Thinking about... MOOCs and OERs

A great post today from Martin Weller about the advent of FutureLearn and the equation between MOOCs and OERs. I heartily agree with what he says here (bolding is mine):
I know some people are down on FutureLearn, and I can appreciate why. It's a backlash to all the MOOC hype. I think it is important to maintain a critical standpoint particularly when commercial interests are trying to undermine existing practice to create a market for their own solutions. But I don't want to find myself in the position where I'm arguing that making good quality, well designed learning content available for free is a bad thing.   
The MOOC hype is settling down now, and I feel that FutureLearn is really an indication of what it may well end up being. Forget the "end of universities as we know them" rhetoric, ignore the "all education will be this way one day" commercial wet dream - MOOCs will be as OERs. And that's a good thing. OERs are now available from providers all over the globe, they make a big difference to the way many people work. But they haven't really fundamentally changed what we do in education, they've allowed new models and enhanced others.
I wish I felt as confident as Weller does that the MOOC hype is dying down (if only!). Sadly, it is also not true that all MOOCs are really ready to be OERs. That is certainly not true of the content locked up in Coursera courses, and it is not true of the content locked up in the new courses being developed at my school and delivered via NextThought's site.

Weller also links to Martin Bean's interview at the Guardian re: Future Learn, where Bean maintains that platforms like these are will be good for branding and recruitment:
According to Bean, the benefits are clear: "I think the big win for the UK is actually being able to compete more effectively for international students to enroll in our offerings, either within the UK or in our overseas campuses," he said, "and being able to present the sector much more competitively and have the brand attributes around innovation that will be appealing to international students."
So far, it looks like my own school's efforts are more geared to branding and recruitment rather than to the actual development of OERs. We recently hired an OER specialist (a great person, too!) in our Library; I wonder if she will be able to exert a positive impact on the development of the courses so that they will be more useful as OERs. Right now, the lack of "linkiness" there (which I blogged about earlier) really prevents access to the materials, much less their re-use.

Openness: it's not just a modern concern! Here's a proverb poster I made with a medieval Latin proverb (a rhyming proverb, in fact) about open knowledge versus hoarding. I guess we are still trying to learn this lesson centuries later!

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Published: September 23, 2013.