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Perhaps this is not such a bad thing. There seems to be this arms race going on in conferences about who uses the most advanced and exciting materials and technologies. We rarely recognize though that almost none of those ever make it into common practice. Perhaps now that the OU has opened up we can stop posturing for a bit, and actually sort out the mess.

I've been following all the "Content is no longer king" arguments over the past few months. Seems to me that content is still pretty darn important! I taught an interesting session this past Thursday (reported here http://tinyurl.com/24dn2v). Short summary: the students didn't give a damn about the technologies we were raving about - they wanted content. Any OER initiative is only as good as its content. Draw your own conclusions about OpenLean, UNow and marketing plans...

If you don't mind I'll add my response to this lively open discussion here too -

From an OpenLearner's perspective:

I use OpenLean almost every day and I love it. As an online learner I love it for what it has taught me and as an online teacher I love it for what it has allowed me to do with its content.

In my view OpenLearn is the best working model of OCW with added learner community building tools yet available. The key to getting the best from OpenLearn is to engage with its content, researchers and developers and work with the learner networking features such as the profiles, blogs, forums and communication tools. Do so and OpenLearn will respond. Questions get answered, developers seek to resolve issues and participant OpenLearners feel they are not alone when seeking to learn collaboratively online.

As an online teacher currently building a community of online learners of English drawn from over 70 countries the downloadable Moodle modules have proven a godsend. Within weeks of finally finding affordable Moodle hosting facilities Native English Online has been able to augment its chat, audio and video conferencing web toolset with free to use and generously provided content from a trusted brand. We now have something substantial to discuss to replace the 'Hi & Bye chit chat' more usual in the lively online world of language learner exchange. For example - one group I worked with over a period of several weeks included a woman from Gaza City, a Moodler from Kazakhstan, two enthusiastic learners from Slovakia and two people from the UK. As a collaborative exercise in using OpenLearn's tools and material it was instructive and rewarding but the greater reward was that 6 people from quite different backgrounds and cultures made the effort, found common ground and took the opportunity to test their opinions and learn from others.

My fear is that as the philanthropic funding dries up the project may falter especially as, in my experience, 99.5+% of online learners are content to take and give back nothing in exchange. For example I have an contact in India who constantly complains that although his ESL support costs him nothing he wants more – he wants a certificate.

I've worked and taught with computers for over 30 years and spent much of that time in the City of London as a systems analyst programmer on major global banking projects. To me, at least, OpenLearn will be seen as good value for money once its users stop taking it for granted and start to appreciate its potential. If there is better expertise in e-learning than the OU is offering it must be time for it to step forward and offer leadership. We, the learners, will prove to be delighted disciples.

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