Sunday, October 21, 2007

OpenEdu Week 8: Economic Models of Open Education

QUESTIONS: How can you build a sustainable business around giving away educational materials? How can you build a sustainable business model around giving away credentialed degrees? Should governments fund open education? (Do they already?)

My feeling out of this week’s topic: From large amount of weekly reading, my capability of reading and writing skills are improved a lot. Now I find that it is not that hard to understand some of the articles, it is because I joined this class with high expectation to learn interesting materials and adapt myself to a brand new learning environment. After the second week, I found some of the readings were not very interesting and not related very much to our major content, so I lost my confidence and motivation without enough feedback from the instruction and comments from our classmates. My mind was changing over time; I was thinking that I cannot fit into the new leaning environment because of my 14-year traditional educational experience in my country. Till this weekend, I know some students share the same feelings as me, and it is good to notice that we need find a way to improve the quality of this class. Personally, I think we need more time to digest the new knowledge or information after self-reading and more time to receive the feedback from instructor and classmates. Keep large amount of weekly reading without feedbacks is too pushing, plus all of us have other things to be taken care of. I really appreciate David provides this good opportunity for us and I understand how busy he is with work traveling and family fairs. To start an innovation like this class is hard, all of us instructor and students just need to keep on hard-working and encourage each other. I don’t mind to be the white mouse in the new course testing if it can be improved through this semester or next. I can also learn new things and enhance myself because I do feel I am learning in this class more than some of the other classes which are hold in the classrooms. Every thing will be worth!

Now come back to this week’s readings and answer the questions one by one. Firstly, “sustainable” is the key word this week. What does it actually mean? It means a maintained state or process at a certain level. In David’ article, sustainability might be defined as the ability of a project to continue its operations; he also indicated that the definition of sustainability should include the idea of accomplishing goals in addition to ideas related to longevity. So before we can build a sustainable business, we need to find out what the giving away educational materials’ goal is. From Oberholzer & Strumpf’s point in Downes’ article, I extend to the point that OER may actually increase the market of education. In common, people think money is the main issue to sustain a business; but I agree with Downes’ idea that "is only one part of a larger picture". Besides money, other key factors such as participation and ownership, government policies, social, gender and culture, technology, external political and economic factors and so on should also be put into count. OER’s target group is a wide range of people so a sustainable business can be build on something participated with wide range of people. Network such as Wiki, chatting software such as MSN messenger, ICQ, OCW such as eduCommons is also good example. Large group of people in variety of academic fields, different ages, different educational levels, and different cultures all over the world can all involve in and support one business. Most of the time, plain educational materials are thought not very interesting, if the business has something more interesting such as educational games, will that help sustain the business?

“Giving away credentialed degrees” in the second question does not mean too much to me because of my different traditional education background. I hardly find the way to judge the quality of OER. But later I end up with people can accept different levels of OER, so I think the quality of OER depends on different individual and it is hard to give a standard to say which has low quality of content. Nevertheless, what is the value of giving away credentialed degrees and how can we ensure the quality of giving away credentialed degrees? I don’t know here, but if I want to build a business model in China around giving away credentialed degrees, it won’t work out. Students and parents would like to spend more money on getting a quality degree in a better university other than get a credentialed degree for free. Most people put the quality degree in the most important place than any other factors. There are some economic models that creators of open educational resources currently use to fund their initiatives: MIT model, USU model, Sponsorship model, Governmental model, Replacement Model, and so on. But I think the only model that might be worked out for build a sustainable business is the government funding model because generally people have a hard time accept giving away credentialed degrees.

Finally, I think the governments should fund open education so that people have more opportunities to learn. In China and many other countries, students cannot learn the materials which are provided by other universities. With open educational resources, people can obtain variety of materials from in and out of their fields. Governments may also have the question that “Are open educational resources as effective as traditional resources?” “How much should we fund open education?” One answer from David’s article is “National or regional conversations regarding institutional policies that can promote faculty engagement, or at least lower barriers to faculty engagement.” I heard from a Japanese speaker in the conference, he indicated that the Japanese government has conflict with the traditional universities on funding open education because of the Japanese culture. In China, the government now is focusing more on funding new educational system in schools in order to enhance the capability of the students in school. In addition, Chinese government also funds some of the poor students who can’t afford to schools. They haven’t move to funding open education yet which is with larger group of people. And I think it will take a long time for them to think about the potential learners besides the younger students based on the current situation.

1 comment:

Karen Fasimpaur said...

I think it is great that we are all reflecting on our own learning process and how this course fits it. It is always good for us as teachers to go back to being students and remember how hard it is to learn. :) I have been impressed at how much we are all learning and experiencing even without the guidance of an instructor after the first week. That's what constructivism is all about. I think we are all learning a lot, not only about OER but about how we learn and how new environments can affect that. The group in this course has provided me with new insights. Thank you, and hang in there!