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Proposal v4.0 - Improving p2p learning through reputation

Proposal v4.0 - Improving p2p learning through reputation

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Published by Thieme Hennis
after 2 weeks of hard work the first draft of my research proposal on reputation systems in peer-based learning systems is ready.
after 2 weeks of hard work the first draft of my research proposal on reputation systems in peer-based learning systems is ready.

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Published by: Thieme Hennis on Jun 02, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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With regards to sustaining OER projects, there is no direct relation with nature or ecology. In
this context, sustainability really focuses on economic and institutional sustainability. Wiley
(2006) defines sustainability of an OER project as the ongoing ability to meet the goals of the
project[8]. This implies (i) continuously being able to produce and share Open Educational
Resources; and (ii) to sustain the use and reuse of their Open Educational Resources by end-
users. In other words, it means the ability to produce, share, localize, and learn from open
educational resources. This does not necessarily depend on top-down funding, but peer
production and reuse of OER can create sustainability[117]. Wiley claims that sustainability
can be reached through the reduction of friction and decentralization, capturing intrinsic
motivation of individuals to contribute without financial recompense. He literally states that
decentralization means the active involvement of students. Decentralization happens through
the peer production of open resources and sharing them in P2P (peer-to-peer) networks;

“It seems to me that sustainability and scalability are problematic only when people rely on
others to do things for them. Scalability and sustainability happen more readily when people
do things for themselves. Centralizing open educational services is less scalable/ sustainable.
Decentralizing them is more scalable/ sustainable. Wikipedia has two employees and well
over a million articles in multiple languages. We need to learn this lesson if open education is
really going to reach out and bless the lives of people.”

This resonates with other research on sustainability of OER projects. Koohang & Harman
(2007) describe OER communities of practice as a means for decentralization and better
scalability [6]. The sustainability of Connexions, a project that almost entirely depends on the




voluntary efforts of individuals worldwide for the production of OER, has been investigated
as a case study[11]. The case study focuses and describes issues regarding motivation and
value propositions for end-users of the site. Benkler describes criteria for (decentralized) peer
production of OER and its positive relation with sustainability[117]. Schmidt & Surman state
that the focus should be much broader than just on content: the sustainability of OER depends
on the thriving of a whole OER-ecosystem[19]. For instance, the process of building and
nurturing peer production communities should be taken more seriously. More focus should be
on creating stronger communities of practice in open education. Stephen Downes follows the
same argument, saying that the centralized model uses more resources, and is likely to cost
more, but offers more control over quality and content[7]. This, in fact, does not necessarily
means lower quality. We have seen that in Open Source Software, and also for online

Reasons for sharing educational resources

An important question to be answered is of course; why? What are the reasons for institutions
and individuals for spending resources for giving away something that used to be competitive
advantageous? Reasons for involvement of institutions include altruism (knowledge should be
available for all), publicity & marketing, improving peer-network, and search for new
business models using open educational resources. The most common reason for participation
of individuals is the access to the best available educational resources and to have more
flexible materials. The four most important barriers for involvement in production of open
content, according to the OECD/CERI study on Open Educational Resources, are a lack of (i)
time, (ii) reward system, (iii) skills, and (iv) a viable business model[10]. Hylén (2007)
describes three challenges of the OER movement: copyright issues, quality assurance, and
sustainability[12]. Since 2005, various highly useful open licenses have been developed, most
famously the different Creative Commons license. Regarding quality assurance, three
approaches are mentioned, which concern the institution as final responsible organ (closed
and centralized), quality assurance by means of peer review (open and centralized), and the
final (open and fully decentralized) approach, as discussed above.

Quality of open educational resources

In an earlier paragraph, we defined learning as shared meaning making, how do we define the
quality of this process and its outcomes? Quality management is defined as the structures,
activities, and processes that are designed for planning, assuring, improving and/or evaluating
the quality of an institution, a product, or a service [123]. The last couple of decades,
significant attention has been given to quality management approaches in e-learning. Markus
Wirth provides an extensive account of various initiatives worldwide and concludes that there
is an immense amount of offerings worldwide for quality management in e-learning. He
concludes that most of these initiatives and frameworks address traditional certification and
accreditation, and rarely do include newer quality approaches that focus on more innovative
learning. He points out that a useful categorization and systematization of these approaches
should help in comparing the enormous variety of approaches. He also stresses the importance
of context, because different quality approaches come from, and are based on different
contexts. Leaving out this context makes the whole effort redundant. Furthermore, he


mentions various contributions in international journals and books that show considerable
reservations towards the feasibility of quality management in e-learning. Traditional quality
standards in higher education mislead institutions to imitate classical face to face trainings
instead of fostering innovative approaches in learning and the use of (multi)media.

Based on Wirth, this proposal suggests quality management in online peer-based learning
communities to be defined as “the structures, activities, and processes that are designed for
the creation, planning, assurance, improvement and/or evaluation of peer produced learning
materials and interactions in online communities that lead to shared understanding”

More specifically, this means

• the creation of learning resources, the use of them, and the discussions about these
• recommendations learning resources, creation courses or sets of resources, and
interactions that lead to structured learning, such as guidance or mentoring;
• retrieving, storing, and analyzing feedback and understanding user learner interactions;
• assessment of learning activities and contributions, and possibly some form of
accreditation; and
• offering incentives, support and motivation to members of online communities engage in
peer-based learning activities, like guiding peers or adapting resources.

Open Source Assessment and Accreditation

Online resources, including Open Educational Resources, are needed, and sharing information
on the Internet is almost the easiest thing in the world. What needs to be developed, are the
systems and business models that truly sustain all the processes of online, peer-based
learning, not just the creation and sharing of educational resources (which is a very effective
way of learning). The systems and business model must be able to motivate individuals and
organizations to participate in these processes.

The introduction describes several initiatives that have extended the notion of open education
to offer not only the resources for free, but the structures to learn as well, including support
(through peer evaluation and by use of networked technologies). In one case, over 2000
students participated in a networked, online learning experience using a multitude of media
and technologies. One important thing that struck me was that official recognition could only
be offered to only 1 percent of the students, and for a fee. Recognition of online activities
through a traditional, formal accreditation scheme is not scalable in the online context.

This is in line with Schmidt et al. (2009), who identifies key challenges of learning in open
education communities: recognition, accreditation, and assessment [16]. Recognition is the
acknowledgment of achievements and conveys approval by a person, group, or organization.
It can be done implicitly (for example, citing a paper) or explicitly (recommending a person
on LinkedIn). Accreditation is formal certification by a community, institution, or
organization who thereby explicitly state that the receiver meets the standards of the
accreditor. Accreditation applies to individuals as well as to institutions and to programs.
Assessment is the process of determining the characteristics of something or someone. For


learners, assessment means determining their individual knowledge and/or skills, which is a
necessary basis for recognition or accreditation[124,125].

Making an analogy with open source communities, Schmidt et al. describe four criteria for
assessment and accreditation in open online learning communities:

• Trust: If a community or group as a whole is not trusted, the quality and reputation of
individual resources and people will neither be trusted. It is important that the trust in an
online community should be made explicit, for example by showing the community’s

• Relevance & Quality: The quality of an individual contribution and contributor relates
with the way the community uses this contribution.
• Scalability: “A one-on-one system in which a trusted professor manually certifies a
student does not scale well. A community-based reputation or voting system scales more
easily, but outsiders might question its reliability.”
[16] Human online interactions with
content can be used to calculate and predict things like expertise and value, but these
calculations must be trusted in order to have value. Trust in the system as a whole is a
crucial requirement.
• Transparency: Different assessment methods must be in place to reduce bias. These
methods, involving both human and digital resources, must be transparent, because open
systems encourage inspection and improvements and lead to higher standards of
What we can expect in an open system of assessment is that achievement will be in some way
'recognized' by a community. This removes assessment from the hands of 'experts' who
continue to 'measure' achievement. And it places assessment into the hands of the wider
community. Individuals will be accorded credentials only when people in the community
think they deserve to be accredited. Downes describes two mechanisms of such a system:

• A mechanism whereby a person's accomplishments may be displayed and observed.
• A mechanism that constitutes the actual recognition of those accomplishments.[126]

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