Saturday, February 2, 2008
More about my experience of Open Access education
This is a response to Leigh, who wanted to know more about my experience of taking part in an Open Access education course. Leigh wanted to know my ideas about about Open Access education based on my experience including potential and barriers, and whether I am going to include it in my own teaching.
*Warning: rambling, muddled and long post ahead!
The positives of Open Access education courses will very much depend on your philosophy of education. If you are the one responsible for the budget, then Open Access appears on the surface to be a great marketing strategy. How fantastic to get more 'bums on seats' based on a program that is already being delivered. And it certainly worked that way in this instance because the institution gained a further two students: myself and Carolyn who did the course with me.
If you have a more altruistic approach to education, Open Access will suit your way of thinking down to the ground. The amount of learning and development that Carolyn and I underwent during the course was phenomenal, and certainly has been life-changing for me. So knowing that the course you made freely available had that sort of effect on a person would be extremely satisfying. Leigh often talks to me about how gratifying it would be to make a significant difference to the lives of women and midwives in Outer Mongolia by making my midwifery courses freely available. And yes, he is absolutely right. But the other way of looking at it is that it is unlikely to boost our students numbers, and if we do not make enough money, I will not have a job.
Reflecting back on my experience, as I have already said, it was an amazing ride with ongoing benefits which you will read about in the future. But certain things had to happen before I actually turned my experience into a concrete enrollment. It was almost as if all the planets had to be in alignment for this to happen - in other words, it had to be the right time and place to be a experience that resulted in a financial commitment to the course .
The timing had to be right. If the opportunity to join the course had come at another time, I probably would not have been so keen. As it was, I had just started my own investigation in social networking so the course was extremely timely for me, and it also has helped my thinking about my PhD research into e-mentoring.
The second thing to happen was that I had to hear about the course and know where to access it. This came about following face-to-face conversations with Leigh. He knew of my interest in incorporating social networking into my teaching and suggested I follow the course. If I had not had those conversations, I would not have known about the opportunity.
I had a mate to work with which helped provide motivation. Carolyn and I were already exploring things together so we urged each other on and supported each other, not only in participating in the course but also in enrolling.
As for how many people are likely to take up an Open Access course and turn it into a concrete enrollment? I would imagine the numbers would be few, keeping in mind what we know about the numbers of people fully engaging with social networking. And I have to be honest and say that I have enrolled as a result of a significant amount of 'encouragement' from the course facilitators who are personal friends and colleagues. The other huge external motivating factor is that I need the credits that this course will provide to go toward a teaching certificate which I am required to have. Without this sort of encouragement and external motivation, I would suspect it unlikely that Open Access education programs become a lucrative source of funding.
I did worry a little about how the official students felt about our involvement in the course, especially as Carolyn and I were rather...enthusiastic...shall I say... about the course. Did they feel it was unfair that we had access to the same resources as they did but without paying? I do not know. I hope we made a contribution that enhanced their own learning experience, and if we had not enrolled they'd still be better off than us because they had the qualification at the end of the course.
The other question I am left with is how the learning outcomes of the enrolled students differed from ours. We were able to really enjoy ourselves without worrying about assignments. I do not know if the enrolled students' experience of the course differed because of the expectations of assignments.
My final thought is about how to recognize the learning that people have done in Open Access courses once they have enrolled. Do you make them complete the official assignments or do you have another way of assessing learning outcomes? Because my involvement in the course was not 'dictated' by assignments, my progress and learning took slightly different directions than the enrolled students. Now I am an official student it is important me that this is recognized, although at the same time I appreciate my work must meet the course learning outcomes.
As for the future for me, as a teacher. Certainly I plan to make my teaching materials freely available like PowerPoint lecture notes. I also plan to move out of BlackBoard and onto this blog with my dissemination of information and resources. But until such a time that the institution agrees to Open Access of courses, then that is as open as I am likely to get...unless anyone has other suggestions.
I would be really interested to hear you views on this post. Do you think Open Access is a good idea? Do you teach in an open access course - what has been your experience? Does Open Access lead to more enrollments?
If you are a midwife: how would you feel about joining a postgraduate courses, say on diabetes, for the 'fun' of it?
Image: 'The sun, planets and major moons (2560 res3)'