Posted by: rmostell | February 14, 2009

Is Open Course Ware really Open or Free?

I’ve looked at a lot of websites where institutions claim that they provide “open course ware” or free access to the contents of their university courses.  But is it really “open” and is it really “free”.  I don’t think so.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) started this open course ware (OCW) movement (http://ocw.mit.edu/)  several years ago. What do they provide in their OCW?  They provide the course outline (syllabus), maybe some slides or some videos.  This may include some reading assignments.   But what does that get you?  Does that teach you the subject?  Can you learn from this?  Well, maybe a little but you would be better off to purchase the textbook associated with the course and read it on your own and perhaps work on the assignments (tests?) at the end of each chapter.  Everyone agrees that this won’t get you a degree or certificate from the sponsoring institution or any other academic institution.

So what is the value of the “open course ware” movement?

Not much.  I don’t think so.  The person interested in obtaining an education on any given subject is much better served by visiting their local library, watching public educational television, reading online articles, searching the web, reading Wikipedia for starters,  buying textbooks at their local bookstore or online retailer, or enrolling in a course at their local community college.  The much ballyhooed “open course ware” courses at major universities DO NOT provide an education.  They DO NOT provide the materials and guidance that you need to learn any subject.  They DO NOT provide the certification that you have acquired any level of knowledge or competence in the  subject matter.

So what DOES “open course ware” provide?  It provides an avenue for institutions to claim their “openness”  in public.  It provides an avenue for institutions to claim that they are providing something to the public for “free” that other institutions are NOT providing.

Is this true?  I don’t think so!

I think the “open course ware” movement is a ploy of academic administrators and public relations (PR) folks to sell their institutions to the public falsely claiming that they are “free” and “open”.  To the naive this may appear true.  But to the informed expert (including the professors who have provided their course materials to their administrative beaurocrats), this is OBVIOUSLY NOT TRUE.  It is simply a marketing strategy to “sell” their institution to the public for self-serving, pecuniary purposes.

What do you think?

For examples of “open couse ware”, read here:

http://keck.on-wiki.net/OpenLearningResources

and here:

http://www.ocwconsortium.org/

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Responses

  1. I found the article “Beyond Access” in the Campus Technology magazine, February, 2009, by Vijay Kumar of MIT. I agree completely with this statement from that article.

    “Being at MIT, I like to point to OpenCourseWare (ocw.mit.edu) as a very significant movement in bringing the world’s attention to all this, because what we put out there is a snapshot of basically all the courses at MIT. But still, what you see is the content and structure, rather than the thinking behind the courses – so we really have only begun to share the pedagogy that led to the production and delivery of the courses.”

    – Vijay Kumar, Senior Assoicate Dean and Director of the Educational Innovation and Technology, MIT

    http://pdf.101com.com/CampusTech/2009/CAM_902DS.pdf

    Note that he says the MIT OCW is only a “snapshot” of the “content and structure” of the courses and that much needs to be done.

  2. […] pages, more money and the same pretense the OCW is providing any type of education. Previous post: https://rmostell.wordpress.com/2009/02/14/is-open-course-ware-really-open-or-free/ New York Times article by By JINGYING YANG Published: March 30, 2010 […]

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