Due to the word-count limit in Linked In, I’ve moved a conversation to this blog post. Please feel free to comment.

Re: Taylor Walsh writes on behalf of Ithaka S+R, the strategic consulting and research service of the New York-based not-for-profit organization ITHAKA. She is the author of Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities are Opening Up Access to Their Courses, now available from Princeton University Press.
Don Gorges:
Great interview, Keith, and thanks for your recent posting — U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Education commit $2 billion to create open educational resources for community colleges and career training — http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/26100 . . . wonder what you/Taylor Walsh think about this.
Keith Hampson:

Thanks, Don. Although I’ve only had one coffee this morning, and shouldn’t try to form complete sentences before my third, I will say this about the 2 billion for OER . . .

I think we need to first distinguish between the government investment model in OER and the DIY, grassroots model of OER. They are very different animals. The US government will likely turn to established providers for this content development project, as they did in its’ earlier form in 2009, when the Obama administration tried to release 500 million for OER. Carnegie Mellon U and its’ OLI initiative were going to lead the 2009 initiative, I believe. In one important respect, this approach has more in common with private sector outsourcing than it does the DIY approach. CMU produces high quality content, using industrial production methods: teams of specialists, consistent design, and a high-level of investment.

The DIY approach, in most instances, mimics the pre-industrial, “cottage-industry”, classroom model of content development in which individual academics with limited investment, little reward, and inconsistent levels of support from specialists, produce content according to their own vision.  This approach dramatically limits the investment that can be made in any one unit of content, and the range and depth of talent that is brought to bear on the material.

What these two approaches share is that they are ultimately free to use (and, in many cases, customize) by others. (Of course, both approaches have costs that are borne by “someone” – that’s an important topic for another time.) I’ll be watching to see how these two different approaches interact.

Secondly, I’ve written elsewhere that the long-term impact of these investments may not be their impact on the quality of learning for students, but on naturalizing the practice of schools using common content. The vast majority of digital content in higher education is still produced in that cottage-industry model: built by schools for use within a single course (which is found, also, in the DIY open content approach). The injection of cash in shared content may (finally) get people in the field to recognize that (a) each course does not require unique content, (b) high quality content requires significant investment and the expertise of specialists and (c) the best use of faculty time is not creating content, but helping students learn.

4 thoughts on “OER: Conversation Notes

  1. Hi Keith,

    This is interesting but needs more development on how it affects actual learning. For that, one needs to stay directly in touch with the student population inside the United States. This is much harder from where you are in Canada. Canada’s culture of higher education, educational philosophy vary enormously from the United States. For one thing, America is working as hard as it can to eviscerate public education and corporatize everything, including the University setting regardless of whether it calls itself “non-profit” or “for-profit”. Canada has not bought into this general debasement in the same way.

    Like

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