Friday, September 7, 2007

Open Ed: Open educational resources and the decentralized development model

Much of the discussion in week 1 was about the right to education and whether governments should mandate education and compel people to attend. I spoke of the right to not go to school and Dr. Wiley gave a good answer to that point “...but how should a government respond if an overwhelming majority of its school-aged children choose to refuse? What would be the future consequence of such widespread illiteracy and innumeracy? Would the government have an obligation to step in and “do what’s best” for the future of the people and the country?” The answer to this question for me is YES. The government should step in and begin to mandate education for its citizens in the interest of the advancement of that society. The problems that would arise from not doing so would far outweigh the issues of personal freedom that would result from compelling people to go to school. What a government does in such times of crisis is and should be different from what it does in times of normalcy. For times when a society is desiring to go to school as a majority and a small minority does not want to go to school, it may be appropriate to make a joint decision on the local and national level whether to compel this minority to attend and bypass their personal freedom to not get an education. I have to admit that I do not know the answer to this dilemma.

So if a government has interest in educating its citizens for the advancement of society, then the government should certainly provide a quality education to its citizens (and I believe that this should be free if it is mandatory) and perhaps more. So what more can a government give to its citizens to support self-directed learners who are no longer compelled to go to school? How can a government increase the availability of information? How can a government support the need for its teachers to continually learn and update skills? Pedro has a great thought “By having access to the knowledge -whatever it be- is a way to educate yourself. But most of times, it is not enough. The knowledge needs to be organized in some other way than an alphabetic sort. "Open education" (in the sense thar is organized knowledge) can be useful to achieve the goal to satisfy the right to education for some people, like adults looking for knowledge in a life-long-learning situation.” I agree that this is where open educational resources come in. These are a great way to continue to spread knowledge to those who want it.

Hylen gives a great overview of open educational resources in Giving Knowledge for Free. I spoke to him at the OpenEd 2006 conference after he presented many similar facts there. I find it interesting that the survey results say that the most compelling reasons for producing and disseminating open educational resources are to have someone else review your material for quality, and be acknowledged as the creator. Most people are not asking for much when the produce open educational resources, the factors that deal with financial recompense are the lowest in the scale. To me this means that people who produce OERs care about the cause and want education to spread along with their own personal notoriety.

Another point of note is the fact that open educational resources tend to help out the instutions that produce them. Hylen mentions that these resources and the institutions that produce them are subject to “rapid quality improvement and faster technical and scientific development.” This decentralized development “increases quality, stability and security; and free sharing of software, scientific results and educational resources reinforces societal development and diminishes social inequality. From a more individual standpoint, open sharing is claimed to increase publicity, reputation and the pleasure of sharing with peers.” These are very good results that come from the production of OERs.

This idea of decentralized development has been an interesting shift in United States business models over the past few years. Proctor and Gamble, for instance, has reduced its internal research and development efforts and instead relied upon outside customer and expert feedback to improve its current products and create new ones. National Public Radio has followed a similar pattern in the development of its radio programs. This model is nothing new, it has been followed very extensively in open source software, the quality of which is undeniable.

My hope is that the education sector can catch on to this model by allowing for decentralized development of quality educational materials, decreasing the amount of time it takes for professors themselves to improve and revise materials.

1 comment:

  1. Can you imagine a way in which it would work? For example, how would we do this within the INST department here at USU?