Monday, July 1, 2013

The Next and Possibly Greatest Education Game Changer

There is an exciting movement that will truly be a game changer in education, and it is a movement towards openness. A key player in this movement is the OpenCourseWare Consortium, which brings together higher education institutions and organizations from around the globe in an effort to create educational resources that are free and open to all. Within this parent organization is the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER), which was established to support community college participation in the adoption of open educational resources. CCCOER started in California in 2007 under the auspices of Dr. Martha Kanter, U.S. Undersecretary of Education, and joined the OpenCourseWare Consortium in 2011. While the majority of the participating colleges are located in California, CCCOER has grown to 200 colleges in 12 states and 1 province.

So what is OER really? In a nutshell, Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under open licensing so teachers can use them for their courses without having to worry about copyright infringement. The other major benefit to OER is that they are free to access, so learners are not required to pay excessive fees to study and learn from these resources.

There are entire textbooks available for student and teacher use. The licenses vary, but the most flexible of licensing allows instructors to edit the texts to suit their course needs; they can elaborate, cut, move, and add to the content.

As a teacher, this sounds like a dream! We no longer have to create course materials from scratch. Our students will no longer need to spend exorbitant amounts on publisher packs, course cartridges, or student accounts that expire too soon. They can even save on textbooks, which have the potential to be better than what publishers produce since they can be revised and edited by the course instructor, and may have been revised by several other instructors over time.

As an instructional designer and Blackboard support team member at Harper College, instructors complain to me about their course cartridges. First, there is no consistency in the process for accessing publisher materials. But the part that really bothers them is that they have so much cleanup to do since cartridge uploads are all-or-nothing, and many of the resources included in course cartridges are mediocre at best.

I am hopeful that OER will not only help instructors provide higher quality educational experiences to their students, but will also democratize learning. The disparity of access to education will lessen if we can provide free high-quality educational materials to students and schools that otherwise couldn't afford such resources. Perhaps an appreciation for education and the role of educators will grow as more citizens are given access to quality learning materials.

Stay tuned for a blog about the CCCOER movement and a few highlights recent accomplishments. Hopefully, the ideas will inspire other colleges to take on the mission of promoting OER.

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