Online education has clearly become a permanent feature of higher education world-wide. However, as dramatic as the technology-induced changes have been, the pace and impact of technology will intensify over the next fifteen years. Based on currently observable, documented, and quantifiable trends in higher and distance education, this paper will make predictions about the transformations in higher education that are on the horizon, with specific reference to the inexorable expansion of Open Educational Resources (OER), Open CourseWare(OCW), and continuous improvement processes. The main prediction of this presentation is that, notwithstanding the current confusion over the use of OER and OCW and the present struggles to find resources to sustain the considerable efforts that have been undertaken in the OER movement, OER and OCW are here to stay and will grow rapidly, soon to be a part of every major higher educational institution in the world. The strongest and most obvious trends in higher education all intersect with OER and OCW creating in their addition an “imperative” for these movements. What trends and influences so strongly support this assertion? Here is a description of the trends and how they are related to the growth of OER/OCW.
The rapidly increasing demand for higher education around the world must be addressed. For example, India is the largest higher education system in the world with over 400 universities and approximately 21,000 colleges. Yet, this huge system provides higher education access to only 12.5 percent of its 600 million people under the age of 25. (Motwani, 2010). By comparison, in the U.S., 37.8 percent of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have college degrees. (Nelson, 2010: A 21). It is estimated that each 1 percent increase in average participation rate for India represents one million additional students. When the demand implied by this example is extended world-wide and compared with the ability to provide traditional higher education, the problem seems insurmountable. Sir John Daniel, president and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL),illustrates the world-wide challenge as an “Iron Triangle” in which educational quality, access, and costs are arranged in an immutable relationship. “Pick any two” he will say. This represents the first order challenge: how to bring down the cost of education while at the same time maintaining and increasing quality and access to education.
Supporting and adding to this challenge are the related demands upon institutions to meet higher standards through increased competition and the accreditation process all institutions are subject to. To remain competitive, especially within the for-profit higher education community and between the non-profit and for profit sectors, quality must not only steadily increase but must be demonstrated, proven, and publicized. This combination of the factors in the “Iron Triangle” and the calls for greater accountability represents a large challenge to higher education but also a giant opportunity for distance educators.
Institutions of higher education around the world are being bombarded with demands to meet higher standards and to become more accountable. These demands come from governments, from parents, from students, and from tax payers, pushing institutions toward greater attention to outcome measurement and accountability. The U.S. federal government, which supports higher education primarily through the distribution of student financial aid, has become concerned about the rapidly increasing cost of higher education and has been aggressive in seeking authentic measures of accountability from higher education institutions in the U.S. It has gone so far as to impose its own rules, threatening the current accreditation system which is based on voluntary, regional accrediting bodies. Through these accrediting bodies, institutions seeking to avoid what they consider intrusive and misguided government intervention, have moved toward a system of defining, measuring, and reporting “desired student outcomes” (DSOs).
The U.S. is not alone in dealing with this concern. Some U.S. states and many countries are also taking action to impose accountability. Three states, sponsored by the Lumina Foundation, are modeling the decade-old Bologna Process in an attempt to establish standards that specify what students should know upon graduation. Indiana, Utah, and Minnesota will pilot standards for physics, history, graphic design, and chemistry. (Lewin, 2009). There are reports of a similar trend among Latin American countries, and the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) is conducting research and pilots related to cross-national standards. Its Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO), and Program for the International Assessment for Adult Competencies (PIAAC) are all ambitious though cautious moves to establish quality standards for outcome-based instruction. (Daniel, 2009).
The next step in the burden of accountability might be the requirement for OCW. Sound far-fetched? Perhaps not. Take the example of the State of Texas, which recently passed a law requiring instructors in all state public higher education institutions to post a public Web site for every course they teach. HB 2504 requires institutions of higher education, except medical and dental units, to post on the institution’s Web site for each undergraduate classroom course offered for credit: course syllabus; departmental budget, if available; and curriculum vitae of each regular instructor. The information must be easily accessible to the public no later than seven days after the academic term begins, must be updated as appropriate, and must be maintained for two years.
OCW allows everyone to see how any particular professor expects to achieve the learning outcomes for a course, to see the design of the course, and to make judgments about both the content (level and extent) of the course and the pedagogical methods used. For the first time, we now have visible demonstrations of how institutions can offer their prospective students (their customers) a clear view of an important part of the product offered for sale—something that campus visits or recruitment literature cannot adequately disclose. Although there is more to a university experience than content and pedagogy, and not all the richness of a pedagogical approach can be displayed in OCW, the trend is clear. In the current environment which explicitly demands accountability and disclosure, it is not a giant leap to predict that some degree of openness as expressed in OCW will quickly make its way into accreditation requirements.
In addition to rigorous standards, increased accountability, and transparency, accrediting agencies are demanding processes for continuous improvement. This chart illustrates one conception of the continuous improvement process. One of the premises of the online learning movement is that the investment in the production of learning/teaching materials can be captured and leveraged through re-use and (as we will see) continuous improvement. So a core technology of any serious and large scale technology-assisted learning organization is a content management system.What is content: it is really anything that can be digitally recorded and filed. For our purposes, of course, we are concentrating on content that will be used in the teaching/learning process. Examples: printed materials, video and audio recordings, charts, simulations, PowerPoint slides.Any content management system must include the capacity to manage the intellectual property rights of contributors to the system. This is known as digital rights management (DRM).Again, for our purposes, any content management system must serve the course authoring system in an efficient manner. The content management system should be capable of accepting and managing content from a wide variety of sources, not only from an internal content management system, but also from any digital material created by instructors, from the huge inventory of open material now available and also from material owned and controlled by others, including the University.The content management system should be able to handle almost any digitized material, text of course, but also video, audio, PowerPoint, flash files, and any combination. By “handle” I mean not only be able to file, but also find and manipulate.Following this logic, a course (or any “learning object”) can be produced from the content in the content management system with the course authoring tool.Students can then take the course. As they proceed through the course, their use of course material and particularly their successin achieving learning objectives, can be collected and analyzed.The data can then be used to modify the content (learning object) to improve it for the next offering.
In August 2009, the Obama administration announced plans for a $500 million OCW Community College initiative, a sign of the increased importance and visibility of OCW in the U.S. This is part of the stimulus package aimed at increasing workforce competencies through the community college system. As this project goes through implementation, the U.S. higher education community will have to make adjustments to the existence of large amounts of available OER and OCW. In the face of such a proposal, it is a bit difficult to argue that OCW is threatened by a failure of resources to sustain it. Further, OCW-related initiatives supported by governments of other nations including Vietnam, the Netherlands, the UK, India, and China are following a similar pattern. For instance, Vietnam’s support of OCW started with government funding and support from the Vietnam Education Foundation, an agency of the U.S. Department of State. The Vietnam Open Courseware (VOCW) produced over 200 open courses and about 1,200 unique learning modules. In the process, the Vietnamese government discovered that its domestic faculty members needed updating in content and pedagogical methods, and found gaps in its domestic higher education curricula. These findings led to the use of OCW in a concerted effort toward higher education reform. Thus, the power of OCW is beginning to be recognized and supported with government funding.
Further, OCW-related initiatives supported by governments of other nations including Vietnam, the Netherlands, the UK, India, and China are following a similar pattern. For instance, Vietnam’s support of OCW started with government funding and support from the Vietnam Education Foundation, an agency of the U.S. Department of State. The Vietnam Open Courseware (VOCW) produced over 200 open courses and about 1,200 unique learning modules. In the process, the Vietnamese government discovered that its domestic faculty members needed updating in content and pedagogical methods, and found gaps in its domestic higher education curricula. These findings led to the use of OCW in a concerted effort toward higher education reform. Thus, the power of OCW is beginning to be recognized and supported with government funding.
My final point in the argument is that the OER and OCW movements are “unavoidable” and represent an “imperative” in that it is already existent in large volumes and is being used. Recent suggestions that models of sustainability for open material have not been developed and that this failure spells the doom of the movement are strongly controverted by clear evidence to the contrary. The OCW Consortium inventory of open courses has recently surpassed 13,000 and is growing rapidly. Open video based learning material published on iTunes has now been downloaded over 100 million times. YouTube has recorded over 300 million downloads. There is no question that the OER and OCW movements have achieved “lift off” or the “tipping point.” Institutions and nations are faced not with the question whether they will embrace OER and OCW—but when and how. The issues surrounding sustainability that now seem so critical will soon fade into the background as OER and OCW becomes part of the day-to-day operation of institutions and organizations, including governmental organizations.
Sustainability as Imperative
Sustainability as Imperative: The Unavoidable Future for OCW<br />Gary W. Matkin, Ph.D., Dean of Continuing Education, University of California Irvine<br />OCWC Global 2010<br />
More Rigorous Standards, Increased Accountability, and Transparency<br />OER and OCW will serve the demand for greater accountability in higher education<br />
More Rigorous Standards, Increased Accountability, and Transparency<br />
Accountability and the requirement for ocw<br />Texas State Law<br />H.B. No. 2504: Section 51.974. <br />“Each institution of higher education, other than a medical and dental unit, shall make available to the public on the institution’s Internet website the following information for each undergraduate classroom course offered for credit by the institution.”<br />
More Rigorous Standards, Increased Accountability, and Transparency<br />
Continuous Improvement Cycle<br />Sources of Content<br />Material from Content Management System<br />Teacher Created<br /><ul><li>VOP
OER and OCW movements have achieved the “tipping point”<br />OCWC course inventory exceeds 13,000<br />Video lectures/materials on iTunes have been downloaded over 100 million times<br />YouTube has recorded over 300 million downloads<br />
Gary W. Matkin, Ph.D.Dean, Continuing Education<br />email@example.com<br />http://unex.uci.edu/garymatkin/<br />http://ocw.uci.edu/<br />Download Presentation at http://www.slideshare.net/garymatkin<br />