Open Courses: About 10 Weeks Seems To Be It, Then?
Consternation on the twittertubes this morning about Wolverhampton’s i-CD: Intelligent Career Development, which seeks to offer “a completely new approach to higher education”:
Historically, people have either gone to university or, more recently, universities have tried to come to them. That is to say, they have opened themselves to part-time students in the evenings or projected learning materials via distance learning or tailored their programmes to employers’ needs. However, they have never previously attempted to do all these things in a single programme. Via i-CD, the University of Wolverhampton is for the first time providing low-cost, flexibly-delivered, workplace-based, market-driven, fully-accredited, higher education.
(Err… I think the OU does that actually, through work based learning, an increasing number of vendor qualifications from Cisco and Microsoft that also provide academic credit, sector based courses and qualifications, and so on… All part-time, at a distance, with support (and online community), and some of them in the workplace too.)
So for example, I think @dkernohan sees parts of his nightmare vision coming true?
What struck me is that the Wolverhampton offering is being built around 10 week courses, the same length as the OU short courses (which in the OU case result in 10 CAT points of academic credit, corresponding to a nominal 10 hours study a week).
Also coming in at 10 weeks is the currently running PLENK2010 Massive Online Open Course (hmm.. does that URL scale for other courses?), and close behind, at 12 weeks, the forthcoming openEd 2.0 course on “Business and management competencies in a Web 2.0 world”:
a FREE/OPEN course targeting business students and practitioners alike. The course consists of two strands: an academic and a professional practice based strand, though both strands can be taken together. Furthermore, the openEd 2.0 course is MODULAR, thus learners can also “pick” the individual modules they are interested at.
Whilst I’m encouraged to see the rise of open courses (and there’s an increasing number of them: for example, P2PU are currently running a course on Open Journalism on the Open Web, I do think the OU is maybe missing a trick, and not leading the way in terms of innovating around open online courses…
…becuase the OU has being doing online education for years. Our first fully online course (T171, as authored by Martin Weller and John Naughton, amongst others) first presented in 1999 (I think), with thousands of students per presentation. The current Royal Photographic Society (RPS) recognised short course on Digital Photography regularly pulls in large numbers of students (in the OU, courses with less than 250 students are small…) and the new CompTIA approved Linux course is already a middle sized course… (Notice anything about those courses…? Recognition from outside academia too…)
So why isn’t the OU experimenting with running massive open online courses, with an option to “upsell” accreditation to students who want the formal academic credit? Maybe providing the support typically offered to students taking OU courses wouldn’t be cost-effective in an open course, although the wholly online short courses at least have already foregone personal tutor support. Expecting forum moderators to act as sales reps for accreditation is maybe not the sort of support we’d like to see being offered…?!
I’ve mentioned before that open educational resources might benefit from being created in public, possibly in an open course setting… SO maybe the time is now right to start trialing open courses (uncourses?;-), maybe informed by requests from (potential) students about the courses they’d like to see, creating the materials in near real-time (and drawing on other open resources, “educational” and otherwise) for the open presentation, then providing students who want to gain formal credit with some sort of assessment and accreditation?
How might this formal recognition be achieved?
- possibly via a semi-formal OU certificate that can be formally recognised through a credit transfer route?
- maybe using variant of the Career development and employability course container that lets students “use [their] workplace as a context for learning, and develop [their] ability to apply [their] learning to improve [their] practice at work”)?
- or how about the Make your experience count course container, which “gives you the opportunity to gain 30 credit points towards higher education qualifications by drawing on your past learning experiences”?
With a little bit of wit and imagination, I’m sure we could wither finesse one of our current “prior experience” courses to support the award of credit to open online courses, or come up with a new 10 point container: Open Education Course Credit
PS Hmmm, as an experiment, I wonder what would happen if someone who had taken an open online course tried to get it accepted “in partial fulfilment” of one of the accreditation of prior experience containers mentioned above? If you try it, let me know how you get on…;-)