Monthly Archives: July 2013

Where I learn (and what)

Stock art image of a student reading a book, superimposed on a background of green field and blue sky
Via here and here.


This post is simply an introduction to what I’ve been up to lately. Active courses are highlighted.

All of the following courses fall under the heading of “free as in beer”. I’m not completely averse to paying for learning; I’ve paid for non-degree Mandarin courses at Northern Virginia Community College and at Graduate School USA (a sort of pretend-sounding name, but love what they do).

The courses below can be divided by whether they constitute OER or not and how course-like they really are. I’m painting with broad strokes; I’ll likely go into detail on some courses in the future.

Full Courses

The full course distinction is somewhat arbitrary, but in my definition includes multiple types of learning materials (textbooks, lectures, exercises) intended to produce particular learning outcomes*

*Disclosure: I work for the Saylor Foundation, so this section is offered largely without comment.

The Saylor Foundation is a non-profit provider of free online courses. Its materials are self-paced (“asynchronous”). Although comprised of both openly-licensed and rights-reserved learning materials, the syllabi are CC BY licensed and the courses are consistently nudged in a more open direction. I’ve taken a few courses here:



The Mechanical MOOC

The Mechanical MOOC, hosted by Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU), is presented in cooperation with MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenStudy, and Codecademy. Because it is scheduled through email and pulls together learning materials from different sources, there is no single course page to link to. The blog is informative, though.
The course is offered in eight-week cycles, which begin when a critical mass of students is available. This is my second run through the course; I dropped off in the fall after the Thanksgiving holiday. As it happens, I’m about to beat my earlier distance record.
P2PU uses a CC BY-SA license for its materials, while both OpenStudy and MIT OCW use CC BY-NC-SA licenses for parts of their content. Codecademy is free to use and involves some open source materials.


Not a pejorative term; I consider “uncourses” may be somewhat less formal, robust, or diverse than a full course, but provide excellent opportunities nonetheless.


The darling of the moment, I am still willing to suggest that not enough people (e.g. my friends) know about this site. Duolingo offers free, addictive language learning with social and gamification elements. The pedagogy incorporates spaced repetition, oral, aural, written, and read materials, and the opportunity to try one’s hand at real-world translation. Not OER per se, Duolingo does rely on openly-licensed materials as a source for translation and is sticking close to its free-of-cost promise even as it continues to add function.
I’m working on French most seriously, while dabbling in the early lessons of Spanish and German.


Yep, them again. Codecademy, put simply, provides a free, interactive introduction to programming and markup languages, with gamification elements. Originally, I fell in with Codecademy as part of their CodeYear program, which launched in early 2012. I didn’t get very far, but I am back for more. In addition to the Python course that I am following for the Mechanical MOOC, I’m working on the following:


  • Web Fundamentals
  • Web (Original)


  • jQuery
  • Javascript


OER-101: Locating, Creating, Licensing, and Utilizing OERs

Run (at least in part) by Open SUNY, OER-101 is a self-paced, community-driven course that more or less does what it says on the box. I took it for a number of reasons:
  • I wanted to document and share what I know about OER
  • I wanted to meet other people interested in or already working with OER in various contexts
  • The course uses Mozilla’s (et al.) Open Badges framework, and I was eager to experiment
  • The course is run on Blackboard’s CourseSites platform, which I was curious about
  • Something to do!
Sadly, I have not finished this course, but Goonies never say die. Because it is asynchronous, I can dive in again when I wish. The course uses a CC BY license.

The Dreaded First Post

Image of books arranged to form a tunnel, from a library in Prague
Book Tunnel by Petr Kratochvil | CC0

Best to get it over with, of course, so here it is: the dreaded first post. An introduction is in order.

What is it?

This blog is a response to two distinct, if related needs. The first need is for an outlet to talk about technology, particularly educational technology, and digital culture, particularly that of online learning (to include the wild world of MOOCs). The second need is for a personal learning environment, or PLE — a place to gather the courses, credentials, and activities that relate to my informal, ongoing digital education.

My hope is that by responding to the first need, I will reach an audience interested generally in news and discussion of online learning; by responding to the second need, I will reach an audience interested specifically in how to manage one’s learning to best effect.

Outside of these needs, of course, I will probably deal with all sorts of topics as they occur to me or otherwise suit me. I will ask questions in search of an answer, provide answers in search of a question, and by entertaining myself, maybe — just maybe — entertain others. Any enlightenment will most likely be incidental.

Why ‘OER Educated’

Well, the title is a pun, of course, which might need no explaining (cue explanation): ‘OER’ stands for ‘open educational resources‘, which are free-as-in-beer and free-as-in-speech learning resources available on the web. So the title intends both ‘educated by OER’ as well as ‘over-educated’, which I certainly am not, overall, though I may have too much of some sorts of education and too little of other sorts.

My Expertise

Why should you listen to me? Maybe you shouldn’t. I will try to be entertaining, informative, and compelling, however. Also, I know a good deal about OER and MOOCs and Creative Commons and all kinds of fun stuff — I’ve worked in the open online education world for nearly three years, and I’ve been in education for about eight or nine. Take from that what you will, but I carry at least some small bit of authority, and make up for what I lack with a charming mix of bravado and diffidence.
Finally, the aesthetics of the blog are very much in flux…I didn’t want perfection to be the enemy of posted. So, here we go!