Friday, April 27, 2012
Can opencourseware lead to a true revolution in education?
With the introduction of open educational resources (OER) and opencourseware in higher education some steps were taken to make education more accessible. Many universities put their courses online so that everyone can access them. Some of them think they fulfill a higher purpose by doing this. Students have broader access to knowledge. Professors know more about what's going on in terms of what is being taught at other higher institutions of learning. People who want to learn independently can access those courses. There is a lot of benefits to the world at this point. But in another perspective does this fulfill a marketing purpose when we know that universities are in the business of making money first not education as their first goal ?. That seems very appreciative when courses costing thousands of dollars are accessible online for free. But is "free" really "free"? When you go to the supermarket you are attempted to taste something for free but they give away something in order to attract people to buy their products. In the same way do some universities put their courses online in order to attract more students? I can say yes. But at the same time they think they are doing some thing more disinterested financially. But higher learning institutions have several barriers to reach such a disinterested purpose. Such barriers are economic and social. Higher learning institutions are more concerned about money than education. They don't reach out to people in order to expand education on a global scale and they operate in a closed structure from admissions, tuition, credit transfers, refunds to almost everything. Can true learning happen in such a market structure? Their business rules are stricter than those of stores and supermarkets. Stores and supermarkets offer sales at certain times of the year where items can be purchased at a very low price and other items not sold go to charities. But are they times where universities lower their tuition for students? They are rules that seem unacceptable like you can't transfer more than 2 courses from another university. There is a certain limit of time to finish a program otherwise you lose your credits while you might still pass them and have your knowledge. Alternative assessment such as prior work experiences, prior informal learning are accepted at a small scale at a very small number of universities. When I started my master's degree 27 years ago I had to stop because I didn't have the money to pay. I had to pay travel expenses from where I lived to come to the university. I wasn't qualified for loans and I had to pay higher than the other students. I came back a few years later to continue my master's program to take a few courses but again lack of money, disqualifications for loan prevented me from finishing while I had only four courses to finish. When I came back later for the third time I was told than I can only benefit of two courses in order to finish and then I lost all the other courses. That was unacceptable for me. I was told to contact my professor/advisor because he made arrangements for my former courses to be transferred. Actually he gave me a paper mentioning all these credit transfer courses. I presented this paper and they didn't accept it. My professor was dead and he wasn't there to back me up. I went to another university for the master's degree that I almost finished in the former university. Then from there I started a PhD with another university taking 21 credit courses and passing all the courses with A ( most of these courses are research). Again I had to confront another institution that is part of a structure of not truly educating. With all my abilities and enthusiasm I had to stop. Now recently I embarked myself in this journey of open PhD joining Leigh Blackall, Prawthorne and others who chose this option as well. For me there is a long road for higher learning institutions to take in order to fulfill a meaningful role in society. The following article reports about a global conference on the future of online learning and the debate around opencouseware. Certain universities are threatened by a movement that can force them to change their inadequate structures.