iSummit 2008 – open education feedback

by P

Today I received an email from the wonderful Delia Browne, who is chasing all open education track participants at the iSummit 08 (in Sapporo) for feedback on the event. Thorough review and feedback of workshops is something that doesn’t happen often enough — everyone is too busy to get on with the next one — but it’s important and useful not just for those who are collecting and analysing the responses, but also for those writing them. At least that’s what I found. I am using her questions to frame my thoughts:

1.What were the best things about the track?

It was great that the facilitators (thanks Delia and Ahrash) used an open spaces approach to create opportunities for participants to take the conversation into directions they were most interested in. The open education track pioneered this kind of approach last year, and it was glad that it worked relatively well again, even though there were so many different people involved in organising and facilitating.

I was happy about the fact that there were so many new faces and projects that hadn’t been on our radar before, and that the enthusiasm around opening education seems to keep growing and growing.

Andrew already mentioned the Cape Town Declaration T-Shirts in his reply to Delia, so I will add my voice to that. It was a great way to make people aware of the declaration, and feedback was so positive that some participants came up to me on the last day and asked if they could “buy” shirts. We are thinking about making the T-Shirts available on threadless or spreadshirt (“at cost” of course, not to make money!).

2. What were the track’s highlights for you?

The Hongi, because it was such a brilliant mechanism to break down initial barriers – and made us all feel a little bit embarrassed together – and then realise there is no reason for embarrassment. Next year, I hope Delia makes us do the Haka.

3. What didn’t you like about the track

At points, I felt it was a bit of a stretch to make the track fit within the objectives of the overall iSummit. This is more related to the challenge within iCommons to bring together so many different communities who all belong within this broader world of free culture / free knowledge. Yet, the communities are so different that it isn’t easy to find tangible results that make sense for all of them. So, for example, the idea of a “Openness check-list” was discussed quite a lot within our track, but in the context of education, any kind of certification is quite a big deal, and not surprisingly we ended up with a number of proposals for working on similar projects during the next year. Trying to develop such a check-list list during just a few days together was just not feasible for us.

4. What issues do you think need to be looked at more?

The open education track always brings together people who connect into many different networks. For example, Andre works with a research network called ACA2K. I put a lot of effort into the Open Courseware Consortium. Ahrash and Delia are really well connected into the Creative Commons network especially in Asia. Etc. etc. etc. It would be worth spending more time trying to link what these different initiatives and networks are doing already.

Where are the users? We need to start involving students (I am using the term broadly, these could be within institutions or lifelong learners or anyone else who finds engaging with OER useful).

And the big question remains the issue of accreditation. My sense is that a number of commercial providers are gearing up to start offering credits, and even degrees, and it’s worth getting in there now to set up a peer-to-peer-based model that builds on reputation within a community of practice. After all, that’s how accreditation works in the real world – and degrees printed on paper are just a short-cut for employers.

5. How could we improve this track and share the knowlegdge and experience of the track?

The natural response to this would be: “place more emphasis on documentation and share audio/video/text online”. However, having facilitated the documentation efforts at the iSummit 2007 I know how hard it is to collect all the images and notes from participants, and how much (tedious) editing is required to bring it together into a useful resource. Yet, I am not sure how many people actually go back to the notes beyond trying to find email addresses of people they met, or links to projects that were mentioned. In 2007, Mark and I knew we were going to write an article about the event, so having very detailed notes was more important than this year.

So I would suggest, that rather than trying to document everything that is going on during the event, we create a rich list of contact details, URLs, and links to everything that comes up during the discussions. Every time someone mentions a project, it needs to be added to a list of resources on the wiki. That’s relatively easy to do, even if we ad short annotations which makes the list so much more useful, and this could easily live on after the event.

In addition, I would place more emphasis on blogging about the contents of the track so that people who are not there can engage with the bloggers about their opinions. It’s easier to get involved from the outside, if someone on the inside gives you a subjective view.