Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rubrics for Discussion Posts

Hierarchy of Instructional Design
Hierarchy of Instructional Design (Photo: jrhode)
I gave a presentation today on discussion forums. I know that LMSs are old-fashioned now in the post web 2.0 social media world, but my goal as an instructional designer is to at least get the best use or best practices out there for whatever tools are available and being used by any particular school or institution. The presentation is in about 3 parts. The first talks about why we use discussion assignments. The second looks at the characteristics and practices that make for a successful discussion assignment, and the third talks about assessment. Oh yes, there is a fourth part: we actually went into Sakai and looked at the "Discussion Forums" tool which is the old open source forum "JForum." I prefer that tool over the generic Sakai "Forums" tool because I find "Discussion Forums" easier to grade and manage. I get where things are and why. The profile in "Discussion Forums" is easier to use than the Profile tool in Sakai which is NOT integrated with the Forums tool or any other tool for that matter. But my point is that the how and why of using a particular tool, the pedagogy implied by the assignment, and the assessment of the assignment is more important than the tool itself.

Map of income distribution in Salinas.
Map of income distribution in Salinas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So in this workshop, I present a rubric for discussion posts. Most other teachers and instructional designers ask me about this. Why in a Facebook world do I need a rubric for discussion posts? Isn't this very mid 90s? Well, it is. Despite the "Millennial" thinking about students, we have a lot of students who do not know what the internet and online communication is really all about. I know this flies in the face of the "Net Generation" fallacy (where you take the recreational habits of the upper middle class/rich kids of your Ivy League school and try to extrapolate what is happening in the rest of the 99% world with technology and learning). I first developed my rubric for discussion posts around my rubric for blog posts when I was teaching English at Hartnell College in Salinas. Many of my students where first generation college students and the Spanish speaking children of migrant farm workers. Many of them did not have consistent high school experiences. A few had diplomas, some GEDs and many had incomplete educations because they moved around a lot. (According to the standard commercial English textbooks, these kids are ready for Shakespeare and Milton.) How are these students supposed to know what is expected of them in an online environment? Easy. You talk to them. You frame the question in terms that they are familiar with. You ask them about what the expectations we might have in a conversation in a classroom versus the cafeteria or at home. I told the students about the rubric and discussed what was in it and why and then we negotiated. Some were familiar with internet chats and wanted to know about "flame wars." We negotiated the points involved. We talked about what is a substantial reply versus superficial (like "great post"). So instead of imposing a list of seemingly arbitrary rules - the students made the guidelines their own. They now had a set of expectations for their interactions with one another and my grading. We referred to the rubric for about 5 weeks, and once we were sure that things were working - it slowly faded away. I think that is success.

I have a copy of my rubric here.

Here is a copy of my presentation as well:

Related articles:
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Implementing OERs and Open Textbooks

The Engineering Building at the University of ...
The Engineering Building at the University of Leicester. Designed by James Stirling.(Wikipedia)
There is still a lot of energy out there around the creation of open content and the licensing of existing content with open licences. There are many worthwhile projects out there that are interested in creating OERs such as SCORE in the UK. But how do we use these materials effectively? How can we roll out this content in the most effective manner? Who is evaluating these materials for quality? These are common questions about OERs and they point to an evolutionary history of OERs: creation, repositories, evaluation, assessment, and implementation. There are three projects worth taking a close look at even if you are already aware of them because there are common themes arising in OER implementation. 

 The OSTRICH Project - "The OSTRICH project, funded by the Higher Education Academy and JISC, and led by the University of Leicester, will transfer and cascade the key outcomes of Leicester’s institutional open educational resources (OER) pilot project, OTTER, to the universities of Bath and Derby." Why do you need to know about this? Because their blog provides an excellent model for implementing and assessing OERs. You can follow the evolution of their implementation step-by-step through their blog.

Kaleidoscope Project - "Project Kaleidoscope is implementing a set of fully open general education courses across eight colleges serving predominantly at-risk students. The project will dramatically reduce textbook costs and allow collaborative improvement of course design to improve student success." This project built assessment and peer review into the implementation process. The genius of the project is that it brings multiple colleges together not only to review OERs and open textbooks but to find common course outcomes and develop common assessments. This is a critical stage in the history of the implementation of OERs. This project shows that inter-institutional collaboration is a key factor in OER implementation success.

SAIDE ACEMaths Project - "The aim of the SAIDE ACEMaths project was to pilot a collaborative process for the selection, adaptation and use of OER materials for teacher education programmes in South Africa. Our latest research article entitled Collaborative Design and Use of Open Educational Resources: A Case Study of a Mathematics Teacher Education Project in South Africa by Ingrid Sapire and Yvonne Reed was published in Distance Education vol. 32 no. 2 August 2011." 

OPAL: Open Education Quality Initiative - "Open educational resources, and open education more generally, are considered to have huge potential to increase participation and educational opportunities at large and to promote widening participation and lifelong learning. At the same time, the past decade has shown that openness in itself is not enough to unfold this potential. It is important to shift the focus more to the actual open practice of using, reusing, or creating open educational opportunities: open educational practice." They have published numerous case studies on the implementation of OERs. 

Each one of these projects emphasizes collaboration in one way or another. Instructors are learning how to work together to reuse, remix, and share OERs through these projects, but beyond that, they are identifying the practices that will make the implementation of OERs successful. 
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Parallels in Open Software and Open Textbooks

Dr. Cable Green speaking to Creative Commons staff
Dr. Cable Green speaking to Creative Commons staff (Photo credit: tvol)
I was reading this morning about what makes a successful open source project and what makes one not so successful, and I found a number of parallels between successful open source software projects and the creation and implementation of open textbooks. For instance, Andy Brice writing on a failed software project lists "lack of support from the people who would actually have to use it" as one of the reasons for the project failing. Symbian is another example - this was meant to be an open source platform but after the announcement that it was going open source, a year went by before anyone had access to the source code. OpenMediaVault was meant to be open source. The software was freely available to users but developers had to pay a licensing fee. Back in 2005, Xara announced that its graphic package was going open source and "two years later, the project is stagnant and on the verge of irrelevance, primarily because the company couldn't figure out how to work with the open source community" (Nathan Willis). Online community is the backbone of any open source project; I even read about a company that wanted to take it's start up money and create an online community around their product. This is definitely a cart before the horse. What does all this have to do with open textbooks? If you have been around the open textbook community for any length of time, you will begin to see these same factors emerge in online textbook success stories. Story after story tells us the importance of community in an open source project. A successful open textbook is like an open source project in that it is:
  • Freely available 
    • Get money out of the way of creation & development and into support
    • Keep the licenses open
  • Accessible
    • Make the text and files available to all in a useable, editable form
    • Multiple formats will help others adapt the work for students with different needs
  • Built by the community
    • Find others who are interested in contributing to similar works. This was the important lesson from the Kaleidoscope project.
    • An open textbook created by local teachers will be more powerful and relevant than one made by a corporation with no idea of local student needs
  • Maintained by a community
    • A community can edit, share, and adapt instantly
    • A community can solve problems, translate docs into other languages, create new versions
  • Implemented by a community
    • The top down approach is doomed to failure (see your local school)
Just as the open source software community needed a license to keep open source software open, the Creative Commons organization is answering questions about licensing strategies that educators are asking as they author course materials and textbooks. The next stage in OERs (and this has started already) is building open communities around these projects. (e.g. College Open Textbooks, MERLOT and Connexions).
Here is a presentation I gave this morning making the connections between open software and open textbooks:
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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

MOOC Links from NGLC Presentation

This in from Friend-of-the-Blog, Bosha Struve:

If you are interested these were pulled out of the chat window from the webinar…

Additional URL’s from Chat:

·         Edward R. O'Neill, USC: I analyzed one MOOC lecture, and then argued it wasn't supportive of learning. Here's the analysis:
·         Edward R. O'Neill, USC: And this is my argument about when lectures don't support learning well--strictly FYI.
·         Kelvin Bentley:
·         Francisca Yonekura: I'm currently participating in the game based learning mooc
·         Ben Harwood: E-learning and Digital Cultures - Coursera
Starts in Jan '13
·         Amy Collier, Stanford: Sam, take a look at George's blog:
·         Betzi - UMass Boston: @Audrey - Wiley covers it in his openness in edu course
·         Carie Page, EDUCAUSE Help: October 8th - November 16th
·         @injenuity: There are some names of edtech startup funders in the right column on this list
·         Geoff Cain: Massive list of MOOC resources:
·         Gerry McK / Iowa State University: I curate a blog titled _Alt-Ed_ that is "devoted to documenting significant initiatives relating to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), digital badges, and similar alternative educational projects." _Alt-Ed_ is located at
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