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HUGE: OCW Scholar: MIT OpenCourseWare with the Learner in Mind

MIT OpenCourseWare announced the availability of its OCW Scholar courses this week, an announcement that I was reluctant to write EXCLUSIVE or HUGE in the headline for my RWW story but folks, this is a really big deal.

MIT OCW is a pioneer for open education. But as I note in my story, the initial impulse behind the initiative at MIT was to make couse content available so that other educators could utilize the material in the development of their own curricula. It's clear, however, that those who are taking advantage of the materials available through MIT OCW -- syllabi, YouTube videos, handouts, exams -- are students, not teachers.

And so, MIT OCW Scholar courses are specifically designed with those learners in mind. The courses -- five so far -- bring together online resources so that all the materials someone would need are available in one package. The Physics 1 class, for example, contains a set of video lectures from MIT physics professor Walter Lewin, a set of course notes (replacing the need for a traditional textbook), a set of class slides, homework problems, homework help videos (in which Lewin helps learners through solving the problems), links to related materials, and an online study group at OpenStudy where you can connect with other independent learners.

I don't want to minimize what the faculty of MIT agreed to in 2002 when they said they'd put their course materials online, freely and openly available for anyone. Indeed, it was the beginning of the opencourseware movement. But there is a huge difference between making your syllabus and handouts available in a ZIP file or posting a video lecture series online and pulling together all the materials necessary for a student to truly move through a course -- including, no doubt, the ability to interact with and learn from others doing the very same thing.

MIT OCW Scholar courses, I think, mark the next big move forward for open education -- it isn't simply enough to open the availability of and access to the handouts or the lectures for a class. You have to offer more materials, more resources -- including a way for students to work with one another.

HMMM: Omnicademy Will Offer Course Syndication, for Credit

It was bound to happen. A company has made the move to offer course syndication, with credit -- a portal where a student can log in and see what other online classes are available through partner univerisities where s/he can actually get credit for course completion.

The Chronicle reports today on Omnicademy, a spin-off from Louisiana State University, that will let professors upload their course materials and offer the material to students from other universities.

From the article:

Universities can review the courses and decide which ones they want to adopt and offer credit for. When students log into Omnicademy�using a .edu e-mail address�they will only be allowed to select from courses that have been approved by their institution.

If a student wishes to take a course offered through Omnicademy that is not on the list approved by his or her university, Omnicademy will negotiate on behalf of that student with the university, [Stacey Simmons, associate director for economic development at Louisiana's Center for Computation and Technology] added.

According to the article, Omniacademy has applied for VC funding and a number of high profile grants. But the obstacle, as Simmons admits in the article, is getting schools on board. Currently you can sign up for Omniacadmy if you attend Louisiana State University, Harvard University, Cambridge University, or Brooks Institute.

An interesting quotation from Simmons, particularly in light of MIT and open education: Everybody is happy to share their content, but not very many people are willing to give credit.

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Audrey Watters


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