Of OpenCourseWare and Lowriders

George has written a thoughtful post about issues with OCW 1.0 projects titled Utah State OpenCourseWare, lowriders, and system design.

A few quotes and then some response:

Utah State University has announced the closure of its OpenCourseWare initiative due to budget woes. I call nonsense (or BS). Apparently OCW needed $120,000 per year. Given the size of Utah State University, I’m going to guess they have an annual operating budget somewhere in the range of $300-400 million. This is not a budget shortfall – this is a commitment shortfall. 120K is a fraction of a fraction in light of the larger university budget.

This illustrates my concern about centrally organized open educational initiatives – they have a single point of failure: funding…

The OER and OCW movement(s) are fundamentally flawed in where they assign openness. Openness is being treated as separate from curriculum development and delivery. Openness is viewed as an after market feature. And most universities aren’t too eager to pay for the extras.

George makes a critical point, and one that everyone needs to understand. The model I call OCW 1.0 he calls the “aftermarket” model. No matter what you call it, it’s impossible to sustain a program that incurs large, ongoing costs that are exclusive to OCW – which is why I predicted in the spring that the list of universities engaged in active OCW projects three years from now will look very different than it did back in May 2009 (yes, all the big names will be gone if they don’t completely reinvent themselves).

George writes, “Openness should be built into the process of curriculum design – it should be systematized.” In places where the process of curriculum design is practiced, like the campus teaching and learning center, this is absolutely true. However, how many faculty actually use such services? Unfortunately, the vast majority of faculty members don’t engage in a thoughtful process of curriculum design – they just do what they do.

In order for open education to reach its varied potentials, openness must become a core cultural value for each and every faculty member. This is a decade-long project if we’re lucky, and requires significant investment in faculty training (the way we had pushes on our campuses a few years ago to help everyone understand the importance of diversity). While we work on that (and we are working on that), the critical question for me is, what do we do in the ten years between now and then? Should we do nothing until we’re capable of doing it “right” in 2020, or are partial solutions (like OCW 1.0 and even OCW 2.0) better than nothing as we make that long journey?

6 thoughts on “Of OpenCourseWare and Lowriders”

  1. Should we do nothing until we’re capable of doing it “right” in 2020, or are partial solutions (like OCW 1.0 and even OCW 2.0) better than nothing as we make that long journey?

    To me, the answer is in the title of your blog: iterating toward openness.

  2. “In order for open education to reach its varied potentials, openness must become a core cultural value for each and every faculty member.”

    If this really is true, then I fear that the potential for an open educational environment in k12 is extremely limited. For as long as greed, envy, and lust for power exist among people, I see no way that EVERY faculty member in most institutions would ever fully embrace a culture of openess.

    Sad, yes.

    But how can the value of sharing be taught to those people that never learned it in Kindergarten?

  3. Darren, one of the hidden goals of what EBL (Evidence-Based Learning in our school district) is doing lends itself to this very well. They don’t talk about it explicitly much, but opening up teacher’s minds to the possibility of sharing things freely is what will really help students learn in the long-term. I think it is a huge part of what EBL is trying to accomplish (and hopefully, they will correct me if I am wrong)

    EBL wants data to see how well students are learning. To you, that may sound like a lot of testing, but one of the end goals is having teachers who are good freely share their talents, abilities, lesson plans, expertise, etc., with those teachers that aren’t as good.

    The real benefit to having EBL as a district-wide entity is that those beliefs will move us closer to being open than anything else we could do. As was mentioned, a cultural change needs to occur. I think EBL is our best bet for speeding that up. EBL doesn’t want to test the kids to death, they just want to surface the best teaching methods, lessons, assessments, and anything else that will help kids learn.

    If we push for using Creative Commons on everything that we produce, we can leapfrog many other efforts toward openness. I think that it starts with making our professional development open (aren’t you interested in that a little?).

    You are right, though, greed, envy and lust for power are great barriers to student learning.

  4. I’m sorry to hear that your OCW will be shutting down due to lack of funding. Although George doesn’t think 120K is significant, in this day and age, every bit counts. Just a side-note, what the heck created that cost? Couldn’t you simplify the format and posting and hosting so that it would be less costly?
    What I find interesting is that you believe that educating faculty will make the difference “openness must become a core cultural value for each and every faculty member” Aside from the fact that faculty may believe that any additional work they do (over and above their regular teaching load) is worth compensation, many instructors are reluctant to allow others to control what they create.
    Another potential barrier is how much the technology will get in the way. If we kept curriculum materials and information easy to upload and share (minimize startup learning and skills) it might encourage more faculty members to participate.

  5. I’ll repeat my comment I made on the “Open Courses: Free, but Oh, So Costly” Chronicle article…

    Sustainable investments need to be for local projects – for local reasons. That is, do what you were going to do anyway … just do it digitally, and then put CC BY licensing on it and share it with others. The global sharing piece doesn’t have to be expensive … post it in Connexions and do some quick blog, twitter and listserv advertising through your network – and, if the content is quality and useful, word will spread.

  6. In my opinion old technical and organizational thinking are at the bottom of this problem.
    These big institutions with big OER suffer from the wrong philosophy. Universities once were institutions where students could meet famous teachers. Universities were places to meet, and to exchange learning. The place to meet a teacher nowadays is not a physical place anymore. Students do not need to go to foreign cities to become educated. Internet will make universities to historic relics. Big institutions try to make big OER and centralized storage, because that is the way they did it in the old days.
    A big OER is a centralized collection of educational resources. A big OER is not using the connectivity and decentralization of the Internet but the old centralized design of a library. In a big OER educational bits and pieces are collected from the Internet and from other sources and stored in a central server. Small OER is not centralized and not subject to financial cuts and not in danger of being disconnected by the power of the owner of the server.

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