Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Open Course Initiative

The Open Course initiatives at universities such as MIT, Yale, Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon have gained a great deal of attention in the higher education community. I must admit that I have recently become a big fan of Professor Paul Bloom and his Introduction to Psychology course at the Yale Open Course site. Whether the topic was Freud, Skinner or happiness, I found myself completely engaged in his lectures and I felt like I learned a great deal by just "eavesdropping." The Chronicle of Higher Education has called Berkeley Professor Marian Diamond a YouTube star because her Integrative Biology lectures have been viewed well over 100,000 times. It seems she has quite a large fan base consisting of students from around the world.

The availability of these open courses raises numerous questions about who these courses were designed for, how they should be used by students at other universities and whether these courses are putting forth best practices in teaching. Indeed, for better or worse, it has made teaching more visible.

I hope you will click "comment" and provide your thoughts on the questions below or other issues concerning open course initiatives.


1. What is your general impression of the open course movement and would you be willing to put one or more of your courses in a similar system?

2. Have you ever sent your students to open course sites to get additional information in one or more of your courses?

3. What is likely to be the future of open course initiatives and how does this align with the growth of online courses at many universities?


Lilia Murray said...

Here is an informative video about MIT's ()pen CourseWare:

In the video, Daniel Hastings, an MIT professor, states "we should be in the business of disseminating this knowledge to help the world. In a sense, that's what books this is the modern equivalent of that."

It's becoming an academic revolution...

RDJ said...

First off, I have and would use open courseware in classes. But, ONLY within the appropriate learning/topical contexts (i.e., when the students have the appropriate back-story and the open-source information fits the movement toward the next set of ideas).

Since it is open sourse, presumably I can watch lectures and perform exercises in any order that I wish (including skipping of parts that bore me). Yet, how can I truly understand the American Civil War without first studying the period from Independence to Fort Sumter? An appreciation for the logical progression of ideas that builds an intellectual mastery of a subject is necessary to use such tools appropriately. I fear that, in a society that so highly values soundbites and quick hits as a replacement for detailed understanding, trivial knowledge can easily be confused for expertise.

Of course, Alexander Pope said it best: "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring..."

Jamie Rogers said...

I agree in part with what RDJ has said. For our students, I think we need to look at open courseware as a supplement to what we do. We need to provide the foundation in our courses so that the other building blocks students might discover through online materials fit. With that in mind, I would encourage students to use these materials and would be happy to provide links to such materials as they discover them as long as they provide accurate information.

Concerning putting one of my courses into such a system, I wouldn't mind at all although the time involved in doing so is a concern. Video editing can be a time consuming process.

Finally, I think we will see more and more open course initiatives as universities try to reach out to more students. It seems that most of the materials used for online courses can easily be converted to an open course format. So as online programs grow, the availability of open course materials will likely grow with it.