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Blended Learning Librarianship

ARL “brief” on MOOCs

The Association of Research Libraries has issued a brief discussing legal and policy issues of MOOCs. Legal issues focus on copyright. The conclusion summarizes the issues at had for research libraries:

It should be clear from the preceding discussion that libraries have a significant stake in the way their parent and partner institutions approach the MOOC phenomenon. In addition to the strategic concerns already described—keeping fair use on the table, protecting and extending open access policies, ensuring accessibility—research libraries have a more general stake where MOOCs are concerned, which is the continuing relevance of libraries and library collections to university teaching. Will materials in library collections be incorporated, by means of fair use or licensing, into MOOC courses? Will research librarians be trusted experts to whom MOOC instructors turn for help identifying and locating educational resources, whether owned or licensed? Will library values of openness and equal access hold sway, or will the novelty of the MOOC phenomenon lead institutions down a different path? If, as some believe, MOOCs are the future (or at least a significant part or indicator of the future) of university teaching, it is important that research libraries think strategically about how they support this new phenomenon in its formative stages. (p. 15)

Institutions in Canada (and most of Europe) also should consider privacy & anonymity issues of MOOCs. In fact, students are called upon to create accounts and post some information about themselves and their learning process in certain public or quasi-public forums. Although this legal issue can be fixed with clear terms of use, some students may not enjoy the loss of privacy & anonymity that “openness” brings… It seems to me that some thought should be placed on this issue.

Blended Learning Open education

Google goes MOOC

In addition to the news of the Gates Foundation giving 9 million dollars for “inovative education practices (see: Wired Campus blog post on June 19th), Google has joined the fray for Massively Open Online Courses (see this other post on Wired Campus, a tech blog of the Chronicle of higher education).

The search Internet giant has launched its “Course Builder” as an open source code project (see: See Peter Norvig, director of research at Google explain the project:


Of particular interest is this page about the design process of an online course from Google.

Blended Learning Google Information literacy

Google’s Search Education

“Pssst… you may want to check out Google’s Free classes called Power Searcher…” said my colleague’s email. Although I know, use and teach many of Google’s advanced features, I could not resist to test-drive their online learning platform and initiative.

In a quick take, the site is streamlined and the tone is consensual, unscripted yet structured and slightly too slow. I also love the design of the class site, elegant and uncluttered, in true Google fashion :

Classes in a course

Lessons in a class

Lessons in a class

I also like the pace, or how all learning objects are integrated in the flow of the initiative. Each lesson, a 3 to 8 minute video, is followed by activities, usually multiple-choice of short answer questions. Learners are also called upon to open new tabs and perform steps outside of the environment.

Also, videos start with a slide, showed for 3 or 5 seconds, that cover the learning objectives/outcomes of the lesson. Daniel Russell, Senior Research Scientist at Google, provides for en engaging series of videos. Usually, the focus is on slides from a Presentation with his “talking head” in a smaller window – this is the same setup I use for my own training videos.

Now, the only criticism I can provide is the subtext of the presentation. Now, this is a corporate learning initiative, so I was expecting to get fed a lot of Google products (this actually – surprisingly – is quite pleasantly accomplished). But what slowly got on my nerves is that Daniel Russell assumes gingerly that everything you would ever wish to find is on the free web, indexed by Google.

To be fair, in one activity, he did point out that you may have to use another search system (in that case, a statistics database from a governmental agency) to locate your answer. Now, this issue is probably too much on my mind because I try to get University students to look beyond the free web for their papers…

Honestly, this criticism is very personal and I want to congratulate and thank Daniel Russell and the folks at Google for this engaging, interesting and relevant tour of their “Data garden” – Merci !

Blended Learning Lectures and conferences Open access Social media

UNESCO releases Paris Open Education Resources (OER) Declaration

UNESCO releases Paris Open Education Resources (OER) Declaration:

OERs are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an open license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution. UNESCO has long been a champion of OERs and continues to promote them through its Education, and Communication and Information Sectors.

“Based on the Paris OER Declaration, a comprehensive UNESCO OER Programme and strong global partnerships, we hope that at least 12 Member States will adopt national OER policies by 2015,” said Abel Caine, Congress organizer and UNESCO Programme Specialist for OER.

Here is the full text of the Paris OER Declaration

The World OER Congress held at UNESCO, Paris on 20-22 June 2012, Mindful of relevant international statements including:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26.1), which states that: “Everyone has the right to education”;
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 13.1), which recognizes “the right of everyone to education”;
The 1971 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty;
The Millennium Declaration and the 2000 Dakar Framework for Action, which made global commitments to provide quality basic education for all children, youth and adults;
The 2003 World Summit on the Information Society, Declaration of Principles, committing “to build a people- centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge”;
The 2003 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace;
The 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression, which states that: “Equitable access to a rich and diversified range of cultural expressions from all over the world and access of cultures to the means of expressions and dissemination constitute important elements for enhancing cultural diversity and encouraging mutual understanding”;
The 2006 Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (Article 24), which recognises the rights of persons with disabilities to education;
The declarations of the six International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA) Conferences emphasising the fundamental role of Adult Learning and Education.
Emphasizing that the term Open Educational Resources (OER) was coined at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on Open Courseware and designates “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work”;
Recalling existing Declarations and Guidelines on Open Educational Resources such as the 2007 Cape Town Open Education Declaration, the 2009 Dakar Declaration on Open Educational Resources and the 2011 Commonwealth of Learning and UNESCO Guidelines on Open Educational Resources in Higher Education;
Noting that Open Educational Resources (OER) promote the aims of the international statements quoted above;
Recommends that States, within their capacities and authority:
a. Foster awareness and use of OER.
Promote and use OER to widen access to education at all levels, both formal and non-formal, in a perspective of lifelong learning, thus contributing to social inclusion, gender equity and special needs education. Improve both cost-efficiency and quality of teaching and learning outcomes through greater use of OER.
b. Facilitate enabling environments for use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).
Bridge the digital divide by developing adequate infrastructure, in particular, affordable broadband connectivity,
widespread mobile technology and reliable electrical power supply. Improve media and information literacy and encourage the development and use of OER in open standard digital formats.
c. Reinforce the development of strategies and policies on OER.
Promote the development of specific policies for the production and use of OER within wider strategies for advancing education.
d. Promote the understanding and use of open licensing frameworks.
Facilitate the re-use, revision, remixing and redistribution of educational materials across the world through open licensing, which refers to a range of frameworks that allow different kinds of uses, while respecting the rights of any copyright holder.
e. Support capacity building for the sustainable development of quality learning materials.
Support institutions, train and motivate teachers and other personnel to produce and share high-quality, accessible educational resources, taking into account local needs and the full diversity of learners. Promote quality assurance and peer review of OER. Encourage the development of mechanisms for the assessment and certification of learning outcomes achieved through OER.
f. Foster strategic alliances for OER.
Take advantage of evolving technology to create opportunities for sharing materials which have been released under an open license in diverse media and ensure sustainability through new strategic partnerships within and among the education, industry, library, media and telecommunications sectors.
g. Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts.
Favour the production and use of OER in local languages and diverse cultural contexts to ensure their relevance and accessibility. Intergovernmental organisations should encourage the sharing of OER across languages and cultures, respecting indigenous knowledge and rights.
h. Encourage research on OER.
Foster research on the development, use, evaluation and re-contextualisation of OER as well as on the opportunities and challenges they present, and their impact on the quality and cost-efficiency of teaching and learning in order to strengthen the evidence base for public investment in OER.
i. Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER.
Encourage the development of user-friendly tools to locate and retrieve OER that are specific and relevant to particular needs. Adopt appropriate open standards to ensure interoperability and to facilitate the use of OER in diverse media.
j. Encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.
Governments/competent authorities can create substantial benefits for their citizens by ensuring that educational materials developed with public funds be made available under open licenses (with any restrictions they deem necessary) in order to maximize the impact of the investment.

Blended Learning Inspiration Open education

Technology to save Universities

Stephen Laster, Chief Information Officer, Harvard Business School, delivers his Viewpoint in the most receny Educause Review. Insisting on the dire financial situation of students and Universities alike, he stresses that technology offers an opportunity to solve these issues. The Learning Management Systems (LMS) as a plat-form or in the cloud….

Other articles present the top 10 technology issues Universities face as well as some functional requirements of technology applied to education.

In closing, see this article about 2012 top ten trends in academic from C&RL News.

Blended Learning Social media

20 ideas for digital literacy in Higher Ed

The Guardian’s Higher Ed blog has an interesting piece on “digital literacy” in the university classroom. Beyond skills, the post covers specific ideas from engaged faculty.

For example, Sue Thomas, professor of new media, De Montfort University has this to say about transliteracy:

Digital literacy as an important part of transliteracy: Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. It is the literacy of convergence, unifying literacies past and present across different platforms, media and cultures. This means it encompasses all kinds of communications from scratching pictures in the sand to editing photos in Instagram, or from inscribing tablets to text-messaging. When promoting digital literacy on its own, we can alienate people who are already very literate in other areas, and that’s why I prefer to take an holistic approach and be as inclusive as possible.

Blended Learning

A MOOC about MOOCs (or blending blended learning)

A recent blog post from Inside Higher Ed pointed me in the direction of this open course or MOOC:

Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success /

I could not resist the temptation to enroll despite the fact that I have a pretty full plate for the next few weeks. By the way, you can read more about Massively Open Online Course (or MOOCs) on this recent post on

Blended Learning Concordia University Information literacy

Thoughts on a university library’s role in blended learning

We had a very interesting meeting today with Concordia’s Center for Teaching & Learning. The goal of the presentation was to explore partnership ideas, but we also discussed how the Library could contribute to a blended learning initiative at our institution.

Here are some thoughts about the blended learning environment (I purposefully use the environment paradigm, which I borrow from systems theory as posited by Luhmann)

Firstly, the main point brought was the idea of a “learning object” – a concept that we did not quite hammer out. I would offer this personal definition : a learning object is a type of document that presents information or knowledge to enable a learner to achieve a specific outcome. A learning object may (recursively) contain one or many other learning objects. Templates are useful tools to present this information or knowledge in a structured way. A learning object repository is a collection of curated learning objects, with associated metadata.

Secound, I would like to point out that there are many agents in this environment : the learners (obviously), the instructor or their assistant, the content owners and the system administrators. Each one of them has a role to play in the conception, organisation and provision of learning objects to learners.

Of course, the goal would be to identify all the learning objects and all the agents that are relevant in this environment. It may be easier to start with all the distinct templates of learning objects (as there may be too many learning objects).

Which now brings me to this conceptual model:
Collaborative Document Management Framework

I devised this model during the course of my graduate degree in law (I’ve explained it on this blog post) and I’ve presented it at an IFLA Pre-Conference.

Now, this model tries to map out the Web 2.0 environment – I will make the claim that “blended learning” is functionally equivalent to Web 2.0 on a conceptual level (sorry for not prouving this point thoroughly – more on that later perhaps).

It is defined as 2 elements, documents and agents, interacting through 4 generic relationships: linking (document-document); conversations or intermediations (agent-agent); using (document-agent); and contributing (agent-document). This is meaningful in a discussion of a library’s role in a blended learning environment as is helps define exactly where it may be useful.

Specifically, I find that the priority is to identify areas where librarians may be contributing content – creating learning objects, followed closely to linking these learning objects to form paths through the knowledge base. Finally, librarians may play a role in the conversations that may happen in the environment between the various agents (focussing, as a priority, with the conversations that happen with the gatekeepers of knowledge: instructors and their assistants).

Of course, this is an off the cuff exploration of a complex topic, where I pin some broad concepts on a simplification of the real world. But it makes sense ! Please feel free to share comments or questions below…

Special thanks to Pamela Carson and Vince Graziano, two colleagues from Concordia University Libraries, for our very interesting conversation that was instrumental in organizing this post.