Open courseware 2.0: The next steps in the OER movement

Putting free courseware online was a first step in reimagining education. So what now? Wiki universities, smart courses, and—maybe—improved learning, reports the New York Times. A decade has passed since MIT decided to give much of its course materials to the public in an act of largesse. The MIT OpenCourseWare Initiative helped usher in the “open educational resources” (OER) movement, with its ethos of sharing knowledge via free online educational offerings. The movement has helped dislodge higher education from its brick-and-mortar moorings and has given higher education unprecedented reach—but putting course materials online for free isn’t cheap. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the principal financial backer of the open educational movement, has spent more than $110 million on these efforts over the past eight years, and now the foundation is pushing its grant recipients to do more than just make courseware available. In a letter to grantees in February, the foundation said that the current financial climate has forced it to reduce its education grant-making budget by 40 percent since 2008, requiring the foundation to adhere more closely to its primary goals: “to increase access to knowledge for all and improve the practices of teaching and learning.” “We’d like to see data being gathered, and see these materials being improved, and we’d like to see new models of learning,” says Victor Vuchic, the Hewlett program officer responsible for open education. He says the foundation is interested in projects that track and analyze who is using programs, look at how open education enhances learning, and examine how it is changing the future of education…

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