March 14, 2006

OU goes free

Writing about web page http://www3.open.ac.uk/media/fullstory.aspx?id=8573

The OU has announced a plan to spend almost six million pounds to provide e-learning content freely on the internet. Half of the money is being provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. From the press release:-

The Open University will draw on its experience in supported open learning to provide an environment which contains both high quality learning materials and a range of learning support and informal community building tools. There will be one site that is primarily for learners, where material with suggested learning pathways will be offered. A second site will be primarily for other course creators; it will foster the concept of sharing and re-use of materials. Through the development of both sites the University plans to take open content delivery on to a new level.

In principle, nobody is better placed to do this than the OU. But there have been similar initiatives before, notably MIT's OpenCourseware project, and it's hard to deny that there's a pretty serious gulf between providing content and, if you will, meta-content about how to use the materials, and the actual process of delivering learning. It's not clear to me who the teachers using this content will be and who the students will be. The press release says:-

the University will select and make available educational resources from all study levels from access to postgraduate and from a full range of subject themes: arts and history, business and management, health and lifestyle, languages, science and nature, society and technology. Learners will also be able to benefit from a range of study skills development material.

which sounds great, but are materials such as these educationally valuable outside the context of a university in which to deliver them? The text mentions some pre-existing OU intiatives to help support learning in sub-Saharan and other African institutions; perhaps the rationale is purely about helping other HE institutions which might otherwise struggle with the costs associated with providing learning materials. An interesting project to watch.


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Robert O'Toole

    This all sounds horribly familiar. But it's not the usual "content transmission model" excuse to create large bonfires of cash.

    I suspect that it comes from the OU's rather succesful marketing department. That's the same people who came up with the idea of creating glossy near-prime-time BBC TV shows aimed at leading people into HE (that is, OU HE). The phrase:

    "suggested learning pathways will be offered"

    says it all.

    15 Mar 2006, 11:47


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