ICTP Workshop 2007/Outcomes

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{{#titlehere:}} Please note that the present pages on the ICTP workshop were obtained from a mediawiki used during the workshop. There may be a number of links that go to missing pages, and other inconsistencies. Much of it is also very informal, and should be seen as workshop notes!

Three key areas arose within the workshop, in which future work is required. These were

  • Training in e-learning and open education
  • Creation and enhancement of FOSS software for education
  • Sharing and Using Open Educational Resources

1 Training in e-learning and open education[edit]

The present workshop clearly met a need for disseminating information about existing tools to academics working at developing world universities. It also became clear, that, beyond the content of the workshop, materials for comprehensive e-learning training are much needed.

"E-learning" here means "e-learning with open educational resources and free tools for insitutions in developing countries". It does not necessarily mean learning through closed virtual learning environments, but encompasses open learning as well.

E-learning of course is highly relevant in it's own right, but particularly in the sense of "e-learning with open educational resources and free tools for insitutions in developing countries" it is highly relevant to almost all developing world educational institutions.

This is because both the tools and the content is freely available, and can be built upon easily. Such training in e-learning seeks to activate existing infrastructures, as basic computer labs, and basic connectivity.

Training in e-learning has many aspects, and could take different forms. Three approaches seemed particularly relevant:

  • Creation of an open book providing basic information on the subject matter
  • Running local workshops
  • Writing of position papers and case studies

Of course these three aspects are interlinked, and would feed into eachother.

1.1 An open book on e-learning and open learning[edit]

One suggestion that was very appealing to many participants was the creation of a (creative commons licensed, open wiki) book on e-learning and open learning (with free and open source software).

The book need to take a very practical approach. It would need to include technical infomation (e.g. how to install ubuntu/web server/moodle/get OCW resources ...), as well as content production infomation (e.g. media production, remixing OER with open source tools). Some background on e-learning as well, and some pedagogical aspects should be included.

The book would need to be suitable for workshop use, and may need to including tips on running workshops.

The e-learning book would also need to be suitable to be turned into an actual online course in low cost OER production. The book would need to be give information on designing, developing and deploying an online course on low cost media production.

1.2 Local workshops[edit]

On the basis of the e-learning book, a number of local e-learning workshops could be run.

Like the book, the workshop would contain a range of stream, such as content Management and Content Development, with a very strong emphasis on hands-on sessions. Most participants in the present course felt that theory lectures should be kept to a strict minimum, because much of the required theory can be learned from the web. Hands-on sessions were judged to be absolutely essential in getting a working knowledge of the material, and being able to shape e-learning programs at various universities.

The workshop might conver topics like:

  • Evaluate existing platform for future migration towards those platforms
  • Low cost media production tools
  • Develop program modules for online delivery
  • Formulate policy for online management/administration

An important aspect of the workshop may be to 'train the trainer', where a number of people are trained to then run workshops in various countries globally. There would need to be a firm commitment from home institutions of participants. For instance, each participant needs to have a letter of endorsement from their institution, and commitment to implement changes. By coming to the workshop, you (and your institution) sign up for a 'roadmap', of implementing change.

It was also judged to be very important that the workshop would also teach participants how to deliver workshops effectively.

For the workshop, different strands would need to be available, that break down the workshop programm into smaller highly focused session, with substantial hands on exposure.

Supplementary to the workshop, online learning opportunities should be offered, to allow for continuing professional development of workshop participants, as well as for the people subsequently trained by workshop participants (in a 'train the trainer' sceneario). Such courses will be deployed in the respective universities, and would be hosted hosted through Open Course Management System.

1.3 Guidance and position papers on setting up complete e-elearning infrastructures[edit]

Based on the initial draft of the e-learning book, and the workshops, the book would be completed with case studies that give additional guidance.

2 Free and Open Source Software 4 Open Educational Resources[edit]

The workshops and elearning book would use and refer to existing open source tools. However, in some areas, existing open source tools aren't quite ready for production use, while in some key areas for e-learning, no adequate open source tools exist.

Two suggestions were made at the workshop:

  • To enhance existing open source tools, such that they fit requirements for use in education.
  • To specifically develop open source tools for lecture recording

2.1 Enhancing existing open source products[edit]

There are many great open software packages out there, but many of them are not quite read to be used efficiently in an educational context. (The same is of course true for commercial applications, even many that claim to be suitable for education.)

Different suggestions were made. For instance, developing world institutions could 'adopt' an open source package, to make it more suitable for the needs of the institution. For instance, final year computer science students would typically work on some demonstration project, that then get's discarded because it may not have any practical value. Instead, those students could do project work on an open source project. Gradually, you'd help to improve the package. In addition , this will foster a culture of contributing to the development of open source packages.

For future workshop, experts in open source software developments could be invited to workshops, to demonstrate packages, and to engage in feedback sessions with the users, to understand requirements better.

Many countries support Open Source, e.g. through initiatives like Indonesia Go Open Source. It may be possible to work on improving and customising existing open source tools in that way.

Another possibility would be to bid for grants, so that open source developers could be deployed to improve packages (e.g. through a 'bounty' system).

2.2 Open Lecture Capture[edit]

Much of the present ICTP workshop focussed on lecture recording techniques. Class sizes are often limited, and institutions have many campusses. Lecture recording facilities may provide valuable tool to engage larger numbers of students, and to provide basic distance learning materials. It might also help students adapt to English environment they can review the class anytime they want.

There was a strong appreciation from workshop participants, and many participants were keen to implement video lecture recording. Many proprietary systems were showcased at the workshop, and participants strongly questions the usefulness of such proprietary systems at their insitutions, due to the high costs involved.

However, there are some promising systems that are essentially open, but use a number of proprietary tools for convenience. Other systems could be open in principle, but have not been released as open source.

Hence the suggestion was made to explore video lecture recording systems built on open source software, with little hardware requirements, and specialised options for converting the video (and associated materials, like powerpoint and pdf) suitable for low-bandwidth environments.

Lecture capture systems may also be useful in teacher training, assessment and evaluation. Currently there are problems associated with capturing (assessment) lectures and independantly evaluating them.

3 Sharing and Using OCW/OER[edit]

More work is needed in encouraging sharing of OCW/OER, in particular effective North-South sharing, as well as South-South sharing. Two project would contribute to facilitating this:

3.1 Set up a low-bandwidth enabled resource sharing network[edit]

A low-bandwidth resource sharing network. This network would carry open resources (e.g. Creative Commons licensed), such as

  • MIT Open Courseware, OCWC content, OCW contrbutions from the south
  • PLoS journals
  • SciVee and other video content.

3.2 OCW/OER evaluation project, led by Universities from the South[edit]

Universities from the South develop their own criteria for OCW evaluation, and evaluate use of OCW in their institutions, identify barriers, and possible stategies for adding their own materials.