Creating Open Source Lecture Materials: A Guide to Trends, Technologies, and Approaches in the Information Sciences

Creating Open Source Lecture Materials: A Guide to Trends, Technologies, and Approaches in the Information Sciences

William H. Hsu (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7230-7.ch020
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This chapter surveys recent and continuing trends in software tools for preparation of open courseware, in particular audiovisual lecture materials, documentaries and tutorials, and derivative materials. It begins by presenting a catalog of tools ranging from open source wikis and custom content management systems to desktop video production. Next, it reviews techniques for preparation of lecture materials consisting of five specific learning technologies: animation of concepts and problem solutions; explanation of code; video walkthroughs of system documentation; software demonstrations; and creation of materials for instructor preparation and technology transfer. Accompanying the description of each technology and the review of its state of practice is a discussion of the goals and assessment criteria for deployed courseware that uses those tools and techniques. Holistic uses of these technologies are then analyzed via case studies in three domains: artificial intelligence, computer graphics, and enterprise information systems. An exploration of technology transfer to college and university-level instructors in the information sciences then follows. Finally, effective practices for encouraging adoption and dissemination of lecture materials are then surveyed, starting with comprehensive, well-established open courseware projects that adapt pre-existing content and continuing through recent large-scale online courses aimed at audiences of tens to hundreds of thousands.
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1.1 Tools

This section provides a brief history of open educational resources (OER) for the information sciences, followed by a taxonomic survey of OER development tools.

1.1.1 Brief History

Open educational resources (OER) for the information sciences date back to the early decades of the field, beginning with the development of PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations), the first computer-assisted instruction (CAI) system, at the University of Illinois. (Van Meer, 2003; PLATO History Foundation, 2011) The first version of PLATO, implemented on the ILLIAC I circa 1960, included what is now termed lessonware and was funded jointly by the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. Meanwhile, by the late 1960s, video lecture consortia such as the Stanford Honors Co-op were delivering proprietary closed-circuit television content to corporate sponsors (House & Price, 2009). The 1970s brought a wave of intelligent tutoring systems (Carbonell, 1970; Sleeman & Brown, 1982; Iiyoshi & Kumar, 2008). By the 1980s, cable-access distance learning and extension courseware had begun to be distributed using precursors of open source licenses, culminating in the founding of the Free Software Foundation in 1985 and the first releases of the Berkeley Standard Distribution (BSD) License (1988), GNU General Public License (1989), Open Content License (1998), and Creative Commons License (2001). (Free Software Foundation, 2012) Abelson, a founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) initiative (Abelson, The Creation of OpenCourseWare at MIT, 2007; Attwood, 2009) and founding member of Creative Commons (Creative Commons Corporation, 2011), had been distributing Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, a leading introductory textbook in computer science, online. With the advent of MIT OCW, video lectures prepared for the MIT/Hewlett-Packard consortium (House & Price, 2009) as early as 1986 were made available (Abelson, 2005).

1.1.2 Technologies for Producing Open Source Software

When discussing “open source tools,” professionals and students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields often refer only to open source software (DiBona, Ockman, & Stone, 1999; Raymond, 1999; Open Source Initiative, 2006)1 rather than the more general concept of open content (Wiley, 2011) as coined by David Wiley in 1998 (Wikipedia, 2012). The means of production are diverse for both forms of creative work, with free redistribution and access being the unifying characteristic. For open source software, however, the chief production technologies are software engineering tools: integrated development environments; content management systems; and version control systems, also known as “source code control systems.”

Integrated development environments (IDEs) are suites of development applications consisting of source code editors, compilers (and/or interpreters), and build/execution controls, plus optional components such as build utilities, interfaces to version control systems, visual code layout and refactoring tools, and interactive code inspection and debugging tools. (D'Anjou, Fairbrother, Kehn, Kellerman, & McCarthy, 2005; Nourie, 2005) They range from the proprietary (e.g., Microsoft Visual Studio and Apple Xcode) to open source (e.g., Eclipse and Oracle NetBeans). The range of available IDEs depends foremost on the programming languages to be supported and secondarily on the development platform, comprising the computer architecture, operating system, and compilers or interpreters. For ease of use, efficiency, and portability, many open source developers use simple editors, version control, and compilation tools to augment or replace full-featured IDE s when their full power is not required.

A content management system (CMS) is a collection of procedures (implemented manually or computationally) for organizing and carrying out work flow in a collaborative environment. (Depow, 2003; Mauthe & Thomas, 2004) Specific CMSes may be implemented as web services or using other software as a service (SaaS) architectures, or as standalone applications such as most wikis. Both types of CMSes occur in both proprietary and open source varieties. Schaffert et al. (2006) describe semantic wikis, which capture information on the deep relational structure between pages and provide this information to agents and services beyond mere linking. These are referred to as semantic wikis, after the Semantic Web, or Web 3.0. Moreover, both enterprise and public wikis may be used for distance learning and distribution of lecture materials, but in academic institutions and consortia, enterprise wikis are the more common type. The most popular enterprise wikis are the Wikimedia Foundation’s MediaWiki, Tiki Wiki CMS Groupware, and TWiki. (Wikipedia, 2012)

A version control system, also called a source code control system or revision control system, is a specific type of software configuration management system designed for the curation and archival of collaboratively created content, including but not limited to program source code. The dominant version control systems in use at present are the client-server systems Subversion (SVN), Concurrent Version Systems (CVS), and Git. Because of their predominance within the open source community, and the existence of popular hosting services such as GitHub, which supports Git, and SourceForge, which supports a number of collaborative version control systems, SVN, CVS, and Git have retained their preeminence in social development contexts such as authoring of open source software and open content.

1.1.3 Current and Emerging Technologies for Producing Other Open Content

Other forms of open content (Wiley, 2011) have included databases and data acquisition resources such as the OpenMind Initiative (Stork, 1999; Singh, et al., 2002; Chklovski & Gil, 2005), a collaborative framework for producing large data sets, domain knowledge bases, and ontologies for commonsense reasoning and machine learning. Open courseware itself is an instance of open content, often excerpted and reused with “some rights reserved” as per the Creative Commons License (Creative Commons Corporation, 2011).

Current software tools for preparation of open courseware, especially audiovisual lecture materials, documentaries and tutorials, and derivative materials, focus on production of notes, slides, audio (traditional “podcasting”), and videos (including “webcasting”). Numerous office suites providing functionality similar to Microsoft Office are distributed under purportedly free software licenses. The best-known and most popular of these at present is Apache OpenOffice (Apache Software Foundation, 2011), originally released by Sun Microsystems and briefly by Oracle Corporation. (Wikipedia, 2012) Most office suites provide native file formats for lecture slides with animations and for non-interactive reading material, and support exporting of content to static formats such as text and PDF. True open source packages for video production include Blender (Blender Foundation, 2012) and VirtualDub (Lee, 2012), whereas some proprietary software is freeware or shareware when used under a noncommercial license. Fraps (Beepa, 2012), a popular video capture utility used to make recordings of software demonstrations and machinima-based animations (Lowood & Nitsche, 2011), is one such example.

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