Royal Roads University is open!

open 19

A couple of tweets came my way today that alerted me to something that I am so happy to see come alive:

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The brainchild (as so many good ideas are) of my Royal Roads University colleague Emma Irwin (@sunnydeveloper – don’t worry. I’ll wait while you go follow her…okay…) open. is a one stop shop where the RRU community can share the work they do.

When people have asked me about my move from RRU to BCcampus (where I am at the end of a wonderful, mind blowing first week), I have been saying that one of the things I am sorry about is that I won’t be there to see the fruition of projects that have been in the works for awhile. This project was one of them.

Open started about a year ago when Emma came to me with an idea that she was trying to get buy-in for. At Royal Roads, we developed quite a bit of custom code for our Moodle installation. RRU is also a Drupal shop and there was some custom code that was written to extend Drupal as well.

Emma wanted to find a way to share this code, not only with the Moodle and Drupal communities, but with the wider world. She suggested setting up a code repository on GitHub, a very popular and active code community.  I told her I would weigh in with whatever institutional support I could give her to help her set it up because I thought the idea of setting up a GitHub repository to share our code was brilliant. After all, if you are going to adopt “free” open source software and use it to support your operations, you should be prepared to contribute back to the wider community. That is how open source works. You can’t just take – you participate and give as well. Which is why the word free above is in italics.

There is a very practical benefit from sharing your work because sharing is reciprocal. It builds goodwill. What you share will come back to you. In the case of open source software, you can see this in the communities that spring up around projects. Those that help and those who give have a level of status in the community. They become known. And when those people need help to solve a particular problem, it is there in buckets. The community supports those who support the community. In the case of sharing Moodle & Drupal code, Emma can find developers who can help her solve the problems she is working on. In the education circles I travel, you can see no better example of this type of reciprocal effect than with the work of  Dr. Alec Couros, who’s willingness to help out the network is legendary, and whose calls for help generate a massive response. People want to help Alec because he helps people.

But there is another reason why I think we should be sharing – something that gets to the very core of what we do as educators. As David Wiley points out, sharing is a critically important piece of learning:

In fact, those educators who share the most thoroughly of themselves with the greatest proportion of their students are the ones we deem successful. Does every single student come out of a class in possession of the knowledge and skills the teacher tried to share? In other words, is the teacher a successful sharer? If so, then the teacher is a successful educator. If attempts at sharing fail, then the teacher is a poor educator. Education is sharing. Education is about being open.

As an institution that has learning as their core purpose for existing, it only makes sense to me that we share the work we do with as many people as we can. Because education is sharing.

As Emma and I talked about the importance of sharing with our respective communities, Emma asked me about the open educational resources in CTET. RRU has an open Moodle instance where (thanks to the work of Mary Burgess and funded by a grant from my current organization, BCcampus a few years ago) we were sharing some OER’s we had developed that focused primarily on faculty development. Over the years, the collection has grown to include OER’s developed by RRU faculty, and other open initiatives. As we talked, Emma said she had this vision, inspired by Open Michigan, where we could gather all of our open institutional resources and share them in one place. I told her I had a similar vision, inspired by Open UBC.

And then I left RRU to go and work on other open stuff.  But Emma, like she does, kept on working and plugging away. And yesterday, went live. And I am very happy for Emma because I know how hard she has worked to make that happen. And what benefits not only she, but the wider Moodle & Drupal communities, and RRU itself will reap from her efforts.

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Photo: open 19 by loop_oh used under Creative Commons license



And without doing anything, I created an Open Educational Resource

Last week I let loose a rant against Turnitin and a poster they sent me which painted the acts of remixing, mashups, aggregation and retweeting as plagiaristic.

Tonight I receive a pingback notification from a blog being used in an open online high school Philosophy 12 course being offered by Bryan Jackson. Bryan has included my blog post as a suggested reading for his unit this week on Ethics in his open online class for students interested in discussing the ethics of intellectual property.

I don’t know where Bryan saw this post. He might be subscribed to my blog, a colleague might have passed it to him, or he might have caught it on Twitter as we are connected there (and I have a pretty good idea where he did see it). But he would have never seen it at all if I had confined my rant to my office colleagues and not decided to put fingers to blog and post something in the open space of the web – something that another educator could find and link back to.

Which goes to underscore a point that Scott Leslie has been making for years about sharing and serendipity:

Much of the sharing that happens in my learning network happens through serendipity. People publish a blog post, bookmark a delicious link, etc, as a normal part of their own workflow,and whether through syndication or the “All seeing eye of Google,” it comes my way, as John Krutsch would say, “Right On Time.”

A normal part of my workflow is writing blog posts and publishing on the open web, then disseminating that via Twitter, Facebook, & (increasingly) G+. All that backroom posting to those networks happens behind the scenes. I’ve spent some time setting up this blog to post to those networks, where it was picked up by another educator, who then decided to use it as a resource in one of his classes.

Without doing anything extra, I managed to create an educational resource for another educator.

Okay, maybe it isn’t entirely true that I have done nothing. I did have to do a few things to make that happen. I had to create the ecosystem to make sharing possible. But that work was done years ago when I made the concious decision to publish on the open web with a Creative Commons license that allowed for reuse (which didn’t even need to be in place for Bryan’s case as he has just simply linked back to the blog post and not actually copied or reused it). But that’s it. That’s all I had to do. The simple choice of deciding to post on the open web with a license that allows for reuse means that something I create (whether I think it is useful or valuable or not) can be used by another educator.

With those 2 conditions in place – open and licensed for reuse – everything I create and publish here becomes an open educational resource, free for any other educator to link to, copy, use and modify as they see fit.


Open Education Matters Why it is important to share

Earlier this year, the US Departments of Education held a video contest asking for videos that answered the question “why does open education matter?” The top three videos are located on the Department of Education website.

All the videos are well done, but the third place video caught my eye as it really emphasizes what can happen when content is shared and reused, and how it could then benefit the original creator of the content, creating the type of virtuous cycle that is possible when resources are shared.

This is open education. Knowledge as a public good.