Live at the OpenCourseWare Consortium Conference

May 03, 2011

Over the past few months, Education-Portal.com has been featuring institutions such as the University of Michigan and Tufts that offer free education and course materials to students around the world. This week, the Education-Portal.com team is blogging live from the OpenCourseWare Consortium's annual conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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by Stacy Redd

OCW Inside and Out

While the conference officially kicks off on May 4, we spent our first day at the conference learning about many of the innovative initiatives taking off in the OCW world.

All About Copyright

We started our day at a workshop led by Andrea Sanchez of the Fundacion Karisma in Bogota, Colombia. Sanchez talked about some of the challenges faced by professors and institutions as they craft open courses. When professors create courses, they often have to navigate the tricky waters of copyright law and fair use exceptions. For example, a professor may use a music clip in a lecture, but if he or she wants to publish the course as OpenCourseWare, the music clip may need to be excluded in order to satisfy copyright law.

Thankfully, the Creative Commons license is a type of license that allows materials to be legally used and distributed. There are many resources available under the Creative Commons license, including the many articles collected in the Directory of Open Access Journals. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Andrea Sanchez, where she discusses her efforts to educate the public about the benefits of open access course materials.

Connecting with Connexions

We split the afternoon between two fascinating sessions about different aspects of OpenCourseWare. Joel Thierstein of Connexions talked to us about his incredibly powerful forum that allows millions of visitors to share and view educational materials. At Connexions, the material is presented in small modules called knowledge chunks, allowing you to learn in small doses and shape your own learning plan.

Understanding Accessibility

We also learned all about accessibility in open education and online learning from Jutta Treviranus of OCAD University in Toronto and Tom Caswell of the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. Caswell and his team have worked to publish some of the best community and technical college courses offered by the state of Washington on the Web. These courses are open to all learners regardless of location and are under a Creative Commons license that allows you to modify (such as translate) the courses as you need. Caswell and his team began thinking about accessibility in the earliest planning stages. Some of his top tips for making courses accessible include:

  • Headings and styling
  • ALT attributes for images
  • Video captioning

Besides working in the coolest building we've ever seen, Jutta Treviranus also has a very cool job. She's the director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre and is passionate about bringing education to all learners. Her work involves creating innovative tools that make online materials more accessible, which could include adding captioning or audio options to a website or simply changing the font size.

Open Ed Round-Up

To round out a great day, we interviewed Pieter Kleymeer of the University of Michigan. Stay tuned for a fascinating discussion about Open.Michigan's line up of courses and new, award-winning course management system.

We have three more great days of open education buzz and lots of great interviews lined up. Let us know if you have any questions about OpenCourseWare or free education - we'll let you know what we find out!

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