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Support Faculty Choice for Open Learning
November 18, 2009 - 9:39pm

Brad Stone has an interesting piece "The Argument for Free Classes via iTunes" in today NYTimes. He reports that iTunesU now has ~250,000 individual classes available for download and that other platforms like are experiencing dramatic growth.

Across our campuses a vigorous debate is taking place about if and how we can make our learning materials and educational product available and open to the world. A small but growing cadre of educators are eager to join the movement to participate in sharing educational resources. Some see this as an opportunity to reach out to prospective students and alumni, others believe that we have a moral requirement to participate in spreading learning as widely as possible. All of us closely follow and admire the success of institutions like M.I.T with their OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative, as well as other schools programs such Open Yale Courses and Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative.

I'd like to argue that the models provided by M.I.T., Yale and Carnegie Mellon are only one sort of example that could be followed, and that increasingly all institutions of higher learning will have the opportunity and choice to support individual instructors in their desire to make their learning open. The big change is the introduction of coming ubiquity of lecture capture systems. Platforms such at Techsmith Relay, Echo 360, and Tegrity currently allow (or will soon allow) recorded lectures to be published directly to iTunesU or We are very close to a point where individual instructors will be able to make the choice for themselves if they want to share their lectures and learning material with the world.

This will be a big change, because learning content that originates in our institutions will now begin to be widely and freely shared to the world without the institution providing the primary sponsorship for this activity. The M.I.T., Yale and Carnegie Mellon open learning initiatives are all examples of top-down organization and strategic positioning. By pairing lecture capture systems and free public media platforms such as iTunesU and faculty will be making their own decisions about what, when and how to share their materials. Lecture capture systems that were originally purchased to meet a pressing a institutional need to provide enrolled students with recorded lectures (as a large body of evidence supports this as a learning tool and students are increasingly demanding this service) will begin to be turned tools for open learning.

I don't think we have quite recognized how quickly the quantity of open learning content will begin to grow as lecture capture systems are adopted, nor have we fully thought through the policy implications and communication opportunities tied to this trend. But I do hope that those of us who work in academic technology do whatever we can do to allow our instructors to have the choice and the option to share their classes with the world.

What do you think? Do you see the spread of lecture capture systems as an important component in the open learning story? Do you have any examples where this is occurring on your campus? Do you think the lecture capture companies will start positioning their products as a part of the open learning revolution?


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