By Nathan Maton
Back in 2001, MIT launched OpenCourseWare, a bold idea to put world-class MIT professors’ lectures, syllabi and resources online to the world for free. Today, Open Education Resources (OER) industry leaders are arguing that the free content is only the starting point.
The next stage of the open education movement has evolved into Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) — the key word being “massive,” as in drawing tens or hundreds of thousands of students. Last fall, Sebastian Thrun’s Artificial Intelligence course enrolled 160,000 students and Thrun recently gave up tenure at Stanford to start Udacity, a company that will offer more MOOCs.
But at such a huge scale, what are the digital methods of teaching that work best? Philipp Schmidt, founder of the free online university P2PU, preaches three building blocks: community, recognition and content.
“It was totally clear to me [several years ago] that content is only the starting point,” Schmidt said at recently at a SXSW session. “The really exciting stuff is going to be the learning, the assessments and the stuff that you need the content for. In a way, we started P2PU because institutions weren’t doing it. How do we build community around it and recognition for this open content is my question.”
The Stanford professors readily admit that some of the students who participated in their online courses provided their peers with deeper, more comprehensive answers than they were able to.
“It was totally clear to me that content is only the starting point.”
You’d expect MIT to tout its content as the solution. But that’s not how Steve Carson, director of external affairs for OpenCourseWare, describes the benefits of their project.
“The most exciting thing is that the last six months of open education have been spectacularly disruptive,” Carson says. “It was kind of a sleepy enterprise for the last 10 years where MIT was doing its thing and there were other projects doing their thing. It was all good and there were positive global benefits, but in the past 10 years I’ve heard people say campus-based education Continue reading