Council Room
  • Date: 22 August 2008 (lunch will be provided)
  • Time: 09:30 – 16:30

There are a couple of articles on Wikieducator that nicely capture what it is we have been doing with our educational development over the past 12 months:

  1. Featured Institution: Otago Polytechnic
  2. Featured Institution: An IP Policy for the times

On February 22, 2008 Otago Polytechnic will be running a 4 month part time Permaculture Design Course.

It is also being developed into an Open Educational Resource (OER) on Wikieducator. (Work in progress)

Local Permaculture expert Peta Hudson will be teaching the course, and the amazing Kim Thomas (aka Horty Kim) will facilitate and help develop OER.

In the wiki is a full break down of the course as it will initially run, including budget and fees. The development has received seed funding from the Otago Polytechnic sustainability fund and we are working on ways to make it economically sustainable in the long term without making fees prohibitive for people wanting to benefit from the course. (Producing OER for the course is one part of that…). We are also aiming to widen the scope of the course so as to attract designers generally into thinking about the principles of Permaculture in their work.

This post is to both promote and note the work and intentions behind the project.


Otago Polytechnic is throwing a lot of weight into developing itself as a sustainable organisation that provides holistic education around sustainability. In this effort a small fund was made available to seed ideas and new projects that advance that effort. A proposal to develop a Permaculture course was developed with initial input from William Lucas, Mark Jackson, Kim Thomas, Peta Hudson and myself. After some fiddly administration tweaking to make the course fit our particular ways, the proposal was accepted and we were given the go ahead.

The course.

Kim Thomas and Peta Hudson used to run a short course out of the Horticulture Department called Introduction to Organic Gardening for the City Dweller. Essentially the content was very similar, or enough to use as a basis for the Permaculture Design course that we would build and widen scope from. Peta developed a schedule for the course, electing to use 9 x 6.5 hour workshops on Sundays so as to be available for hobbyists and professionals. While the first course will run on this schedule, we hope to find ways to widen the scope and content so as to attract professional designers and other industry sectors interested in sustainability, and the ideas that Permaculture may bring to developing sustainable production systems and living spaces. We hope that design lectures will become involved in the course and help as achieve this goal.

Open Educational Resource:

The first instance of the course will be thoroughly documented with a view to producing a range of educational resources to support all potential learners, as well as feedback to the teachers and participants. This material will be made openly accessible on the Wikieducator platform and used to support future developments of the course. It is hoped that the project will gradually attract input from other professionals and that collaborative development partnerships will form that will assist in the objective of widening the scope of the course.

I’m waiting enthusiastically for Dave Wiley’s summary of his Intro to Open Education course. Dave has given us a brief update just to remind us its coming…

I was quite inspired by the simple and familiar layout of the course outline, and the obvious and understated requirement for participants to maintain a blog in the course. I should have set my news reader onto all the participant blogs and watched the progress more closely, but hopefully Dave’s summary will represent the good bits…

Dave’s course has clearly inspired the Fins with their own course in Composing Open Educational Resources on Wikiversity – which looks to be another very useful course. And I think I’ll encourage the teachers here who are working on Wikieducator to develop their course pages in much the same way.

I know we in EDC have been needing to rejig our own wiki course outlines, and I’ve been wanting to do something like Dave’s design since I saw it. We are also requiring participants in our course to maintain blogs while in the course, but boy it can turn into a heavy workload.

I quite like the stand off, low key, high expectation style of Dave’s approach and am hoping to learn ways to better manage my time coordinating and facilitating our courses that use blogs and wikis… so, waiting for Dave’s summary 🙂

What follows are notes and to-do lists for the Horticulture course developments here at Otago Polytechnic.

This course has 3 elements to its development

  1. Developers blog that documents content being developed, research in her subject area, and notes on her own professional development.
  2. Production of instructional media in the form of videos and slide presentations
  3. Wikieducator development in the form of a course page, resource lists for each topic, and learning activities for each topic.

Progress on the developers blog has developed into a personal and humorous account of Kim’s adventures in this project. Clearly Kim has become confident in publishing both video and hypertext to the web and takes pride in her abilities to do so. Kim has kept regular notes on meetings, and development work. Of note is the move from having a media expert in to record and edit instructional videos to her DIY and ‘on the fly’ videos. In my opinion the DIY is ultimately the most sustainable model of content development, involving media skills equivalent to other teacher skills sets such as photo copying and slide presentations.

To do:

KT: Focus on designing learning activities for each of the learning objectives in the course and post initial ideas to her blog. Seek out ideas from other teachers, and seek feedback to own ideas

LB: Continue to provide support in teh form of comments and ideas for activities, and instruction on how-to manage publishing of media.


Progress on media production

An extensive collection of video has been produced, ranging from DIY to expert, and covering many of the topics in the course including chainsaw maintenance, pruning fruit trees, weeds management, nomenclature and health and safety. Points of note:

Videos are currently available on as well as the Internet Archive with the Internet Archive automatically optimising the videos for dial up and broadband download and streaming.

As well as video, some slide presentations have been loaded to more to follow.

Photos and images continue to be loaded to Flickr with a view to the comment and note features of the Flickr site being used in activities.

To do:

LB: List all videos in the resource pages for each learning objective on the wiki

LB: Assist with optimising available presentations ready for loading to Slideshare.

KT: Use videos, slides and photos in learning activities. Keep talking with Leigh about ideas and capture ideas to developer blog


Progress on the Wikieducator

Progress on the Wiki has been on the whole slower than planned. Some concerns from other teachers in the department about how open the course content should be recently caused a sense of uncertainty, and learning activities used by other teachers has been difficult to obtain. This has effectively left one person to gather or create resources and devise learning activities causing progress to be slow. The structure of the course content on the wiki is reasonably complete.

To do:

LB: Continue working on the structure to simplify navigation and to place less emphasis on the formal aspects of the content such as the unit pages.

KT: Continue writing up learning activities for each of the objectives, drawing from the resources and add them to the developer blog and/or the wiki

LB: Monitor progress, offer suggestions and help write activities. When all learning objectives have 2 or more learning activities, incorporate them into the course page so as to help simplify navigation.