A while ago, I wrote about Open Access in the context of science and in particular, collaborative science. Since then, a lot has happened. By now, the University systems of Sweden, Germany and California no longer have access to Elsevier articles, due to failed subscription negotiations. Norway and Hungary have abandoned negotiations, but still access, as far as I can see. Strangely enough, some scientists just ignore this as if it hasn’t happened. Swedes, Germans and Californian continue to serve on Elsevier boards and a PhD student of mine recently attended a conference in Germany, where the proceedings where in an Elsevier journal. The organizers themselves thus would not be able to download the articles form their proceedings.

Springer, on the other hand, has a new contract with both german and swedish universities that follows what the universities wanted: A significant decrease in fees, combined with open access provisions for authors from those universities. When awesome scientists publish with Springer, it is open access, see e.g. here.

The corresponding movement in education is called Open Educational Resources (OER). For me, the concept is associated with MIT Open Courseware, where one of the truly brilliant mathematical educators, Gilbert Strang, has put many of his lectures. A term that came up in this context is that of MOOCs, massively online open courses. A course that made a lot of headlines was run in 2011 at Stanford with Sebastian Thrun being one of the organizers. They had 100.000 people signing up and more than 20.000 finishing. These are both amazing and disappointing numbers. With this kind of throughput, as it is called in sweden, even in education, you would get a sequence of more and more unpleasant discussions with your superiors.

Nevertheless the question you have to ask yourself as an educator is: Where is my place in teaching, when such courses exist. And the answer has to be: I can deliver something more valuable to my students. If it isn’t, it is probably not in society’s interest to fund you as a teacher, respectively your style of teaching. And honestly, I am not afraid of MOOCs.

A more interesting term that I learned about in ONL is the LOOC, meaning a little online open course, which is something like the ONL course itself. In the ONL course, there are small groups (ours is five people), helped along by facilitators. And this gives value. I really do wonder where the universities place will be in this. A big question already now is: How do we organize live long learning? Is this the domain of private enterprise? Or should the government take a role in this? If there is the right to a sabbat year, as some suggest, who funds the education? I assume that the answer here will depend a bit on who moves first. If universities establish themselves there, they might be the answer.

A question that arises now is, how can you create a collaborative and nurturing learning experience online? And the more I think about this question during the course, the longer a rather disturbing thought takes up space in my brain. And this thought is: What did you ever do in your offline courses for a collaborative and nurturing learning experience? Which is in fact in line with my blogpost from last time: There is not that much of a difference between offline and online. And I have honestly not put much work and thought into how my students learn and work: Form groups, people! It’s good for you! See you next week! So the third topic of the ONL course, “Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning” should deliver more on this question. 

ONL 2 – Sharing and Openness