In a report by The Guardian today, Mandy Garner describes how European universities are on the verge of adopting an open content policy. She writes, “the Joint Information Systems Committee (Jisc) and the Higher Education Academy are launching a £5.7m pilot scheme to investigate the impact of open content and to look at issues of how to contextualise existing online material so anyone can make sense of it.” So what does this mean for online courses, and higher education in general?
In simple terms, open content for education will mean that lectures and seminars will be available to anybody, instead of being available just to students of the institutions that produce it. As a consequence of this, the notion of online study will become more appealing for institutions and students alike because the best course content will be available to all, and comparable on a global level.
However, this could mean a lot more for higher education in general. Not only will the online content available be of a higher quality due to global competition, but traditional courses may also be inclined to start incorporating digital means into their structure more often. A likelihood that is backed up by the tendency for current traditional degrees to have their own intranets and forums where students can post work for peer assessment etc.
Unsurprisingly, open content for higher education is not a new a course in miracles thing. As Garner explains, “Universities in the Netherlands, for instance, have an open source initiative that is mainly in English. The University of Paris is also using open content and 800 educational resources from around 100 teaching units have been made available by 11 member universities of the ParisTech Open CourseWare Consortium.”
However, what is perhaps even less surprising is that the USA has been ahead of the game of online education for years, “where thousands of courses have been made available by university-based projects, including MIT OpenCourseWare.” Not only does it seem that the UK is behind in terms of deeming online learning as legitimate (US online courses are advertised on television), but we are also slacking compared to the rest of the world in terms of the accessibility of higher education.