Home > Walden 6135 > The Impact of Open Source … and Open Course

The Impact of Open Source … and Open Course

Open Course Web (OCWs) sites offer free courses from top institutions to students worldwide.

These courses may hold particular appeal to distance learners. “One pervasive characteristic of the distance learner is an increased commitment to learning.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvaeck. P. 219. 2012) We are self-starters, highly motivated, live in a variety of areas, and sometimes have limited statewide resources. I grew up in Michigan. While we have a plethora fine colleges and universities, I’d love the opportunity to learn from a science professor from MIT or Yale.

While OCWs may sound promising at the onset, there are design issues to consider – as well as faculty attitudes.

Let’s review the use and implications of OCW sites in distance education. I’ll provide a specific analysis of an Open Yale Course (OYC) as it relates to traditional recommendations for designing distance learning.

I chose to review Yale’s GG140: The Atmosphere, the Ocean, and Environmental Change, http://oyc.yale.edu/geology-and-geophysics/gg-140.

Open course offerings, as I stated earlier, allow anyone to take quality courses entirely free. “The incentive for taking these courses is not college credit, but rather to simply acquire knowledge or engage in a unique learning experience.” (Laureate Education. n.d.) For example OYC “provides lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the public free of charge via the Internet.” Note: “Registration is not required. No course credit, degree, or certificate is available.” (Yale, n.d.)

We’ve studied four approaches for the instructional design of online asynchronous courses. I believe most open courses, including Yale’s, follow the model of “learner-directed design.” OYC students can “decide the order for studying topics, and may move throughout the modules in any order.” (SSAZ. P171. 2012) Note: additional instructional design approaches include linear, branched, and hyper-content applications.

The course design of GG140 appeared to address many factors related to detailed pre-planning and design for distance learning environments. For example, I compared it to Bates’ 12 “golden rules” using technology in education. (SSAZ. 2012) However, interaction and discussion did not seem to be the focus of the course. Lectures were dominant. Our text repeatedly stressed the value of community and conversation among students and instructors.

Students were encouraged to communicate via social media including FaceBook and Twitter. However, I wonder how many learners would actively interact if participation were not required for credit?

OYCs “are designed for a wide range of people around the world, among them self-directed and life-long learners, educators, and high school and college students.” (Yale, n.d.) This seems like a broad range of learners encompassing factors of culture, geography, age, and cognitive ability. A net cast this wide seems to negate the value of instructional designers’ and professors’ requirements to understand learner characteristics. High schoolers, to life-long learners, to educators…” Really? I think the audience needs to be more focused for distance learning to be effective. In my opinion, a learner-base this broad makes it nearly impossible for an instructor to assess learner readiness prior to the course. How do these professors “in the cloud” know their learners’ experiences, attitudes, or cognitive abilities?

Let’s also talk a bit about accountability. OCWs may exist outside the realm of an LMS. For example the OYC does not require learner registration. An organization cannot follow the application or transfer of acquired knowledge without the tracking functionality of a Course or Learning Management System. This deficiency impedes transfer — one of the key education contexts we studied. Transfer “considers opportunities for transferring the knowledge and skills to new situations.” (Morrison, Ross, Kalman, Kemp. P. 66. 2011) The transfer context follows the orientation and instructional contexts.

Carey Nelson of the American Association of University professors said open courses “can be terrific for delivering educational materials to retirement homes, where folks are unlikely to assume any social responsibilities for the ‘knowledge’ they have acquired.” (Basu. P. 2. 2012) Nelson went on to say open courses were “not education” and “not even a reliable means for credentialing people.” (Basu. P. 3. 2012)

John Orlando, PhD did not seem concerned with accountability when he wrote The “Open Education movement is challenging the dominant educational paradigm by re-engaging students with the world outside of the classroom.” He argued the constraints of today’s Learning or Course Management systems put students in boxes akin to closed classrooms. (Orlando. 2011)

Distance education should support the needs of students according to the “rubrics” outlined in our text. I do not see the following “best practices” being applied by OYCs. For example:

  • There are no incentives or rewards tied to the course.
  • There are assessments, but no demonstrative learning outcomes.
  • Yale does not provide student support services.
  • Accreditation is not available for these courses. (SSAZ. P. 174. 2012)


I’ve heard very little about the response of our own Faculty communities to the OCW models. A colleague forwarded an article that gives a bit of insight to faculty thought. Three themes were expounded upon.

  1. Online Open courses could hamper the “democratization” of education by creating a system where only wealthy students benefit from the “social rite” of attending to a brick and mortar campus to interact with real professors. The rest of the world would take online courses.
  2. Online open courses could threaten the livelihoods of higher education faculty if universities view this as a growing industry that would overshadow “mom-and-pop” stores, or community colleges as equated in this reference.
  3. Online open courses would create “super professors” at elite universities that replace lectures by university faculty and harm faculty morale and engagement.

Works cited:

Basu, K. (2012) Faculty Groups Consider How to Respond to MOOCs. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/05/23/faculty-groups-consider-how-respond-moocs.

Morrison, R., Ross, M., Kalman, K., Kemp, E. (2011), Designing Effective Instruction, (6 th ed.) Hoboken, NJ. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Orlando. J. (2011). Tapping into the Power of Open Education to Improve Teaching and Learning. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/tapping-into-the-power-of-open-education-to-improve-teaching-and-learning/.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson

Open Yale Courses (n.d.). Retrieved June 2, 2012, from http://oyc.yale.edu/.

Open Yale Courses (n.d.). The Atmosphere, the Ocean, and Environmental Change. Retrieved June 2, 2012, from http://oyc.yale.edu/geology-and-geophysics/gg-140.

Categories: Walden 6135
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