Open Education Project Blueprint

Each participant on the Mozilla Open Education Course, has been asked to develop a project blueprint. Here is the start of mine. It’s basically a ‘Personal Learning Environment’ (PLE)1and I’m going to try to show how WordPress MU is a good technology platform for an institution to easily and effectively support a PLE. I’m going to place an emphasis on ‘identity’ because it’s something I want to learn more about.

Short description

University students are at least 18 years old and have spent many years unconsciously accumulating or deliberately developing a digital identity. When people enter university they are expected to accept a new digital identity, one which may rarely acknowledge and easily exploit their preceding experience and productivity. Students are given a new email address, a university ID, expected to submit course work using new, institutionally unique tools and develop a portfolio of work over three to four years which is set apart from their existing portfolio of work and often difficult to fully exploit after graduation.

I think this will be increasingly questioned and resisted by individuals paying to study at university. Both students and staff will suffer this disconnect caused by institutions not employing available online technologies and standards rapidly enough. There is a legacy of universities expecting and being expected to provide online tools to staff and students. This was useful and necessary several years ago, but it’s now quite possible for individuals in the UK to study, learn and work apart from any institutional technology provision. For example, Google provides many of these tools and will have a longer relationship with the individual than the university is likely to.

Many students and staff are relinquishing institutional technology ties and an indicator of this is the massiveĀ % of students who do not use their university email address (96% in one case study). In the UK, universities are keen to accept mature, work-based and part-time students. For these students, university is just a single part of their lives and should not require the development of a digital identity that mainly serves the institution, rather than the individual.

How would it work?

Students identify themselves with their OpenID, which authenticates against a Shibboleth Service Provider.2 They create, publish and syndicate their course work, privately or publicly using the web services of their choice. Students don’t turn in work for assessment, but rather publish their work for assessment under a CC license of their choice.

It’s basically a PLE project blueprint with an emphasis on identity and data-portability. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get a fully working model to demonstrate by the end of the course, but I will try to show how existing technologies could be stitched together to achieve what I’m aiming for. Of course, the technologies are not really the issue here, the challenge is showing how this might work in an institutional context.

I think it will be possible to show how it’s technically possible using a single platform such as WordPress which has Facebook Connnect, OAuth, OpenID, Shibboleth and RPX plugins. WordPress is also microformat friendly and profile information can be easily exported in the hCard format. hResume would be ideal for developing an academic profile. The Diso project are leading the way in this area.

Similar projects:

UMW Blogs?

Open Technology:

OpenID, OAuth, RPX, Shibboleth, RSS, Atom, Microformats, XMPP, OPML, AtomPub, XML-RPC + WordPress

Open Content / Licensing:

I’ll look at how Creative Commons licensing may be compatible with our staff and student IP policies.

Open Pedagogy

No idea. This is a new area for me. I’m hoping that the Mozilla/CC Open Education course can point me in the right direction for this. Maybe you have some suggestions, too?

  1. See Personal Learning Environments: Challenging the dominant design of educational systems []
  2. See the JISC Review of OpenID. []

7 thoughts on “Open Education Project Blueprint

  1. What about stuff going the other way? Surely things like assessment details and timetables should be published by the university in a similarly open manner, for example my timetable as an iCal would be amazingly useful.

  2. I’ll ask around about the possibility of timetables as iCal. If it’s not immediately possible at Lincoln it should still be part of the blueprint. Can you give more detail about what you have in mind for open assessment information?

  3. Hi Joss. Am enjoying following your thoughts on mozopenedcourse. I really like this blueprint as it relates directly to something similar I’m trying to do in my department (physiotherapy). I’m very interested to see how you string things together with WPMU to create a PLE.

  4. Hi Michael,

    I need to dedicate a day or two next week to piece it together (in theory if not totally in practice). What do you have in mind for your department? I’m keen to get ideas, suggestions and requirements from others. Thanks.

    • Hi Joss. Not too much detail yet, but something along the lines of creating an online community/network of practice that moves beyond undergraduate studies and into professional practice. Interested in past students staying in touch with faculty and mentoring others.

      Social bookmarking for a repository of distributed knowledge that we can all tap into, blogging of case studies that could form an axis around which conversation/discussion/debate on best practices could form…in other words, everything we’re all talking about but in a physiotherapy-specific context.

      If successful, possibility of moving beyond our department and into the profession nationally.

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