Thoughts on Teacher’s Day: Liberating the teaching profession

Becoming a 21st Century Independent Educator:

The number of days between Dashera and Diwali is about the same as that between our Independence Day and Teacher’s day. Diwali celebrates the return of Ram after defeating Ravana. Teachers day could be the celebration of Independence for education in general and teacher’s in particular. Firstly freedom for the learner, to pursue the desired learning from the desired teacher, without the stranglehold of jurisdictional limitations on education providers, as a symbol of State authority. The rigveda says ‘ let noble thoughts come to us from all directions’, but our regulators add that ‘ as long as it is within the territorial limitations of the State’. So a learner can pursue MOOCs from Stanford, Harvard, Yale of MIT, but not from an Indian Institute outside his State. Can anyone imagine being restricted to radio or TV programs or books from within the State of a listener, viewer or reader ? But even open Universities cannot register learners from outside their ‘lakshman Rekha’ drawn by the UGC and MHRD. Many will look forward to an announcement on next Independence Day of the Closing of the UGC, AICTE and NCTE as a good follow up action to the abolition of the Planning Commission this year.
The PM said yesterday that a good teacher should be several steps ahead, preferably a hundred steps. Try telling that to the UGC , AICTE or the NCTE. A degree that is not notified under some sections of the UGC Act , or does not have the required number of years of teaching cannot be offered even by autonomous Universities with distinguished members on their Academic bodies. Why not ‘ bullet degrees’ in half the time, saving time and money for everyone, with 300 working days a year, and a few more hours per day instead of the approximate 200 at present?
If we want a progressive modern education, preparing our learners for the future, we need to go back to the drawing board, rather than continuing with the legacy of Lord McCaulay, and our ancient educators ( who should all go the Margdarshak way) and make way for modern ideas.
And that means education with Tablets and mobiles ( instead of banning their presence in Schools and Colleges as at present), removing all unnecessary barriers to access to courses. There is no reservation policy in buying mobiles, so mobile based education will automatically do away with reservations and quotas, and you have ‘education for all’ almost immediately.
If the Prime minister’s lecture can be heard by crores of children all over the country, what is so special about the Faculty of IITs, IIMs that learners must first go through coaching Institutions before being permitted to hear them. Why are IITs creating MOOCs if everyone who wants to pursue cannot pursue them. And incidentally why would you need the additional new IITs and IIMs without faculty or infrastructure? Just use technology to perform space shift, time shift and device shift to enable all learners to access education.
But I have something more fundamental to suggest on Teachers day, with which I began. That is to declare Independence for them. From whom? From the Institutions that control them. The Prime Minister said that a teacher never retires, so let it be actually possible. Just as a lawyer, doctor or politician has no retirement age, so should a teacher have no retirement age, and he should be able to practice his calling or profession till whenever he chooses to. Just as it is legitimately possible for any lawyer, doctor, engineer, architect, chartered accountant to work for a state government, the central government, a large corporation, a small business or to work independently on his own, it should be possible for qualified educators to work outside the traditional Institutional framework on their own.
We need to re-assert and re-establish the supremacy of the teacher, and not the bureaucrat or the Institution. As we enter the Knowledge Economy, it is important to appreciate that education alone will create valuable knowledge products for global use, and this alone will let us flourish and thrive in the new age. If we establish a teaching profession, which meets International standards in keeping with the call of globalisation, it permits independent practitioners to move about under mode 4 of the GATS as well as practice their profession at home without the need for Institutional intermediaries, and with access to training in modern ICT tools, both for synchronous and asynchronous interactions across the globe.
In the recent years, the three ideas that have had a huge impact on the way organizations work are quality, business processes and their re-engineering and the importance of intellectual capital. All three must be assimilated into the educational systems, because it is the teachers who will become leaders in the knowledge economy, as they alone know how to construct knowledge. A mere expert knows his subject, but a good teacher knows how a person can learn the subject, and be transformed from an ignoramus to an expert.
The separation of powers doctrine in governance applies most neatly when ministerial departments implement legislation made by Parliament and are subject to judicial review by the courts. Like the separation of powers in good democratic governance and the principles that are being applied to good corporate governance, if we decouple the responsibilities for laying down of standards, conduct of examinations, the teaching-learning processes, and maintain databases that are shared with potential employers of qualifications acquired by learners, holding the certificates in de-materialised forms like we do for de-mat shares, we can see a lot of opportunities for educationists.
This idea is a very straightforward solution to the twin problems of educated unemployment and not enough access to education to the needy.
The other professions have bodies such as the Bar Council, the Medical Council, the Institute of Company Secretaries, the Institute of Chartered Accountants. We can have such an Educational or Teachers Council, responsible for development of the profession. That is the call of the 21st Century

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Encouraging Scientific and Mathematical Thinking

Promoting a chain of youth innovation development centres ( YIDCs)

The following is the opening para of the Wikipedia article on the homebru computer club from Wikipedia. Its last sentence is very significant. The link is :

The Homebrew Computer Club was an early computer hobbyist group in Silicon Valley which met from March 5, 1975 to December 1986, and was depicted in the movies Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) and Jobs (2013). Several very high-profile hackers and computer entrepreneurs emerged from its ranks, including the founders of Apple Inc. The open exchange of ideas that went on at its biweekly meetings, and the club newsletter, launched the personal computer revolution. The Homebrew Computer Club has been called “the crucible for an entire industry.”

Now about 40 years later, it would be interesting to create a National Chain of such Youth Innovation Development (YID) clubs that would develop and continuously enhance the following qualities in their members:
* Curiosity
* A questioning mind
* A Scientific temper ( this is a constitutional requirement)
* Mathematical thinking ( computer based maths of a Conrad Wolfram and Mathematical modelling and simulation)
* A Learning Disposition: developing a self-directed autonomous learner
* A thinking and logical mind
* A tinkerer and maker mindset
* Appropriate values for living into the 22nd Century

All of the above would be organised in the context of modern and emerging technologies.
So in the physical space available at the YID clubs, there would be lots of resources, both software and hardware.
Hardware such as Raspberry Pi, Arduino and similar devices will be made accessible to the members with appropriate accessories to develop useful projects in their interest areas. Members will be provided drones, robots and 3D printers to explore. They will also be encouraged to create mobile Apps and explore the Internet of things. With these basic ideas, their natural combinations and evolution would follow.

To make this a crucible for the new innovative economy, we have to create a new entrepreneurial model for their creation and rapid expansion. One suggestion is:
1. Space is provided by a promoter agency, such as a School or other Institutional structure. The Club can then bear its name in the pre-fix : The XXXXX Youth Innovation Development Club.
2. The hardware/software infra-structure can be provided by the same unit or a philanthropist or under CSR as required under the Companies Act or by crowd-sourcing.
3. The actual running and operations of the club should be entrusted to a young entrepreneur, preferably one who is personally interested in one of the domains being explored in the clubs, and should not be put under too many restrictions.

The clubs would be supported by a strong central unit headquartered at a suitable place, which will support the club and its members with the required knowledge base. It will have an observatory whose observers will keep track of latest developments in allied areas and share it with the community. It will run a 24×7 HeldDesk to support all the members as well as the entrepreneurs who are running the YIDCs.
This central unit will keep the fold together, draw up plans and schedules that can be supplemented by the other clubs and make a thriving and vibrant community of thinkers, tinkerers and makers. The Central group itself will have access to experts and mentors from all over the world who are interested in pitching in.

A pilot can begin with about say 25 centres, in the 4 metros and an additional 21 smaller cities. That would be a good size to seed the idea, and then every quarter more can be added.

Invite parents also to these clubs. Their role is very critical.

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“The impact of OER in the education and training sector in India: from content to an inclusive learning ecosystem”

“The impact of OER in the education and training sector in India: from content to an inclusive learning ecosystem”

Substance of a talk to be given at the 2nd OER Symposium at the Wavasan Open University, Penang Malaysia on 25th June 2014

Flow :
1. Drivers of the OER movement
2. The Sharing Economy
3. The OER Community
4. The Indian OER initiative
5. Expectations from OER
6. Creating an OER ecosystem
7. Capability Maturity Model
8. A few questions for research and exploration
9. The challenge of reading proficiency
10. Conclusion

1. Drivers of the OER movement:
This story is supported by a lot of hindsight, some interesting insights, daring some foresight and my apologies for any significant oversight.
The dominant narrative of the more than a decade old story of OERs is the liberation from stringent punitive copyright regime to a Creative Commons licensing system for easily sharing increasingly more educational content. The 3Vs of Big Data, that is variety, volume and velocity make this a very vibrant movement. But running alongside during the same timeline is a track of technological developments of lighter, portable, low power consuming, access devices such as Tablets, SmartPhones, wearable devices and mobile Internet, and the third track of developments in and adoption of innovative pedagogies of MOOCs, Flipped Classroom, Learning Analytics, Open Badges, Gamification, Storification and others. These three driving forces are enhancing the impact of the OER movement leading to an unprecedented disruptive transformation of education that can deliver massive personalised learning on the move.

2. The Sharing Economy:
The emerging future has been variously referred to as the knowledge economy, the innovation economy, the economy of ‘ abundance’, but most importantly it is a ‘sharing economy’. Value addition by ‘sharing’ rather than ‘owning, hoarding and controlling’ either directly by virtue of sovereignty of the State or by conferring by the State of exclusive Intellectual Property Rights, is the new metaphor, inflexion point, tipping point or phase transition.
What happens in a phase transition is that for quite some time, there is no apparent effect ( of the force at work) in the state of the system, and then magically at the critical point there is a complete transformation. And the new phase can demonstrate entirely new interesting properties.
The OER movement is perhaps at a similar critical point today, and we will soon witness how the ‘sharing economy’ transforms traditional models of education and training.

3. The OER Community:
The emergence of an OER community is the most significant impact of the OER movement, and transcends the technologies that facilitated it. Garrett Hardin in 1968 with a well known essay ‘ The Tragedy of the Commons’ delivered a near death blow to any hope from communities working together, until the importance of the community was resurrected by the Nobel Prize (2009) winning work of Elinor Ostrom, who demonstrated that a community’s common resources are really best managed by the community, rather than either by the Government or the large corporates. A prerequisite however being that decision-making be transparent and democratic. Elinor’s research studies showed that when individuals have to answer for their actions to others using the same resources, the approach to shared responsibility changes.
I wanted to draw attention to this fundamental principle, as it is critical to build the future scenario of a thriving and vibrant OER based learning community.

4. The Indian OER initiative:
A national e-content and curriculum initiative was launched in 2008 to stimulate the creation, adaptation and utilisation of OER by Indian Institutions, in addition to leveraging globally produced OER (
The National Repository of Open Educational Resources (, came into being in August, 2013. A repository of digital media content (audio, video, interactive objects, images and documents) mapped to key concepts spanning of the school curriculum, as of May 2014 has more than 10,000 registered users. The software platform hosting the NROER is based on MetaStudio ( an initiative of the Gnowledge Labs, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mumbai. Its beta version is to be rolled out in July, 2014 and developments will continue over a period of three years.

The Indian President Pranab Mukherjee addressed a joint sitting of the newly elected Parliament on 9th June 2014 wherein at para 12 he refers to MOOCs and virtual classrooms ; the address also refers to a national e-library to empower teachers in the following words” In order to empower school teachers and students, a national e-library will be established. ” This is expected to become the new incarnation of the ‘National Repository of Open Education Resources’ launched about a year ago. Later in the speech at para 22, the last sentence states : ” Emerging technologies like Social Media will be used as a tool for participative governance, directly engaging the people in policy making and administration. ”
We can expect that the general spirit is in the direction of using current and emerging technology to overcome the challenge of numbers, the challenge of cost, the challenge of quality and the challenge of speed.

As a non-government initiative, and by seeking co-operation of like-minded evangelists, the LMP Education Trust in August 2013 ran a 4 week MOOC to bring about awareness of OERs. This OER MOOC, anchored in India had experts pitching in from several countries with about 1500 participants from about 90 countries and explored not only Flipped Teaching but also Twitter for class collaboration.

Indian students of all ages have enthusiastically joined the well known MOOCs from Coursera, Futurelearn and other providers, demonstrating a great appetite for such learning, but are a phenomenon that I label as ‘ education for the educated’.

5. Expectations from OER:
Some general positive tangible and intangible impact that OERs are expected to make are:
* Improvement in student performance and satisfaction.
* The open aspect of OER should foster widespread usage and adoption patterns compared to other online resources
* Open education models should lead to more equitable access to education, serving a broader base of learners than traditional education
* Use of OER would be an effective method for improving retention for at-risk students
* Use of OER by educators should lead to improvement in their practice
* OER adoption at an institutional level, should lead to financial benefits for students
* Informal learners can compensate for the lack of formal support
* Open education can complement formal education
* Successful OER pilots and programs lead to policy change at institutional level
* Innovative assessment and credentialing , such as badges, can be motivators to learning with OER

6. Creating an OER ecosystem:
But the movement will not succeed by freeing content alone. The famous inventor Thomas Edison, amongst other things invented the incandescent lamp. But his real success happened because he could create a whole ecosystem for these bulbs to be used, including finding investors in his ‘General Electric’.
His philosophy : “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

We could also compare OER content to generic drugs as opposed to patented drugs. Generic drugs for treatment are a subset of the total medicines available, and may be complete effective solutions in many cases. But even in those happy situations where generic drugs are effective, the rest of the healthcare eco-system needs to be put in place.

Similarly we need to make sure that we have the entire support ecosystem consisting of the following elements in place and in sync for the OER movement to make the expected impact.
* Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) for autonomous self-directed life-long learners, with coaching and mentoring support.
* Open Teacher Development Forum (OTDF) for accredited OER based Independent Educators. Open Education can support teacher development so that teachers do get better with time. Teaching is a performance profession.
* Learning Resources: OERs, MOOCs, SOOCs, nano-MOOCs, micro-MOOCs and mini-MOOCs, Educational Apps, and other nano-learning objects created, curated and adapted by educators. Localised in language and context.
* Teaching-Learning Models: Flipped Learning, Adaptive Learning, Personalised Learning, Heutagogy
* Assessment: Open Badges and Backpacks, Learning Locker an open source Learning Record Store (LRS) for tracking learning data, de-materialised degrees/certificates
* Physical learning Spaces: connected classrooms, learning lounges, OER Cafes
* Content access devices: Tablets, Smartphones, other handhelds
* Mobile Internet access : wiMax, wi-fi, 3G,4G, LTE etc.
* EdTech Support HelpDesk
* Cloud-based software, search engines, meta-data for OER resources and database systems support, including use of Big Data technologies
* Non-formal and life-long learning, including a school for the 40+ for the second half of life.
* Social Media tools such as blogs and Twitter to support collaborative and co-operative learning ( jigsaw learning)

7. Capability Maturity Model:
When we want to assure ourselves that we are making progress towards creating a culture of OERs, merely collecting large amounts of data is not enough. In order to be able to assess where we are, I am proposing an analogy from a framework that has served the Software industry well, and emanated out of Carnegie Mellon, called the CMM.
Capability Maturity Model is a framework for progression to the discipline needed to engage in continuous improvement.
The model identifies five levels of process maturity:
Level 1: Initial (chaotic, ad hoc, heroic) the starting point for use of OERs
Level 2: Repeatable: OERs have been used several times
Level 3: Defined (institutionalized): OERs are part of Institutional academic policy
Level 4: Managed (quantified): OERs are incorporated into rewards, promotion nd part of HR systems
Level 5: Optimizing (process improvement) process management includes deliberate process optimization/improvement.
Just like a software organisation benchmarks itself against the levels listed, every organisation that is part of the OER movement could monitor its evolution against such a framework. We could make more levels and write detailed descriptors of attributes ( both qualitative and quantitative) for each level.
In addition to developing this further, I have listed in the following section, a few more questions that need to be answered through research and exploration.

8. A few questions for research and exploration:
There are many unanswered questions to which we need to have answers to inform on the ground implementation of the above ideas:
* What would be the right size of the learning cohort? Very small numbers such as 20 would be meaningless, as would be millions. Is a class of 1000 or 10,000 more viable. Maybe the Dunbar number (150) is worth exploring?
* What is the best way to cope with linguistic diversity?
* What skill sets must learners have to benefit most from OERs?
* What additional skill sets must experienced educators acquire to teach effectively with OERs? What must be done by way of capacity building to assure quality in the OERs created, curated or adapted by them?
* Are there programs that can be delivered entirely with OERs? An MBA, and IT qualification or new emerging domains such as ‘ Data Scientist’
* Can OERs be sustainable for long without a mechanism for financial contribution by the ‘users’. What would be the right price( if any) for OERs?
* What should be the most appropriate technology platform ( including media formats and other standards) for mass education with OERs? We have a natural inclination to support Android on the handhelds rather than the others. But many specific features to support Open Learning are perhaps needed.

9. The challenge of reading proficiency:
While pursuing the reasons for the relatively low adoption of online learning in India, a country where almost everyone has a mobile phone and online commerce is flourishing, I realised that it is the lack of reading proficiency that is the fundamental barrier to the adoption of online learning. Though OERs are not only about online learning, in practice they go best with online learning.
I recently came across a very interesting report that concluded that while Maths is difficult, reading is harder. One reason students struggle to improve reading comprehension is that deficits start at a very young age. The ASER 2012 study amply brought it out. Students disadvantaged in mathematical or reading abilities are not able to acquire it in the following year, and it becomes a negatively spiralling learning catastrophe. So free resources are not of much use because they are incomprehensible. Math has clearer rules which makes it easier to teach and to understand. But reading and comprehension require more abstract thought and suitable vocabulary, and must be explicitly addressed.
This will require Open Learner Diagnostics to identify the gaps in skills that come in the way of making progress, and short focused learning interventions based on newer pedagogies ( nano-learning objects) that will evolve into an ‘ educational diagnostics and learning navigation system’ analogous to a GPS for learning. The domains can expand to cover reading, writing, mathematical thinking, computational thinking and so on.

At the teacher end, also there are barriers to active adoption. There is no clear answer to the questions in the minds of but not explicitly asked by many participants in orientation and awareness programs, which is ‘ what’s in it for me?’. An authority driven hierarchical social structure and hesitation in collaboration and sharing are also some implicit barriers to widespread adoption.

10. Conclusion:
As we see the OER movement step up to the next stage of fulfilling its promise, supported by evolving and emerging technologies and pedagogies, its focus areas could be:
* to make every learner a better and motivated self-directed learner, who can access need based learning, with very few constraints or restrictions.
* to make every teacher a more effective teacher, who is accessible to learners at remote geographies.
* to provide opportunities for life-long learners, especially to have an opportunity for ‘the school for the second half of life’
* to have a learner supportive system to facilitate the learner to move from the current position to the desired position in learning space

Then the Open Education movement would see its fulfilment.

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An overview of impact of OERs

Dr. Ramesh Sharma of the Indira Gandhi Open University created a very informative note on the impact of OERs. This was done in the context of the 2nd OER Symposium at Wawasan Open University 24 June 2014

Since time at the actual event doesn’t allow this to be shared, I thought of sharing this in this blog.
In the subsequent post I am sharing some more general thoughts to make a success of the OER movement.

Theme = Impact of OERs

Different reasons for an institution to launch an OER initiative. They can be categorised as:

(a) altruistic: where there are benefits to individual learners (who are not paying fees to the in stitution), to other educational institutions (often in developing nations) and to the wider society;
(b) commercial: where the university increases its visibility through an OER initiative leading to increased student recruitment or other funding possibilities; and
(c) transformational: where there are positive impacts on the structure, processes and content of the institution carrying out the OER project
(source: Sclater, N. (2009) ‘The Organisational Impact of Open Educational Resources‘ in Ehlers, U. & Schneckenberg, D. (eds) Changing Cultures in Higher Education: Moving Ahead to Future Learning, Springer. )

1. National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) created by Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET), National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) as a project of Govt of India. Repository of digital resources for a school system such as educational videos, concept maps, audio clips, interactive objects, photographs, diagrams, charts, images, articles, learning objects, talking books, textbook pages and documents, any resource that can be offered and accessed digitally. According to Dr. Shashi Tharoor, the then MoS for Human Resource Development, Government of India while addressing the launch of the repository, stated that “This initiative is a significant step towards inclusive education. Opening access to all requires a debate on the issue of ownership, copyright, licensing and a balancing of reach with legitimate commercial interests. This is particularly important for public institutions and public funded projects. NROER frees itself of these boundations since it carries the CC-BY-SA (Creative Commons–Attribution–Share Alike) license which allows it to legally reuse, revise, remix and redistribute content.” The impact has been noted in terms of unique visits, repeated visits, access by users to different resource pages, number of repeated hits on various resource pages and bandwidths of uploaded content in terms of in-house uploading and external contributions both.

2. The National Knowledge Commission (KNC) in 2007 in its recommendations1 to the Govt of India recognised the role of Open Educational Resources (OER) in the knowledge economy and to up-grade the quality of education. NKC recommended creation of a National Educational Foundation to develop a web-based repository of high quality educational resources as OER through a collaborative process. It said, “an enabling legal framework that would allow unrestricted access without compromising intellectual authorship must be devised for this purpose”. It further recommended strengthening faculty development and teacher training in the area of OER to improve quality. Since the recommendations of NKC, several projects to create learning resources have been initiated with the support of the Govt of India. The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) has emerged as a flagship initiative for Engineering and basic Science courses. In September 2012, the NPTEL released its materials in CC-BY-NC-SA license. The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) has also started an OER project and released its materials under CC-BY-NC-SA.

3. Intergovernmental agencies like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO5) and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL6) have adopted open licensing policy for their materials, and have been advocating the use of open license for public funded resources, while respecting the intellectual property rights.

4. Impact of OER from a use and reuse perspective: In 2010, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) commissioned the University of Oxford to undertake a study to assess the impact of the use of OER in the UK higher education sector. Themes emerged from the workshop were:
• Everyone reuses all the time, but not necessarily OER.
• All aware of issues around copyright – but not always how best to manage them.
• There is simultaneous more and less out there than you might expect – VERY dependant on what you are looking for.
• Similarly contradictory evidence around where best to search, for somethings Google is best, others found specialist sources a revelation “why didn’t I know about JORUM before?”
• The form of OER is vital to how it is reused, wholesale reuse most likely with video and multimedia you cannot make yourself, textual resources are often used more for inspiration than anything else.

5. OERs impact on Student engagement:
The high cost of textbooks is negatively impacting students academically & financially.
Students reported that the high cost of textbooks caused them to:
Take few classes (49.2%)
Not register for a class (45.1%)
Not purchase a textbook (63.6%) and 22.6% do so frequently
Drop a course (26.7%)
Over half of students were willing to pay a small materials & supply fee for open textbook materials
Over half of students perceived the academic value of open textbooks, OERs, and Open Courseware (OCW) to be equal or better than non-OERs

6. OERs impact on Student autonomy: Emergence of informal learning campuses. Example: Black Mountain SOLE claims to be the first experiment in assembling an entire campus around openly licensed materials.

7. OERs impact on Student achievement:
African Health OER Network case study claims high impact on students: Student focus groups at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology showed support for OER and students expressed satisfaction both with OER as an approach and with the resources available to them.

Khan Academy approach leads to improved study habits and higher scores: A case study conducted at Oakland Unity High School, Oakland, California revealed how poor learning habits and low confidence caused students to perform below par in basic algebra and arithmetic skills. Looking to sort this out, the school implemented a blended learning model using Khan Academy videos. Teachers noted that students were better engaged and supported, which resulted in improved study habits and higher test scores: from a class average of 37 per cent to a class average of 74 per cent within one year.

Correlation between OER use and student grades: Research by SRI International and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that there was a positive correlation between student grades and the amount of time spent logged into OER platforms or MOOC providers. Researchers visited schools, districts, and CMOs; made classroom observations; interviewed organization and school leaders as well as teachers, parents, and students; conducted teacher and student surveys; and analyzed students’ user log files over the school year.

Performance improves with OpenTextbook adoption: “Thus students in courses that used FWK (FWK = Flatworld Knowledge open textbooks) textbooks tended to have higher grades and lower failing and withdrawal rates than those in courses that did not use FWK texts. These results have statistical significance (Fall 2010: z-value =-3.636, p < 0.000, Spring 2011: z-value = -4.684, p<0.000)."

Lab skills OERs boost confidence for biomedical students: 110 first year undergraduates studying Biomedical Science and Medical Science (BSc Honours) at De Montfort University accessed VAL system, an OER designed to enable undergraduate students to build a foundation of basic laboratory skills and knowledge before they enter the bioscience laboratory.

8. OERs impact on student retention:
College educators support for OER as driver of student retention: The idea that affordable textbooks can allay these concerns and encourage students to stay in school is supported by research from OER Research Hub. A survey of college educators in community colleges (n=136) showed that more than 1/3 believe that OER use promotes student retention.

9. The impact of OER Policy: The various types of OER licenses available under Creative Commons, and other Open Source schemes have its impact towards the shifts from the resources to the impact OER participation on the individual faculty member, the benefits to the institution, particularly for education in developing countries.

10. Impact on Collaborative e-content generation:
Example: success of Wikipedia

11. Impact on Community building around learner:
Example: openLearn. Major impact when the learning activities involve web – based forums, wikis, blogging and commenting on blogs, there are likely to be greater opportunities for reflection and the deepening of understanding than when OERs are provided in isolation.

12. Impact on broadcast technology:
Move away from high-cost broadcast materials and textual content to user-generated content and social software. Web 2.0 tools like YouTube, Facebook, Flickr etc dominate rather than traditional broadcast technology.

13. Impact on finances:
Public donations are less, or diminishing. Alternative is several institutions joining hands to create open resources like OpenCourseWare Consortium

14. Organisational Impact: IMS Learning Object Metadata but there are wide variations in how the metadata fields are completed. The Open Archive Initiative allows institutions to expose the metadata of their open content for harvesting by indexes.

15. Impact of OER on teaching and learning:
ATTITUDINAL: A positive disposition towards the reuse and sharing of learning resources, together with an essentially collaborative outlook (even if one is not actually co-designing or co-teaching at any given time), are essential prerequisites for the uptake of OER at both the individual and institutional levels.
PEDAGOGIC: Four main pedagogic factors are at play in the selection and evaluation of OER: provenance, goodness of fit to the lecturer’s purpose, the pedagogic intent embedded in a resource itself and granularity.
LOGISTICAL: volume of materials, ease of discovery and licensing

OER Impact Map

(Source: OER Impact Map )
This website gathers and publishes evidence about the impact of open educational resources (OER). It is maintained by the OER Research Hub project. The purpose is to help people understand the impact of OER.

Govt to leverage MOOC for broadband education:
(Read more at:
Aiming to take education to every doorstep, the then Union HRD Minister M M Pallam Raju said (August 2013) they intend to leverage the broadband network by embracing the 'Massive Open Online Courses' (MOOC) programme in a big way. "…to make education more accessible, we have in the horizon MOOC, leveraging on the broadband education platform," Raju said at a function here while harping on sustainable development through such efforts. "We want to embrace MOOC in a big way to increase the number of literates in the country. Institutions must become creators of knowledge," he said.

OER can sure be biggest catalyst to achieving this aim!!

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Educating Millions: Thoughts on a new model

Going back to the Drawing Board:
Several years ago, around the year 2009, I wrote a piece for the National Council for Teacher Education, that was published in a volume ” Teacher Education: Reflections Towards Policy Formulation” edited by M.A.Siddiqui, A.K.Sharma and G.L.Arora.
The piece had the title ” Information and Communication Technologies in Education: Implications for Teacher Education” and while many details in 2009 have been fundamentally changed, it had a section at the end, for which it seems that the time is ripe today.
In fact the last sentences of the article have been copied below:
“In going back to the drawing board to ‘re-look’ the education system to meet the challenges of the future, where the starting point is not 20 students of similar abilities in a class but a million diverse learners who have to be transformed efficiently over a short period of time with predictable rates of success and then this model of teaching a million students at a time, has to be replicated a hundred times.”

For ready reference, the last part of that article is copied below:

11. Independent Educators:

We need to re-assert and re-establish the supremacy of the teacher, and not the bureaucrat or the Institution. S we enter the Knowledge Economy, it is important to appreciate that education alone will create valuable knowledge products for global use, and this alone will let us flourish ad thrive in the new age. If we establish a teaching profession, which meets International standards in keeping with the call of globalisation, it permits independent practitioners to move about under mode 4 of the GATS as well as practice their profession at home without the need for Institutional intermediaries, and with access to training in modern ICT tools, both for synchronous and asynchronous interactions across the globe.
In the recent years, the three ideas that have had a huge impact on the way organizations work are quality, business processes and their re-engineering and the importance of intellectual capital. All three must be assimilated into the educational systems, because it is the teachers who will become leaders in the knowledge economy, as they alone know how to construct knowledge. A mere expert knows his subject, but a good teacher knows how a person can learn the subject. If it can be done in a measured way, it can develop into teaching technologies rather than mere magic at the hands of a great teacher or anon-replicable art in the hands of a few that will eventually die out. With the help of well developed learning contracts, clearly articulated learning outcomes and learner tracking systems, it can almost be ensured that the agreed learning outcomes are achieved.
Just as it is legitimately possible for any lawyer, doctor, engineer, architect, chartered accountant to work for a state government, the central government, a large corporation, a small business or to work independently on his own, it should be possible for qualified educators to work outside the traditional Institutional framework on their own.

The separation of powers doctrine in governance applies most neatly when ministerial departments implement legislation made by Parliament and are subject to judicial review by the courts. Like the separation of powers in good democratic governance and the principles that are being applied to good corporate governance, if we decouple the responsibilities for laying down of standards, conduct of examinations, the teaching-learning processes, and maintain databases that are shared with potential employers of qualifications acquired by learners, holding the certificates in de-materialised forms like we do for de-mat shares, we can see a lot of opportunities for educationists. Collective, co-operative networking arrangements with branded teachers working together under a brand that communicates a commitment to a shared vision would remove many ills of the present system and unlock the large potential that we have in retired accomplished teachers or unemployed younger talented people. Teachers need not ever retire and can continue to play a role in imparting education till they can do so (incidentally there is no retirement age for politicians, lawyers, doctors and many other professions). This idea is a very straightforward solution to the twin problems of educated unemployment and not enough access to education to the needy.

The other professions have bodies such as the Bar Council, the Medical Council, the Institute of a Chartered Accountants. We can have such an Educational or Teachers Council, which may be a constituent component of NCTE.
The recent amendments in the Companies Act that are proposed regarding the one person Company and the concept of Limited Liability Partnership can help facilitate this further. Educators can work independently as one person company in their individual capacity, or a group of educators can form a limited liability partnership, and in both these ways can seek investors and support from financial institutions, especially those dealing with small and micro-enterprises. And if required there can be special provisions for such educational entities to prevent any possible abuse.

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Some more thought @ BW Higher Education Summit 2014

Impact of recent progress in computing on research;

Phase transitions due to Computing:

Douglas S Robertson in his books ‘ The New Renaissance’ (1998) and later ‘Phase Change’ (2003) Drew attention to the fact that advances in computer technology would fundamentally and disruptively transform how research would be done.
In the decade since then, his forecast has been more than validated with rapid developments and especially the recent advances in a Big Data, Cloud Computing, Mobility and the Internet of Things. We are also witnessing the emergence of a new cadre of Data Scientists cutting across existing domains of research. This is driven by the 3Vs : variety, volume and velocity of data.
The greatest impact that this has had is in the democratisation of research explorations, collaborations and liberation from Government funding. Brilliant ideas are no longer hostage to the mediocre bureaucrats in the Ministries, but can find support from completely unexpected stakeholders.
A recent development in the form of crowd-funding allows worldwide support for promising ideas.
It will become an imperative for all modern researchers to know how to program in a variety of tools in order to best handle the large volume of data available. It is said that ” if you torture data enough it will confess”.

When I embarked on my career as a Ph.D. student and full time researcher in Solid State Physics in 1967, my research guide advised me to go and first learn computer programming ( in FORTRAN, the language of the day). And that advice has been the single most important direction not only to my academic life but for my explorations in other domains of knowledge as well. Since then I learnt ( to various levels of proficiency) languages such as BASIC, COBOL, Pascal, LISP, C,C++, Java and its variants and now Python. And that is why I believe that ‘ Computational Thinking’ will become a very important element of the training and toolkit of the researcher of the future. This term was introduced by Jeanette Wing and is continuing in importance with a Centre for Computational Thinking at the Carnegie Mellon University. There is a worldwide movement for every child learning to code right from School itself. Along similar Iines is the movement for ‘ Computer Based Maths’ by Conrad Wolfram and surprisingly it is Estonia that is the first country in the world to adopt this model.
There has been a very rapid increase in the capabilities of machine intelligence, approaching nearer human intelligence with IBM looking at applications of Watson in many domains. Also we are looking at a better understanding of the neural connections in the brain with projects like the SPAUM ( Synaptic Pointer Architecture Unified Network) which consists of 2.3 million spiking neurons whose neural properties, organization, and connectivity match that of the mammalian brain. It can use as input images of handwritten and typed numbers and symbols, and the output is the motion of a 2 degree-of-freedom arm that writes the model’s responses, and is capable of performing 6 tasks ( digit recognition, tracing from
memory, serial working memory, question answering, also providing a reasonably limited semantics that the model addition by counting, and symbolic pattern completion).
With the potential use of 3D printers, and the abundance of small low cost sensors being used in the Internet of things, the instrumentation for laboratories for seeking data would also be completely different. Supercomputing resources from the cloud and local devices such as the Raspberry Pi and Arduino would completely alter the look and feel of an experimental set up.

One of the consequences would be that brute force and ugly research will be less appreciated and there will be a pursuit of and appreciation of beauty and aesthetics in research. What a Hardy said for the beauty of Mathematical theory would become important for all research.

Call(s) for action:
So what can we do to create a spirit of enquiry and research among the youth? I have 3 suggestions:

1. Policy and general atmosphere creation:
We need to get the youth to appreciate that while being at School is about following what the books and teachers say and learn what is known, by the end of School one’s critical think and analytical faculties must be awakened. This transition is best done at Senior Secondary level, although for gifted and precocious learners it could be initiated whenever the child shows symptoms of curiosity and questioning the facts or information given. Research is no longer something for Scientists and academics, but is a way of working in all knowledge based occupations. Legal research and market research are examples. Activities labelled ‘citizen science’ are growing and citizen journalism including investigative journalism has been adopted by mainstream media. An attitude to think like a researcher is also the attitude to think like an entrepreneur. The difference being that the researcher gets a thrill and satisfaction by having generated new ideas, the entrepreneur is also interested in making a fortune from these ideas.
2. Designing a program for research orientation from School Leavers, undergraduate, masters and research degrees M.Phil and Ph.D.
With the establishment of the MOOC as a mass delivery model, especially with open ended educational goals, it would be desirable to launch a series of MOOCs aimed at multiple levels. There are many excellent resources already available for free from reputed Institutions. They can be supplemented with informative, inspirational and challenging topics, such as :
1: Research led education: the heart of Russell Group Universities :
2: List of unsolved problems in Mathematics :
3. Open problems in Mathematics and Physics:
4. Top 10 problems in machine learning
5. Problems in human learning
Much more thought will have to be given, but it is very important to develop such a suite of programs.

3. Suggestions for a mission oriented large research project in the cross-disciplinary area of cognitive research.
The Manhattan Project and Space Mission were very large projects whose spin offs had many beneficial effects. I want to draw attention to creating one such project regarding learning itself. Policy directions in education are often based on anecdotal research and personal views of policy makers. We rarely consider opinions of well known thought leaders, and even less explore education in a systemic method.
For example a set of 10 thought leaders bring to us the following ideas: Burton R Clark ( The Entrepreneurial University), Clayton Christensen ( Personalisation of learning as the Disruption in education), George Siemens ( Connectivism and MOOCs), Guy Claxton ( developing learning power), John Daniel ( massification of quality education), Ken Robinson ( learner uniqueness, creativity and creating the right climate), Ram Takwale ( importance of an always connected learning environment), Richard Feynman ( learning to teach as the real learning), Salman Khan ( flipped teaching, chunking of learning and Analytics), Simon Downes ( with George Siemens on Connectivism and MOOCs).
So the big educational challenge is ” How can we have each learner( recognising his/her uniqueness) to achieve his/her full multi-dimensional potential over a life-span?” and do this for every single learner on the planet.
It cannot be done by expanding an unsatisfactory and failed model of education, but only by a disruptive transformation. It begins with Mathematicians who will define suitable ‘measures’ of learning, a representation model for states of learning, Physicists who will create units and standards and instruments for better and better measurements, Psychologists or Cognitive Scientists who design interventions that result in the desired transitions from states of ignorance to states of knowledge, Statisticians who will build models for these and quality systems to see that 6 sigma is achieved in the learning goals, bio-chemists who will explore the bio-chemical state of the learner that is most conducive to learning, because the activities in the brain are eventually bio-chemical and electrical.
It is challenging, daunting and apparently well nigh impossible. But we did search for the positron on e upon a time and more recently for the Higgs Boson.
So, isn’t this the most important research project of our times. It is also the solution to terrorism, to wars and the path to peace, economic prosperity and happiness.

Can anything else be of greater importance?

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Thoughts @ The Indian Higher Education Summit 2014

Thoughts shared at the Businessworld Indian Higher Education Summit

Classification of Research
1. Pure curiosity driven basic research – experimental and theoretical work often called fundamental or “blue sky” research, “knowledge for knowledge’s sake.” Often ‘discovery’ such as Gravitation or ‘future prediction’. Such as Dirac’s prediction of ‘positron’ or Higgs prediction of ‘Higgs Boson’. The double helix structure of the DNA.
2. Strategic basic research – experimental and theoretical, but often undertaken to acquire new knowledge and lead to useful discoveries or solve practical problems. The Buoyancy Principle by Archimedes. More recently the Manhattan Project. Space research, man on the moon mission.
3. Applied research – original work to perhaps determine new ways of achieving specific objectives or developing new techniques. Often similar to innovation. Solar energy. Improvements in existing technologies. Goal oriented research with unexpected spin-offs;

Metaphors for research:
There are five popular types of metaphors used by researchers in the context of their activities:
1. Metaphors of Space
The largest single metaphor that occurred was ‘field’ followed closely by ‘area’. Metaphors of space suggest that the students using them see their research as opening up or developing into new areas or frontiers of knowledge.
2. Metaphors of Travel
Metaphors such as ‘steps’, ‘journey’, ‘path’ and ‘track’ of travel suggests that the research is perceived as a movement, towards a goal.
3. Metaphors of Action
There is a large variety of metaphors for action such as ‘constructing’ knowledge, from research seen as ‘struggling’, to research seen as ‘scratching’ for results. ‘Working’, ‘delve’, ‘reap’ and ‘combing’, refer to some action involved to make the research develop in the desired direction.
4. Metaphors of the Body
Examples of these are ‘corpus’ and ‘body’. A commonly agreed body of knowledge as a discipline. Stages of development are referred to as ‘infancy’, and ‘struggling’.
5. Metaphors of Ordeal
Several metaphors refer to research as an ordeal. A ‘marathon’ struggle against the odds and the persistence required to complete the ordeal. Another referred to the ‘struggle’ of research.

Ideas: their inter-connections and interplay
* Research is basically about new ideas.
* Ideas diffuse and are adopted and adapted by others
* Ideonomy: the Science of ideas
* Memes: a concept proposed by Richard Dawkins for ideas that rapidly spread amongst people

Purpose/ Drivers of academic research:
* The purpose of academic research is to formulate questions whose answers would help us lead better lives
* The thrust is towards research that helps in sustainable living for the globe
* So local problems to be seen as a specific case of global theory and concepts

Being at the forefront of research today:
* The researcher of today has many more opportunities than earlier and many more challenges as well.
* Low level search and information collation has been automated.
* Only higher order idea generation and finding new insights is valuable today

Some issues in 21st Century research :
* Collection of data: improved rapid massive
* Greater awareness of privacy rights and consent to giving data
* Reduction in the importance of Statistical sampling
* Bridging the gap between qualitative and quantitative research

Qualitative Research:
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted“ (Albert Einstein)
Sample sizes are typically small in qualitative work. One way of identifying how many people you need is to keep interviewing until, in analysis, nothing new comes from the data – a point called ‘saturation’.

Quantitative Research:
* Quantitative research is ‘Explaining phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analysed using mathematical methods
* The generation of models, theories and hypotheses
* The development of instruments and methods for measurement
* Experimental control and manipulation of variables
* Collection of empirical data
* Modeling and analysis of data

Ethnographic Research:
* Participant-observation
* Key informant interviewing
* Use of genealogical method
*Gathering of cases (life-histories, conflict cases
* Visual Ethnography

Action Research:
* Action research is any research into practice undertaken by those involved in that practice, with an aim to change and improve it.
* It is about both ‘action’ and ‘research’ and the links between the two. It is quite possible to take action without research or to do research without taking any consequential action, but the unique combination of the two is what distinguishes action research from other forms of enquiry.

Cross interdisciplinary Research:
* Multidisciplinary research is associated with more than one existing academic discipline.
* Interdisciplinary knowledge is the knowledge extensions that exist between or beyond existing academic disciplines.
* Cross-disciplinary knowledge is that which explains aspects of one discipline in terms of another. Common examples of cross-disciplinary approaches are studies of the physics of music or the politics of literature.
* Transdisciplinary can be thought of as the union of all interdisciplinary efforts.

Intellectual Property:
* Copyright protects the expression of ideas
* Copyright doesn’t protect the ideas themselves
* Creative Commons : a new licensing system
* Open Education Resources: a new movement

* Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.
* The idea remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules.
* Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and is subject to sanctions like expulsion.
* Plagiarism is not a crime per se but in academia it is a serious ethical violation.

Research Ethics:
* Research ethics is the application of fundamental ethical principles to research, including scientific research.
* The academic research enterprise is built trust. Researchers trust that the results reported by others are sound. Society trusts that the results of research reflect an honest attempt by all researchers to describe the world accurately and without bias.
* Includes design and implementation of research involving human experimentation, animal experimentation, various aspects of scientific misconduct (such as fraud, fabrication of data and plagiarism), whistleblowing; regulation of research, etc.
* Research ethics is most developed as a concept in medical research. The key agreement here is the 1974 Declaration of Helsinki.
* Research in the social sciences presents a different set of issues than those in medical research.

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