OER and for-profits: Are we selling out?

Why it may be critical to partner with the for-profit world to facilitate innovations.

profit-OER-learningCan an advocate for open educational resources (OER) and student equity justify partnering for for-profits?

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has defined OER as “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”

Hewlett and other philanthropic foundations have spent millions of dollars supporting the creation of nonprofit initiatives dedicated to providing OER to the world.

However, while most people understand the “free” part of the definition,they don’t necessarily understand what it means to “repurpose” the materials. The repurposing may allow individuals, non-profits and for-profits to use those original materials and remix them, transform them, and even build them into new products.

So, when nonprofits partner up with for-profit corporations, are they “selling out”?

(Next page: Justifying an OER advocate’s collaboration with for-profits)


Why MOOC OERs are “ultimate necessities” in higher education

Researcher discusses 3 strategies to open up MOOC content.

OER-open-MOOCAre MOOCs truly the open education innovation they were designed to be?

That’s the question one researcher says those in academia should be asking. Though MOOCs are based on ubiquity (suggesting an evolution of the Open Learning Movement), in contrast with open educational resources (OER), MOOC content is often paywalled and copyrighted.

“Philosophically, the main problem with MOOCs is the inaccessibility and inadaptability of their resources, challenging democratic open access to knowledge,” explains Javiera Atenas, learning technologist at University College London (UCL). “MOOC openness is often related with openness to enrollment, and does not point to openness of the contents and the resources…A number of authors and organizations consider it an ultimate necessity to open up MOOC resources.”

According to Atenas, there are three “main problems” with MOOCs available today, ranging from retention to funding, and allowing content for OER could help alleviate these problems.

(Next page: 3 problems and 3 solutions)


How to support a massive growth of digital content

Cloud backup and disaster recovery solution selected for faster speed to back up 20TB.

digital-contentThe University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography has implemented Zetta.net’s cloud backup and disaster recovery (DR) solution to support its anticipated massive growth of digital content, as well as backup for mission-critical materials important for day-to-day operations.

The University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography is home to some of the most iconic 20th century North American masters, from Ansel Adams to Wynn Bullock. Along with the more than six million physical archived objects such as contact sheets and photographers scrap books, the museum houses an equally impressive digital archive.

The fast-growing collection was in serious need of a high-performance backup and recovery solution that could easily scale to meet the digital archives’ anticipated expansion plans.

(Next page: How the solution will help the university’s plan to back up critical digital content)


10 ways to ensure maximum tech effectiveness at your institution

With an abundance of tech solutions and tools, IT must ensure systems support their institutions’ goals effectively and affordably. Here’s how.


[*Editor’s Note: This article appears in our March/April digital publication. See all the articles, as well as this month’s Symposium on “Whither Liberal Arts” here: http://ecampusnews.eschoolmedia.com/current-issue/.]

Just two years ago, higher ed CIOs were scrapping for a seat at the table. Now they’re firmly in the hot seat.

In that short span, IT has become so central to campus operations that its performance has a direct impact on the quality of teaching and learning. Furthermore, with the consumerization of IT, faculty and student expectations have risen dramatically, leaving IT little room for error, whether in the wireless network or the LMS interface. To thrive within this cauldron, IT must develop policies and best practices to help it evaluate, implement, and then re-evaluate the systems on campus. eCampus News looks at 10 keys for success:

1) Maintain tech flexibility. Like it or not, students and faculty expect tech services that rival what they can find off-campus. Meeting those expectations is almost impossible if your school is tied down by unwieldy legacy systems. “It used to be that our environment was one massive ERP system like Banner or PeopleSoft, and we would use only the tools that were inherent to Banner or PeopleSoft,” said Paige Francis, CIO of Fairfield University in Connecticut. “As we rely on more and more technology solutions, we’re now looking for smaller components that might integrate with larger components. We are at a point where we have decided not to count anything out.”

As long as additional components are compatible with Banner (the release of web-based Banner XE is expected to make interoperability far simpler), Francis treasures the flexibility of being able to scout other solutions. The school is currently looking at Salesforce.com, for example, as a possible new CRM.

In the fizzing tech sector, it’s also important to remember that today’s hot product may be yesterday’s news. Schools should be wary of entering into long contracts with companies that could become has-beens in a few years. “The last thing that you want is to get roped into a 10-year contract,” explained Francis. “I would take a one- to three-year contract, but I would also want language that gives us an out in certain circumstances, because technology is moving so quickly right now.”

(Next page: 2-5)


New pathway in higher-ed sifts out serious professionals

Capella University’s competency-based FlexPath program just announced one of their first graduating class–and they may just be the best of the best.

capella-flexpath-learnersYou could almost call the program a trial for those who say they want to be serious professionals: know which skills you need to improve; improve those skills; self-motivate; rely on little additional explanation; reach your goals.

Capella University–an accredited online institution founded in 1993–has gained the reputation of being among the foremost innovators driving competency-based education (CBE) in the higher-ed landscape, thanks to its FlexPath program.

Developed in 2012 and approved by the Department of Education in August 2013, FlexPath became the first program in the U.S. to offer competency-based bachelor’s and master’s degree programs that use an approved direct-assessment learning model.

In January 2015, FlexPath enrolled its 1,000th learner. The program also just graduated its first students. And according to them, FlexPath changed their lives…but effortless it was not.

(Next page: Faculty and students weigh in on the FlexPath experience)


State’s community colleges make transfer history

Answering White House call, California community colleges lead way for students to gain access to national educational opportunities.

colleges-HBCUCalifornia community college transfer students who meet certain academic criteria will be guaranteed admission to nine historically black colleges and universities, thanks to an agreement between the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and the leaders of the institutions.

The agreement supports a White House initiative to strengthen and expand the capacity of HBCUs to provide quality higher education to students, and supporters say the agreement opens up new ways for students to gain access to educational opportunities.

“California community college students and the nine participating schools will benefit immensely from the agreement,” said George Cooper, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, who is leading the initiative. “The schools will have an even larger pool of gifted students knocking on their doors and California community college students will be guaranteed transfer to four-year institutions with rich histories, traditions and track records of success.”

(Next page: Participating HBCUs; details of the agreement)


50 colleges take part in first-ever LGBTQ-friendly online college fair

Campus Pride and GLSEN host hundreds of students and 50 colleges for inaugural LGBTQ-friendly online college fair.

LGBTQ-college-fairHundreds of students will meet with representatives from 50 colleges today during the first-ever online college fair specifically focused on helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning (LGBTQ) and ally students find colleges and universities that are inclusive and supportive.

Hosted by Campus Pride and GLSEN, with support from Toyota, the online fair allows students to meet virtually with representatives from colleges, universities and scholarship funds to talk about issues of particular interest to LGBTQ students, including discrimination policies, gender-neutral housing and access to LGBTQ-focused student organizations.

As part of the online fair, Campus Pride and GLSEN also will host Twitter chats focused on finding an LGBTQ-friendly campus, financial aid and scholarships, and tips for applying and making the most of the first year on campus. Using the hashtag #LGBTQcollege411, students are able to ask recruiters, advisors and current college students for advice on everything from filling out financial aid forms to which clubs to join on campus.

(Next page: Why it’s important to support LGBTQ-specific college searches)


Website aims to replace community colleges

More than a new brand name, ACE-approved Study.com is trying to combat rising tuition costs by giving students an alternative to earn college credit online.

study-com-collegeCould an online education resource eliminate the need for community colleges? Such an undertaking might seem drastic, but it’s exactly what the newly re-launched Study.com aims to accomplish.

More than just a trendy name, Study.com offers 19 exclusive courses accepted for credit by the American Council of Education (ACE), and another 30 are currently under review. Students can also submit their scores to more than 2,900 accredited colleges for transfer credit.

Founded four years ago as Education-Portal.com, the website was initially launched to accommodate a boom of students looking for inexpensive and flexible learning-reinforcement resources online, which they could use to study for exams or to learn for fun.

Education-Portal decided to take things a step further by creating online courses designed to lead toward college credit. At first, their courses were aimed at helping students pass College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams, which grant college credit to (generally older) students for about $80 per course. They then realized that after taking enough of these general education courses through Education-Portal, students could essentially test out of their first 2 years of college at a fraction of the regular cost.

The team found that their lessons were being viewed by more than adults, as college students were using the website to help study for exams, and high school students were even using the resource to prepare for the SAT & ACT. As a result, more and more courses and lessons were added to meet the growing demand.

(Next page: How study.com works)