Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thoughts About Six "Open Education" Projects

What do these representative open education projects have in common?

All of these sites purport to be open. All but MIT required a login. They are primarily geared towards adult learners and offer things like statistics, RSS feeds, a way to rate courses, news items and how to donate. Most were easy to navigate through.

What differentiates them?

Rice - Their site is what I would call well thought out with features like: author profiles, computer checks, popularity ranking, statistics, RSS feeds, Tutorial on how to create content, learning journal, modules and courses, language options, a tech blog, and how to export files (to name just a few). They offer both modules and courses.

National Repository - I was a little disappointed in this site. It was linked out to so many places that I could get lost easily. Some classes seemed to be available, but there was mention of a cost between $3,000 and $25,000 per year that stopped me dead. The classes that I looked at had a ‘beautiful’ format but I felt I had stepped back in time to computerized lessons from the ancient past (1990’s?).

UNESCO - This is a great site for people who primarily want to deal with problems in the developing countries. I thought it was interesting that many of the courses I looked at were developed by Microsoft.

MIT - Provides the model and the foundation for OER. Their site is a peek into the syllabus/coursework with no login required. Books must be purchased and you sometimes get the feeling that important content is missing. The courses do give you a general idea of what MIT offers.

OpenEd – Had many great features including some mash-ups for fun (i.e. Google maps to see who was online at the moment). They seemed to have built a good path to sustainability in that they offered employee training, degrees, jobs, career planning – a few things that translate to income.

Carnegie Mellon – also has a very nice site, with lots of great courses made available. They have instituted some nice present day features like cognitive tutors, virtual laboratories, group experiments and simulations. They seem dedicated to doing research on every aspect of their courses, which will benefit us all in the future.

In the context of open education projects, what does “quality” mean?

This is a loaded question. Reading some of the comments made by my classmates leads me to believe they also felt the same about this question. The answer depends on many things. What MIT would consider quality is not what would work for UNESCO. Some of the sites were easy to navigate, one in particular was atrocious. Open is important, but each had a different idea of what that meant (for instance MIT is open but not all there and the National Repository charges). A few sites offered detailed tutorials, some did not. I think the tutorials add to the quality, but maybe it is the gatekeepers that have that say in the end.


David said...

So you call the question loaded, and say the answer is context-sensitive, but you never try to *answer* the question. So what does quality mean? No squirming around the question, please. =)

Melora said...

Good post.