Free Technology Academy
= The Free Technology Academy (FTA) is an international institution based in Europe, whose goal is to provide online education, at master level, about Free Software.
URL = http://www.ftacademy.org
"A Consortium formed by the Open University of Catalonia (Spain), the Open University of the Netherlands and University of Agder (Norway) and led by the Free Knowledge Institute (FKI), the FTA has received the support from the EC's Lifelong Learning Programme to set up an international educational programme on Free Software. The courses are taught completely online in a virtual campus based on the Campus Project interoperability framework.
Following the Open Educational Resources movement, all learning materials are freely available through the Internet. The use of Free Software (also referred to as Open Source Software or Libre Software) is rapidly expanding in governmental and private organisations. However, still only a limited number of ICT professionals, teachers and decision makers have sufficient knowledge and expertise in these new fields. The Free Technology Academy aims to address this gap by providing high level courses that fit into larger Master Programmes at the participating universities."
"The FTA is like no university you've ever seen - even though they offer accredited classes - partly because you can't see it. The project is a collaboration between the Free Knowledge institute and universities in The Netherlands, Spain, and Norway, but has no campus. The courses in the FTA program stretch from the theoretical ("The concepts of Free Software and Open Standards") to the practical ("Software development", "Web applications development"), but all are devoted to the propagation and increased use of free technology." (http://www.shareable.net/blog/technology-thats-free-like-speech-not-like-beer)
Marco Fioretti spoke with Wouter Tebbens, president of the Free Knowledge Institute and FTA director, to know how the FTA works and what are its plans for the next year. (= 2011)
"Stop: Wouter, what is the FTA's mission and philosophy?
Wouter: The FTA aims to contribute to a society that permits all users to study, participate and build upon existing knowledge without restrictions. The starting point of our project is shared development and shared exploitation. Anyone willing to contribute to what we have already built and benefiting from that is welcome. All software and educational materials used and produced by the FTA come with the freedom to use, modify, copy and distribute. We view those as minimum rights to foster a strong community around the education of Free Software. Within the courses at the FTA we practice these freedoms and values.
Stop: What is your methodology?
Wouter: The FTA's educational methodology is based on distance learning for which we have set up the FTA online campus. Learners participate in a virtual classroom, one per course, where they discuss in groups and work on assignments. These assignments can be little projects, essays, setting up and testing certain software, etc. Each group works with a tutor who guides the learners when necessary and provides feedback on their assignments.
Stop: Do FTA lessons happen in real time?
Wouter: No. Besides being based completely on online participation and distance learning, our courses are also asynchronous. There are no fixed moments that participants need to be online: people come in every day or two as fits best with their working hours or other personal commitments. As each course takes place over 13 weeks, there are of course certain deadlines for activities and assignments of course." (http://stop.zona-m.net/education/free-technology-academy-working-offer-more-free-software-online-teaching)
The FTA as case study of Economic Models Around Free Educational Materials
Wouter Tebbens et al.:
"The production of OER must be sustainable both in the production and the economic points of view. The FTA project addresses, among other issues, both objectives by incorporating an OER development cycle and a set of services around these OER which generate revenues.
The FTA tackles the development cycle of educational materials by offering different production models:
a) the production of a course material by a single partner of the project (“inhouse”);
b) collecting feedback to update and improve future versions of the materials; and
c) the distributed production by a set of interested parties.
In any case, the materials considered as “official” within the project must be supervised and approved by a set of experts belonging to any of the HE institutions which constitute the FTA consortium or associate partners to guarantee their scientific and academic correctness.
From the economic point of view, the FTA generates revenues by offering a set of services around the produced OER. These services are mainly (though not exclusively) educational, since courses are delivered on-line using the FTA campus with expert tutor guidance, and diplomas are issued when students accomplish the learning objectives of each course. These diplomas are recognised by the official educational programmes offered by the HE institutions integrated in the FTA network. In addition, the FTA also offers a Print on Demand service which allows to obtain physical copies of the books at a reduced price. Obviously, both the production of materials and the services provided involve a set of costs. The FTA has worked on several scenarios including fixed and variable costs and how these can be covered by the generated revenues, which show that the economic sustainability of the process is possible under some realistic conditions, which include a target number of students and courses.
Hence, the FTA tries to solve the sustainability problem of OER production and sets up an example which may be replicated in fields different from Free Software and Open Standards by interested parties." (http://wikis.fu-berlin.de/download/attachments/59080767/Tebbens-etal-Paper1.pdf)
- Paper: Free Technology Academy: Towards Sustainable Production of Free Educational Materials. Authors: Wouter Tebbens (Free Knowledge Institute), David Megías (Open University of Catalonia), David Jacovkis (Free Knowledge Institute), Lex Bijlsma (Open University Netherlands)