Just finished OER-101, SUNY’s free online course on Open Educational Resources

The open course on Open Educational Resources run by SUNY‘s “Open SUNY” initiative is still active. I took my sweet time with the final one or two tasks, but it’s finally finished:

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Any educator can benefit from using (and making!) open educational resources, so I still highly recommend checking out this free course.

Get cloud storage deals on World Backup Day, March 31st

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World Backup Day will be here soon. The World Backup Day website publishes guides to backing up your data and promotes deals from cloud storage providers. It looks like the website is a bit bare-bones at the moment, but presumably, they’ll have a lot more going on on the 31st!

Cloud storage provider SpiderOak has already launched a deal announced in their blog. It’s a coupon code, “WorldBackupDay”, good for 5 GB of free lifetime storage. In addition, SpiderOak has very cheap educational pricing. I’m now a 100 GB Google Drive customer thanks to having a Chromebook, but I used to pay for 200 GB of SpiderOak storage due to the favorable educational rates.

SpiderOak is different from most cloud storage providers because of its “zero-knowledge” approach to backing up your data. Basically, before your data even leaves your computer, it gets encrypted. The people at SpiderOak  do not have the ability to decrypt your files on their end.

Theoretically, this has one big advantage and one big disadvantage.

The advantage is that your data is absolutely secure. Even if someone put a gun to the head of the system administrator over at SpiderOak (to use the commonly-employed but admittedly crude trope), he or she would literally not have the ability to decrypt your files. This also means that even if the hard drive storing your data is stolen from SpiderOak, it would be worthless to intruders because there’s no way to break the encryption except with your decryption passcode.

And that brings us to the disadvantage: when you make your SpiderOak account and set your password, it acts as your decryption passcode, and if you ever forget that password, your data is effectively gone. SpiderOak cannot help you. Your password is literally the only key to unlock your files, so without it, your files are permanently inaccessible.

In practice, there’s another disadvantage: SpiderOak is slow compared to services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Both the uploading and the syncing take a considerable amount of time. In addition, SpiderOak is a huge resource hog in terms of CPU cycles because all of the encryption and decryption happens on your computer, not on some powerful server somewhere else, and that’s very computationally intensive.

I’ll probably make a more methodical post about this in the future, but here’s my current personal breakdown of cloud storage providers, sorted in order of how much I use them day to day:

  • Dropbox: 19.9 GB (free account with many upgrade promotions)
  • Box: 50 GB (free account opened under a promotion; I can invite you to Box with 50 GB lifetime storage if you drop me a comment requesting it)
  • Google Drive: 111 GB (paid account, but paid up for two years thanks to my Chromebook purchase)
  • SpiderOak: 22 GB (free account with many upgrade promotions)

You’ll notice SpiderOak is at the bottom of the list. SpiderOak is wonderful for the long-term archival of large numbers of files you won’t be modifying day to day because that maximizes the benefit of data security while minimizing the disadvantage of SpiderOak’s slow speed. Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive, by comparison, are great for your more “active” files which you’ll be updating day to day (or second to second!), but are inherently less secure than SpiderOak is.

Anyway, be sure to check out World Backup Day on March 31st to see what deals are on offer!

Enhance your teaching with Open Educational Resources… And earn badges, too!

Open SUNY is currently offering a course titled “Locating, Creating, Licensing, and Utilizing OERs”—Open Educational Resources. In short, OERs are free digital materials which you can use or adapt for classroom use. SUNY states that the goals of the course include “defining OERs, demonstrating how to create and interact with them, and exploring how to include them in the teaching and learning processes. The course materials have been designed and chosen with practicality, simplicity, and applicability in mind.” You can read a full description and enroll in the course here:

https://opensuny.coursesites.com/

Or you can watch their course trailer video below 🙂

They have already opened enrollment for the course, and it’s very easy to join. You can even log into the course using a Facebook account, for example. Just go to this URL to enroll:

https://www.coursesites.com/webapps/Bb-sites-course-creation-BBLEARN/courseHomepage.htmlx?course_id=_226718_1

I have been participating in the course since its launch, and although I’m familiar with much of the content taught in the course, I’ve found it to be enjoyable and Continue reading