OER has received a bit of newspaper coverage recently. I thought it worthwhile linking to these newspaper articles and picking out what I thought were the most interesting points.
‘Self-learners’ creating university of online’. Richard Woods, The Sunday Times, October 11, 2009. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article6869552.ece
Students who are using materials for pleasure are being motivated to sign up for courses.
OER is reinvigorating lifelong learning – especially now there is no longer a subsidy for educational courses for people who already have qualifications (unless the course carries a higher qualification than they already have).
iTunes U and YouTube EDU are attracting materials from some of the world’s most prestigious universities. For example, Oxford University has had over 1 million downloads on iTunes U.
The article demonstrates how popular some items on these sites can be. For example:
- Marianne Talbot of Oxford University gave a lecture called ‘A romp through the history of philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the present day’. It has topped the list of most-downloaded items on iTunes U. “It was a perfectly ordinary lecture I gave to an audience, but the university asked me if I’d mind if they recorded it and made a podcast. The next thing I knew it had hit No 1.”
- At MIT the Open CourseWare site is attracting 1.2m visits a month — many from students at other universities looking for additional resources, but many also what MIT calls “self-learners”, often working professionals who want to further their education.
Universities who are using these various open forums see them as a tool for self-promotion. All the big players dabbling in this market make materials available but you cannot get a qualification from them without enrolling on a course.
‘Any student, any subject, anywhere’. Harriet Swain, The Guardian, Tuesday 10 November 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/nov/10/web-technology-degree-future-online
David Wiley, of Brigham Young University in Utah, a leading commentator on the open learning movement, predicts HE splitting apart. “I don’t know whether in future the people who answer questions, provide content and provide the degree will be in the same institution. It’s likely that institutions will specialise in just one of those areas and then form partnerships with other institutions that play other roles.” This has already happened in Utah, where Western Governors University does not require students to take a specific course or attend a certain number of classes, but concentrates on measuring competency.
Students can draw on knowledge of a subject picked up through work or courses taken elsewhere to pass a degree more quickly and flexibly. Alison Littlejohn, chair of learning technology at Glasgow Caledonian University, says some UK universities are already testing business models that involve students learning flexibly, or joining a course for free and paying only if they want to be assessed.
Gilly Salmon, professor of e-learning and learning technologies at the University of Leicester, is keen for academics to focus on being with the students physically or virtually, rather than spending all their time writing material.
OER is great in principle but the business model has to be right. MIT started putting course material on the web to showcase the brilliance of MIT academics to those unable to afford the annual fees of $36,000+. But it costs between $10,000 and $15,000 to put the material from each course online (licensing and formatting). As a result, the university has to appeal for donations and corporate sponsors. Utah State University, one of the most prolific publishers of online course material after MIT, recently put its Opencourseware project on ice after failing to raise the extra $120,000 a year the project needed to survive.
Comments from the publion these articles include:
Ex-students saying how useful podcasts of their lectures would have been
Problem down-the-line of academics losing the skills and capacity “to create their own content and tell their own stories”
“Well intentioned but entirely misplaced colonialism”