Thursday, November 21, 2019

Brief notes on CC-Licensing, Copyright, and Greece

Disclaimer/Heads-up: This is a short post connected to my work on the Creative Commons Workshop (aka “mini book report” or “homework”). It’s not meant to be an exhaustive copyright analysis, nor legal advice. Reader discretion is advised. Oh yes - this is also licensed under CC-BY 4.0 😃

For this final post for CC-Cert will look briefly at Greece, specifically with regard to Copyright and Creative Commons usage. Πνευματική ιδιοκτησία (intellectual property) or πνευματικά δικαιώματα (intellectual rights) are the Greek terms for denoting copyright, as well as the borrowed term “copyright” itself. The entity, in Greece, that “guards” the rights of IP holders is the Hellenic Copyright Organization (OPI) “ supervises the operation of the system for protecting the authors and the related rights rightsholders; safeguards the rights of the users and the public; balances the interests of copyright sectors with those of industrial property sectors; incorporates and adjusts in Greece the latest evolutions in community and international level, contributing in this way to the promotion of creativity and culture” [source].

Greece’s copyrights, similar to the US, are enshrined in the country’s constitution, more specifically addressed in Articles 2, 5, 14, 16, and 17 dealing with personal and intellectual property [source]. Greece is one of the signatories of the Berne Convention, as well as a member of the WTO, and a signatory to the WIPO Copyright Treaty [source]; as such adheres to the rules and regulations of that treaty. Just like in the US, copyright is bestowed upon the creator when their intellectual work affixed to a tangible medium [source]; examples of such media are books (physical and digital), paintings, drawings, music, photographs and so on [source].

Creative Commons does exist in Greece as an organization but there doesn’t seem to be a good way of discovering content that is CC-Licensed via their portal, or an affiliated portal. If you know where to look, you can find a decent amount of CC-licensed content in Greek. For instance, Kallipos is a repository of Greek textbooks geared toward a higher education audience. Kallipos also includes various learning objects such as exercises, videos, tests, and slides. OpenCourses is Greece’s take on MOOCs, and OCW broadly, where courses and course materials were available under CC-licenses. I consider this a hybrid OCW/MOOC platform because courses offered can range from an “A-” grade level (course notes and other text materials like exams), to an “A” grade level (text notes and audio lectures or notes), to an “A+” grade level (text notes and video lectures or notes). The “A+” level is typically what we see with xMOOC platforms. As of this writing, 26 institutions across Greece participate in this initiative. This initiative is supported by the Greek Universities OCW network. Another initiative is Photodendro, which I would describe as an OER Educational YouTube type of network. The network hosts educational OER videos across a variety of topics in Greek.

Finally, it appears that textbooks for K-12 (which are produced by the Greek Government) are now available for free through the ministry of education. Even though these books are free to download, when I was looking at the front matter of a random sample of textbooks I did not see any CC-licensing information, which means that this material is under traditional copyright! I think this is an area where improvements can be made. If the course texts (and associated teacher resources) become available as OER (they are paid for by public money after all) they can be used globally. One use case that I can think of are bilingual schools where Greek can be one of the language pairings. Making these texts OER would allow local educators to tailor the materials created to be adapted to local needs. I do understand that some of the materials need to be under traditional copyright (e.g., anthologies for language arts often contain excerpts or whole short stories that are under traditional copyright), but I would guess that some exceptions can be made, either by seeking permission from the relevant rights holders, or by crafting legislation for fair use (which apparently isn’t a thing in the EU).

Saturday, November 16, 2019

A learning circle, and CC-licensed handbook, for program admins


This blogpost is connected to my participation in this fall’s Creative Commons Certification course. The track that I picked was the educator track, but I’ll deviate a bit from the traditional educator track♦ and put on the hat of a college administrator♥. In my day job, I am the main administrative person for an online master’s program. To borrow a phrase - the “Soup to Nuts” guy for my program.  I am there when prospective students ask questions about our program, help shepherd them through the admissions process if our program is the right fit for their needs, help guide them through the program, and see them through to graduation. Sometimes I am also the alumni contact.  That’s not to say I am alone in this endeavor, there are many people who are part of this intricate machine: from faculty who teach courses, to colleagues at the Registrar’s office who actually schedule courses, colleagues in Admissions, and even other students in the program who help provide an on-the-ground view of our program†.

Anyway, the job of a graduate program manager (GPx§) is truly one that is multifaceted and there is no manual for doing the job.  When you start working you are basically thrown in the deep end and asked to make sense of it all.  Sometimes you might be lucky to have colleagues who share tips, tricks, and experiences★, but some are not.  I think this is where I see CC-licensed materials can come into play.  My proposal is to start small: assemble a group of 5 GPx folks who are interested in sharing their stories, tips, tricks, and how-tos. This can form the "manual" (which would be CC-licensed) and a crash course (using the manual as a guide or a centering principle) on how to do the job.

This can include practical elements, such as techniques for connecting with prospective learners,  marketing tips and approaches that are more grassroots as compared to the grander☆ marketing approaches employed by the institution. It can also include more action-oriented learning items such as case studies created by our community for the community, which can help train new people.  If materials are licensed under CC-BY they can be used by other universities, and help others in similar situations. Hopefully, others can also contribute to the collections of works☘ under a similar license.

Now, I don’t think it will be all fair seas and smooth sailing for the entire voyage here.  I think that many institutions (and perhaps some individuals) consider what they do as their “secret sauce”, and as is the case with most secret sauces people don’t want to share their recipe.  They view that as their competitive advantage. Another institution may view our institution as the competitor, and thus may not want their employees sharing their coveted practices. Individual employees, even within the institutional walls may view their knowledge and practices as a competitive advantage that they might want to keep to themselves (we do live in turbulent employment times…)   Hence, they might be reluctant (or even negative) toward the though of sharing materials under CC.

While I don’t think you can win everyone over, I do think that the “secret sauce” lies more in the relationships you build with people, and attitudes of actual caring, rather than any procedural ideas, approaches, and “recipes” you might find in a job manual.  I’ve come across many such negative individuals in my 20 years on this campus, and I think that the approach that yields the best results is one of leading by example.  I don’t think I can ever convince people purely on an intellectual basis to operate in the open, so showing not telling would be my approach♣. I think if I can find some individuals on my campus to start contributing to such an endeavor and we end up with a prototype, we can start sharing it with people in our immediate circles♤. This would also be a good opportunity to educate people further on Creative Commons in a stealth way😀.

Some materials that can be created, and thus licensed under CC, are how-to manuals for using the student information system¶, approaches for tracking student progress, guidance on admissions processes, creation of case studies and role-playing scenarios, and templates for filling in important partner-department information. There is also a possibility of linking to traditionally copyrighted information, such as eBooks and journal articles.  I think this is an advantage for this particular group of learners has because we all work for academic institutions and thus have access to academic libraries that can provide us with those traditionally copyrighted materials for our learning circles. While this material cannot be distributed with the original materials that will be CC-licensed, they might provide some good references that can be incorporated into the “how to” guidebook for the job.

In terms of actually implementing this as a course, once the materials are created (at least in beta form), I am thinking that the concept of the learning circle (p2pu.org) might be useful in this context, starting locally with people meeting in person, and then perhaps cross-institutionally. The materials that we put together and licensed under CC could be the materials used as a central hub for the learning circles, but we don’t have to paint within the lines and only stay with those materials.  Furthermore, how we evolve in the learning circle and inform updates to our CC-licensed resources for the group.  The way that I envision this is similar to the CC-Cert workshop.  The materials can be available to anyone in a PDF, GoogleDoc, or ePub format, but there can be an associated, time-bound, learning event that can occur at my home institution, somewhere else or even cross-institutionally.

Your thoughts?


MARGINALIA
♦ You know, someone who teaches or facilitates workshops or classrooms
♥ You know, what I do for a living.
† Sometimes staff and admins can be detached from the nitty-gritty and don’t remember how it was when they were students.
§ I use the term "GPx" because the "x" can be: manager, coordinator, assistant director, associate director, director - there seems to be little consistency across campus.
★ I was lucky to have had some documentation to decipher, and colleagues to ask.
☆ and perhaps more generic marketing campaigns. I find them to be generic anyway...
☘ this can encompass a manual that can be tailored to the specific institution, a course, or even a community of practice.
♣  especially if they believe that their livelihood is tied to secrecy
♤ Both on and off-campus
¶ A partner department for this could be the Registrar's office.  Other relevant campus IT systems might be the LMS, getting access to email, using the finance systems (for GPx folks who deal with finance), and so on.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Formal education and social capital

You don't go to Harvard for the Education. You go to Harvard for the Connections!
- someone from my past (I don't remember who).

The other day a long-distance friend and colleague posted an interesting blog post pondering (or positing?) that Social and Cultural capital are the main problem in online education. A very engaging twitter thread and discussion ensued (which I am having trouble locating at the moment), but I thought I'd let the dust settle a bit and collect my thoughts on the matter first.  It is a little self-serving too because I wanted to get back into the habit of writing and this seemed like a good opportunity.  As I was thinking about where to start untangling this thread the quote at the beginning of this post came to mind†.

As I was thinking about this I interrogated some of my educational experiences, both undergraduate, and graduate, and free-range learning (like MOOCs).  Most of my education was residential in nature. Although I do prefer distance education‡ life circumstanced necessitated campus courses for most of my education♠ I am also leaving free-range learning aside. This sets the background for my views. So, what do my (totally anecdotal) experiences point to?  Social Capital♣ is not baked into higher education at all.  It may be the frosting on the Higher Education Cake, but it's not really an integral part of the experience. There are some courses, that required collaboration, cooperation, or some form of human-human communication certainly approached the topic tangentially♥ but large section courses and lecture courses did not.

So where does learning about social and cultural capital come from in the higher education environment? Extracurricular activities! Oddly enough I think I learned most of my face-to-face skills in this area during my MBA program.  There were a number of guest lectures and free workshops available throughout my MBA program that looked at this topic. It was also included in quite a few cases in managerial and HR courses♦ I took.  Now, do I remember most of my classmates that I had in class (in person, no less!).  Not really.  I remember the dozen or so people I worked on projects with, but thanks to LinkedIn I am reminded there were others too 😊. I do consider myself to be an introvert, so organized events and socials, like the ones my MBA program had, were not my favorite venue, but I attended some nevertheless because of the value associated with them.

This begs the question: who do I remember the most? The answer is people from my free-range learning, and people who I met online.  Social capital, for people that are at a distance, for me developed outside of the classroom, and not even as an extracurricular activity that was tied to the classroom.  University facilities did help◊ but ultimately those connections were made via trial and error, and the willingness to take a leap of faith and chat with total strangers⊕. What makes that leap of faith worth taking?  I suppose it depends on each individual. For me, it was finding people to chat in Greek.  For others, it seemed to be about soccer, or hockey, or super Mario or some other common interest.  The skills learned in these online experiences and online social circles translated directly to both formal distance education as well as free-range online learning. A bit tangentially, the benefit I saw of online vs. face-to-face was that I could easily lurk in online environments and jump in when I felt ready, whereas in face-to-face environments that's a bit awkward.

From my experiences, it seems to me that learning about and experiencing the accumulation of social capital, is a by-product of actual social experiences themselves. And, in order to have those social experiences, you need some other motivating subject (learning, language practice, keeping in touch, discussing the finer points of your favorite novels, etc.).  Curriculum (online or f2f) doesn't do that by itself.  The experience needs to be engineered in order for it to happen. So, I would say that social and cultural capital are not problems in the online learning environment.  It's a bit of an issue across all learning - but it's only an issue if you expect that to be an outcome (sort of like the nameless person who said what I quoted at the beginning).

Your thoughts?




Marginalia:
It's been said and heard many times, but the one that sticks out to me is the context of cost: You can get an equally good education at Harvard and at your local state university, but you go to Harvard for the connections that will potentially set you up for life. It's highly problematic if you think about it, and it becomes even more so with recent news of Epstein and his connection to universities (i.e., paying large amounts of money to be close to influential people and thinkers). Anyway, I digress.
why drive into campus, park, pay for parking, and deal with traffic when you can learn on the train?
tuition for campus courses was free (employee benefit) whereas online was not.
defined as "the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively." by the OED - didn't bother diving deeper into the sociological literature
Hey, we did have to work together after all!
As opposed to marketing, finance, IT/IS and accounting courses
I didn't have the internet at home at the time, but high-speed internet was available on-campus, so I spent a lot of time in the computer lab
Ah, the Yahoo! Chat days... brings back good memories

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A look back at this summer's PD - Part I: Conferences


Summer is usually the time for some professional development, after all during the academic year things are going at such a fast and furious pace that it doesn't leave much time (let alone brain/mind-space) to undertake much professional development.  This summer (because of "factors") professional development was not as easy going as it has been the past few years, so I needed to pick a time to do schedule in the PD rather than pick it up throughout the summer.  This year one of my big work projects was  to manage and lead an OSCQR review of my department's online courses.  I started out with a manageable goal of 10 courses (our core courses consisting of 80% of the required curriculum for all of our students), but once I saw that our I am our three fabulous summer student aides were cracking through those 10 courses in about half the time I had originally budgeted, I decided to utilize the resources that I had on had (three great reviewers) and add another 8 courses, for a total of 18 (or - to put it another way: 75% of our entire course catalog).  Because of this massive project I ended up bracketing my PD to a week in August, and a week in June.  Even though it was a bit more compact than previous years, I thought I'd reflect a bit on it, and perhaps reflect a bit on the OSCQR process.

In this blog post I will focus on the two conferences I attended in June: LINC at MIT, and the Mass College Online Conference.  Hat tip to John (@dbeloved) for letting me know of the LINC conference - something that was in my back yard, but I was totally oblivious to.  The Proceedings for the 2019 conference are not online yet (hopefully they will be soon) because I want to dive into the sessions that I missed.  In addition to this thing being local, one of the things that piqued my curiosity was that Peter Senge was presenting (of Firth Discipline fame).  He was one of the favorite people of some past professors I had in the instructional design program, so it was an opportunity to see them live.  Throughout the three days there were a number of very interesting talks (to many to even recall everyone - but names do pop out when I look at the schedule).  From this conference there are two things that are still vivid in my mind:

There seems to be a lot of talk about using technology platforms and MOOCs to teach ESL. As a language learning geek, and a MOOC person (yes, still am!) I find this fascinating.  I WANT to see it happen: language learning through massive online environments.  It is undeniable that English at this point has a massive advantage as being the world's lingua franca, and it's understandable that people want to use technology to teach ESL broadly.  But... what about using the expertise that we have, and the technology at our hands, to teach other languages?  For example why not a Greek MOOC†?  Or an Arabic MOOC? Or Algonquian (the language of the people who are native to Massachusetts prior to colonization)?  It seems like you can't walk a kilometer in Greece (or any other country in Europe for that matter) and not see an advertisement about learning English.  There are so many people that teach English, so why not use our technology and knowledge to promote other languages?

The other thing that stands out is the panel about Educating the Future of Work (see here for schedule) which had panelists from Microsoft, American Job Exchange, and San Jose – Evergreen Community College District.  One of the things that is often talked about are alternative credentials (and related to that micro-credentials).  Not that it was brought up in the panel (as far as I remember), but news (greatly exaggerated IMO) about companies doing away with the college degree as an entry credential to the job market have been making the rounds.  Taking these two threads an putting them together might make it sound like the days of the college degree are numbered.  However, I don't feel like we reached that conclusion with this panel.  A lot, from what I read into the discussion, seems to revolve around trust relationships.  A college degree, as vague as it may be when it comes down the the specifics, comes from a trusted source, whereas some letter vouching for your apprenticeship or micro-credentials (as they currently stand) do not.  Furthermore, there is a bit of an implicit bias favoring bigger college names.  So, someone who graduated from MIT (we liked to pick on MIT since they hosted  us 😜) would have an advantage over someone who graduates from a State college somewhere.  There is lots to unpack here I think, and lots of room for discussion. It's also such a multilevel/complex problem that I think we need constituents discussing this now just from higher education, but from government and private industry.

Anyway - some short reflections from the two conferences I attended this past June.  Your thoughts?




MARGINALIA:
† - MOOC here is just a placeholder. Fill it in with whatever open classroom you'd like.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Hey! This isn't what I signed up for!


In my last blog post I was responding to the academy that isn't - or, perhaps, as some comments indicated, the academy that never actually was.  This past week I was at MIT's LINC conference.  It was a good opportunity to attend (since it was local), listen into some interesting panel discussions, and meet some folks from all over the world doing interesting things.  It was also a good opportunity to connect with folks (via twitter mostly for me) to think about academia (and the role it has) from a systems point of view.  I was rather happy to have been there to see Peter Senge speak at the end of LINC 2019 as he is a systems person, and someone whose work was foundational in my instructional design learning.

Now, I wasn't really planning a follow up to my last post.  I sort of wrote it in order to contribute my 2-cents to the discussion, as a response to @Harmonygritz (George), and also point people to it when they ask me if I want to pursue a tenure-track job.  However, the topic of faculty not being prepared  to do what their schools ask them to do came up on twitter during my #mitlinc2019 posts (via @ksbourgault) and oddly enough when I returned home and checked the subreddit r/professors the following post was made by one of the users:

I got into academia because I love creating and sharing knowledge. As I sit here working through my day, I can't help but wonder how I turned into a website administrator and customer service agent. Next year I've been told I'm going to have administration/management duties I never wanted and won't be very good at. I used to be the kind of person that didn't work a day in their life because I loved what I did. Now...well...getting through the days require medication. God dammit. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.

So, I thought - what the heck?  Why not write about this?  After all, some people tend to give you a strangle glance when you point out the problem but offer no solutions.  So,...here is my tenative solution, as imperfect as it may be.

As I mentioned in my previous post, a tenured (or tenure-track) professor job has three main responsibilities: Teaching, Research, and Service. I would say that here, at the "job description" level there is a problem. Faculty are not prepared for all of these things during their studies.  Faculty are only prepared for one thing in their doctoral studies.  That one thing is Research.

Educating credible, ethical, and competent researchers is the distinguishing characteristic of a doctoral program and that is what makes as doctoral program different from a master's program.  Some people may argue with me that this is specific to a "PhD" whereas an "EdD" is more applied in nature - but I respectfully disagree; I've written this in another blog post year ago, and I am sticking with it. The crux of my argument was this:  Both PhDs and EdDs need to be able to critically consume literature, critically produce research literature, and critically apply research literature.  If you can't do that, then there is a problem.

What you'll notice is that those three verbs (consume, produce, apply) do not include the verb "to teach".  This is something that, in my opinion, could be remedied at the doctoral education level.  It's also something that could be remedied at the hiring level.  K-12 teachers (and other professionals) are expected to complete a certain amount of hours in CPD (continuous professional development) every year to maintain their teaching license.  Why not tenure-track faculty?  My fellow instructional designers bemoan the fact that faculty rarely reach out to them for training, and no one attends the workshops that they spend a lot of time on preparing.  Well, I can tell you why (and I've told my colleagues this too):  This type of CPD is not something that is valued at an institutional level.  No one is forcing faculty members to attend CPD sessions and apply what they learn in their teaching. It's not something that faculty get 'brownie points' on their annual reviews for, and when push comes to shove and they need something to clear off their places, CPD is it.   In my proposal I would say that doctoral students should get their "starter pack" in instructional design and teaching while they are doing their doctoral studies, and then they continue with CPD at the workplace (and have it be required).  Simple.

But, hold on, let me get a little more granular here, because I think it's needed. My proposal doesn't just stop at mandatory CPD.  I would argue that - depending on the needs of the organisation - the job duties of the "professor" position should be malleable and negotiable every so often. What do I mean by this?  Well, I'd say that we should start off with two "starter" JDs (job descriptions), and for a lack of better terms I'll call them:
  • Researching Professor (RP)
  • Teaching Professor (TP)
The RP would spend 25% of their time teaching, and 75% of the time applying and getting grants, and researching and publishing.  The TP would spend 75% of their time teaching and 25% of their time researching and publishing.  Both positions would be compensated the same, would get the same prestige, and the same benefits, but there would be a difference in how they were evaluated.  A researcher would be mostly evaluated on the quality and volume of their published work, they would need to attend teaching CPD (although I think less than a TP), and they would be evaluated on their teaching, but we'd go "light" on them since this would be a part time responsibility on them.   The TP on the other hand would be required to have higher amounts of teaching & learning CPD for the year, given their teaching-first responsibilities, and conversely would be evaluated annually with more weight going to the teaching than the research output.  This is important because at the moment (from my own little microcosm) I see a lot of emphasis placed on research and publishing in tenure and promotion cases.  Knowing what "track" you've applied to, and what track you are in is extremely important in my proposed model.

Another key element here is the negotiability of the position.  How frequently this happens is up to the organizational needs.  But, let's say that I am hired into a TP-tenure-track position and after a few years of courses I really want to focus a bit on my research for the next year or two. Maybe I want to be 50-50 (teaching/research), maybe I want to be 25/75 (thus being moved into the RP structure).  This should be negotiable between the faculty member and the chair - keeping in mind the needs of the department as well as the needs of the individual.  Likewise, if I am in an RP-type of position but my department suddenly has a ton new students and needs me to teach more courses, I could negotiate to go into a TP-type position for a year or two with this new cohort of learners, and thus be evaluated mostly on my teaching.  The key thing here with evaluations is that we don't privilege teaching over research (and vice versa) when conducting annual evaluations (or even tenure/promotion evaluations).

But...wait!  You are asking me "what happened to service???"  Well... service is kind of a tricky subject, isn't it?  I would treat the service category as a category that would push a faculty member to the "exceed expectations" category of the annual job evaluation, and because of this consideration, the service category would potentially want merit pay (for a job well done, not just having it on paper). One reason for this is that lots of things could fall under service: such as: Organizing a conference, undertaking student advising, sitting on someone's thesis/dissertation committee, doing some marketing for the program or recruiting new students, serving on the library committee, or on the technology advisory board, etc. Because there is such variety in terms of service postings it's hard to say what faculty should or should not be part of. However, CPD and some method of evaluation should be part of these service decisions.

For example, when I was an undergraduate, meetings with my major advisor were short, he looked at my transcript, signed off on courses I wanted with very little dialog, even when I tried to engage about my interests in computer science and future goals I'd basically hear crickets, and that was about it. Except, when my GPA dipped and he advised me to change major - instead of figuring out why this was the case, where my areas of deficit were, and how to improve (I guess he was worried about departmental averages than retaining students in the STEM field...).  In the meantime (last 15 years) I've met faculty "advisors" from all across campus that "advise" students without even knowing the degree requirements for their own programs. This is just plain wrong. So, taking this as a use-case as an example, if your service advising I'd say that those faculty members should attend CPD to get informed (and test on) departmental, college, and university policies; get trained on degree requirements; know the costs of attending college; and getting to know people in other departments that support students (such as the writing center, the ADA center, and so on).

There are some service duties that faculty shouldn't be in charge of.  Marketing and recruitment being one of them (I am sure there are others too).  Faculty just don't have the skill set, and it's not really efficacious to have them obtain it.  There are positions on campus of people who do this type of thing.  If faculty want to switch careers, that's fine, but I do have an issue with faculty keeping their position as faculty while half-assing something (or worse, passing it onto staff...). Faculty can be part of these processes (of course), as experts in their own discipline and experts of their department, but really marketing and recruitment should reside elsewhere, not with faculty.

In the end, here are the guidelines for my NuFaculty setup:
  • Get rid of Tenured and Non-Tenured distinctions.  Everyone now becomes Tenure track with two possible starting points:  An RP and a TP. Having tenured and non-tenured tracks leads to discrimination and classism IMO. Just as there can be a lot of different types of professionals, there can be (and should be) a lot of different equal types of faculty.
  • Faculty get evaluated not on on a one-size-fits-all model, but rather based on their designated positions and through consultation with their department chairs
  • Faculty CPD is a requirement, especially for TP.  CPD factors into annual and tenure evaluations.
  • Positions are flexible based on the needs of the individuals and the needs of the department, but they need to be setup before the evaluation period begins (can't change horses in mid-stream...)
  • Faculty positions are 12 month positions, not 9 as they currently are now.  Yes, they accrue vacation time that they can take. As a 12-month employee they can decide when their "summers" are when they don't teach, so their period of teaching responsibility can be flexible, and this is a win-win both for faculty and the school.
  • Service isn't required for faculty positions, but highly encouraged.  To undertake service the appropriate service type needs to be matched with pre-existing skills.  CPD is available for those skills if faculty want to grow into that area, but you can't practice until you show some competency.  Depending on the department needs service can substitute for 25% of the research or teaching component with prior approval and for defined periods of time.
  • The incentive to sign up for service is merit pay.

Your thoughts?