A2K4 Panel IV: Right to Education: Realizing the Potential Digital Tools

International human rights instruments recognize a right to education. Within this concept, primary education should be “universal, free and compulsory.” Opportunities for secondary and higher education, however, are recognized to be contingent upon the resources available to states. This panel explores how the power of digital technologies, social networking and peer production may be leveraged to reduce the costs and improve the quality of traditional educational models, so as to expand enjoyment of the right.

New social media and processes of globalization have profoundly shaped the world of education in the last decade. Digital education involves more than moving existing educational practices into online spheres: it holds the potential to constitute a fundamentally new type of education. The role of this panel is to examine  the key issues around the construction process of this 'new' education.

Panelists included:

Neeru Paharia, Harvard Business School & Peer 2 Peer University

Shai Reshef, University of the People

Luis Villarroel, Corporación Innovarte

Esther Wojcicki, Creative Commons/Palo Alto High School

Moderator: Carolina Rossini, Berkman Center for Internet and Society (recent work: The State and Challenges of Open Educational Resources in Brazil)

Questions posed to the panelists:

Does the greater cost-effectiveness of online venues strengthen the argument to recognize a more universal human right to higher education? Alternatively, could the availability of free online resources become an undesirable substitute for public efforts to promote traditional education?

Is digital education more democratic than previous forms of education? How can we ensure that preexisting social inequities – of gender, race, class, and linguistic background - are not replicated or reinforced in ways that violate the right to equal educational opportunities?

What are roadblocks to digital education in areas such as telecommunication policies, broadband infrastructures and access, and accreditation. What are the new business models or institutional forms that can support the expansion of digital education? What is the necessary role of the state and of companies that may not self-consciously see themselves as providing digital education, although their tools and services may be essential to this end?

To what extent are copyright and market concentrations in software and Internet applications a barrier to the effective implementation of digital education? How significant are these barriers in comparison to other ones, such as minimum levels of technological access and literacy, linguistic barriers, cultural barriers, etc.?

Carolina Rossini PhotoCarolina Rossini opened the discussios about education...digital and open education as recognized by international human rights.

We are seeing a lot of countries enforcing human right framework to primary education.  But for higher education, it's restricted to state capacity.  The issue, how can digital advances open capacity?

Carolina introduced the panelist, biographies available through the links above.

Esther Wojcicki PhotoEsther Wojcicki began the talk, giving us the perceptive of the educator and a great overall view of the challenges of access to education tools (including OER).  Although the talk is US-centric, the overall vision applies international.

Although there are wonderful possibilities with OER, there are still many challenges that need to be overcome.  There is a huge lack of awareness of OER.  Students and educators need to be aware of it, before they are able to access it.  Accreditation is also a key issue.  Schools and regulators need to get past the common perception, to block the unknown.

Even private forces, such as eRate, add to the censorship.  So many states have no passed legislation to protect student’s freedom of speech.  Another problem is that people confuse the definition of “open” and “free.”  Commercial is not open.  Creative Commons are tackling a lot of these challenges.  Working on standardization and legal issues.

Ester Wojcicki Slides (ppt)

Luis Villarroel PhotoLuis Villarroel began by going over the mission of Innovarte, a foundation working mainly in Latin America.  Luis will give an overview of international exemptions to education copyrights, arguing that the fragmentation of different country laws are a roadblock to OER.  But there is hope, there are uniforming forces internationally.  Luis begins the discussion on Article 10 Berne.  The Article is fair open, highlighting fair practice and education.  But when looking at the divergences in scope of teaching exception in national laws in Latin America, we see a huge divergence of allowability (some countries allow for public performance, some mandate licenses, government discourse limitations, and even no exemptions at all).

The exception of “quotations” is expressly allowed in Berne, in fact, the only mandatory exception.  The standard is fair practice, and there is no limit on the type of work.  Luis argues this is a very broad exception.  But again, if you analyze each country individual, there are limitations to this broad exception (some allow only a very small part of a work, sometimes only a picture, dependent on the size of the work).  These limitations are imposed both by standards (e.g. as implanted by fair use) and laws.

TRIPs exacerbates the fragmentation of the copyright laws between the different nations.  Thus, even if a work is created lawfully in one country, when that work is transferred to another country with strong limitations, then it becomes illegal.

What is the opportunity?  Under WIPO, there is a proposal for mandatory exception to push the agenda forward.

Neeru Paharia PhotoNeeru Paharia begins the talk about P2PU, which she’s a founder of.  Starting off with the provocative question: What if everyone with an internet can get an university education?  Free and open.

The founders of P2PU have been steeped in the OER movement (creative common licenses, internet, getting content out there).  P2PU asked, is OER enough for an university?  And while there are OER resources out there, people need organization and objectives to frame their learning.  So what do universities give us?  And all these values, can volunteers using OER be enough to replicate?  P2PU founders think so.

P2PU has launched a pilot set of courses, beginning the iterative process of development.  Two hundred fifty people signed up.  The second set of class will begin soon with a even better sense of what the model will be.  P2PU is completely free and open, volunteer driven and governed, self-learners, hacker mentality (creativity and innovation).

Informal accreditation ideas (get employers to buy in, educational portfolios, certifications).  The goal of the project is to build a comprehensive curriculum equal to universities.

Neeru Paharia Slides (ppt)

Shai Reshef PhotoShai Reshef continued. Higher education is not what it should be.  One hundred million people will be qualified, but unable access higher education.  The need is deeply felt in poor and developing nations.  The barriers can be categorized into financial, capacity, geographic, and social restrictions.

University of the People (UoPeople) was created to be the first tuition-free university to address these problems.  The aims of University of the People are to raise social status, provide equal opportunity, improve their standard of living not just of individuals, but of communities and countries.

University of the People leverages open source, OER and technology platform, and the peer-to-peer learning model.  The two programs offered by University of the People are business administration and computer science, because these majors are in demand and socially neutral.

The message of University of the People is not just for universities, but governments.  That quality education can be provided en masse and at a sustainable cost.

Shai Reshef slides (ppt)

Question and Answer Session

Q: Funding?  And financial disclosure?

P2PU is operated many on volunteers.  UoPeople, in the future, will charge for $15-50 dollars classroom and $10-100 dollars exam fees depending on the country (economic index).  A critical mass of students can make these projects sustainable.  Both organizations are applying for 501(b)(3).

Q: Is there a concern about teaching quality?  And could it undermine the quality of teachers in the future?

Shai argues that not all teachers are great.  And your peers can teach you a lot…and would only need instructors periodically.  Shai believes that P2P learning model is the most efficient teaching model.  Carolina analogizes P2P learning to open source technology, arguing that there is the potential for such as much quality.  This discussion raises the valuable question which is how to break the common traditional idea that you need teachers for a quality education.

Q: What are the similarities and differences of p2p learning, OER, and p2p open source software?

Educators should be educated about creative commons licensing, to foster more OER resources.  The question is how to educate these teachers.  For p2p learning, there is the similar of community building.  In Paraguay, implementing One-Laptop-Per-Child, teachers are producing OER together without even using creative common licenses.

Q: How much higher education can we afford?  Could you also comment on the effect p2p learning can have on primary education?

Esther is working with Sesame Street on teaching students to read.  Also makes the observation that even in developing countries, poor people have cellphones.  Carolina says that there are primary education projects working with new digital media, such as OER in laptops to kids.  Also, this would involve the state more, and so what is the role of the state? There is an appendix (amendment?) to the Berne Convention that provides for reproduction and translation for culture, discuss.

The application of this to the digital and online context is unclear.  And again, applying the Berne Convention as uniformity is needed.

Q: The future seems like the future of education is modularity, where people create an education portfolio from multiple sources, and could be accredited by someone else.

Kaplan seems like it’s building a platform for aggregating e-learning resources.  Shai argues that the biggest barrier to this is accreditation.  And there’s a long way to go there.  For accreditation issues, why is this such a big issue?  Creative Commons is thinking about the accreditation issue as well.

Q: What about using the microfinance business model for education?  So not paying for education up front.

If UoPeople charges after graduation, that may create a lot of bureaucracy.

Q: Social norms and copyright issues.  The WIPO exemptions and framework is still created under the traditional, non-digital (collaborative, sharing learning environment).  Another way to put it, ask teachers about copyright structure instead of lawyers.

Esther: teachers think about fair use under the current copyright regime.  And they don’t quite understand the full implications of copyright laws.  OER came about under the assumption that there was a lot of open resources out there.  But perhaps this is a poor assumption.  The p2p learning model is actually creating OER as the course goes (class note, history).  Luis is arguing that we need to work under existing international framework/norms to meet the problems as quickly as possible (using WIPO and P2PU and UoPeople).

For twitter commentary on this panel from the audience, check out http://twapperkeeper.com/a2k4/ entries for Friday, February 12 at 21:00h to 21:30h.

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