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Open Education in Chile: small steps in an adverse context

- February 4, 2019 in Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Science, Open Textbooks, open-education, world

Guest post by Werner Westermann & Carlos Ruz
Just as the new Open University of Recoleta was announced in November 2018, it immediately sparked a nationwide discussion about the public role of universities, due to an informal institution calling itself university.  Recoleta’s major, the leader of a traditional but impoverished borough in Santiago, has been clear when saying that the mission of the Open University of Recoleta is to “promote the democratisation of knowledge and access to a plurality of knowledge and disciplines through teaching, research and extension activities aiming at facilitating the integral development of its students in a cultural environment based on collaboration, citizen participation and innovation“. The Open University of Recoleta’s mission is supported by an institutional policy based on Open Educational Resources, the first institution in Chile to explicitly uptake openness, although this policy can be still considered.  An unfinished “open” policy, as they do not explicitly have an open licensing scheme or a set of clearly describe Open practices that will flow in this Open “Pluriversity”, a new concept to elude the legal technicalities of being a “real” university, which is similar to the concept of Volkshochschule in Germany, where the idea of popular universities is widely adopted and well regarded. This case is very illustrative of Chile’s slow progress around openness and OER, despite the growing interest and awareness across the world.  There has been in the last decade very few small initiatives and projects related to OER (showcased here in the OER World Map)  Surely there are many reasons for this situation, but we could highlight:
  1. Disregard  and indifference towards user’s rights:  Although the Ministry of Education websites have declared their contents are  attributed with open licenses (CC-BY) in their footers, that is not translated to the contents and educational resources stored  in their repositories, as the case of the YoEstudio and the CRA School Libraries. In both cases, the educational resources do not specify the rights to use the resources they host or distribute, therefore, and by default, these are all rights reserved, as specified in the law.
  2. If explicit, user’s rights are restrictive:  Copyright (all rights reserved) is ubiquitous  as the default user’s rights. A good example is the largest  educational resources repository for K-12 schools, EducarChile.  They have added a Creative Commons license as to their website, but the Terms and Conditions of use of their educational resources are highly restrictive
  3. Publicly funded  does not mean public use: Despite Chile’s pledge to foster open access to information and data funded with public resources and having a law on access to public information, in Chilean Higher Education, almost, if not all, public funds promote exclusive institutional ownership of the results and the knowledge created in those projects. Those public funds are disputed in a competitive scenario, where universities and researchers  struggle within a capitalistic and privatised education system framework has made competition its matrix, at the expense of open cooperation and mutual collaboration.
  4. Lack of incentives:  In Higher Education, academic or professional development incentives are is not focused on the field of teaching, even less with learning.  Normally, these incentives aim at supporting research activity (mostly publicly funded) that must be published in high impact journals , as the pernicious higher education rankings and metrics foster a toxic scholarly culture in which he results of the research are  focused on the commercialisation, conceived as an exclusive asset. The logic of treasuring my personal assets is fuelled by an ecosystem regulated by large monopolies (Elsevier) that control indexation, thus the dissemination and citation of scientific research and by the University Rankings corporations that feed this malignant system for the sake of climbing up in a system that has nefarious consequences in emerging economies, by draining public funds when paying corporations excruciating high fees and subscription to publish publicly funded research.
Despite the educational landscape seeming to be unable of  providing a fertile soil to foster Open Access, Open Science, Open Education and and OER, there are some advancements in this area worth showcasing Through a Public Diplomacy Grant from the US Embassy in Santiago, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso developed an Open Textbook project.  This project resulted in the development and translation of open textbooks that were deployed formally in different courses.  One book was developed by faculty remixing existing open content from whose resources are in the public domain.  Another book was reviewed and enhanced by students, an open educational practice that stunned faculty and fully-engaged students.  This led to translate to Spanish the award-winning book from REBUS “Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students”. For next academic year, new strategies are considered to promote theses results, highlighting the potential of open pedagogies that build OER, showed how students engaged in both processes and how innovation in teaching flourished.  The results and more details can be seen here: Another grant funded by the Chilean Cooperation Agency ( made possible a project to see how Digital Citizenship creates a new scenario for civic engagement, in collaboration with the Library of National Congress of Chile and the Instituto Belisario Domínguez from the Senate in Mexico.  A series of OER were developed (state-of-art content, a learning outcome matrix, assessment item bank, e-learning professional development course) to include Digital Citizenship in schools. We adapted and piloted these resources in Chilean as well Mexican schools (with very exciting results in Mexico!!).  The openness of these resources has already made an impact, as the Council for Transparency reused the assessment item bank in a videogame they developed ().  More details of this project can be seen here: In the spirit of cooperation, and to foster citizenship and participation,  a national commitment to develop OER for digital citizenship was included in the 3rd OGP Open Government Action Plan (2016-2018), which has been an important platform to promote openness in Chile from the Open Government guidelines. That work will continue in the recently published 4th OGP Government Action Plan (2018-2020), where the commitment is to create OER to define and configure the critical skills for Open (Government) Citizenry, which in indeed  aligned with the SDG 4.7 emphasising on sustainable development and global citizenship. It should be noted that the process of building this commitment it has involved a series of actors in order to co-create this commitment, continuing with what was initiated in the previous action plan, seeking to provide a capacity building model of citizenship competencies through OER, and to provide opportunities for people contributing to democratise citizen participation   Mainstreaming openness and OER in the chilean educational context will be a long and rocky journey, but definitely is core to foster a pathway to guide the nation in fostering   quality education for by promoting Open Science, Open Access and Open Education to further democratise access to knowledge .  
About the authors Werner Westermann, leads the Civic Education Program at the Library of National Congress of Chile.  He has over 20 years of work experience in digital technology-enabled education and training in different institutions (national ministries, higher education institutions, international agencies, NGO’s). He is an Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER) advocate and practitioner and a co-writer of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.  He is the Project lead of OER deployment/development and research projects in Chile. OER Consultant for UNESCO in Open Educational Resources, Institute of Open Leadership fellow (Creative Commons).   Carlos Ruz is a Maths teacher, the innovation and research director of Maule Scholar, and head of the LabDatos Chile. He frequently writes for  Chile Científico and is an active member of the civil society network for Open Government.

A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post- secondary student

- October 12, 2015 in Featured, oer, Open Textbooks

BöckerAn interesting study was shared in the OKFN edu mailing list by Nicole Allen (@txtbks) Director of Open Education for ‪@SPARC_NA, regarding the real value of open textbooks and the real costs of traditional textbooks. The study referred by Nicole is a multi-institutional study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University looks at the academic outcomes of students assigned free, openly-licensed textbooks versus those assigned traditionally-published textbooks. The study titled A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post- secondary student looks at a sample of more than 16,000 students across 10 institutions, comparing several measures of student academic success between those using open textbooks and those using traditional textbooks. What the study finds is the opposite of what folk wisdom tells us: expensive textbooks are not superior to free ones. In fact, the results show a striking trend that students assigned free, open textbooks do as well or better than their peers in terms of grades, course completion, and other measures of academic success. Here are some of the key points:
  • Course completion: In all of the courses studied, students who were assigned open textbooks were as likely or more likely to complete their course than those assigned traditional textbooks. In one course, the completion rate was remarkably 15 percentage points higher for students using open textbooks.
  • Grades: Students who were assigned open textbooks tended to have final grades equivalent to or better than those assigned traditional textbooks. In more than a quarter of the courses, students using open textbooks achieved higher grades, and only one course using open textbooks showed lower grades (which is at least partially explained by the course’s significantly higher completion rate, which includes the grades of students who would have otherwise dropped out).
  • Credit load: Students who were assigned open textbooks took approximately 2 credits more both in the semester of the study and in the following semester. This is a sign that students are reinvesting money saved on textbooks into more courses, which can accelerate graduation times and potentially reduce debt.
  • Overall success: Overall, students in more than half of the courses that used open textbooks did better according to at least one academic measure used in the study, and students in 93% of these courses did at least as well by all of the measures.
Nicole wrote up a longer blog post about the study for the Huffington Post here. Also, Nicole, recommends to have a look to the Review Project, which collects peer reviewed research on OER impacts.  

Boundless Learning demands a jury trial

- February 15, 2013 in External, Open Content, Open Textbooks

We’ve been following the case of Boundless Learning on the OKF blg (see here and here), in which the world’s most prominent producer of Open Access textbooks online is being sued by the world’s biggest producers of physical, copyrighted textbooks. In the latest twist to the tale, Boundless have filed their answer, requesting a trial by jury. The publishers who are pursuing Boundless – Pearson, Cengage and Macmillan’s Bedford, Freeman & Worth – do not allege that any of their content has been plagiarised, or claim copyright on any of the facts or ideas in their books (since it is impossible to claim copyright on such things). Instead they allege that the ’ “selection, coordination and arrangement” of the unprotectable elements has been pilfered. Boundless counter that following the same basic order in textbooks “is necessitated by the subject matter and standard in these fields” – a claim which they believe will be born out through trials over the coming months. In their press release they say:
At a time when textbook prices have risen at three times the rate of inflation, Boundless is well along the way to turning around this escalation by offering equivalent quality, openly-licensed educational materials online at dramatically lower costs … Boundless will vigorously deny the overly broad and legally flawed allegations made by the publishers … Boundless is confident that it will become evident that its digital textbooks do not violate copyright or any other rights of the plaintiffs.
Boundless have been at the forefront of challenging the oligopoly of the big textbook pubishers, and the outcome of this case will have implications for everyone in the sector. Boundless seem confident that a jury of peers will agree that their efforts are a development in the right direction. The rapidly-expanding world of Open Online Education is watching with baited breath.

Announcing Recline.JS: a Javascript library for building data applications in the browser

- July 5, 2012 in Featured, LOD2, OKF, Open Textbooks, Press, Sprint / Hackday, texts

Today we’re pleased to announce the first public release of Recline.JS, a simple but powerful open-source library for building data applications in pure Javascript. For those of you who want to get hands on right away, you can: recline-map-geo-filter-sf-crime

What Is It?

Recline is a Javascript library of data components incuding grid, graphing and data connectors. The aim of Recline is to weave together existing open-source components to create an easy to use but powerful platform for building your own data apps. The views can be embedded in to other apps just like we’ve done for CKAN and the DataHub where it’s used for our data viewer and visualisations. What makes Recline so versatile is its modularity, meaning you only need to take what you need for the data app you want to build. Main features:
  • View (and edit) your data in a clean grid / table interface
  • Built in visualizations including graphs, maps and timelines
  • Load data from multiple sources including online CSV and Excel, local CSV, Google Docs, ElasticSearch and the DataHub
  • Bulk update/clean your data using an easy scripting UI
  • Easily extensible with new Backends so you can connect to your database or storage layer
  • Open-source, pure javascript and designed for integration — so it is easy to embed in other sites and applications
  • Built on the simple but powerful Backbone giving a clean and robust design which is easy to extend
  • Properly designed model with clean separation of data and presentation
  • Componentized design means you use only what you need

Who’s Behind It?

Recline has been developed by Rufus Pollock and Max Ogden with substantial contributions from the CKAN team including Adria Mercader and Aron Carroll.


There are a selection of demos now available on the Recline website for you to try out.

Multiview Demo


The Data Explorer




Boundless Learning Got Served. What does it all Mean for Open Textbooks?

- May 10, 2012 in External, Open Content, Open Textbooks, Public Domain

If you are at all familiar with the open textbook world, you’ve likely heard of the startup called Boundless Learning. Leveraging information in the public domain, as well as dipping into the enormous stockpile of learning that is Open Education Resources, Boundless Learning has a created a tool that hopes to eventually replace the traditional textbook model. Just like “open” anything, however, Boundless Learning has not gone without its fair share of trouble from vested industry interests. Recently, the textbook publishing giant Pearson, along with MacMillan and Cengage, filed a complaint alleging copyright infringement. Even though Boundless Learning culls its information from material available to the public through Creative Commons licensing, the publishers allege that “Defendant [Boundless Learning] exploits and profits from Plaintiffs’ successful textbooks by making and distributing the free “Boundless Version” of those books in the hopes that it can later monetize the user base that it draws to its Boundless Web site. In short, to build its business on Plaintiff’s intellectual property rights.” Boundless Learning, on the other hand, claims that the accusations are patently false. The startup states that it only uses information already in the public domain, and said in a article, “you can’t copyright facts and ideas. When you look at educational information, it’s primarily facts and ideas.” Boundless Learning will soon send out a legal response, and has expressed disappointment that the textbook publishers didn’t communicate with Boundless Learning amicably before resorting to litigation. So what does this mean for the open textbook movement? Can we expect more lawsuits of this nature against innovative businesses? For one, Boundless Learning has truly launched a paradigm-shifting product. Most open textbooks are presented to students in PDF format using e-readers and other devices. However, Boundless Learning has extended beyond just digitizing traditional books by offering more. Their content is distinctly interactive, and students may build upon Boundless Learning material in a way that closely resembles both Facebook and Wikipedia. You can study along with other students, help each other in the learning process, and do it all online. For free. Lawsuits of this sort aren’t anything new, and it’s important for those of us who are believers in the open textbook movement that we understand what we’ll have to fight against to live in a more open society. While Boundless Learning may have been careless in copying the format of copyrighted textbooks, down to the pagination, it does offer a platform that is new, that goes beyond mere open versions of closed textbooks. It’s with this innovative spirit that we can effectively, legally, and affordably, make information available to all. The world is not yet open, but we can get it there. This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online university. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: