open content, open educational resources [OER]

15 08 2009

Session on open content like the MIT coursework.. that’s what I wanted to see. Even to me, an open content and free software advocate, there was some new information in this session 🙂 Not arrogance, honestly – but I have been working on free and open source stuff for a long time now.  Certainly a worthwhile session for a whole lot of people.

If content is King, then let Openness be Queen

Judy Baker, Dean – Foothill College

judybakerPeople visit websites for their content. Faculty visit a website for its open content. ‘Open content’ is any kind of creative work, of content, published in a format that explicitly allows copying and modifying of its information by anyone. But why would anyone do that and share it with other people? Why openness is important? Like MIT, Community Colleges have the Sofia Course @ What MIT found that it costs quite a bit but it ended up paying for itself from marketing because people made donations who have used the courses for free etc. It was worth it to them to offer those shareable courses. It gives students the opportunity to do their ‘course shopping’ better by viewing all of its content.

Why would instructors want to freely share online content? Marketing courses, ease of access, content repetition, pedagogical idea sharing, expert feedback support, standardization of the content, experimentation and risk, personal growth and responsive to the needs of others. We need feedback from each other rather than the popularity contest of student evaluations. It is honest feedback and can share with you ideas to improve the course. It also helps lower costs of educational materials for students. It lowers cost of books for example – text-book affordability. You can also share and remix learning materials for customized and localized use. There is also a fast feedback loop on quality and relevance of learning materials – continual improvement and rapid development. You get feedback from people across the world and you can make modifications to the course and you don’t have to wait for the next print edition. The book should not really be the course.

Open Textbook: cost is online free and pdf free. Visit the ‘connexions’ website @

Explore and become active and break free from expensive books. You need, however, the tools. This is key to successful and sustained use of open textbooks by educators – and they customize it and share learning content for use in classrooms. Sometimes Merlot and all these resources are too much for us, so perhaps we need to look at a critique of those tools:

Criteria: ease of use vs complexity;  collaboration, community building and networking, etc.

Tools for locating, organizaing and delivering open textbooks: Merlot, flatworld, Project Guttenburg, connexions, GEM. There are also many tools for collaboration and development such as labspace or wikimedia commons. Merlot has all the bells and whistles with the open textbooks. Use advanced search and save time to look for the courses you want and Merlot also added Creative Commons licensing so you know where you stand.




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