Guest post by Hans Voss, the 2012 Connexions Conference Scholarship Recipient.
Hello! My name is Hans Voss and I’m guest-blogging today on the Connexions blog. Last week I attended the Connexions Conference at Rice University as a recipient of the conference’s student scholarship. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity as the conference was a truly unique experience.
I’ll tell all about my trip to Houston, but first, a little information about myself: I’m currently a graduate student at American University in Washington, DC, earning a Master’s in Public Administration. I also work as an intern at Achieve, Inc., an education nonprofit here in DC dedicated to making college and career readiness a national priority so the transition from high school graduation to postsecondary education and careers is seamless. I was brought on at Achieve to support our work in OER. Achieve has developed a series of rubrics that measure various aspects of OER quality, including alignment to standards. To implement these rubrics, we partnered with the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, to develop an OER Evaluation Tool that is embedded in their OER Commonswebsite, an online OER repository. You can learn more about this project here.
Considering my involvement with OER at Achieve, I jumped at the chance to attend the conference in Houston. I had never been to Houston before (the 75 degree weather in February was a treat!) and I was definitely impressed by Rice University’s campus—it’s absolutely gorgeous. At the conference, I was able to meet activists, educators, administrators, and others who work in the OER arena.
One of the things I found especially interesting was how technology-focused the conference was (as a student of political science and public administration and I have to admit that much of it was over my head!). I’m accustomed to thinking about the content and quality of OER from an end-user perspective, so the technology focus of the conference was both a welcome change of pace and complement to my daily work. Steve Midgley and Greg Grossmeier did a fabulous job explaining metadata and paradata sharing through the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative and the Learning Registry, something that affects Achieve’s OER work, but that I don’t think I fully grasped until hearing their presentation.
A highlight of the conference was definitely hearing about the great achievements of Siyavula in South Africa. If you haven’t heard, this Shuttleworth-funded organization has developed mathematics and science textbooks that the South African Department of Education is distributing to students for free—an impressive accomplishment! Other highlights from the conference include the OpenStax College launch, learning about badges in coordination with OER, and Kathi Fletcher’s presentation on OER APIs. Badges and APIs are both topics in OER that were unfamiliar to me before attending the conference. Both could have great impacts for OER projects, especially as it relates to displaying and measuring learning from open resources, as well as sharing and creating OER in easier ways. Learning about topics like this certainly expanded how I think about OER and the different ways groups can contribute to open education.
Finally, it was great to be in the company of others so committed to the same goal: promoting openness in education. Considering all the changes going on around us—both in technology and education—it’s certainly an exciting time to be working in open education.