Sunday, September 9, 2007

OpenEd Week2: Thoughts after “Giving Knowledge for Free--THE EMERGENCE OF OER”

The first thing that comes to my mind after reading “Giving Knowledge for Free” is OER projects and the fact that major parts of resources are located in English-speaking countries in the developed world. Bringing and spreading out OER in the developing or undeveloped countries is still worthwhile even it already made progress. Take my country China as a developing country example. Fast development of information technology impacts on traditional closed and unilateral teaching pattern----classroom as main learning environment, teacher as center, paper materials as tools. From several years of educational practice, we experienced using developing information technology to set up an open resource and investigative teaching pattern is a preferable integration of technology and teaching innovation. China Open Resource for Education in common believes with Charles M. Vest, MIT's ex-president who started MIT OCW that "education can be advanced---by constantly widening access to information and by inspiring others to participate" and agree with new president, Susan Hockfield, that faculty and "students everywhere can benefit from [joining] a global learning community in which knowledge and ideas are shared openly and freely for the benefit of all". In a developed country, extracurricular prize might be thought a lot of than a formal college graduation certificate.

There is one more advantage I would like to add to incentives for individual teachers and researchers to open sharing. Reputation is no doubt meaningful to individual contributor; feedback can be also gained from publicity. Usually feedback is given by a group of people in a closed environment; and it is restricted. In my opinion, no matter the teachers or researchers, any academician will enjoy gaining feedback of people from different fields and levels. Individual academic work might be significantly improved.

Copyright is a very important issue in OER. In the movement of information technology, everyone downloads or upload various materials on the internet. Copyright is often neglected by people. In fact, there are still large numbers of people who don’t even know anything about copyright on the internet. As long as there is useful information for them on the internet, they will think they can be legally obtained. To avoid infringing other people’s intellectual right, I strongly agree the idea of use open licenses to create a space in the Internet world.

With such rapid growth of OERs, the related software of teaching students how to find the high quality and useful information should be followed immediately. People often ask for help on how to get help. Therefore, lots of professionals on computer or software are needed. On this point, free teaching materials seem ideal to me; those professionals need to contribute extra time and effort which may not be very obvious as the OER. Government funding, public contribution, company or institute donations are suggested to be used on this group of professionals.

There is one more issue I would like to mention this week. People will be familiar with the OCW day by day as well as the students. Course content can be easily found through OCW; there might be a problem. Teachers open all the materials in the course to the public including the test materials; students can get the test exactly the same as given by on-campus courses. This might cause cheating reaction and slacken the study because they can get high grade without hard-study. My question is, should the test materials also be given into the open?


David said...

You said, "My question is, should the test materials also be given into the open?"

I would have to answer "yes." The only problem occurs when a teacher uses the same test year after year, never updating their materials. This is one case in which participating in the "open" approach causes more work for the teacher. You can't be both lazy and open...

jessie said...

That's right, then the teachers should be more positive, diligent, also the students...New test ideas can be found frequently.