OpenCourseWare and Mainstream Education

Just read the Christian Science Monitor’s article, “Opencourseware: College Education Without the Student Loans”. In it Richard Ludlow of Academic Earth is cited positing that the degree granting aspect of institutions in comparison to learning through opencourseware is still very valuable until some type of testing system rises.

Here are my thoughts on what it will take to make opencourseware a truly disruptive innovation–and the school that can do it will be a disruptive institution. (For more on disruptive innovation read Clayton Christensen‘s books).

1) opencoursware provides learning materials & pathways through content—Check.

2) learners can connect with mentors or other learners to support successful movement through the pathways & adapt the pathways to a certain extent–maybe blend them with complementary pathways–emergence of personal learning environments is moving toward this–as are mashups of a variety of tools through things like life-long eportfolio software being rolled out in Europe by governments, Netvibes, Pageflakes, etc. but a online service to help students organize themselves as a mutual support group as well as connect with potential mentors for free or $ would advance this aspect. I saw something like this called “The Hub” funded by a government in-I believe it’s South America via a library–and am trying to track down the reference via my Twitter contacts.–no check yet.

3) institutions create a “course challenge” framework whereby students can either take a final exam or provide a portfolio for review by institutional faculty to receive course credit or standing for a particular course–institutions do this for life credits & our distance education schools in British Columbia do this for high school credit–just needs to be expanded for full scale review for degree–partial check as framework exists and is in partial use.

4) institutions become open to work with students to weave together learning experiences external to the institution–but certified by them—with some courses at the institution or another institution as necessary & appropriate to learner’s needs for accreditation/degree/certification–in accepting “life experience credits” institutions are already partially doing this–partial check.

5) institutions accept a full slate of successful course challenges to attain a degree–don’t think this is a check anywhere yet on the post-secondary level. However there are GED equivalency exams. However, as what defines a body of knowledge gets more fuzzy—process will become more challenging.

Your thoughts?



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