An Interview with Terry Anderson: Open Education Resources – Part II

boettcher80By Judith V. Boettcher
Guest Author

[Continued from Part I]

[Note: After listening to Terry’s description of how the crowd’s activity might be used to produce new information, I learned that Google announced a new tool on November 12 called the “Google Flu Tracker.” It tracks flu trends across the country by using aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity! This service was developed after learning that “certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity”! -JB]

JB: It sounds as if we are on the brink of a number of new models, both for producing, using and paying for educational content. But let’s switch gears a little. Just as the net is changing how the crowd may be creating content, online courses are starting to use content in new ways. We have types of content: published content; “found content” for information that students bring to the course community; and we have the performance and teaching direction content, which students and faculty create during the course. What do you think the role of content is in a course today? What percent of a course is actually published content?

TA: Publishers are concerned that students are not buying the textbook, and faculty are saying that students who do buy the textbook are not reading the textbook. What I think is an important opportunity is giving students the option of creating and sharing their own conception of the course knowledge.

JB: Have you been sharing student-created content from year to year as yet?

TA: Not yet. I am encouraged by the use of a new system that we are using at Athabasca. The system is Elgg, a social networking tool that can be used by smaller communities. We wanted a system that was institution-centric rather than course-centric.

What I really like about ELGG is the permissions options. You use a menu to control access to any piece of information that you post, such as a phone number, blog posting or wiki entry. For example, the first option is to keep it private, just for yourself, then you might keep it to yourself and a friend, then to the people in your course, your teacher, people at your university, or Google or the world. Some things you want public, and some you want to keep private. You can’t resolve that on an institutional policy basis. It seems that having students in control and being knowledgeable about that control is the way to go.

theory_practiceWe use this for portfolios and graduation type of assignments so it really helps with getting content out of the LMS [learning management system]. You can show your work to your mother or anyone else who cares.

JB: Do you link to Elgg from your LMS, then?

TA: Yes, and what I have been doing this last term as an experiment is weaning students away from the discussion board environment to the blogging environment in Elgg. Blogging is not as good for threaded discussions, but then threaded discussions don’t allow people outside the course to pop in and read, contribute and comment. I use Moodle for the drop box, assignments, study guides, course content, and other non-interactive kinds of course pieces.

JB: Terry, let’s go back to your own book that you have made available on the net. Why did you make your book freely available online?

TA: The publication of the first edition of the The Theory and Practice of Online Learning was an experiment as it was published in both print copy and made available as a free download. The 400 copies of the printed version sold quickly, and in the first month there were about 6,000 to 7,000 downloads of the book. Over the years it has been online, there have been about 90,000 downloads, and portions of the book have been translated into five languages.

We now have a second edition out, and we are using the same model. The book and its individual chapters continue to be freely available online under a Creative Commons license. People are still downloading the first edition, but I would like to wean folks from the older version. The second edition has four new chapters, including chapters on Mobile Learning and Social Software and is available from the Athabasca University Press.

JB: So, does the freely downloadable option stimulate sales of the printed copy?

TA: I think that is an open question. We just don’t know. I do know that making it freely downloadable increases exposure and access. As for other models, I don’t know what the impact of the Amazon Kindle Reader will have. One thing I am disappointed about is the small price differential that is common on the Kindle books. But we will just have to keep experimenting I think.

JB: Terry, thanks so much for your time, your insights and your ongoing exploration and testing of the use of open education resources.

One Response

  1. See the new… Elgg Community Support and Development Forum at http://ElggForum.com :)

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