One of the upcoming bits of work I am pretty excited about is once again in the realm of Open Education Resources (OERs) and in particular the second element of Strand C of the upcoming programme of work ‘Enhancing the discovery and reuse of OER materials – Collections of OER based around a thematic area’ which in particular says
a dynamic collection of OER and other resources..syndicated via RSS/Atom. Other resources could include open research papers, research data, news stories, key blogs and so on.
As I am neither an academic nor a learning technologist my main interest in this field has always been the challenge of discovery, aggregation and uptake of OERs rather than the creation or release (which is hugely important just not my area). I have watched with interest over the last couple of years as sites have sprung up in an attempt to curate OERs into a more easily consumed state, some more successfully than others it has to be said. On the horizon I can see the potential for Linked Data (in particular RDFa/Microformat/Rich Snippets type stuff) to have a real influence in this space (and anyone who knows me knows that is a big step for me!) but that seems a little way off still.
In the meantime I thought I would just highlight a few of the sites I have kept an eye on these last few years;
University of the People – the self-style ‘tuition free online university’ UoPeople has close ties to some UN activities and was founded by Shai Reshef a very successful web business person. The offering is a combination of OERs and peer-to-peer support with some light touch academic support (as far as I can tell – this might be more hands on than it seems from the description). Despite no ‘tuition’ fees it does charge between $10 and $100 to enroll and the same to sit the ‘exams’. It currently offers courses in Computer Science and Business Admin at an undergraduate level.
Peer to Peer University – is ‘learning for everyone, by everyone, about almost anything’ and feels very much like an off-shoot/evolution of the OER movement. It is almost entirely volunteer led and feels much more grassroots (not in a bad way) than UoPeople. It runs short courses led by volunteers and, given its name not surprisingly, peer-to-peer support around those course in online communities. It also offers a form of accreditation though I’m not sure I understand that fully. It has a small amount of funding from both the Hewlett Foundation and the Shuttleworth Foundation plus the University of California at Irvine hosts the project.
Academic Earth – is a site that Bill Gates raved about earlier this year and it is sometimes referred to as Hulu for Education but that doesn’t really fit for the UK as we don’t have Hulu yet! It is similar in scope to YouTube EDU but does predate the official launch of that and brings together the high quality video of lectures that US universities in particular are so fond of releasing.
Flatworld Knowledge – is slightly different and probably the thing I am most interested in. Flatworld offer free, remixable open textbooks online but then charge a (small) fee for hardcopy version. They have a high level of quality assurance and attract experts in their field and have the potential to really shake things up in this area of publishing. The idea of open textbooks in general is something that I am getting more and more interested in and want to learn more about.
Other things I try to keep an eye on are;