As the concept of open source has evolved and expanded over the past two decades from difficult-to-manage productivity and organizational tools to a vast, friendly, and rapidly growing bank of interactive open content, the possibility for grassroots innovation that can transform higher education is more viable than ever.
Beyond the open-source learning management system (LMS), for instance, which has become a cornerstone for many higher-education institutions, open education resources (OER) are disrupting traditional teaching and learning processes by radically altering the “supply and demand” balance of courseware creation and deployment to place learners front and center in the process.
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Today, this OER-supported participatory model is playing a central role in the increasingly ubiquitous blended and eLearning environments, which bring to the table the affordability, flexibility, and immediacy that critics say is becoming crucial to higher education’s position of relevance in the digital century and beyond. But there are still many barriers standing in the way.
In this article, I’ll explain what these are and propose solutions for overcoming them.
The power of open education resources
The theory of “open” is that when content and derivative works are shared openly and contributed to by a large number of people, the resulting crowd-sourced knowledge affords a greater diversity and social exchange that enriches both the learning experience and the material.
Moreover, the OER community promotes an environment where large networks of contributors draw upon and feed into collective repositories of content.
Ideally, OER digital content—such as blogs, videos, wikis, tweets, podcasts, curriculum websites, and other resources—can be “stitched together” to create deeply engaging multidimensional learning events that comprise the kind of open courseware whose participatory nature fosters personalization, higher-order thinking, and authentic problem solving.
When mediated by faculty in blended learning and eLearning environments, such ongoing knowledge creation can become integral to a vital, collaborative 21st-century learning experience that truly prepares students to take active roles in shaping an unknown future.
Obstacles to OER implementation
Though a tidal wave of possibilities exist for transformative learning experiences in the world of OER, we nevertheless pose the question: Are we really at a turning point in the creation of truly crowd-sourced knowledge?