Back in February the California State University hosted a small conference on open source applications in higher education. Jim Farmer gave a keynote and there were quite a few other talks as well. The resources are up and available now, including in podcast form.
Oxford University just opened up access to WebLearn which is its centrally hosted course management system based on the open-source Bodington platform. There isn't a lot there yet but I imagine more will be posted in time. They are apparently going to open it up to search bots so material should start showing up in google.
Registered users who need access to private material can login as usual.
Update: there are some pretty nice guides to using legal databases available through the site. Check them out here. An interesting use of a course management system.
Yesterday I was typing out notes from a campus visit and an odd paradox struck me. Someone at the institution I was at explained to me at length that open source just wasn't for them, in large part because they were small. This is a point often made to me by CIO's who make the point that its all very well for a Michigan or a Berkeley to pursue an open source course management system but not for them because theyre small and resource and staff poor.
The paradox comes from the fact that when you look around (and I havent done this comprehensively, but just from what we know off the top of our heads) a lot of the uptake of open source products like Moodle a lot of it is happening at smallish places (eg Humboldt State, St Olaf, Luther College -- the list can go on). Andeven the list of Sakai partners there are a lot of small institutions and if you start looking at other open source products and look beyond the US the list of small places gets longer.
I wonder why this is and I wonder why there is such a mismatch of perceptions.
This article contrasts with a not terribly good one in a recent Economist magazine -- the one with Tony Blair on the cover (that really narrows it down, sorry I read the gutenberg version, stolen from a nun). One of the downsides or limitations that they discuss is that open source is unlikely to lead to innovation. This seems absurd, and it seems to me that there are many counter-examples showing the innovativeness of open source development models. In addition, the bigger scale of at least the well-known open source communities and the fexibility of the approach suggest the potential for more innovation than a conventional software company mired in organizational bureaucracy. I guess they havent read Max Weber.
The Open University just announced their Open Content Initiative to make their content available to all. The effort will be supported by the Hewlett Foundation.
I am pretty excited about this, way more excited than I have been by the MIT project. This is probably because:
The Open University is very experienced at producing content for independent use that is quite usable by others. Back in the day when I was teaching I used to use their Study Guides for the subjects I was teaching and they were superb. Often they had been authored in part by some of the top people in the field.
They appear to be building a very strong research program around the initiative (see their job listings for some very concrete proof of that). I really like this approach and think that we'll be learning a great deal about how content is used, as well as broader and more general insights into learning and pedagogy.
I still have some questions about how much the content will get used (research that I and others are doing does raise some significant questions about how willing faculty are to contribute and use others material). I also wonder whether we aren't missing the bus here by looking at open content, rather than at learning environments that are largely open except for the grades and discussions part. Faculty have been telling us for years that they dont like the silo's of LMSs -- either into courses or the overly private nature of the tools. They want a public sphere of learning.