Saturday, April 17, 2010

Disrupting the University

Katie Hafner's recent NYTimes article An Open Mind, answered some concerns I had had about students learning through free, online courses such as those offered through the M.I.T. OpenCourseWare Initiative.  

One of my concerns was that students accessing these courses as independent learners would have no one to answer their questions or reply to their reflections. One solution to this concern is answered at the Peer 2 Peer UniversityPeer 2 Peer University, which is a tuition-free nonprofit experiment financed with seed money from the Hewlett and Shuttleworth foundations.  At P2PU a 'course organizer' leads the discussion but you are working with others so when you have a question you can ask any of your peers.  Ability to network with others taking the same course could be extremely helpful.  It sounds as if you could even create online study groups.

Another site which pulls together open courses from various universities and encourages students interaction is the University of the People.  According to Kafner's article, students not only interact, but  students even grade one another's papers!  My reaction - Why not?  In my own teaching experience I've found that given a good rubric to follow, students usually grade each other very effectively and sometimes even offer good, constructive feedback.

My other concern with open educational resources was accreditation.  Students may accrue a great deal of knowledge, but if they don't receive any official certification of this knowledge would it ultimately be useful to them for job-seeking purposes?  Both Peer 2 Peer University and the University of the People do not at the present time offer accreditation, but both seem to be in the process of seeking to offer it in the future.   It's a wonderful world!


S McPherson said...

On Thursday night in my f2f graduate technology class we were discussing online vs. f2f. Some students in the class teach in districts with contractual restrictions negotiated by teachers' union that do not accept online courses toward their salary differential - even if they are graduate and even in they are required in an accredited program. Either the program has to alter the program to meet the f2f requirements or the students have to find another graduate program -not technology. The resistance to online learning runs deep. The skeptics are in positions of power. I can't imagine they would ever accept open education as we've been discussing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog.

University of the People is committed to opening the gates of higher education to qualified students from all over the world who are interested in participating in college-quality academic programs. We believe that education at a very minimal cost is a basic right for all suitable applicants, not just for a privileged few.
We recommend that you check out the site:

to learn more about our effort.

Meesh said...

Online education can work brilliantly. I volunteer for the Australian Breastfeeding Association which uses online technology to deliver Certificate IV's in Breastfeeding Education in two strands counselling and community as well as Training and Assessment. One of my trainers worked effectively from Asia with her Australia based trainees. They are one of the first volunteer groups to become a registered training organisation in the recognised Vocational Education and ztraining Sector. A lot of the material is delivered online, using a government supported platform alongside more traditional teaching methods, the trainees choose a mix of methods that suit them best. Online delivery is great for parents juggling young children or those living in isolated areas. Thankfully the certificates are well recognised and have been used to obtain jobs when returning to the workforce or to receive advanced standing in further courses.