What comes to mind when we think of the Word «open»? A feeling of freedom or are you a bit agoraphobic? Do you want a 360 degree view, or do you feel better if your view is – if not more limited – at least a bit more directed or guided? These are some of the issues we have been tackling in my group in the Open Networked Learning course I am taking. If you’d like to hear a group of experts from around the Globe discuss the concept of openness related to online Learning you can listen to this podcast.

Here they discuss what they associate with the word «open» related to open education resources and MOOC. Freedom to search for and access knowledge, inclusion and connectivity are concepts that they mention. Of course these are concepts and goals most people want to see in education, I don’t think it is that simple. There is a difference between an open educational resource and a MOOC and there is something to be said for (and against) gatekeepers.

Open educational resources – resources that can be used free of charge, can be compared to the books you might loan at your public library. How you use them is up to you – as part of a larger course, as a tool to create something (just as wordpress is a tool for creating blogs), as a way to create an image for yourself (show me Your open educational resources and I’ll tell you who you are!) But what happens when the providers of these resources stop updating and providing? And how do we know if the creators and providers of these resources have taken adequate steps to stop their resources from being spreaders of malware or a resource that is free to use, as long as we allow intermittant advertisements that we have no control over to pop up?

MOOCs – Complete courses that can also incorporate open educational resources raise a different set of questions. How do we know that the expertise being provided in the MOOC is in fact expertise? MOOCs often have different levels of access where non-paying students perhaps have access with limited interaction – making a MOOC not much different than a book with questions to answer at the end of each chapter. However, once a MOOC is Incorporated into an active learning environment it seems to me the true purpose of the MOOC is realized.

It seems to me that for students seeking an education their experience has to be completely interactive. Learning by doing and sharing experiences with others. We don’t need to go to Vygovtsky to understand the importance of social interaction in the learning experience. Just remember Your first experiences in the kitchen with your family or friends trying out a new recipe – the Learning experience sits deeper and lasts longer when it involves good social-interaction.

I have some concerns about open educational resources. Some are fairly obvious – like what if the site hosting them suddenly disappears? But there may be some deeper concerns as well. How do I know an open educational resource comes from a reliable source? How can I be sure that what I download or access through my social media account isn’t a big trap set up to introduce malware into my system or steal my Identity? Paranoid? Maybe! But I think I would want to choose my OERs and MOOCs from a curated source. Maybe your public library or a local university has a portal to OERS and MOOCs. If you’re really paranoid – why not go to the Citadel’s portal for a comprehensive list of OERs.Open educational resources/MOOCs may not be as open as we think. People with hearing, sight, cognitive and physical challenges are often excluded from these resources. Here are a few links to help all of us keep this in mind, when we start designing OERS and MOOCS. Universal design Getting up to speed and Accessible Online Meetings

Finally a word about gatekeepers and curators.

File:'Fountain' by Marcel Duchamp (replica).JPG - Wikimedia Commons

Gatekeepers and curators should have roles in ensuring the quality and sustainability of OERS and MOOCs. As a potential producer of an OER or a MOOC I would like that stamp of approval from a gatekeeper, and I would like to know that my resource was being promoted within a context that reflected my intention for how that resoure should/could be used. A peer review system for OERs and MOOCs, just as manuscripts are evaluated for publication might be a good thing. But gatekeepers and curators can inhibit the free flow of knowledge and innovation as well. Some brave curator accepted Duchamp’s urinal as a work of art – and that turned the art world upside down. Part of the glory of MOOCs and OERs is that we have the potential to create learning as we would like to see it. I’m on the fence on this one – I think I am feeling my age.