Some thoughts and a minor existential crisis over online courses/OERs

I’d like to say I discovered this video when researching the use of digital media in learning or something, but really, I stumbled across it in between watching that stray dog that completed a 1700km road race, and watching some Japanese women make cartoon characters from rice and seaweed. (Procrastination is a very large part of my creative process, I believe).

Back to the education video, blog readers. I’m in favour of making education resources available online since it democratizes education (which is getting more and more expensive), and it encourages life-long learning. I even work for a literary themed online educational resources project (which now has a development site in beta!). My first arts project offered free recordings of poets reading their own work, and I like to think that throughout my career I can have a positive effect on learners both within and outside the academy by never losing sight of how things connect to the world outside the library.

Encouragingly, people are engaging with the content universities are putting out there. That video makes that clear, and the Great Writers Inspire project had more than 38,000 downloads of short lectures and talks on iTunes U in our first fortnight on it. So, delivering free online content obviously find a willing audience.

However, I think we still have some way to go in the digital learning community to make these projects feasible. How do academics, already under more and more pressure to publish/teach/mark/lecture/go to conferences/etc. find the time to give their expertise away for free? And, should they really be giving things away for free when students are paying £9000 a year for access to it? Are these OERs just an academic zeitgeist, or a marketing tool for universities? Are more basic introductory online courses really the premise of higher education institutions in the first place?

We still have a long way to go, and in some senses it is true that the Open University and other distance learning programmes have been quietly doing these things for years.

However, in this slight existential crisis I’m having over this, I did discover udemy which is like an app store for online courses, which can be paid for or free. Perhaps this kind of direction would allow universities to offer meaningful courses in a new way. These sorts of ventures do not replace a face-to-face seminar dynamic, or permit the tangential meanderings that make higher education learning so stimulating for academics and students alike – but they do certainly raise some questions about how we can do what we do in different ways.

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One thought on “Some thoughts and a minor existential crisis over online courses/OERs

  1. I agree re time, but always fall back on the fact the fact some sharing is better than none.

    There is also the idea that sharing makes your material better, and works for you to make you better. That’s a bigger sell.

    9 grand is mental, and I don’t think open goes far enough – doesn’t help kids without computers, or not speaking English – but for now it’ll do.

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