Partner for More

August 19, 2011

I was cleaning my office to head off on vacation and ran across the article I wrote last year for the Continuing Higher Education Review about the work UC Berkeley ETS has done in our Opencast project and our engagement in higher education community source projects.

“Partner for More: Creating and Sustaining Collaboration to Support Campus-Based Rich Media”.

I meant to share it back then… Just shows how quickly time is moving!

2010-09-01_Partner For More Article – Mara Hancock

Open code increases collaboration because…

  • it allows for peer review and and shared construction of knowledge. The code-base is the collaborative medium. Staff can grow, try things out, challenge themselves and their colleagues.
  • it allows industries to improve and build on what has gone before
  • It allows parts to be shared, not just wholes

Open source development increases collaboration because…

  • It provides a structure to come together around the design and development of a shared product
  • It engages the users in the evolution of that product
  • The conversations are not just about implementation within the constraints of the product, but about what could be

Open content increases collaboration because…

  • It allows for the shared construction of knowledge through access, reuse, and extended contexts
  • Nobody is on the outside (banging on the door or being left in the dark)
  • The content provides a platform for people to engage about ideas
  • It reaches out beyond the confines of a given group and opens us to the serendipitous engagement and discovery of the internet

Collaboration opportunities change when faced with an open environment because people think differently about the problem if they can directly impact it through their own contributions.

Open Collaboration. Really.

January 28, 2009

Open source, open content, open technologies… Open Collaboration. As many of us know, leading the transparent life is not the easy choice. That said, I strongly believe that it is worth every aspect of angst it produces. Look at Obama’s first week. Whether or not everyone agreed with the content of his message, I haven’t heard anyone complain about the process or the fact that he was saying this or doing that in p u b l i c. Some might see it as a political, ethical, or moral choice. Some see it as just plain old practical. So where do I fall?

Can I take a nebulous stance of opining that it doesn’t matter? That one follows the other? (and still have this post be meaningful?). Each might be the door we enter to get there, but after that the benefits continue to drive us to work on these projects, in this way, every day. And pretty soon it is hard to tell whether it is a value, a political point of view, or a practicality.

OK, I’ll be honest. I am writing this as I reflect on another deliverable I have on my plate: to collaborate with several trusted and brilliant colleagues on co-authoring an article exploring the merits and perspectives of “Open” in higher ed. We all participated in a collective brainstorm at the Frye Institute day-long retreat held at the 2008 Annual Educause conference. We decided to carry-forth with some practical output from the very engaging conversation we had around the table that day. We all chose  a theme that emerged from the day with which to tussle in writing (at least, that is my interpretation of the assignment!).

So, back in November, I chose to write about “how open source and open content improves our ability to collaborate both as consortia and individuals.” It sounds pretty boring to me as I re-read it now and prepare to collect my thoughts. Except when I add the concept of Open Collaboration. Really. When we talk about Open source and Open content we can see the end result, the product, as being the goal. And in many many ways it is. However, when I look at the value that these activities (yes, activities) bring to the higher ed community, to my campus, to my team, to my individual staff members, I see much more (and more gray hair). That is what I am going to have to articulate in the few paragraphs I’ll have in this article. One of my colleagues from Stanford, Jenn Stringer,  is going to talk about collaboration credits (as in carbon credits). I love this concept. But can we offset them?

So, what do you think? Help me write this article! Does Open Source and Open Content improve our ability to collaborate?

Trent Batson has a good article on Campus Technology today, “Tipping Point for “Content” — Dynamic Interaction, Not Static Stuff.” There are some nice quotes from Michael Korcuska, the Sakai Foundation Executive Director, on the changing role of the “publisher” (It might be OER rather than a traditional publishing house) providing more interactive experiences, and that being the value of the future. It parallels a recent discussion held by the Content Group at the Open EdTech Summit in Barcelona. One of our 10 assertions (there will be a white paper representing the Summit outcomes sometime in the future) was that Content is not static and that, in fact, it is multi-directional. What we meant by this is that it is no longer solely owned by Publishers or the instructor.  That it is the learner,  and the learners interactions with the content and their ability to make connections and enhance and inform that content is the next wave. Web 2.0 has helped begin that process, but it may be Web 3.0 that really begins to define the ways in which those interactions and contexts are managed and manipulated and built upon by learners to follow. It may  dramatically change our perception of the role of “repositories” before it is even fully birthed…  It is also this change that may be one of the final gentle (?) pushes of the Sage on the Stage to the Guide on the Side.

So what is the role of education in this new world? It is to help foster informed inquiry. It’s all in the question!

Positive Deviance

November 1, 2008

I attended the Frye Institute’s Alumni leadership workshop prior to Educause ’08 last week. The best part of the session was the morning when a small group of about nine of us set off to explore open source, open content, and collaboration. The conversation quickly headed down the path of ways in which the trends toward Open technologies (and we can include web 2.0 here) and open content are enabling stronger and more meaningful collaborations.

During the course of the conversation, Gardner Campbell introduced the concept of Positive Deviance. I don’t even remember how it came up, but it hit me like a great new hot salsa. I wanted more. It seemed so pertinent to challenges we face as managers in fostering innovation and encouraging creativity. But instead of being some great new “System” (yes, with a capital “S”), it is something that emerges through individual characteristics.There are people who do amazing things without batting an eyelash. They do not fit the norm, they make great things happen. And, like that new hot salsa, we want more of them. We need them helping to lead the way.

So I have started to do a little research on the subject (that is research with a lower case “r”). It has a fascinating history in the health services in developing countries but can also be applied to organizations. The University of Michigan Ross Business School states,

“A growing number of scholars believe positive deviance may be important for promoting subjective well-being and long-term organizational effectiveness.”

In an article in Fast Company, Jerry Sternin, the fellow responsible for testing out this theory in Vietnam back in the 1990s, says,

“The traditional model for social and organizational change doesn’t work,” says Sternin, 62. “It never has. You can’t bring permanent solutions in from outside.” Maybe the problem is with the whole model for how change can actually happen. Maybe the problem is that you can’t import change from the outside in. Instead, you have to find small, successful but “deviant” practices that are already working in the organization and amplify them. Maybe, just maybe, the answer is already alive in the organization — and change comes when you find it.”

Wikipedia provides a more general view:

“Positive Deviance (PD) is an approach to personal, organizational and cultural change based on the idea that every community or group of people performing a similar function has certain individuals (the “Positive Deviants”) whose special attitudes, practices/ strategies/ behaviors enable them to function more effectively than others with the exact same resources and conditions.[1] Because Positive Deviants derive their extraordinary capabilities from the identical environmental conditions as those around them, but are not constrained by conventional wisdoms, Positive Deviants standards for attitudes, thinking and behavior are readily accepted as the foundation for profound organizational and cultural change.”

The Postive Deviant Network names Seven Characteristics of Positive Deviants:

  1. Passion
  2. High Moral or Social Purpose
  3. Seeing Holes vs. the Net
  4. Moving Towards, Not Away
  5. Rapid Cognition
  6. Checking the Edges
  7. Low Regard for Social Convention

“Don’t teach new knowledge — encourage new behavior.”

If you are interested in learning more about these 7 characteristics, visit their web page (doesn’t work well in Firefox unfortunately) which has more detail about each characteristic.

I have more to learn about this concept, but I fully expect to continue to find some wonderful insights and ideas as I reflect upon and apply some of the concepts within the work environment at UC Berkeley. Thanks, Gardner, for the tip. Nothing like a little collaboration to expand our world! And of course, thanks to the open WWW for enabling me to find all this great information and thanks to those positive deviants that started it…

Open EdTech Summit

October 19, 2008

Now that the Opencast Deep Dive is over, I can starting to look forward to the upcoming Open EdTech Summit sponsored by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC, or Open University of Catalunya) to be held in Barcelona on November 10 & 11, to be followed by the UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning Fifth International Seminar, Fighting the digital divide through education. The Open EdTech Summit promises to be an interesting time, with the program focusing on

  • Personalization of the learning process
  • Learning content development and delivery
  • Future technologies at the service of learning
  • Learning: everyone, everywhere and anytime

This is a lot to cover in one very very full day (unless the “Typical Barcelona Activity” is actually putting us to work…) but by the attendee list, I expect it to be quite interesting.

Of course, the Educause Annual comes first…

OCW Sustainability Formula?

October 7, 2007

I attended the Open Courseware Consortium (OCWC) conference in beautiful Logan, Utah at the end of September. The OCW “movement” is still relatively young (2002ish?), and the OCWC organization is busy trying to define its mission and structure.

UC Berkeley joined OCWC in August, although we have been delivering “open courseware” via our online lectures since 1995 ( This began as a research project managed by Professor Larry Rowe in his Berkeley Multimedia Research Center (BMRC) as the BIBS project (Berkeley Internet Broadcast System). We are now busy on what we call webcast NG, the next generation of the webcasting infrastructure that is being built upon Sakai’s open source framework and new infrastructure that includes some key elements from one of our favorite education and media companies, Apple. I gave a little talk about this while at OCWC and have attached my slides as a PDF if you are interested in learning more about what we do at UC Berkeley.

Some of the discussions I enjoyed the most were about sustainability. This is always of interest to me, as someone who is responsible for providing centrally supported services to my campus. Sustainability was talked about in terms of the OCWC organization and in terms of the OCW effort in general.

I think a central criterion for sustainability in the open content arena is “perceived value”. This means the value provided by the supporting organizations, and the value provided by the activity of providing the content (think about the alignment of university mission for this one), and, hopefully, the value of the content itself.

I suspect there is a formula for something like this that looks like, sustainability + meeting real (local and global) need + innovation = value. When looking through the lens of this formula, there may be an opportunity to expand the definition of OCW and its associated activities. To date it has often been defined as a publishing model which reflects the artifacts and experiences of a traditional course taught in the physical space of a classroom as well as those represented in an LMS or CLE. When thinking about sustainability, a publishing model makes good sense. However, while sustainability remains (and should be) prominent for most of us (this need is driving UCB’s current efforts), I doubt there is value in constraining the OCW vision to this in the future: innovation and meeting real needs will begin to take us well beyond this.

In regards to the meeting real needs part of the formula, at UCB we deliver videos and podcasts of complete courses via the capture of lectures. As we all know, a lecture is in no way the entirety of the course and this limitation is one of the common arguments used to convince a professor that public webcasts or podcasts are an OK thing to do — we are not giving away the keys to the kingdom! In fact, I think I would be hard pressed to find a large contingent of UC Berkeley professors at this moment who would be willing to release their entire course content in the manner of MIT’s powerful OCW program, let alone obtain an operating budget that would enable me to do so. That said, the email we receive from people all over the world indicates that in many cases, they consider these videos and podcasts alone as fantastic learning aids that expand their thinking and knowledge in valuable ways – these course web & pod casts improve lives! Now, if we could only get the funding to make all this content fully accessible through captioning, then we would truly be meeting real needs.

Adding “innovation” into the mix

While UCB is heads-down on getting our NG infrastructure in place, we are anxiously thinking ahead about new tools that will improve the experience of interacting with this content and help learners manage and share their own learning. These can be simple widgets with discrete interactions, to more complex applications that need to integrate with each other to manage institutional data through a CLE-type environment. Supporting these types of interactions begin to round out the value proposition since the activities that support managing an individual’s own learning and engaging with others to build knowledge are key motivators for learners. One way in which we can start to jump start this and alleviate costs is to form partnerships across higher ed and with companies doing interesting work such as YouTube and Apple, as well as building our platforms in an open enough way that our own constituencies can start to add to the value proposition!

UC Berkeley webcast has a new distribution partner in YouTube: The site was officially launched on Wednesday, October 3, to a great community (global) response. There were many notices of this across the blogosphere and Web. Ben Hubbard, our webcast program manager at UC Berkeley is tracking many of these on his site.

We see this as the beginning of a very interesting relationship. Integrating educational content into YouTube, firmly a leader in the web 2.0 world, begins a unique experiment in building informal learning communities around formal learning activities. Not sure exactly where this will take us, but I expect there to be some tensions along the way and some breakthroughs. I’ll keep you posted.