Sunday, April 1, 2012

open courseware ...

Okay, you’ve heard about these free course that MIT™ and Yale™ are offering … and something about free math stuff with Khan Academy™ …
but what exactly is this whole open courseware thing?!?
Open Courseware (OCW) is a concept of “publication on the Web of course materials developed by higher education institutions and shared with others” (Simonson, et al, 2012, p. 141).These materials are organized (often including course planning materials and evaluation tools) and are free and available to anyone, anytime via the Internet (Open Courseware Consortium [OCC], n.d).
let’s look at what you get …
Here you can find the MIT™ OCW course on Shakespeare (2004). Going to the homepage we see a syllabus, calendar, readings, assignments, exams, and related resources. All clearly laid out and easy to navigate. We can see which plays are to be read, which film adaptations to view, the details of the three essays we would write, and the final exam.
is this distance learning?
Graham, Cagiltay, Lim, Craner, and Duffy (2001) have seven guidelines for online instruction (as presented by Simonson, et al, 2012):
  1. Provide clear guidelines.
  2. Discussion assignments foster student cooperation.
  3. Students present course projects.
  4. Instructors provide information and acknowledgement feedback.
  5. Deadlines are provided.
  6. Challenging activities communicate high expectations.
  7. Allowing student choice in project topics.
This particular course does meet some of these requirements. There are very clear guidelines and deadlines. The activities are challenging and demonstrate high expectations, and there is a large deal of student choice. However, many are absent. As this learning is done independently, there are no discussion assignments, no opportunity for student presented course projects, or instructor feedback of any kind. And this is by design. MIT™ spells it out this way:
  • “OCW is not an MIT education.
  • OCW does not grant degrees or certificates.
  • OCW does not provide access to MIT faculty.
  • Materials may not reflect entire content of the course” (Unlocking knowledge, n.d).
so, what is it then?
Lerman & Miyagawa (2002) recommend thinking of OCW as a new publishing initiative akin to textbook publications of the past. While available to students with the time and adequate self-motivation, part of the future of OCW is likely to be in the use of the materials by instructors teaching online (Simonson, et al, 2012). "MIT OpenCourseWare offers students access to a rich set of open educational resources (OER) that can be combined and customized for a more effective educational experience” (MIT OpenCourseWare, 2012). Whether utilized by very motivated independent learners or by online educators in the OER movement, OCW is an exciting world to watch!

Henderson, D., Donaldson, P., & Raman, S. (2004). Shakespeare. MIT OpenCourseWare™. Retrieved April 1, 2012 from
Lerman, S. R., & Miyagawa, S. (2002). Open CourseWare: A case study in institutional decision making. Academe, 88(5), 23-27.
MIT OpenCourseWare Teams Up with Flat World Knowledge to Combine Free Texts and Free Course Materials. (2012). Retrieved April 1, 2012 from
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.
Unlocking knowledge, empowering minds (n.d). MIT OpenCourseWare. Retrieved April 1, 2012 from
What is courseware? Open Courseware Consortium. Retrieved April 1, 2012 from

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