Open Courseware, Is free the best option?

Over the last several years, universities across the nation have been putting their course content online for anyone interested to look at and learn from. The MIT OpenCourseware project by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of those universities. (2014) The MIT OpenCoursware website offers several different topics ranging from Business to Science, each of which can be divided further into sub-topics and specialties. Some courses offer video or audio lectures, examples of past student work, lecture notes, and interactive simulations. The information presented is remarkable, but is it useful as a replacement for a distance learning environment?

The content structure is well designed and the amount of topics is staggering, but easy to navigate. It is possible to narrow down your search for information using the Course Finder and find individual courses based on your interests.

mit_coursefinder

However, as a distance learning environment an important factor is missing, the instructor or student interaction. Interaction in the classroom, in its various forms, has been shown to be an important part of the learning experience. (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & ZVacek, 2014). However, the framework is there to adapt the content and apply it towards a fully developed online course.

The content provided on the MIT Courseware site is structured in such a way that an instructional designer could take it and design a course around it, which could meet the Unit-Module-Topic guideline. (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & ZVacek, 2014). A course management system would provide the communication tools for a more immersive and interactive learning environment.

After looking at some of the content provided in the courses, several projects and activities are suggested, along with student examples. For example, in a course about using technology for creative learning (Resnick, 2009), several creative examples of using technology in different ways are provided. I think these provide excellent ideas for both learner and instructor to learn about the subject they are studying.

Personally, I probably would not use this type of learning environment as my primary source of learning, but it does provide a useful resource for finding out more about a given subject. Using it as a resource or framework for designing a more immersive learning environment, following the Terms of Use of course, might help in the development of a more effective source of learning.

Resource

Resnick, Mitchel, and Karen Brennan. MAS.714J Technologies for Creative Learning, Fall 2009. (MIT OpenCourseWare: Massachusetts Institute of Technology), http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/media-arts-and-sciences/mas-714j-technologies-for-creative-learning-fall-2009 (Accessed 3 Aug, 2014). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

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