Volume 8, Number 3
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Joining the Dots: Introducing the iCommons iCurriculum
Johannesburg, South Africa – iCommons, an organization created to help coordinate and support global efforts to share educational content on the internet, is launching an online project to try to learn what makes such efforts succeed. The new project, called iCommons iCurriculum, is intended to support a growing movement to share educational content on the internet. Open education goes beyond posting textbooks online to offer tools that lets educators and learners share, reorganize, and republish educational materials to suit their needs.
iCommons iCurriculum will work with iCommons partner, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), to develop and coordinate a research framework with which to assess what makes an open educational resources project successful in developing low-cost, sustainable, and effective resources. The framework will consider questions about how localized the material is, what incentives there are for contributors, what kind of review systems are in place, and whether the project is sustainable or not.
“Partly because the field is so new, there have been few opportunities to share program learnings and advances across projects,” said Lisa Petrides of ISKME. “As a result, there is a large potential for knowledge sharing among developers, supporters, and users in order to advance and improve the development, use and re-use of open education content.”
Once the research framework is in place, the project will use an online questionnaire to invite open educational resources communities around the world to analyze their own efforts. By creating this common tool with which to study these efforts, the iCommons iCurriculum project hopes to build a comprehensive body of data on their successes, and to help create the capacity to track, analyze, and share key developments in the creation, use, and re-use of open education content.
The project is supported by four of the most prominent donors to open educational resources: Curriki, the Global Education and Learning Community; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; the telecentre.org program at Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC); and the Shuttleworth Foundation (TSF).
“We believe that we need to have well-designed research that can be used to support the success and growth of open source curricula,” said Bobbi Kurshan, Executive Director of Curriki. The iCommons iCurriculum will be a space where open education communities can learn from the successes of their peers in the hopes of making the finest educational resources available for free to all students, regardless of whether they are studying at a university in Johannesburg, at home in New York, or at a community telecentre in Delhi.
What iCurriculum learns through the research also can be used by the donors in their support of future educational resource sites. “iCommons iCurriculum is the perfect place to practically explore grass roots applications of new and emergent processes that can be applied at many levels,” said Helen King, Executive Director of the Shuttleworth Foundation.
This kind of collaboration among donors is rare. According to Mark Surman, Director of telecentre.org, “We thought it would be useful to get people working on open curricula together to share experiences on what's working and what's not in terms of methods for these kinds of collaborative projects. We believe that collaboration goes a long way. So, if the telecenter networks developing open curriculum can learn from others who are also trying this kind of thing, it's likely they will do a better job in the end."
Catherine Casserly from the Hewlett Foundation said that they are involved for similar reasons. “We hope that bringing these efforts together will create synergy to accelerate the impact of open educational resources on teaching and learning throughout the globe,” Casserly said. “That’s what the foundation’s grant-making and broader efforts to build the field are all about.”
There are great hopes for iCommons iCurriculum in the future. Once the framework has been developed and lessons learned from this study, iCommons iCurriculum will go on to report on lessons learned by the open education community, and will continue to bring together open educational champions to find further areas for collaboration at the annual iCommons Summit.
“Over the long term, it would be great if we could see a whole ‘curriculum commons’ movement emerging,’’ Surman said. “This would be people who are committed to innovating the way curriculum is created, bringing in peer production and even bringing in the students. I think iCommons could make a real difference in the world if it could help to convene this sort of community.”
Information about the partners and funders of iCommons iCurriculum can be found at their respective websites:
Curriki – the Global Education & Learning Community – www.curriki.org
iCommons – www.icommons.org
ISKME – www.iskme.org
Shuttleworth Foundation – www.tsf.org.za
The telecentre.org program at Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) – www.telecentre.org
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation – www.hewlett.org