Reach Out! Exploring the Potential of OSS for Adult Education


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I gave this talk at Västra Götalandsregionen in Göteborg on June 14, 2012.

In times when knowledge is becoming obsolete faster and faster a four years' university student enrolled for a technical degree might face that half of what has been learned during the first year will be out of date by the third year of study.
Educational settings will need to adapt to new structures and models to keep the pace. Education at large struggles to update their courses within shorter and shorter cycles or to develop new ones, with lessons still being largely given like 100 years ago. Higher education – but also continuing education – should keep an eye on the learning opportunities the web provides, especially in contexts where practical experience is considered equally or even more important than “theoretical” education at school or university.

Understanding web success cases like e.g. Open Source Software communities can help educational organizations to adapt themselves to the new realities. OSS relies on self-directed learning, and this kind of learning is increasingly important in times of rapid pace of change where most of our skills that we learn today will be obsolete within few years.

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Reach Out! Exploring the Potential of OSS for Adult Education

  1. 1. Some Frequent QuestionsHow should online learning activities bedesigned to promote collaborativeknowledge creation?What skills do learners need to develop toparticipate in collaborative knowledgecreation?What role(s) teachers may play to promotethose skills?
  2. 2. NOW: This is acceptable if we believe that the existingmodel is the best there can be (Weller, 2009) Marisa Ponti
  3. 3. BUTThere are many issues both in education and society that the traditionalclassroom model struggles to address Marisa Ponti
  4. 4. • Limited curricula• Nnn • Personalization of learning • Need for modes of learning alternative to higher education • Growing appreciation of learning in informal and nonformal settings
  5. 5. • Competitiveness require local ecosystems• Nnn supporting innovation and productivity • Need for educated workforce with competitive skills • Ecosystems need to provide support for continuous learning
  6. 6. • Nnn • Support for self-directed learning driven by people’s desire or need to understand something
  7. 7. WarningIt is unlikely that the current methods of teaching and learning will suffice to prepare students for the lives that they will lead in the twenty-first century (Seely-Brown & Adler, 2008) Marisa Ponti
  8. 8. Source:
  9. 9. Push Learning vs. Pull Learning: Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0Source: difference/
  10. 10. An Example of Self-Directed Learning Open Source Software (OSS) communities, e.g.: - Linux - Apache - Mozilla Marisa Ponti
  11. 11. Some Characteristics of OSS Communities• Open source participants engage in personally meaningful activities• Designing software helps create solutions to ill- structured problems• Communities rely heavily on shared external representations• Collaborative technologies are used extensively• Contributions are incremental and continuously integrated (Scharff, 2002)
  12. 12. QUESTIONHow applicable is thismodel to education? Marisa Ponti
  13. 13. OSS Outside Software Development: P2PU p2pu.mp4
  14. 14. Learning the Lesson from OSS• All the materials are free and open licensed• Courses can be revised and remixed• Volunteers can get involved in every aspects of a learning project• Participants are all learners and teachers• Peer-learning instead of top-down instruction
  15. 15. Coursesas seedsSource:
  16. 16. Source: alteration of
  17. 17. A New Relation Between Teachers and Learners
  18. 18. Warning: This Approach May not Suit Everyone
  19. 19. References• Scharff, E. (2002). Applying open source principles to collaborative learning environments. In Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning: Foundations for a CSCL Community – CSCL 2002 (pp. 499-500), January 7-11, Boulder CO.• Seely-Brown, J. & Adler P. (2008). Minds on fire. EDUCAUSE Review, 43(1), 16–32. Retrieved from• Weller, M. (2009). Using learning environments as a metaphor for educational change. On the Horizon, 17(3), 181–189.
  20. 20. LicenseThis work is licensed under the CreativeCommons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.