Friday, June 10, 2016

For-Profit Involvement in OER - Part 2

David Wiley has posted on his blog what looks like an answer to the question I asked him last week that is referred to here in For-Profit Involvement with OER

“If OER adoption were to become widespread among the majority of faculty, it became clear that someone would need to do something more than create OER, post it on a website, and give conference talks about it.” That's an observation that Wiley makes in his post and which is so very obvious to anyone who has been involved with education and technology for more that a week or two.

The biggest reason that OER hasn’t had much of a chance of getting used in all kinds of schools is because devices to use OER have not been common enough in most classrooms to make it practical for teachers to begin the adoption of a new way of doing things. That is, until recently. OER are now practical because  devices to use OER are becoming cheaper every day and wifi is becoming stronger in every classroom every day. Adoption didn’t happen quicker because technology in education at the classroom level had not yet evolved to the point where it was practical.

Wiley wisely tried first to use OER with learning management systems.. Well, LMSs have had the same problem that OER faced - not enough commonly used technology at the classroom level. I’ll also add that there hasn’t been enough leadership or professional development for teachers to adopt either LMSs or OER. That, too, is changing, finally.

Wiley described a couple of problems that they ran into when trying to use OER within a LMS.

They also discovered that faculty don’t always follow all of the rules of attribution. Really !

So, instead of addressing those problems Lumen did the next best thing that also just happens to offer a ROI for investors of Lumen.

“Lumen has spent a lot of time, effort, and money creating an OER management and integration platform that solves many of the most common OER adoption problems, which is also free and open source. “ - that’s the Lumen Wordpress / Pressbooks LMS like thingy that they use to house the OER. Their thingy may be open source but how many people on the planet outside of Lumen know how to operate it? And, where is the documentation on how to operate this open source tool? How many faculty or teachers are there who typically and practically use this tool?

Because the OER that Lumen is offering to schools is in the platform that they built Lumen gets to charge the users of the OER as much as $25.00 per OER which also includes all of the other things that Lumen does.

‘Institutions partner with Lumen because Lumen provide faculty training and support, checks of OER licensing and attribution, hosting and technical support for our platform, and analytics and effectiveness research – as well as other services like strategic and change management consulting for academic leadership.”

It sounds like Lumen has become a LMS hosting company using a LMS that is open source but that not very many people other than Lumen actually know how use.

And, Lumen has created package deals for degree programs, too. I think that means that they will spin up a Nursing Assistant program, for instance, or some other special program that is popular and useful at colleges.  The OER content will be all wrapped in with all of the other things that Lumen does to make the degree program happen. So, they’re like the OPMs (online program management) that have been in the news lately. OPM is hot in higher ed and apparently worth over a $billion. Lumen and its investors deserve a piece of that money, I guess.

1 comment:

  1. Dan, you strike a very critical tone again. It bewilders me.

    You say that "instead of addressing those problems" we started working with institutions and charging them for our services. Your tone implies there's something wrong with either (1) working directly with institutions or (2) asking someone to pay for your time when you make a major time investment in them. I'm intensely curious to understand how you would have addressed these problems at community colleges across the country without (1) directly engaging with them or (2) charging them for your time to do so.

    More criticism: "Their thingy may be open source but how many people on the planet outside of Lumen know how to operate it? And, where is the documentation on how to operate this open source tool? How many faculty or teachers are there who typically and practically use this tool?" Again, I'm curious as to how you would build the necessary technical capacity at community colleges around the country without engaging with them directly or charging for your time. I'm particularly interested in how you would do that when many of them employ only a handful of technical staff who are already chronically overworked.

    Millions of people outsource the server maintenance and software hosting for their blogs to Blogspot. Why is that? Why don't they just administer their own Linux server and run an open source blogging platform? Is it because sufficient documentation and training aren't available for running and maintaining Linux and Wordpress? That can't be it - there's amazing training and documentation for these open source platforms. Why do they choose to rely on a partner rather than doing it themselves? I believe the answer to this question is closely related to the issues you identify above.

    Lumen is not an OPM. We don't recruit students or stand up new programs. We don't capture 70% of the tuition students pay (or any of the tuition they pay, for that matter). We simply help institutions transition all the existing courses in an existing degree program from commercial textbooks to OER.

    Finally, your choice of words - schools, teachers, devices, and classrooms - leads me to believe that your primary interest may be in K-12. Lumen works exclusively in post-secondary education, focusing on community colleges and other open access institutions that serve at-risk students. Perhaps the reason the Lumen approach makes so little sense to you is that it solves a problem other than the one you are actually interested in. As you no doubt already appreciate, K-12 and higher education are completely different beasts.