Amended 9/2/2008, 10/2/2008, 4/3/2008
Several readers of Fortnightly Mailing will know the current ins and outs at the OU, but when I wrote about Open Learn in 2006, the OU planned to put about 5% of its materials into OpenLearn (as compared with MIT's decision to make the whole lot open); and poking about in the materials that have been made available you get the impression that the OU has been cautious about what to make open, allowing its laudable experiment to take place with only its more mundane content.
A further problem is that the implementation makes the material unpleasant to use on screen, especially if you are scan-reading it rather than using it, as it was designed, for learning. For example the course I looked at was broken down into very small chunks, and the latency between pages, with a typical "broadband" connection, was far too long for convenience.
The impression you get is that there was internal pressure from those saying "but we depend on people to pay for our courses, we cannot risk putting some of the 'top sellers' into Open Learn".
I think that if the OU does not use OpenLearn to showcase its best stuff, the OpenLearn initiative risks being judged as some rather pedestrian content sitting in a (possibly) innovative environment. That would be a major missed opportunity.
Links, with commentary on this issue:
- 9/2/2008: Martin Weller - In defence of openlearn - "I was involved in the initial phase of openlearn, and why (sic) I can understand Seb saying this, it isn't actually the case. We were quite keen to explore the business implications and not make it just a 'taster' site. I think the choices have been driven more by which academics have come forward with courses, what are available, what can be converted, etc."
- 10/2/2008: Tony Hirst - The problem with OpenLearn - "As to the delivery of OpenLearn content via Moodle, I do think this represented something of a lack of vision. The idea of making OpenLearn content in a learning environment, rather than just releasing it via lists of materials in an opencourseware micro-site, was something of a novel initiative at the time, I think, Connexions aside, maybe? (which doesn't say much for the rest of the OER community's efforts in this area... ;-) But as far as innovating in the delivery of online course material, I'd agree that OpenLearn/Moodle was as boring as hell. And not particularly well executed (the navigation is lousy; the search is poor; the aesthetic is pretty mundane, the usability is questionable, and so on (my browser shortcut to a Moodle test server I used to run was 'muddle';-) ........ The take home points for me about OpenLearn is that it makes available authentic distance educational material, some of it designed for online delivery, in an open format and under an open license."
- 12/2/2008: Laura Dewis - OpenLearn isn't e-learning - a long piece by OpenLearn's Communications Manager - "Donald’s posting reveals the the common misconception that the Open University is an online university and we can just switch a button to make our materials open to the world. It’s something we are moving closer toward with our VLE for registered students but we aren’t there yet. We won’t be until the day elearning and access to the internet have developed enough for it to be the major mode of delivery for our courses."
- 21/2/2008: Andy Lane - a Guest Contribution in Fortnightly Mailing;
- 3/3/2008: Will Woods - OpenLearn Discuss - a reflection by someone who played a key role in the original specification of OpenLearn - "I strongly believe though that there is an opportunity that has not yet been realised to make something more substantial and to get people to contribute back and make it a true repository (as opposed to a depository) for course chunks (not necessarily the OU’s). To make it a ‘repository’ we need to allow people to build designs using the learning chunks and resubmit them easily back."