Open educational practices
What does ‘open‘ education mean?
The open educational practices aim for more openness in accessing courses and course material for all interested. In principle this is a very effective way to globally increase the level of education and spread knowledge. Personally I am in favor to educate the world and share knowledge with those that have no access to ‘closed’ education systems. In the classical system a student is registered at a university (this often requires intuition fees), in order to register he/she has to proof eligibility and show to have the level of education necessary to successfully complete the course or study. The teachers are employed by the universities to create education programs, based on self-create or purchased teaching material and methods. The universities facilitate learning and teaching and ensure quality and assessment of learning outcomes. Going from institutional education to open educational practices has many consequences for students, teachers and universities.
Who are the online students:
FDOL courses can be taken everywhere at anytime by everyone. But who are our FDOL/MOOC students and what are their motivations to participate in the courses? This blog by John Swope gives a summary of the demography of students that participated in 6 MOOCs organized by Edinburgh University. It is interesting to see that highest level of completed studies ranges from primary school (0.3%) to post-graduate university (40.2%) with over 70% of the participants already having a university degree. Also the motivation for students to participate in open online courses is different. The main motivation for university students is to improve career prospects, learn a profession and earn a larger salary (Survey, Cardiff University). Students that participate in FDOL courses want to learn something new or just experience online education. Only 33% follows the course to get a certificate. Expectation on student dedication and commitment should be based on student motivation. Between 7% (Chris Parr for Times Higher education) and 50% of enrolled students will complete the course (see this blog by Tucker Balch).
The motivation of teachers to get involved in FDOL varies. Some like to reach a larger audience, some are curious and like to explore alternative teaching methods and some just like to earn a little extra by offering online courses. One thing that became apparent to me (maybe I was naïve before) is that online teaching requires special skills and approaches and it is difficult to convert existing teaching material to tailor made digital content utilizing all benefits of FDOL. As a teacher the 50-93% drop-out is not really motivating in combination with the time and energy necessary to revise and reinvent effective teaching effect teaching experience. A blog post by Ronnie Burt titled “Why today is my last day teaching online…” discuss issues like student motivation and how rewarding online teaching is experienced.
The role of the universities:
The role of universities in the ‘closed’ education system is well defined. Universities are financially supported to educate and created an environment to enable teaching and learning. Recently many universities have implemented digital tools in their learning environment. Open educational practice is not the primary focus of universities and support for setting up FDOL courses is limited and mainly focused on exploring this new way of teaching. Furthermore, the established online education portals, like PingPong at the Karolinska Institute, are only for internal use and cannot be used in an open education framework. Alternative is to create (yet another portal) or explore some of the open education resources (EOR’s).
My impression is that governments stimulate FDOL and see it as the future of education. The universities follow policies and utilize the additional government funding to explore online education. Courses offered today are used to advertise the university and do not aim to replace traditional university education. I am curious how universities will react when online teaching further matures and becomes more competitive to courses and studies offered by universities.
Pioneering open education practice:
Open education and online learning are relatively new concepts of teaching and learning and teachers, universities and students will need some time to adapt to FDOL. Therefor I think it is important for my next step in becoming Flexible Distance Online Teacher (FDOT) I have the think big (utilize possibilities to the max) but start small (produce teaching material in small steps).