With our discussion of OER this week, I can’t help but think that we need to prepare for a new “look” of education, especially in the arena of universities and higher education. The college that my children attend will most likely be completely different than the college I attended. Will it be necessary for my children to attend a brick and mortar school to earn a postsecondary education? Will their tuition costs be higher or lower? Will they spend just as much on textbooks as I did (nearly 20 years ago)? Or, will they no longer be using printed textbooks and exclusive materials?
I would like to address two issues related to OER…
First, OER is opening doors to new ways of learning that must be accommodated by our modern institutions of learning. The reality is that people can learn without the help of a formal institution. And, the reality is that people are learning independently all the time. Why, then, do we so heavily rely on a degree from a formal institution to give credence to a person’s abilities, knowledge, and learning? What does a formal degree really mean these days, anyway?
I am intrigued by Peer2Peer University, University of the People, and Western Governor’s University – universities which are bridging the gap between what people can learn openly and (more) freely and how such learning is credentialed. This only makes sense to me. We must start recognizing other ways of learning as valid. We must start expecting students to be able to provide evidence of learning beyond a college diploma. How about electronic portfolios that demonstrate a particular skill set?
Second, the need for critical thinking and quality assurance cannot be ignored in this age of “open” education. Yes, there are many resources out there. It can be argued that one could piece together the makings of a degree from combining instruction from a variety of sources. However, to just leave everything wide open, as if every open resource is equally valuable, is foolishness. We must put both personal and institutional policies in place that protect us from an overload of poor materials by which to learn. People should be able to access materials from an established, credible source, with the understanding that certain quality standards have been upheld. Students also must develop critical thinking skills so that they can independently evaluate all open educational resources.
Anya Kamenetz (2009, September 1). How Web-Savvy Edupunks Are Transforming American Higher Education. Fast Company. http://www.fastcompany.com/node/1325728/print