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Friday, November 8 • 3:00pm - 3:25pm
Ecosystem: A Threshold Moment for Open Learning Materials

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The early history of the most groundbreaking technologies is often a dismal one. They might lumber along as outliers for years before the right elements come together and suddenly catapult them from the fringe into the mainstream. Online videos of lecture courses, for example, have been around for more than a decade but it wasn?t until certain conditions were satisfied that we would have the phenomenon of MOOCs. To turn the commonplace academic video lecture into perhaps an academy-altering force one needed to assemble first-rate content and maintain the integrity of a complete course, and do this with the imprimatur of top universities. This helped turn an already tired technology into a truly disruptive one.
A similar pattern is shaping up for OERs and it is unfolding across three closely related but distinct stages, viz., ?enthusiasm,? ?quality,? and ?formalization.? The first stage emerged when faculty at institutions like MIT and Rice established repositories for OERs. They may not have had a business plan, but the dream to make academic content free, flexible, and openly shareable sparked great excitement. While difficult to realize partly because of the unevenness of OER quality, the enthusiasm itself has been critical?sustaining the dream and helping to inspire those who would bring it to the second stage, the emergence of ?publisher quality? OERs.
Rice University-based OpenStax has collected large sums in foundation support to produce OERs that are on par with their commercial rivals. The production of these open license textbooks is by itself groundbreaking and extraordinary; they signal that the quality barrier has now fallen.
The early results at OpenStax have also been encouraging, with the physics book, for example, winning 3% of adoptions in less than a year. The OpenStax catalog is also growing rapidly; even now it offers materials for courses taken by millions of students. This is one effort at one university; imagine what will happen as others participate--and they will.
High quality OERs, however, will not alone suffice for mainstream use because quality isn?t the only barrier. Repositories still exist as silos, there?s little alignment of interests at the local level across the key stakeholders?administrators, faculty, and students, there are ease of use issues, and there?s not enough online support for the materials themselves (assessment, machine learning, homework, etc.). Just as quality content required the formalization of video lectures through the MOOCs, so too will OpenStax and other high quality OER content require a robust centralized platform. This need gives rise to the third stage of OER development, formalization, and it?s happening now.
The platform race is on and this talk will discuss the approaches that various organizations are taking to create the right ecosystem. Sapling, Lumen Learning, Connexions, Wiley, and panOpen, among others, are all proceeding in different but related ways. It?s a good and valuable competition for the OER movement as it provides the final component that, taken together with other two, will fundamentally reshape the way academic domain knowledge is produced and shared.

avatar for Brian Jacobs, Ph.D

Brian Jacobs, Ph.D

Founder & CEO, panOpen
Founder & CEO of panOpen, a learning platform focused on helping educational institutions effectively use Open Educational Resources to lower costs and improve student outcomes.

Friday November 8, 2013 3:00pm - 3:25pm

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