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! =)

open education

More on the Three Parts of Open Education

D’Arcy had a great post tonight about the three parts of open education. It validates something I’ve been wondering to myself about for a while. While I use slightly different language, you can me my take on the three toward the end of my Open Ed 2008 General Session presentation (start at slide 100):

Ten Years of Open Content

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: history content)

I’d love to engage in a bit more of a discussion between what I think of as learning support and what D’Arcy calls open access, just to make sure I understand what he’s saying.

I’m thinking about it from the “future of higher education” perspective, as opposed to the “what constitutes open education” perspective (as D’Arcy is). Still, it’s pretty cool that we pick basically the same three – it just means that the future of higher education is open education! In the presentation I basically argued that we can already see the three core functions of higher education starting to pull slowly apart from one another – the OCWs provide access to all the educational content (and now some research content thanks to MIT’s recent deal with Elsevier), places like Yahoo Answers provide the learning support and question/answer function (and RateMyProfessor carries much of the advising load), and Western Governor’s is a fully accredited university that offers no courses – only assessments (in other words, just credentials). This disaggregation is already happening, and higher education will just pull itself apart faster and faster in the future. Whenever a business function can be separated and specialized in, that business function is destined to be either spun off or outsourced. Wither the university then, huh?

In the video D’Arcy refers to open accreditation as the elephant in the room. Well, the elephant certainly stepped on me last week in Jeff Young’s Chronicle of Higher Education article, When Professors Print Their Own Diplomas, Who Needs Universities? After saying I was giving out diplomas a few times, Jeff accurately reports about my Introduction to Open Education class last year, “unofficial students paid no tuition and got no formal credit, but they did end up with something tangible: a homemade certificate signed by Mr. Wiley.” He even interviewed one of the unofficial students from Italy:

That [homemade certificate] was plenty of recognition for Antonio Fini, a doctoral student at the University of Florence, in Italy. “I include it in my CV,” he says.

I wonder if, somehow, we’ve stumbled into part of the answer for open accreditation. Of course, WGU still charges tuition, but D’Arcy’s right. Let’s talk more about this… Maybe instead of hacking WordPress, we should be hacking degrees. Anyone up for a completely informal, completely open, homemade certificate-style diploma? A handful of courses offered by all of us – take intro open ed from me, connectivism from George and Stephen, media studies from Brian (you know you’ve always wished he would teach it), and then complete three cumulative edupunk projects under the tutelage of the Reverend, D’Arcy, and Tony. Maybe D’Arcy will also offer an elective in mobile video production? 😉 Why not? I want my homemade edupunk diploma!!!