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RESEARCH-BASED ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
The free and open publication of course materials (OpenCourseWare or OCW) was initially undertaken by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other universities primarily to share educational resources among educators (Abelson, 2007). OCW, however, and more in general open educational resources (OER), have also provided well-documented opportunities for all learners, including the so-called “informal learners” and “independent learners” (Carson, 2005; Mulder, 2006, p. 35). Universities have also increasingly documented clear benefits for specific target groups such as secondary education students and lifelong learners seeking to enter formal postsecondary education programs.
In addition to benefitting learners, OCW publication has benefitted the publishing institutions themselves by providing recruiting advantages. Finally enrollment figures from some institutions indicate that even in the case of the free and open publication of materials from online programs, OCW does not negatively affect enrollment. This paper reviews evaluation conducted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH), and Open Universiteit Nederland (OUNL) concerning OCW effects on higher education participation and student recruitment.
International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning
The last 10 years have seen a massive increase in the amount of Open Access publications in journals and institutional repositories. The open availability of large volumes of state-of-the-art knowledge online has the potential to provide huge savings and benefits in many fields. However, in order to fully leverage this knowledge, it is necessary to develop systems that (a) make it easy for users to discover and access this knowledge at the level of individual resources, (b) explore and analyse this knowledge at the level of collections of resources and (c) provide infrastructure and access to raw data in order to lower the barriers to the research and development of systems and services on top of this knowledge. In this paper, we argue why these requirements should be satisfied and show that current systems do not meet them. Consequently, we present the CORE (COnnecting REpositories) system, a large-scale Open Access aggregation, outlining its existing functionality and discussing the future technical development. We demonstrate how the system addresses the above needs and how it can be applied to the benefit of the whole ecosystem that includes institutional repositories, individuals, researchers, developers, funding bodies and governments.
IN THE NEWS
Will MOOCs Break the Back of State Institutions?
By Farhad (Fred) Saba, Ph. D.
Founder and Editor, Distance-Educator.com
This year started with increased attention to massive open online courses (MOOCs), an idea that materialized by MIT and Stanford University when, several years ago, they decided to open their courses to the public for free, but without credit or formal admittance. The idea of MOOCs originated by Stephen Downs , and supported by David Wiley who believe education should be provided for free to those who need or want it as a basic human right. Of course, as we know, nothing is free and it remains to be seen how the economics of MOOCs will work in the future. The real cost of creating a course by a faculty is his or her salary. The fact that courses, once they are created, can be distributed at a minimal cost per student is important and should be taken into account. However, replication and distribution costs of learning objects or entire courses pale in comparison to the cost of creating them, although there are real costs involved there as well.
MIT and Stanford are elite private institutions with endowments that rival the annual budgets of some of the smaller developing countries in the world. Therefore, they might be able to persuade their faculty, who in most cases are the owners of the intellectual property embedded in courses, to open their course Websites to the masses. As long as the university does not charge students in a MOOC, there is no problem if faculty agree to have their courses visited by hundreds of thousands of students the world over. In fact, roughly 50% of visitors to MOOCs reside outside of the United States.
The case for state institutions to offer MOOCs becomes a bit more interesting. These institutions are supported by student tuitions as well as a shrinking subsidy by the states. According the Delta Project of the American Institutes for Research “Declines in state and local appropriations per student from 2009 to 2010 ranged from 9 percent in public research institutions to 15 percent in community colleges, bringing them below the previous lows of 2005. Net tuition revenues increased, on average, by 4 to 7 percent in public institutions.”
Therefore, it will be more difficult to persuade a student body that is increasingly going under debt to bear the burden of offering “free education” to others. According to Project on Student Debt two-thirds of college seniors who graduated in 2011 had student loan debt, with an average of $26,600 per borrower. Moreover, faculty of state institutions may be less inclined to share their intellectual property with the rest of the world without any compensation. Therefore, MOOCs offered by elite institutions will be an additional source of pressure on state institutions, which are already squeezed by an increasing demand for enrollment when their budgets are severely cut. This is especially the case, if:
- Companies, such as, Coursera, UDACITY, and edX with roots in MIT and Stanford succeed in offering MOOCs developed by elite institutions, such as Hardvard, at a reasonable cost to students who would like to receive credit for their participation, and
- The American Council on Education, a nonprofit organization that represents most of the nation’s college and university presidents, succeed in developing a framework for evaluating the credit worthiness of MOOCs.
State institutions, which enroll the majority of students in the system of higher education, must develop a working strategy to join the MOOC movement or lose students to MOOC providers, and other emerging alternative systems. MOOCs may not be an immediate threat to state institutions, but a “disruptive” movement to which they must pay attention. State institutions are burdened with multiple problems at this time, and MOOCs offered by private elite institutions might just be the straw that can break the camel’s back. As Richard DeMillo the author of Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities (2011, MIT Press) predicted in his book, in the coming higher education revolution the elite institutions and community colleges will do fine. It will be the institutions in the middle that will have to change dramatically if they are to survive and thrive.
Farhad (Fred) Saba, Ph. D.
Founder and Editor
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