Open Source Online Learning

Open-Source Learning came on the forefront in 2002 when MIT introduced their OpenCourseWare, an online platform where select MIT classes, including lectures, coursework, and sample student work, would be offered for free online to anyone and everyone who chose to offer it.  The sharing of knowledge dates back millennia, and supporters of OpenCourseWare sometimes compare it to “filling library shelves”.  As a newer technology, OCW has run into some of the same problems that the first books did – set in one language, and only available to those who can access it.  However, with the increasingly connected global community, more and more people have the technology necessary to access these course materials.  Additionally, it was not long after MIT put its first courses out on OCW that translations were available for non-English speakers.

Participation by other Universities

By 2005, many other universities had followed MITs lead, offering courses online.  One difference, however, is the amount of coursework available.  MIT’s goal is to offer all of the courses available on campus, free, online.  Grants are making this possible for the university.  Other universities, running against financial and logistical constraints of digitizing courses for free access and keeping these materials updated, have followed slightly different paths.  Some are seeking to only offer courses that MIT has not yet put online; some, like Utah State, are seeking to present coursework that is already available online in a more user-friendly and easily accessed manner.  All OpenCourseWare materials are easily accessible from the OpenCourseWare Consortium.  (sample course for display – Notre Dame)

OER Commons
Formally launched in March of 2007, the OER Commons is a comprehensive network for open education resources.  It combines OER – Open Education Resources – with features more common to social networking, including tagging, rating, reviews, and comments.   Through the OER Commons, resources can be found for K-12 and post-secondary.  This material comes from a variety of educational sources, including some from the Open Course Ware movement.  Tags and labeling allow users to quickly find resources that meet their needs – it is simple to filter only video lectures, and sort by the top rated, for example.

CC Learn

The Creative Commons is a non-profit organization founded in 2001 devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to freely share and build upon.  Creative Commons supports the OER movement, with a page specifically geared towards Open Education Resources – ccLearn.  Resources available from the OER Commons typically have a CC license attached to let others know how to appropriately use the materials – most commonly, a “Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike” license which allows users to share and make alterations to the material if they offer attribution for the work, if the work is shared non-commercially, and if the work is share under a similar license.

Challenges of the OCW Movement
The OCW Movement does face many challenges.  First, while the courseware really is "open", it is not readily acessible by all people.  While Open Educational Resources do allow for many more people to acquire materials to learn, the fact that OCW is online mens that only those with internet connections will be able to access the resources.  Additionally, the materials being offered as Open Educational Resources may run against laws in certain countries.  The idea of censoring these resources for certain audiences may jeopardize their original intent.  With the ability to share-alike, alterations of the work can be made, again presenting a challenge to the integrity of the original material.