open education

Open Education and Accreditation

We’ve had plenty of talking and blogging about open certification or open credentialing of learning mediated by open educational resources. One thing I don’t think we’ve talked about yet is the role of openness and open educational resources on program accreditation.

When you think about what accreditors want, they want to know exactly what your program is doing, exactly how you’re doing it, how you’re capturing data, how you’re using that data to make your program better, etc. Basically, accreditors are interested in transparency and accountability. Can you think of a better way to create and facilitate transparency and accountability than putting all your department’s courses in OCW and taking pro-open stance on other department output like research publications and policy documents? A few questions:

How would the accreditation process differ if your department had made a major commitment to OCW and openness? How would the accreditation visit differ if your department had made a major commitment to OCW and openness? Can you imagine it going faster? Can you imagine the team arriving with a deep knowledge of all your courses, how they’re taught, and how they’re assessed?

Given the huge list of (sometimes meaningless) things accreditation bodies feel empowered to require programs to do, why would they not require OCW and openness from the programs they review? In addition to all the public good this mandated sharing would do, it would also significantly simplify (and therefore improve) the accreditation process.

Since this seems to be such a great idea, benefiting so many people and removing so many painful layers and hours of pointless administrivia, it may never happen. But who knows… perhaps there is an enlightened accreditation body out there somewhere?

open content

Momentum on Open Accreditation

Lots more great discussion on the open education accreditation front! Including posts from Steve Carson (Borderlines) about the interface between the various functioning pieces of higher ed, Antonio writing about why we shouldn’t view the homemade certificate as a “sacrilegious contamination between two worlds, formal and informal” education, and Tannis wondering about how a few historical models of accreditation might inform our current thinking.

I hope all this interesting thinking and writing continues… We’re right at the tipping point (you might say precipice). =)

open education

On Open Accreditation

There have been some good comments on my post from yesterday, and interesting posts elsewhere around the net. I realized I needed to clarify my model a bit after reading Stephen’s comment:

A slightly different model has emerged in George’s and my Connectivism course. We have the 20 for-credit students at the University of Manitoba, and the open access students. We’ve published the details of all the assignments. We had a student who signed on as an open access student but who would be submitting her assignments at her home institution, for assessment there. This distributes assessment, allowing for assessment to be basically open-sourced.

In my Introduction to Open Education course, I had 8 or so normally enrolled students at my own university, and dozens more at no university at all who just followed for fun or for the “homemade certificate” which the Chronicle called a “diploma” again and again. But I also had another 8 students or so who were at their own universities, signed up for an Independent Study or Independent Research or Directed Readings kind of course (whichever was least painful to get enrolled in and would count toward their degree). I marked all their assignments and simply submitted a grade to the supervising professor at the end of term. I couldn’t really “outsource” the assessment piece of the course to these students’ supervising faculty, because there was no one at the students’ home institutions who knew anything about open education (hence their desire to take the course from me).

It occurs to me now, though, that this in and of itself is an interesting hack of the higher education system. These students paid tuition and took a course that partially fulfilled their graduation requirements, and my class is not in the universities’ course catalogs and my name is not on their faculty rosters. How much of a degree could you do this way? In a PhD program like the PhD in Instructional Psychology & Technology at BYU, each student is required to complete at least 18 hours in their area of specialization. This is a fairly common model in US graduate schools. In practice there is a huge amount of flexibility in the specialization courses taken, adapted to each individual student’s needs and interests. So if a student took all Independent Studies for these specialization courses and a sequence of six courses from the Edupunk Un-iversity (or Anti-university or Alter-university or Meta-university or whatever it is), they could potentially take 20% of their entire PhD program this way.

Open accreditation may be much closer than we think. We just need to continue to find creative ways to hack our courses into the existing university systems around the globe. At the same time, we need to establish a recognizable brand name for the collection of courses we would offer, so that folks will have heard of them. Until then, we’ll have to ride the strength of our names.

“Dr. Smith? For my specialization courses I’d like to start with a three course sequence from the Edupunk Un-iversity.”
“The what?”
“You know, those classes that David Wiley and Brian Lamb and Stephen Downes and those guys offer online.”
“Oh, sure. Sounds great. Which three?”

Now, these courses may not fit well outside of Instructional Technology type programs, but hey – we’ve got to start somewhere, right? Throw your thoughts about what should be offered over on the new Edupunk Un-iversity page on the OpenContent Wiki. I’ve thrown up some starter ideas, too. And we already have our first student waiting to enroll as per the comments on yesterday’s post – so what are you waiting for? Let the experiments commence! =)