I was disappointed to have to miss out on much of my chance to participate in class this week due to some personal issues. I still managed to get through the reading and do a little discussion in the forums.
This week we’re talking about Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open CourseWare (OCW). What does that mean, exactly? Open Educational Resources are freely available resources for educators. Open CourseWare is entire classes available online at places like MIT OpenCourseWare and University of Reddit.
The idea of freely available, customized learning resources is one that I find incredibly exciting. As schools move toward increasingly digital curricula, the idea that courses can be tailored to individual students is, I think, going to grow in prominence. This is incredibly exciting for me. As a student with above-average intelligence, I often found myself bored and un-challenged in classes. In the first grade, my teacher once made me sit in the hallway for reading faster than the other students. I would often ignore math lectures in favor of surreptitiously reading a book once I grasped the concepts. Then, when my teacher would spot me not paying attention and ask me a question in order to call me out on my lack of attention, I would simply repeat the question I was asked to buy enough time to answer it correctly.
Classroom-based learning slowed me down, and because I was in a tiny school district (my graduating class was 36 people), there weren’t many options for me. Oh, to have been able to move at my own pace without disrupting my classmates!
Another reason I like the idea of freely available course content is – education in this country is expensive, and that’s a factor that reinforces the gaps between the upper, middle, and lower classes. I have had countless opportunities available to me because I happened to be smart and hardworking enough to afford to pay for what scholarships didn’t cover, and I have had an excellent education. But I have been incredibly lucky, and many people coming from a similar background don’t ever get the chances I’ve had for one reason or another. These people who don’t have the funding for a traditional college education can still learn a great deal about a great deal without giving up much more than time (though the relative expense and lack of availability of high speed internet and computing equipment remains a barrier to entry for those who could perhaps benefit most from this content). Education needs to be much more egalitarian: a right, rather than a privilege.