LS2011: Open Education Resources

The final session I attended on day 2 of LS2011 was Finding and Using Open Educational Resources presented by Tony Nisse of Brigham Young University. Education, at it’s core is about sharing. Openness is really the only means of education. Expertise is nonrivalrous. It can be given without being given away. This is exaplained well by the quote above from Thomas Jefferson.

A spectacular amount of open education resources

Today, we have unprecdented capacity to contribute, share, and leverage shared resources to educate. The number of creative commons licenced content is growing at an accelorated rate, surpassing 250 million items in 2009. Creative Commons licensing provides a framework to provide guidelines for the “4 Rs” of sharing resources: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Reuse: copying verbatim with attribution
  • Redistribution: sharing with others
  • Revision: adapting and reusing
  • Remixing: combining with other resources
[/list] The presentation provided links to many resources (and mentioned several I have included) for open education resources: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”] [/list] I have had a keen interest in open education resources for some time, for my own personal development, and have the following additonal resources saved in my bookmarks online (delicious): [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”] [/list] And, of course, each day, users are posting amazing resources like Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). Here is one scheduled this month on mobile with some tremendous mentors (several you may recognize from LS2011): Tony also offerred additonal resources at and illustrated how Google search can filter on usage rights to search on open content.

Are we missing an opportuntity to move industry forward like never before?

There is truly an astounding amount of resources available to educate. However, this raises an interesting dilemma. On a personal level, these resources are spectacular and I may use them for my personal development, but as a training professional working for commercial organizations, recommending these resources presents a very slippery slope. Even when there is a perfectly good free resource offered for free for “educational purposes”, I cannot, within a commercial organization, recommend the resource for use. I think this is holding back industry at some levels.  Let me offer concrete examples. I work in a large, multinational organization with a global learning management system housing over 67,000 learning assets.  Virtually every division (and even different departments within a division) has redundancy in regard to common training subjects that apply to all areas of the business like leadership, management, project management, communications, and several others. This is not business-specific project management tools or forms for the organization, but the generic, foundational project management training. It is not specific organizational norms for communicating nor business-specific practice scenarios, but the generally applicable practices for being an effective communicator. A formal study has not been done, but in reviewing MANY vendor offerings, and looking at resources to share across divisions and departments of the organization, I would conservatively estimate that in excess of 80% of the content developed or purchased and deployed is this tier of content: foundational, generic, and not specific to the business (like systems training or customer scenarios). Equivalent or superior open education resources exist to fill these needs and stop companies from investing needlessly (build or buy) in creating these assets for use within a commercial organization. The time and money spent to create these resources could be better invested to enhance mentor support,  develope more interactive and engaging practice scenarios specific to the business, etc. It just seems that if the OER materials could be used (with all appropriate attributions, and share-alike and other creative commons restrictions that apply to educational use), that industry would spend less time re-creating assets, and leverage the power of these resources. We would be freed to invest more efforts in extending the impact of these resources in specific application to make a difference for our employees and customers. Is it that simple to see? What am I missing?  Any time I raise the issue with legal teams (admittedly, they are not specifically Intellectual Property lawyers- though I have found one to explore this dilemma further)- nobody wants to brave these waters. I am convinced there has got to be a way to leverage these resources in an intelligent manner without violating the spirit of the agreement and treating authors fairly while addressing the opportunity to forward industry.

Soon, every click we make will shape our experience

During his presentation, Tony also discussed how technology is tracking our choices and constanty adapting our experience as a result. This adaptive technology is commonly seen on Amazon or Netflix. After performing searches, browsing, and placing orders, these sites track your choices and behaviors and index these actions to reshape your experience with recommendations. We are starting to see the pervasive adaptive technologies extend to many platforms. It extends beyond the profiles you fill out on the site which specify your preferences; it actually tracks and analyzes each and every interaction to customize your experience. Obviously, this raises the large questions on what this type of integrattion would mean for learning and performance. Understanding profiles and activity streams from multiple sources can adapt the user’s experience to assess and intervene with customized solutions to effectively address issues in a manner that is proven most effective for that user, based on measured activity. It is a very exciting time to be in our field. I am hoping that we can resolve the challenges of leveraging the rich open resources available, and continue to explore the potential of adaptive technologies to provide training that was truly unthinkable just a short time ago.