open content

WPMU as OCW Platform

We’ve been using WPMU to power our OCW project in the David O. McKay School of Education for a year now. It’s been extremely straightforward and simple to run – every course has its own blog on the WPMU instance. Tons of plugins, drop dead simple migration… I love it.

However, as we ramp up to include more participants this year I’ve started wondering about the URL structure of having multiple departments participate. What I would love to do is still assign one blog per course, but be able to organize these under “subdirectories” as follows:

&c. You get the idea. I haven’t been able to spend a ton of brain power on it, but I can’t figure out how to get the /ipt/ or the /comd/ in the middle there. Any thoughts?

Also, I’m wondering what to do URL-wise about courses like IPT 692. This is an Advanced Issues seminar and is taught multiple times each year by different faculty. Multiple times each semester, in many cases. How should I proceed? /ipt/692/wiley/? And how should I archive these? /ipt/692/wiley/2009/fall/?

open content

Thank You, Marion

Utah State University OpenCourseWare is, I believe, the country’s second biggest OCW collection with over 80 courses (MIT OCW is, of course, the largest). USU OCW is consistently in the top five results when Googling for “Utah State University” (with or without quotes). And for four years, Marion Jensen has been the fearless leader of USU OCW. Recently, Marion provided what unfortunately appears to be his final project report:

We average as many as 2,000 unique visitors to the site every day from all over the world. We have mirror sites up in Africa, China, and Indonesia (that we know of). Our site has been translated into several languages, and is the third most visited site on the domain. Being the OCW director is something I’ve loved doing the last four years.

However, it is coming to a close.

Budget cuts have resulted in the program coming to an end. We’ve spent the last six months scrambling to find a way to keep the lights on. We’ve sought after state money, private money, grant money… We’ve found nothing, so as of June 29th, I will be starting a new job.

It’s heartbreaking to see the project come to an end. Hopefully, as Justin’s dissertation demonstrates that universities can provide a significant public good AND generate revenue at the same time through OCW, USU will reconsider its decision to shutter the program.

With help from many other supportive staff at COSL, Marion has admirably led this project to great heights in public service and has been responsible for bringing a significant amount of notoriety and public regard to Utah State University. Marion, thank you. God speed in your new efforts.

open content

Coming Dangerously Close

In my science fiction tale of the future of the open education movement, the OpenCourseWars, I predict a time when the federal government creates a funding pool to support the creation of open courses to which the public would have free access:

In the most unbelievable part of the history of openness in education (for me as a native West Virginian, anyway), West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd announced that his current term in office would be his last. (I think he was like 108 at this point.) His final piece of legislation would be a third Morrill Act that would support the land grant institutions in creating OCW-like projects to provide increased access to educational opportunity to the general public. The so-called “Byrd Bill” passed, creating a small pot of dedicated monies for public schools to draw on in order to support their OCW initiatives.

I suppose thinking that Byrd would introduce the bill was a bit too self-indulgent on my part, but today Inside Higher Ed is reporting on a U.S. Push for Free Online Courses. Byrd didn’t write the language himself, but it does appear to come during Byrd’s last term in office (unfortunately for WV):

Community colleges and high schools would receive federal funds to create free, online courses in a program that is in the final stages of being drafted by the Obama administration. The funds envisioned for open courses — $50 million a year — may be small in comparison to the other ideas being discussed. But in proposing that the federal government pay for (and own) courses that would be free for all… the draft language suggests that the administration is throwing its weight behind the movement to put more courses online — and offer them free.

If my predictions continue to be (largely) correct, we next wait to hear a deafening silence from the online curriculum and textbook publishing industries…