Wk 6: Open source: Threat or enhancement for formal education

This week we have been asked to explore whether open access presents a threat or enhances formal education. I have looked at one open access course which I think is a good example of the possibilities for this type of  learning resource. In this post I discuss this and some of the arguments for and against this type of learning. I also discuss recognition of prior learning and how it might be related her. finally I consider my plan for designing a flexible learning resource.

Example of open access

I just had a look at the Harvard Law School course CyberOne: Law in the court of public opinion I am very impressed with this it seems to use a variety of online media and is well organised and reasonably clear to use. Looking at this makes me feel excited at the opportunities this presents for anyone, anywhere to engage with the course and expand their knowledge and skill. There is also an opportunity to meet with others from anywhere in the world and to share, collaborate, communicate and learn. Not only can this course be taken by students within the environs of Harvard, it can also be taken by students at a distance from anywhere in the world. The course content is also available for anyone, anywhere to access at anytime and engage with in what ever way they wish.

Arguments against

I wonder does this pose a threat to Harvard Law school? In what way might that threat be posed?

  1. By losing control of the material when it is out in the public domain is there a risk that the public might misuse this, bringing the name of the institution into disripute?
  2. By giving this material away does it make the material somehow less valuable or less desirable as academic attainment for those who pay to participate?
  3. If the material is given away for free why would people want to enrol and pay for this course?
  4. Can the institution afford to ‘give away’ its skill and expertise ? After all this is all that educational institutions have to sell to generate an income.

These are arguments that seem to have some validity and are arguments I have heard expressed against the idea of open access to educational resources.

Arguments for

I will address these points as I see them

  1. This is not a new thing. Since Caxton invented the printing press knowledge has been available through printed media for around 600 years. There has been a gradual process of making printed material more and more accessible. The current evolution of ease of searchability and accessibility has opened up access to many more people in recent years however the information has always been there for those who chose to find it and use it.
  2. By expanding the accessibility of a course and opening it up to a wider audience you are also opening up the learning opportunities not only for those who are getting this for free but also for those who are paying a fee. Education is moving away from the didactic approach of knowledge transfer from expert to novice and embracing an approach of learner centered learning, where learning communities explore and investigate topics of interest and expand and create new knowledge through this exploration.
  3. I can see that what is accessed for free is actually not the same as being enrolled and working through the course with lecturer and institutional support. Doing this course for free online might give me a feeling of personal satisfaction and personal growth but I will not have any evidence of the learning that I have done. To gain this recognition I would need to enrol.
  4. Although the institutuion appears very generous in giving this course to the wider community it does raise the profile of the institution. Of course I have heard of Harvard, but now I can actually see what happens there to some degree. I could even aspire to enrol in a course from there, which I never could have before, and gain a Harvard qualification. I will not be alone in thinking this I am sure. So by giving away something for free, the institution is also actually opening itself up to a whole new market.

I believe this open access course provides a good example of the possibilities for open access. The benefits to individuals and to the institution are clear to me and i am sure I am not alone. John Seely Brown clearly outlines these benefits. I think the arguments above would also be relevant to any open access course that we might be considering for our Midwifery School at Otago Polytechnic.

Recognition of prior learning

If I do engage with a course such as this online and then later decide to enrol in the course in order to get the qualification do I need to repeat all the learning that I have already done. This week in DFLP we had Willy Campbell from the CAPL talk to us about assessment for prior learning and recognition of prior learning. I was nnot able to attend but was able to listen to a recording of the session through Elluminate. Willy explained this process very clearly and the discussion that followed was very useful. Willy explained that learning can be formal through courses completed or partially completed, non formal through group work and workshops etc and informal through on the job learning. CAPL have processes through which they can assess all of these against recognised course outcomes and can help individuals to prepare a portfolio which they can then present for recognition of the qualification. There was an interesting discussion about performing an assessment, or getting students to self assess themselves at the start of a course. This would identify the students existing knowledge and would enable them to tailor the course to suit themselves. There was some concern expressed about taking those with some knowledge out of the group as this can be an important part of the learning for others and is also valuable for the more knowledgeable members of the group also. This avenue of RPL is a way for work which has already been completed to be recognised and rewarded.

My plan

I need to now be planning what I will work on developing for my presentation at the end of this course. I have been thinking perhaps about the digital literacy project. I am wondering if I could work on something that could be intertwined within courses in the midwifery program rather than as a separate entity. I have also been very interested in developing an Open Access midwifery resource online. I have already prepared a wiki which I have done a little work on and I may look at developing this further. I may change my mind very soon however as next week we have our first collaborative meeting with CPIT to get to grips with the new program delivery. something might transpire out of that to which I need to give my attention


In this post I have discussed open source learning and given and example with some discussion about the for’s and against’s in to this. I feel there is a clear argument for this type of resource. I have explained how recognition of prior learning might have a place in this process. Finally a brief discussion about possibilities for my final presentation in this course.

Next Post
Leave a comment


  1. raewyn

     /  May 3, 2008

    I love the way you put the advantages and disadvantages out there so clearly. I was also looking at the sites. I was fascinated by a MIT open course..gender studies..found lots of interesting things on reflection…Made me quite interested to look more into the course…

  2. >Since Caxton invented the printing press
    Caxton did_ not_invent the printing press. Guttemberg did.

    As the entry of the Wikipedia that you link to says:
    “He was the first English person to work as a printer and the first person to introduce a printing press into England.”

    And this is quite different from invent 🙂

  3. OOPs, thanks for pointing out my error Barbara. That is the great thing about being open, if you make a mistake someone will make sure it is corrected.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: