How Federated Open Educational Resources Could Work

  1. WSU Vancouver installs a server running some Wikity-esque software on WordPress Multisite. It allows faculty (and hopefully, eventually, students) to make as many WordPress sites as they want.
  2. Faculty make wiki-like linked sites on personal interests, but also use the platform to assemble and write materials for their classes.
  3. Meanwhile UBC or UMW or NIU or Clark College installs a similar instance of Multisite (or really, anything that can comply with the Wikity protocols). Faculty there get to do the same thing — make as many little sites as they want for both classes and personal interest.

Now, without forking, maybe you’ve seen this story before. It’s pretty close to the repository dream that will get you laughed out of any OER veteran’s office. But forking makes all the difference.

As a faculty member putting together a course, I pull out my syllabus and look at the week to week learning goals. And I search our open repository for stuff that makes sense for my course, and fork it into my evolving class space. Here’s me doing that.

Of course, what happens is that the software makes sure that as I build my own site in my own space I am feeding forward materials for others to then take and build on.

The WSUV site is live, I showed it to my boss yesterday, and I’m ready to promote it locally. But I’d love some partners in the effort. Anyone want to try running one of these at your own school?


13 thoughts on “How Federated Open Educational Resources Could Work

  1. The “OER” word ought to bring ’em rushing in, and this is looking a whole lot more fluid than the PressThis thing.

    If you are somehow identifying things that have been forked in (tag? Post meta field) it’s possible to create something that would aid the writing that did not depend on memorizing page named- a meta box list, or a menu of recently forked pages (?) that could insert the […..] links

    • The best implementation I’ve seen of wiki links is Atlassian Confluence — in Confluence when you type a double opening bracket an autocomplete list comes up which you can use or ignore. It’s an ingenious hybrid (and for people that say that wiki is dead I would note that Atlassian just had a huge IPO).

      I’ve seen really bad, dialog driven versions too — Google Sites, Blackboard, etc.

      I can’t tell the level of sarcasm on the OER term, but yes, I do think that OER might be the Trojan Horse here that gets institutions to try this. Once they do, of course, I think they’ll realize that OER is just another word for explaining stuff to others and ourselves, and that project is as big as the universe is wide and needs to be the basis of pedagogy, not just “production”.

      • No sarcasm- what you demo-ed embodied all the elements of OER from discovery to reuse.

        Autocomplete is ideal. I’ve done it with WP tags which is all jquery / ajax — no reason why the compose field could not be rigged to trigger a look up on an opening “[“

  2. We might indeed experiment with something like this in the Cegep system (Quebec colleges). Maybe we could chat about it before the break?

    Intrigued by the laughing OER veterans. It does sound like there’s a fair deal of “it’s all been done”, in this sphere. But there’s still a lot of engaging work, going on, even on repositories. No?

    • Oh, I’m a laughing veteran too. Personally, I think the problem is not with new ideas (of which there are many), but the same old ideas keep coming down from higher-ups outside of the field who just discovered the learning resources problem yesterday. So at least in the U.S. some vendor convinces your President or Alumni Board President or Board of Trustees member that you need something like a learning objects database, without any awareness of the reasons why these attempts failed in 1995, 1999, 2004, and 2009. Etc.

      But what that means to me is that like it or not OER veterans HAVE to get into the software business, or live in a permanent Groundhog Day.

      Yes, let’s talk before the break. I’d love to work with you, and I’d also be excited to make this an international multi-lingual project from the get-go. DM me (@holden) and we’ll find a time!

      • Agreed with you that forking is a game-changer. The shift from Sourceforge to GitHub has a lot to do with the simple concept that forking is encouraged. Slidewiki and Open Author are cool examples.

        So are annotations, in some ways. Ok, they’re not “forks” in the same sense. But they can accomplish a lot of the same work and Jeremy Dean is pushing in that direction. This student-produced annotated collection of American literature is quite inspiring.
        Especially if you think about the pedagogy involved in such a project. It’s not about providing content. It’s about students “getting their hands dirty”.

        Despite all the crushed dreams from repositories, catalogues, and databases, there might still be some work to do to integrate them with other OER practices.

        For a bit of context or even a disclaimer…

        Been working for VTE (Vitrine technologie-éducation) for a bit over a year. It’s a nonprofit with a mission to enhance technopedagogical appropriation and innovation in Quebec, with a particular emphasis on the college level.

        (Prior to VTE, been mostly working as a part-time instructor and freelance ethnographer. So my own arrival on the OER scene is quite recent. Been fascinated with Open Education for quite a while, without necessarily having much knowledge of that scene.)

        Part of VTE’s work is on the promotion and standards-based indexing of educational resources from our network partners and institutions (mostly OERs, though not exclusively). And, yes, we do this through a catalogue.

        Ceres is the latest incarnation of a rather long list of répertoires, collections, portals, LORs, and other sites developed by VTE since its foundation in 1992. Maybe that’s already causing a raised eyebrow or knowing smile. But we do still perceive quite a bit of potential in this model. Our coordinator also acts on standards bodies and work currently being done on OER indexing remains of particular interest to us.

        Part of that sustained interest has to do with a large and really slow transition, happening in diverse sectors. Simply put, it’s about the move from “documents” to “data”. Web veterans may laugh at Linked Data dreams. But there’s a lot of neat work being done by people in GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) and Higher Ed.

        This is one of those few instances where “paradigm shift” actually describes the situation. Lots of people, administrators especially, are caught in the “document paradigm”. One way to interpret the issues surrounding Open Textbooks is that they comfort document-focused folks into the notion that the document remains the key. So we still have to deal with this épistème. But some of us are resolutely into a data-focused world. It’s not just about chunking a textbook into modules. It’s about working out the connections between resources.

        Tim Berners-Lee’s wishes for Linked Open Data may be easy to dismiss as a pipedream. But the work done in the new paradigm is getting some traction, often in stealthy ways.

  3. adding a bit of context 😉 … would like to ad this functionality into Pressbooks! … (and ideally coordinating with Wikity-WP setups) … the content should be able to flow out of PB and into Wikity, and vice versa … (indeed there is already a mechanism to suck an entire PB book from one instance to another, but not so easily to add web pages).

    • Now, this is getting interesting!

      Will let @holden answer but to fork this question…

      We (VTE) have been talking with diverse people about using Pressbooks as a way to publish learning resources. Sounds likely that one Cegep will install Pressbooks to accomplish just this kind of thing. With the addition of things like Hypothesis annotations and maybe even something coming out of WPcampus, it could become one basis of a new model for working with OERs. For its part, Wikity could represent another model… or be part of the same one, allowing for something really neat indeed!

      Now, if we could also add in stuff like Linked Data and Caliper Analytics (or xAPI), Open Education could broaden beyond textbooks and “Learning Management Systems”…

    • It’s a hacked theme right now not suitable for general release (still haven’t even sanitized all inputs) — but you seem trustworthy so here 😉

      There’s a lot about this I would like to change, and the data model still isn’t fully solid. But it’s building off federated wiki, so it’s further along than it might look at first glance.

      What might be more useful to you (since I’ve got 2 months WP coding experience, and it’s been at the hobby coding level) is an outline of what the data calls and responses look like, and what couple of other things all sites in the federation must be able to do. As long as we agree on what that looks like we could develop separately (or maybe just move the whole effort to PressBooks — it’s early days).

      Shoot me a message via twitter or to and we can talk.

      (And don’t laugh too hard at the theme, first PHP project, first WP project, first real coding project in 10 years too).

    • Yeah, at the bar that Brian dragged us too. I was actually going to broach this subject there, but people have grown tired of Mike Caulfield getting drunk and ranting about a dream of federated read/write networks. So I stuck to music. 😉

      I’d be very excited to pool this effort with your on PressBooks — it seems like a natural fit, and I think the idea of page level forking would assist you in your efforts to get people to treat online publishing as something more that dead-tree replicas.

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