Open Content

2010 Final Topic and 2010 Short LIst: Time-to-Adoption: One Year or Less
Appeared in the 2009 ANZ Edition.

Open content is a growing movement that focuses on sharing and reusability and thrives on the ready availability of a wide range of educational content. Offering an potential alternative to traditionally published materials such as textbooks that is highly customizable and cost-effective, the open content movement depends on a community of contributors and users who are willing to create and release high-quality educational content in a variety of media at little to no cost.

One effect of open content has been to dramatically increase the availability of information to students and independent learners. As a result, the role of the teacher is undergoing a slow but definite change, from the guardian and dispenser of knowledge to the guide and coach for learners faced with an overabundance of resources. Students have unparalleled access to learning materials; what they need from teachers now is help cultivating the skills of finding, assessing, interpreting, and synthesizing information.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning & Creative Expression

  • Open content allows teachers to customize their courses quickly and inexpensively and keep up with emerging information and ideas.
  • Open educational resources are available to anyone with an Internet connection, thereby increasing access to education, especially in developing nations.
  • Communities of practice and learner groups that form around open content provide a source of support for independent or life-long learners.

Examples

  • Folksemantic's OpenCourseWare Finder helps students find free online courses, known as OpenCourseWares, or OCWs: http://ocwfinder.com
  • OpenLearn, a UK-based open learning site, offers students the opportunity to join a study group, or learn independently; use prepared materials, or join the lab and create their own: http://openlearn.open.ac.uk
  • MIT's OpenCourseWare—which provides free, online access to all of MIT's courses—serves as a model for other universities: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm

For Further Reading


Countries Offer Different Takes to Open Online Learning
http://chronicle.com/article/Countries-Offer-Different/48775
(Simmi Aujla and Ben Terris, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 October 2009.) Many countries are using open educational resources to reach students who would otherwise be unable to attend university.

Students Find Free Online Lectures Better Than What They're Paying For
http://chronicle.com/article/Students-Find-Free-Online/48776
(Jeffery R. Young, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 October 2009.) Not only traditional students, but learners whose primary language is not native, advanced high-school students, and working professionals all take advantage of free educational resources.

Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/study-finds-that-online-education-beats-the-classroom/?scp=3&sq=higher%20education&st=Search
(Steve Lohr, The New York Times, 19 August 2009.) A study conducted for the Department of Education found that students benefited from the multi-media experience of online learning, most markedly in higher education.