open content

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?