Open and Shared Educational Resources – A Collaborative Strategy for Advancing E-Learning Communities: A Case Exemplified by Curriki

Open and Shared Educational Resources – A Collaborative Strategy for Advancing E-Learning Communities: A Case Exemplified by Curriki

Barbara Kurshan (Educorp Consultants Corporation, USA), Anne Schreiber (Common Sense Media, USA) and Peter Levy (Levy Associates, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-917-0.ch005
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Advances in information technologies have created unique opportunities for the free exchange of ideas on a global scale. To this end, a growing number of education stakeholders are finding that applying an open source approach to content development provides an extraordinary opportunity to change the curricula paradigm. Access to quality learning materials and the free exchange of knowledge is increasing. The authors explore the increased adoption of open and shared educational resources (OSER), with such examples as Curriki. Curriki extends the model by providing an integrated learning environment and resource repository centered on a culture of collective participation.
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In the early 1990s, the Internet emerged as a platform for the free exchange of Open Education Resources (OER) on a global scale. More recently, Web 2.0, second-generation browsers, better graphics and simulations, and interactive systems have sparked collaboration among networked communities (Atkins et al., 2007). With the additional overlay of collaboration, OER is giving way to an Open and Shared Educational Resources (OSER) ecosystem, driven by the simple and powerful idea that new technologies provide an extraordinary opportunity to change the curricula paradigm, and thereby to dramatically expand access to quality learning and the free exchange of knowledge (Casserly & Smith, 2006).

Open Source: The Solution

The major driver in lowering barriers to access is the “free and open source” movement. Open source software generally refers to software whose source code is readily available and can be modified by users for their own purposes. The basic principle behind open source software is simple: when developers can read, modify and redistribute the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves and improves. The GNU/Linux operating system, the Apache Web server, and the OpenOffice desktop application have all proven to be world-class software applications that are released under an open source license. (Guhlin, 2007).

These examples have also provided an instructive model for how online communities can organize and govern themselves, evaluate and improve their products, and grow in size and influence. The success of open source software demonstrates that a committed community of people can effectively modify, improve or adapt a project at an astonishing pace.

What is it that makes the efforts of a volunteer community so effective? Virtually every successful open source project has several common elements (OECD, 2007):

  • An infrastructure and a process that supports collaboration between disparate individuals.

  • A community that is energized and motivated to complete, publish, and support their work.

  • A critical mass of content that can be used as a base from which a specific community of practice can create an enhanced or customized version exactly suited to their specific needs.

The open source framework is especially conducive to the way people interact online today in the new “Participation Age” (Schwartz, 2005). The Participation Age is about access and sharing, where networks of engaged participants work collaboratively to meet a shared objective. In the process, these networks create meaningful content, connections and relationships never before possible. As an outgrowth of this participation age, a growing number of education organizations and foundations are finding that an open source approach can bring free, high quality educational resources to those that need them.

Early examples of educators exchanging and building on learning resources in the manner or programmers exchanging and building on software programs was documented in the World Bank report that first identified Open Educational Resources (OER). The report described open source courseware as generating greater awareness and interest in all parts of the world with the United States in the lead (Materu, 2004).

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