Educational Development

John Clayton (OSLOR and visit to Tekotago

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John Clayton from the Open Source Learning Object Repository (OSLOR) came down to Dunedin today to talk about the OSLOR project and hosting services.

I was quite impressed by the work John's team is doing, they are certainly innovative leaders in New Zealand working with LMS and learning object models for online learning and providing high quality internet services to small to medium learning organisations around New Zealand. The development work they are doing with Moodle, especially with the sharable learning object technologies, and the enhanced glossary index system, are significant developments, and the wider developments and add ons around Moodle going on around the world help to position as a superior local provider of online learning system hosting in New Zealand.

While they are still in what I would call older web 1 and elearning 1 modes of thinking about their services, this is not an issue unique to John's team. Web 1 and web 2, as the names imply present operational tensions, similar to that of open source v's proprietary, and will eventually be faced by all areas of education. John appeared to be aware of this at least and is exploring emerging trends in socially networked software and how they might be brought into their models of eLearning. I agreed with John when he went to great lengths to articulate the importance of a healthy and active community around the services they are developing, but I'm not sure that I agree with the way in which they are considering it. A healthy and active community around internet services is extremely important to the success of the product and service it supports, but what remains to be seen is whether or not New Zealand can sustain the type of online educational community that is needed. I tend to think that New Zealands online participation may be too small and educational culture too disfunctional at this point in time, and that tapping into existing and more global online communities would be best. As for the need to develop a local dialogue around educational development issues and resources in New Zealand, I don't think engagement with international learning communities necessarily excludes that - clearly many such online learning communities at the moment are North American or Australian centric, but they are open communities and could be reshaped or balanced with facilitated NZ involvement. The main objective is to develop and sustain an online learning community in New Zealand, and I have my doubts that a locally focused and seemingly closed one at that will achieve what it sets out to do, or what it might gain from being internationally engaged. But this is part of the tension between web 1 or elearning 1 and elearning 2 models.

But that is really a big picture issue that is not immediately important for John at the moment. What John's team has achieved to date, and looks to achieve in the mid term is of importance in my view, and presents a middle road model that works now. John's use of Open Source technologies to develop and provide opportunity for commercial services is a success story. When I questioned John about OSLOR and's progressive economic model around open source services, seemingly reinforcing older industrial economic models for education - John agreed with the observation and explained that they are attempting to be a middle range player for transitioning organisations into more open source models. If this is the goal of John's team then I think they should succeed. The challenge of integrating new modes loosely terms web 2 is still to come in New Zealand, and if their is a team in New Zealand that is positioning itself to handle those challenges, looks to be it.

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