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OER Platform* Comparisons

February 14, 2017

I was at Venture Academy in Minneapolis for the viewing of Most Likely To Succeed on Monday evening, Feb. 6. The following day, Tuesday, we got a tour of Venture Academy and then about four hours of workshop/discussion with a team from Summit Learning which Venture Academy is using. Venture Academy also got money from the Gates Foundation; their school is doing good things.


I observed that SABIER is essentially doing the same thing as Summit Learning with a few differences.


The differences are:


SABIER is platform agnostic (although, we like Moodle a lot. And, I don’t think Facebook developers actually really understand K12 education.) All of their content requires a keyboard – can’t use iPads or tablets???


SABIER starts in 3rd grade instead of 6th (and maybe in earlier grades if we get a collaboration going with the principal I met at the event.)


SABIER focuses on ‘traditional’ public schools rather than charters


SABIER encourages a lot more interaction in online content between student and teacher


SABIER doesn’t have Zuckerberg’s money


        There are probably more, but that’s a start.
I found it reassuring to have proof of concept demonstrated by Facebook (Summit is financed by Mark Zuckerberg.)


OER via an LMS such as SABIER promotes and which is consistent with Education Reimagined’s five interrelated elements characterizing student centered learning could be considered best practice for education in 2017. The accessibility to content in a digital format for those who choose something other than English on paper is what will really drive the future of learning.  The creation of an electronic record or archive of student work and teacher comments from which reports about how students actually understand aligned material is also crucial. There’s a lot of chatter these days about the need for aligned content but very little talk  about how assessment of student learning of the aligned materials gets accomplished. Using standardized tests is Not going to be adequate or desirable.


I think it will be useful to compare the various offerings of OER content that are accompanied by targeted and extensive professional development which is key to making OER work effectively for students. To that end, I’ve created a comparison table on a Google doc. I’m aware of what Lumen Learning is doing and have included them in the table. Please add your thoughts and suggestions for additional ‘platforms’ here or on the doc in comments.
 Below is a re-posting from http://developingprofessionalstaff-mpls.blogspot.com/2017/01/for-profit-involvement-in-oer-part-5.html

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

For-Profit Involvement in OER – Part 5

This is a continuation of a discussion from Part 4


In a blog post yesterday, David Wiley said:


“The conversation needs to be larger, the sense of urgency needs to be greater, and the vision and imagination of what’s possible needs to be far, far broader.


PDFs aren’t going to get us there. We need more efforts to provide the benefits of publishers’ “adaptive” systems while honoring and enabling the values of the OER community (e.g., the 5Rs and open pedagogy) and more support of these efforts.


The tl;dr (sic) is this: faculty (who make the decision about what resources will be used by students) love these systems, and with good reason – they can make things better for students and faculty alike. If the OER community doesn’t recognize that and start providing and promoting viable alternatives to publishers’ platforms, the best possible future for OER is being locked down inside a Pearson MyLab playing second fiddle to proprietary content. No 5Rs and no open pedagogy.”


Earlier in the post he said: “And don’t even start trying to explain how the LMS is the answer. Just don’t.”


I responded, ignoring his exhortation: “LMSs properly supported, are very good ‘platforms’ for all kinds of assessment and analytics. And, more importantly, control of the LMSs can remain in the hands of the faculty where it should be, if they choose to exercise that authority. Of course, if faculty are only interested in the easiest way to do things, well, then, they can always pay someone or have someone else pay for the difficult parts of teaching and learning.”


David responded to that by saying- “This is demonstrably false. Just taking the first example that comes to mind, LMSs cannot do Computerized Adaptive Testing no matter how they’re supported.”


I’m not sure where to start. Arguing that we shouldn’t consider LMSs for OER because LMSs can’t do CAT is a problem for at least two reasons: First, CAT is usually not OER in practice, today. But, secondly, LMSs can indeed to CAT if you want to use them for that.


David then went on to propose that I read what he’d written about LMSs and CMSs and OLNs back in 2009. I generally agree with what he wrote in 2009. Faculty adoption of all of the interactive, collaborative, student centered features of an LMS is a slow and extremely tedious process. We wrote about that in our book chapter and 2014 HLC Conference Best Paper describing such an initiative. David would do well, I think, to consider the work of one of his colleagues at BYU, Charles Graham, who we reference in our work. Graham, et al. point out that implementing a hybrid or blended system in an institution requires a whole lot more than was considered by David and Mott in their 2009 paper.
David clearly understood that there are a whole host of issues to consider as faculty change the very nature of how they do what they do. David’s approach regarding the task of transforming the way faculty approach how they interact with students in the teaching and learning process was not to show faculty how to do it. Instead, he created a for-profit company where OER is housed in an LMS that is connected to the institution’s LMS via LTI. The advantage to faculty is that they don’t need to learn how to install OER in their LMS courses and learn how to use the new, interactive, collaborative, student centered, wider community connected features of their LMS, or learn how to manage the analytics that are available with all current generation LMSs. The advantage to David is he gets to have a for-profit company that charges the students of those faculty who don’t want to learn how to do all of that difficult ‘platform stuff.’ Sure the students save money compared to what they would pay if they bought the books from proprietary publishers, but the faculty stay ignorant about how to really manage learning using a learning management system. Ignorant faculty are good for profit making.

Below is a copy of a blog post that I made on another blog  June 15, 2016. Here’s a link to that blog

For-Profit Involvement in OER – Part 4

I’m genuinely glad that Lumen is doing what they’re doing, and I applaud the announcement this past Monday of the Major National Initiative to Help 38 Community Colleges in 13 States Develop New Degree Programs Using Open Educational Resources. But, I also still have significant reservations about the particular model that’s being used to provide access to the OER. And, I don’t think discussing the model of delivery and the specific nature of how and to where the money flows is merely ‘academic,’ as Dr. Wiley described it in his comment on my previous post, For-Profit Involvement in OER – Part 3. It may be that the Lumen model is exactly what’s needed at this stage in the development of OER, but I’m concerned that without a clearer understanding of the details (like documentation other than what’s on Git hub and a support network other than Lumen staff), we might be missing greater opportunity. Bluntly, I don’t want the purposes of a for-profit company spoiling the possibilities.

 

The really great thing about Lumen’s approach is that it is providing significant immediate savings to students and thereby enhancing the sustainability of the institutions where they’re studying. (Go ahead and quote me.) The for-profit textbook publishers have created a worldwide orchard with a whole lot of low hanging fruit.


Here’s the distinctions I want to make:


  1.  Putting the OER in a separate platform and connecting to the LMS via LTI is only really useful if you want more money going to those that run the separate platform instead of keeping the money for running the LMS. I’m pretty sure that Lumen is already working with Instructure and other LMS purveyors to blur that line even more, which will come with the argument that that is the way of most opportunity which is Dr. Wiley’s proclaimed rationale for Lumen being a for-profit entity.


  1. The supporting functions that are necessary for the continued flourishing of OER can be provided by a for-profit entity, but the best value to community colleges, students and faculty will be when they are provided on a fee for service basis. The structure of the entity providing the supporting functions might be for-profit corporate, for-profit individuals,  non-profit corporate, consortia of governmental orgs, or combinations of the above. The particular mix of combinations matters, too.  The ultimate factoring to per student does not necessarily correlate to quantities. Sometimes it will be cheaper per student for a class of twenty-five students at a four year institution and sometimes it will be cheaper per student for all of the Algebra 1 students in the statewide CC system. As institutions including administration, IT support, faculty, libraries, student services, and students all come to understand all of the moving parts of OER, the institutions will better be able to determine which payment method for OER support is best for their particular circumstances.

As Dr. Wiley has pointed out, there is a need for all types of support. Different recipes produce different cookies. For now, cheers to Lumen and the Major National Initiative to Help 38 Community Colleges in 13 States Develop New Degree Programs Using Open Educational Resources.

The fact text messaging actually costs carriers nothing  combined with the fact that free wireless internet service is also available to connect students in Minneapolis with the servers at Minneapolis Public Schools means that students and teachers in Minneapolis should be able to use Twitter and Moodle in their “classrooms”  which could be anyplace in the city for free.  The only cost then becomes the cost of the devices and the cost of training teachers and students how to use these tools.  The cost of devices is not much more, if any, than the cost of textbooks.

Due to the nature of the system used by carriers to send text messages between phones, texting does not cost the carriers any money at all.  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/28/business/28digi.html?_r=3&partner=rss&emc=rss   This is because SMS messages are designed to fit inside the bandwidth alloted to the “control channel”, which is used to establish communication between the mobile phone and the cellular tower. This channel is continuously active, so the messages are piggybacking on the control signal, for free.

It is essentially only our ability to think through the logistics of using the current technology that is keeping us from doing what is being done in colleges like the UT Dallas and will be done in UK elementary schools according to the recently announced plans.

I did a search on twitter in the classroom thinking I would get to the Youtube video of Monica Rankin and instead I found out that we’re already using Twitter in the classroom in Minneapolis.

The path seems to be getting shorter by the hour !  Now, we just need to get everybody on board.

With a two year contract, of course. see Stribune article from 4/18/09

http://www.startribune.com/business/43208492.html?elr=KArks:DCiU1OiP:DiiUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUU

This is a big deal because it means that there will likely be a more significant source for internet devices.  If the trend keeps up people and businesses will want a place to unload their ‘old’ netbooks.  Sabier will be there to provide the service of unloading them so that people can buy a new device guilt free.

The new Civic Garden of Wireless Minneapolis allows students and their families to access Minneapolis Public Schools websites including our Classroom Moodle . That means the only thing keeping a student from participating in the online learning environment at home is a device to access the Civic Garden. A $50 used desktop computer or a $150 used laptop would be fine for most of the stuff kids need to do today. As netbooks approach the $50 price, eventually without a contract for the older models, the availability of devices should increase.

The AT&T offering confirms what Wired has said in their piece in February, The Netbook Effect .  It’s pretty clear that internet devices will become increasingly affordable.  That brings me to the thought that maybe the resource that Sabier needs to focus on is teacher training rather providing devices for students.   Students might be able to get the devices on their own, but teachers are going to need lots of help getting to the point where they feel comfortable using netbooks in class.  Perhaps we can do a little of both.