Sunday, September 27, 2009

Opening up

I've just discovered a new rich source of free on-line learning resources, Open University's site OpenLearn. Not only have Open University the best iTunes U content of all (in my opinion anyway!) but OpenLearn adds to this by providing a wealth of course modules and learning objects. At present the debate about Open Educational Resources (OER) is just beginning to happen here in Sweden and there are plenty of concerns about copyright and worries about the risks of making learning resources public.

It's good therefore to be able to point at examples of successful implementation of OER such as Open University and of course the pioneer MIT, whose Open Courseware now encompasses around 2,000 courses freely available on line (80% of total production).

The current status of OER is nicely summarized in an article in Times Higher Education, Get it out in the Open, which includes interviews with staff from both MIT and OU. Their experience points out the following advantages of making learning resources freely available:
  • showcasing the university's expertise and thereby marketing the university to future students
  • stimulating interest in higher education around the world and reaching out to new student groups (70% of visitors to OpenLearn are from outside the UK)
  • stimulating informal learning
  • enabling schools to let pupils test themselves on university level material
  • improving the quality of teaching material by publishing publically
  • stimulating the growth of OER at other universities by setting an example to follow
The drawbacks include in particular expensive production with faculty needing extensive support to produce quality material. On the other hand once produced much of the material is reuseable on related courses.

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