Thursday, August 30, 2012

An OER Model for College-Level Courses: Coursera

Coursera combines the time-length constraints of a traditional course with the expertise of experts, professors, and peers in the open education community.  Through Coursera, sixteen colleges and universities offer non-credit certificate courses in sixteen different categories.  The categories offer some similarities to Saylor’s areas of study (ie. they both are similar to majors a four-year degree would have), but Coursera doesn’t offer course sequence map or degree program suggestions. 

I particularly like the Honor Code that students need to accept before entering every course for the first time.  It’s a nice confirmation that even though it is a free online course, academic integrity still applies. 

Reading deeper into the terms of usage, I found that the course materials aren’t covered under a CC-BY.  Their policy states, “You may not otherwise copy, reproduce, retransmit, distribute, publish, commercially exploit or otherwise transfer any material, nor may you modify or create derivatives works of the material” (Terms of Use).  Every open education organization is defining what it means to be “open” a little differently.  Coursera’s offers free, massive open (enrollment) online courses (MOOCs) for non-credit certificates. 

Although there is an instructor, the peer community is just as important.  If you live in a major city (New York, London, Moscow, San Francisco) you can sign up for a face-to-face Meetups with fellow “Courserians.”  There isn’t anything close enough to me, yet, but the one in NYC has an event in two weeks with 42 people attending.  Those are better numbers than some traditional face-to-face courses.

I’m enrolled for “Gamification” taught by Kevin Werbach from the University of Pennsylvania.  I think I will just be auditing the course for now as I’m already taking a for-credit course at the University at Albany for my PhD, but I may try to finish a few of the quizzes.  It’s also making me wonder if I would want to do an independent study in Gamification and Education for my degree.  The course content is fantastic.

I think that I would complete even more if there wasn’t a time limit.  This is why it’s great that there are so many models; every student has slightly different needs.  I can see where having a time limit would keep me from procrastinating.  For example, when I sign in there is a great timeline that shows how far along I am in the course to remind me I need to get to work.  So I will!

Friday, August 10, 2012

An OER Model for College-Level Courses: Saylor

With many types of online course models (P2P, Coursera, etc.) flooding the internet, it’s interesting to see one that focuses not only on the courses, but the student learning portfolio.  Saylor’s ePortfolio stands out as a way to bridge the gap between open education and traditional education.

There are a lot of great things about Saylor’s system already.  The “Areas of Study” feature allows students to pick a traditional degree major.  In The English Literature Major, students can take a variety of courses that any face-to-face college student would (ie. English Composition, Shakespeare, and Introduction to Literary Theory) and a few electives they might not (ie. Dante, James Joyce, and The Gothic Novel).  Right now there are thirteen different majors (including a General Education major), but students can take whichever courses they wish in whichever order.  Enrolling in a major, however, assigns a sample degree plan for the area of study.  You don’t have to follow it (and I won’t), but it gives a good representation of which courses a traditional institution would require.  I wish I could choose to take something other than French I & II for the humanities requirement.

Students do not earn college credit, but their learning is displayed on a transcript that students can download, print, or/and email.  

The best part about the ePortfolio is the ability to view the student directory-a list of other students on Saylor that can be sorted by major/area of study.  You can click on a student and see a list of the courses they have taken, their activity, resume, work samples, and anything else they’ve included in their profile.  

The range of students is incredible.  A home-schooled teenager, an economics professor in India, a returning Marine in transition, and on and on.  So far, there aren’t very many students using all the features of the ePortfolio, but it has a lot of potential.