First we had open educational resources. This was a step forward but the resources were variable in quality, hard to find and were often tied to courses which made them hard to use for self study. Those issues haven’t gone away but improvements in search technologies and a wider general conciousness about the value of self publishing open resources means it is increasingly easy to find what you want.
And now we are witnessing an explosion in open learning. Of course there are the big publicity happenings like the CCK08 Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) organised by Stephen Downes and George Siemans on connectivism.
But more important is the flowering of opportunties for learning from many, many diverse sources. One of the best things about Twitter is it opens access to many events going on and opportunities to partiucpate at a distance. Last week I dropped in on a TeachMeet session being organised as part of the Scottish Learning Festival. Someone had ‘shouted it out” in Twitter, I followed the link and ended up in a broadcast over the UK Open Universities free Flashmeeting service. There was about twenty or so of us particpating online. Whilst the quality of the video sometimes left something to be desired (and I was stuggling to follow Glaswegian accents) this was more than made up for by the quality and humour in the online chat.
Yesterday morning I recieved this in my email: “You have a live session today with cristinacost on ‘Connecting Online : Sharing Life’s Experiences’. The session will start at 10:00 AM W. Europe Standard Time and is 60 minutes long.” This is a free course being organised in the WizIQ environment. Sadly I am bogged down in administration and had no time to go. But over the last year there has been an explosion of such open courses and seminars. We are organising one such series oursleves through the Jisc Evolve project.
And this morning Cristina Costa showed me her online bookclub “Living Literature though Exploration.” This more than anything impresses me as to how we have moved towards real open learning through Web 2.0 tools (in this case as simplle as a shared blog and some bookmarks.
However there remain a number of issues.
The last barrier to open learning – and a very complex one – is that of accreditation. Whilst I am sceptical about the Connectivism MOOC, it is raising a number of central questions about open learning, not least that of accreditation. Under the Connectivism course model, only 34 (I think) sdtudents are offically enrolled for accreditation and therefore pay fees. Their fees pay for the costs of the course which is open and free to everyone else. As part of this they get feedback form tutors on course assignments and accreditation at the end of the course. How important is this for learning? And would it be possible for a student to develop a portfolio based on particpation in the course and then claim accreditation elsewhere? Are we moving to a model where learning is open but institutions have a major role in accrediting that learning (presumably through a portfolio model)? Can we develop a concept of open accreditation? And what would that mean?