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Taking Care of Business? The political economy of MOOCs and Open Education


I rashly promised to write an article with this title a few weeks ago, it has been rolling around my mind for a while and this was a good excuse to try and collect together a lot of information we have gathered in ALTO and picked up from colleagues on email lists and at conferences etc. You can find the online version over at the Central St. Martins Digital Present blog - it is long!. You can find a complete updated Word version of this article at this link. Check out the article by the CommonWealth of Learning (COL) about this subject, which has been a big influence and a useful source of information I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in this area read the COL article in full it is listed below with links etc.

Below is the beginning of the online version for a taster and below that a link to a video from the head of the OU - required viewing for those interested.

"In this provocative article John Casey, Open Education Project Manager at the university’s Centre for Learning and Teaching in Arts and Design (CLTAD), reflects on the massive changes underway in open education around the world. Driven by a mix of new technology, idealism, politics and venture capital in a time of increasing economic austerity, the movement has plenty of contradictions as well as exciting opportunities.

The university sector is changing rapidly and open education is increasingly in the mix as a force to be reckoned with as a change agent. This article provides a wide-ranging and rapid introduction to this exciting field, and outlines the implications for changes in our practice as well as the role of Design in providing viable solutions for the future of open education in the arts.

There has been quite a bit of media interest in MOOCs recently. They are the latest ‘in thing’ in the field of education and technology. In a MOOC, hundreds of thousands of students attend online courses at world-leading universities like Harvard and MIT – for free. What’s going on? University managers are rushing to their teaching Deans, saying ‘We have to have a MOOC!’. When asked do they know what a MOOC is? They say ‘No, but we have to have one! Everyone else is getting one!’. This is despite the dropout rate from a MOOC being around 90%. It’s a bit like the educational equivalent of an arms race. There is enormous advertising and peer pressure on university managers in this area, as this report about a ‘MOOC-induced’ management crisis at Virginia University in the USA makes clear.

As usual, with education and technology, there have been buckets full of hype flung around, not all of it fragrant. Truth is, some people have realized that providing the information and learning resources from inside a university level course is no big deal, if you are organized. Being organized, or otherwise, is really what this article is all about and the consequent reorganization of the academic workplace to support open education. Although the current cycle of activity in MOOCs and open education is being made possible by the internet, the real underlying ‘disruptive technologies’ at work here are the 19th century ones of the distance learning correspondence course and the concept of ‘open exams’, about which more later. It is impossible to understand this area of activity without some understanding of the wider social and economic context. So, to get us started, below are some key terms and concepts explained – at least from my perspective.... read more at this link"

Martin Bean Vice Chancellor of the Open University Video:

This year at the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA) conference Martin Bean, the Vice Chancellor of the Open University gave a great lecture about how open education can play a part in renewing our institutions. Above all, he stresses how this makes good business sense in the rapidly evolving international education market and should not be seen as some optional ‘good work. It is recommended viewing for all, especially senior managers trying to work out a strategy for the future – if you are short of time drop into the video at 42.00 on the timeline.

Highly Recommended Further Reading

Breaking Higher Education's Iron Triangle: Access, Cost, and Quality: by Sir John DanielAsha Kanwar, and Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić .

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