A couple of months ago, I sent a proposal to the Open Education Conference 2010, which was accepted for presentation. Now I'm working on a paper expanding these ideas, based on the results I've gotten so far. I finally found time to put this online (should have done it weeks ago), so here's the text I submitted. Please note that the text was written in May, so there have been a lot of changes since then, especially after the beginning of DocTIC:
Open online courses in Colombia: Lessons from an educational and technological experiment
An examination of lessons and implications from the first open online courses offered in Colombia, based on free, replicable technology.
In September 2009, in line with experiences described by Fini (2008), Fini (2009) and Wiley (2009), the first Colombian Open Online Course was launched, as a local educational and technological experiment. The course, concerned with the exploration of the present and future of e-Learning in Colombia (ELRN), was offered as part of the masters program in Educational Informatics at Universidad de la Sabana, including students in both tuition-paying and open modalities. Two more courses were offered, based on the instructional ideas and technological infrastructure used in this first experience: one by Universidad EAFIT called Groups, Networks and Communities, and a new offer of ELRN at Universidad de la Sabana in 2010.
These courses, some of the first of its kind offered in Spanish, were based on the use of blogs for reflective writing, and were supported by a technological infrastructure designed to be free, replicable, public and as simple as possible, considering that the use of blogs and other social software tools in education is still incipient in Colombia, e-mail is still the most used communication tool, technologies such as RSS are unknown to most people, and not every teacher has access to a LMS installation. There was also a challenge of providing a common ‘course’ experience, while allowing participants to keep control of their own information during and after it.
A basic mash-up, which could be adapted and used in new courses, was used to aggregate and redistribute information (using Google Docs, Yahoo Pipes and Google Feedburner). Along eight weeks, participants published their reflections, opinions and findings on their personal blogs, which were compiled into a unique RSS feed or an e-mail subscription. Participants were also asked to save their own resources using social bookmarking tools, and to keep track of their learning tasks using wikis.
The technology used has evolved trying to make its use easier, including at the time a set of parameterized Yahoo Pipes, which compile both posts and comments referred to the course in several online platforms, making easier to track the distributed conversation (an issue in open online courses). Also, the conversation generated has been compiled in social graphs that help both teachers and students to see the evolution of participation in the course.
The experience showed local difficulties tied to this kind of educational experience, such as an unexpected low skill level from most participants in the use of some apparently basic tools, as well as qualms regarding the creation of a personal and public writing space. At the same time, participants reported their satisfaction with the exercise and expressed how challenging the experience of an open course was, its richness in terms of learning, and the value of having open, non-LMS courses available.
128 participants (34 tuition-paying / 94 non-credit) were registered in the courses offered, with a completion rate of 30% (90% tuition-paying / 11% non-credit). This experience intends to open new local discussions about the possibilities and challenges of open education, when going beyond the mere provision of OER.
- Fini, A (2009). The Technological Dimension of a Massive Open Online Course: The Case of the CCK08 Course Tools. In The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 10, No 5 (2009), ISSN: 1492-3831. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/643
- Fini, A., Formiconi, A., Giorni, A., Pirruccello, N., Spadavecchia, E., & Zibordi, E. (2008). IntroOpenEd 2007: An experience on Open Education by a virtual community of teachers. Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, 4(1), 231-239. Retrieved from http://www.je-lks.it/en/08_01/11Apfini_en.pdf.
- Wiley, D., Hilton III, J. (2009). Openness, Dynamic Specialization, and the Disaggregated Future of Higher Education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 10, No 5 (2009), ISSN: 1492-3831. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/768/1414