Sunday, July 22, 2012


Why Open Education Matters from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

Most people around the world realise our education models are broken. Around the world, primary and secondary education is in shambles. This is not true in every country but it is true in most regions of the world. We need serious help. One new movement in education is the open education movement. It won’t solve all the big educational problems facing primary and secondary education in the world, but it is helping to create access to excellent education for so many around the world.

Open Education Resources (OER) are materials that are released with intellectual property license allowing people to freely use, repurpose, improve, edit, and modify. The U.S. Department of Education is openly supporting and encouraging the development of more OER. In fact Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a video competition inviting people to submit a video explaining why Open Education matters. The winners were announced, and I’d like you to take a moment to watch the 3 short videos by the winners, First Prize, Second Prize, and Third Prize.

I’ve already previously mentioned Khan Academy and Udacity as examples of free online courseware and learning. But I wanted everyone to know that though many of the free online courses offered by physical universities or even Khan Academy were computer science based, it has branched out to many different topics like medicine, art history, history, law, psychology, business, public health, international relations, and archaeology courses as well as all the science courses. Usually many of these courses are not self-paced but at the normal pace of the actual class. You can actually do the work and be graded just like the students in the physical class. And though most of the physical universities do not give you credit for taking the online OER course, there are a few who do. So below I list a few universities who have jumped into the OER game and invite the eternal student in you to reawaken from slumber and to liven yourself with amazing, fresh, and current information about a range of subjects. And it’s not just information; if you’re actually doing the work of the course, you will be learning valuable skills. Check out the list.

·         Free MIT Courses Online 
·         Stanford Courses on iTunes U 
·         Free UC Berkeley Courses Online 
·         Free USQ Courses Online 
·         Free UC Irvine Courses Online
·         Free Yale Courses Online 
·         And many many more


·         Ck-12
·         P2PU
·         OER Africa
·         PhET
·         OER Commons
·         Wikipedia
·         Saylor
·         Curriki
·         Connexions
·         EdX (MIT and Harvard)

I would normally say to just call your nearest university or check out its online webpage, but then again it doesn’t really matter how close the university is to your home, does it? You can take a course from any university anywhere if it offers OER. Here are two US-based credit options if you want to get credit from OER.

Credit Options
CLEP Exams – You can test out of general education requirements, and the exam results are excepted at 2/3rds of US colleges and universities.
Prior Learning Assessment – You can create a portfolio which is examined by a faculty expert to prove your knowledge and receive credit.

Now, usually I’m accused of being against businesses and for-profit institutions. Of course this isn’t true since I quite support businesses where profit is not king, businesses with an active and engaged conscience, businesses that don’t just avoid evil but do good—social enterprises. Some people immediately might say that I don’t support for-profit groups who create educational materials and that the OER movement is forcing them or will force them out of business.  As with any innovation, new models of making money are created with the innovation. Let me share some examples.

Flat World Knowledge is an online publishing company that has a business around providing access to free online textbooks to everyone. They then make money by selling print-on-demand copies of these free online textbooks as well as supplemental material. Ahrash Bissell even discusses a dual-licensing model (because some non-profits are concerned about their free content being used by for-profits for profit and some for-profits worry about their OER being used to undercut their profits). We’ll see what the licensing landscape around OER looks like in the years to come.

If you are interested in taking a course with me, let me know. I’d love a study buddy or a classmate. You can check out this list of 500 free online courses.

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