It was truly rewarding last week to travel to Los Angeles and represent with Martha Burtis, the legion of ds106 at the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub Reclaim Open Learning Symposium. We were being recognized as one of five top examples of “organizations that are transforming higher education toward connected and creative learning, open in content and access, participatory, and building on a growing range of experiments and innovations in networked learning.”

We were in good company with two other projects that do this reclaiming via a distributed network model of learning, a.k.a. the original cMOOC (REDACTED for #mooctober), the others being phonar, the open photography course at Coventry University and FemTechNet or DOCC (What’s Up?).

This recognition by DML suggests this distributed, non superstar professorial, less than giantly massive open model has legs. It is after all, based on something that has scaled well, the internet itself.


Ask Howard Rheingold, who is putting the same model to use now with a Reclaim Hosting site running his Social Media Issues class for Stanford University.

Howard is totally with

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

Better yet, this gathering meant being among friends/colleagues, fellow winners, one might say a British Invasion of Reclaiming, with Jonathan Worth here for phonar, and Josie Fraser, another winner, for DigiLit Leicester

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

The symposium opened with a conversation with John Seely Brown a.k.a JSB and Amin Saberi (Yet Another Stanford Prof Spinning Off a M-Word Company– CEO of NovoEd), moderated by Anya Kamenetz

On the next day, we started with open demos of the projects, here John Seely Brown tunes into Phonar

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

Martha and I found that in trying to explain ds106, it was never the same each time. We had a live ds106 radio broadcast going, so sometimes we talked more about that component, others about the course, or the assignment bank, or the community, or the headless course

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

I was both taken back and somewhat pleased that ds106 is not so easy to encapsulate. There is too much there to try and make understandable by talking about it, you get ds106 by doing ds106.

If anything comes close to really getting to the heart fo ds106, it is a just released podcast by ds106 participant Brian Bennett who interviewed Jim Groom and I a few weeks ago. Brian really shows his audio show editing/production chops with Chalkstar to Rockstar #05 ““ ds106 Is The 5th Dimension of Teaching and Learning

Chalkstar to Rockstar #05

The day was a whirlwind blur. One panel on “Connected Learning, Digital Arts and Humanities” was ds106, phonar, and FemTechNet (who are very well represented by students Susie Ferrell and Jade Ulrich) – here is the audience, which may not seem huge

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

But we have Mimi Ito front left who represented the entire Internet, so the audience was huge and the session deftly handled by moderator Liz Losh

At mid day, there was a sign that learning might be open, but lunch was not 😉

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

The afternoon got even more blurry as Martha and I were roped in by Howard and Anya on some kind of mission to do something I still do not full understand:

We will work all day to create a distributed multimedia open course on Reclaiming Open Learning, hacking together a syllabus, activities, assignments, competencies, and more across platforms.

I am not convinced a course on reclaiming open learning is really what is needed, what is needed IMHO is more community and networking. But people did brainstorm in an open google doc, and then Howard asked Martha and if we could hack something together. I have to hand ot to Martha, she stepped up, registered a domain (Howard footed the bill?), and showed the small group her clever approach to building a site to capture and organize resources.

I sat in the back and toyed with the site innards and theme.

Here is where this unraveled for me, because the outline of the course ended up being a resource collecting thing. It was a good discussion, and the group got a chance to see something come together quickly.

I am not sure what will come from it, but the domain is out there

See the thing is, I don’t get what is being reclaimed? Open learning has been happening in many corners and growing for some time everywhere except in magazines and newspaper headlines.

There is of course maybe it being a counter movement to the M-word thing?

I guess I feel nothing to RECLAIM, since I have never stopped claiming open in the first place. I’m not trying to be a snob about this, but the whole notion of reclaiming something is fuzzy. Claim, reclaim, just be out there in the open being open, and connected, and doing open learning. Thats what all five groups are doing.

But then again, raising awareness and pushing out more about open learning cannot but be a Good Thing.

I do understand that the site (maybe will eventually list all 80 some projects who applied. That is worthy to recognize all of them. And more beyond them.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

Claim, reclaim, course, community, where-ever it goes has a somewhat William Gibson-y feeling of being not evenly distributed. So go find it, connect it, or do it. Don’t wait for a course to tell you how.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Look at the capital letter R. Just snap off the front leg, and now you are a P.

    In the world of Open Educational Resources, the five Rs are like chapter/verse of the induction, repeat after me:

    The right to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute…Pick your source

    Apparently things get a bit more murky in businesses built upon OER… or maybe not, you tell me.

    C’mon Alan, just the facts, man.

    Ironically, with Dragnet being a show I watched regularly on TV as a kid, my memory is wrong– Sgt Friday never said on Dragnet “Just the facts, ma’am”

    Again, another internet rabbit hole adventure with twitter flame offs that was accidental in the way it started. About a week ago on browsing the discussions on the CCCOER email list I came across a post from around May 25 from Naomi

    Hi OER Friends! Our Art faculty alerted me to her Lumen Learning Art courses now being redirected to Course Hero. LL doesn’t list any Art courses anymore… (The SUNY version is still active, so that’s our current solution). Did Course Hero buy LL’s Art content? What the heck?

    I can’t say why I decided to poke around. Lumen Learning is of course a big player in the OER space especially built on the reputation of the co-founder, one of the legends in open education. I’ve used many of their resources. Course Hero I know much less about except that it’s some kind of site built on students uploading course materials to share and some twitter scuttlebut months back when a digital pedagogy figurehead took a position there.

    So I did a web search on “Lumen Learning Art Course” and found one SUNY course indeed hosted at Lumen. But then found a few more courses with urls that are re-directed to Course Hero.

    From my reply

    Alan Levine

    It seems random. I got really curious.SUNY Art History 1 Course is still on Lumen ART 100 Apperciation redirects to Course Hero does a few math courses intro to Psychology’s CCCOER Response

    Quite a few responses came in with people sharing similar experiences, and being at unease that course materials their faculty used from Lumen were now on Course Hero (because of it’s reputation the latter’s domain is often blocked on campuses).

    I hesitated some about tweeting. I am really moving somewhat away from giving so much attention to twitter, but heck, there I went:

    Weird adventures in web redirection. Please WebSplain this to me— Alan Levine (@cogdog) June 14, 2022

    It seemed very odd that course URLs would be redirected without any kind of announcement from either company. Is there a right to redirect at whim?

    More responses on the CCCOER thread included what Lumen was telling faculty who were asking questions:

    Lumen has partnered with Course Hero to host the content of our community created course, that includes our all of our Art courses .From here on out, Course Hero will be hosting the courses you were linking to. You are welcome to continue linking to it.

    So the only R left is the right to link to content? Nice. Others reported:

    We were told that Lumen sold all their content/courses to Course Hero. If you pay them for Waymaker, the assessments are not available on Course Hero.

    Oh. Another response indicated a rep for Lumen suggested to a faculty that the “port the content from Course Hero into Blackboard”?

    I smell more odors.Faculty whose courses have been moved to Course Hero are being told by reps from Lumen “you can just link to it” or offer the suggestion “port it to Blackboard”Open not only washed but drained down the sewer.— Alan Levine (@cogdog) June 15, 2022

    This would be the right to do the nearly impossible, as Course Hero provides no kind of content export. Are there any R’s left?

    Now Course Hero provides the course content in tact, what is wrong with that, one might ask the grumpy old blogger. Well, you need to visit one of these “community OER course” try the link, like the San Jacinto math course (you can guess from the URLs that these were created by a institution that has no access to their own course materials?)

    Yes, scroll past the table of contents and click on the “More Study Resources for You”. So the course content is just clickbait to get learners to either pay for access or to toss more documents into the Course Hero vat. What they are doing and why they might buy content is pretty visible:

    The course content becomes a place to hang links to the CH “study resources” that lead to signing up for accounts to see, which slithers down into paying for an account to see more. $$$— Alan Levine (@cogdog) June 15, 2022

    Steel Wagstaff provided maybe the most clear explanation which says these “community OER courses” they hosted for a long term they could no longer support so a “business arrangement” was made to send them to Course Hero. I don’t have any knowledge on who created their “community OER courses” but someone did, and that person/group has 0 of the 5 Rs in place.

    More than that, if Lumen has a collection of “community OER courses” they needed help hosting, why did they not reach out to the Open Education community? Was Course Hero really the only viable option to sustain this content? Is there no kind of internet archive or skilled course archivists out there?

    Delmar Larsen at Libretexts jumped right in the fray and shared they had already gotten content from a heft of these courses and was likely able to get them all made available on that platform. If the originals were from Pressbooks, I’d bet a loonie or even a toonie that Pressbooks would have stepped up (maybe).

    A lot of people seemed to be scrambling to find an alternative source, but I would wait to see what Libretexts comes up with. If I had me druthers, all those Course hero links would just wither from neglect.

    So all we have is some speculation, and already this is passing news. It just seems weird, but Delmar assures me that this is business as usual.

    We can tell who the Course Heroes are and are not.

    And with irony as bitter sour as it is, the iming aligns with Audrey Watters understandable exit

    Good bye Hack Education, thanks for all the pigeons. Looking forward to where the voice of @audreywatters will go next (I heard “blogging”!) I will follow…— Alan Levine (@cogdog) June 15, 2022

    as well as Jim Groom’s take on Capitalized (in all ways) EdTech.

    So yeah, out with the Rights to R*5 and we start now with the Right to Profit from OER content. It’s just P’s all the way down. Given the public silence of the two players here, all we have is guesswork. The information I know of are within the CCCOER email thread.

    If anything is a call to detach from profit oriented platforms and reclaim the web for your own, well this call has been screaming for a long time. It might be louder now, but shrug goes most of the world as they keep clicking the Like/Retweet buttons to keep the Ad Matrix humming.

    Keep on Reclaiming, Hippies!

    Featured Image: Text created with Vintage Punk font at superimposed on Cadmium telluride solar cell flickr photo by oakridgelabnews shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license (for some reason the latter came up on a search for “switcheroo” go figure).

    If this kind of stuff has value, please support me by tossing a one time PayPal kibble or monthly on Patreon

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