Open Education - Week 5: Comparison of Projects

Week 5 - Introduction to Open Education - Comparison of Open Education Projects

UNESCO MIT OCW  National Repository
Outside Funding Sources
  • Hewlett
  • Individuals

Premium Partners
  • Foundations:
    • Hewlett
    • Mellon
    • Lord
    • Kabcenell
  • Corporate Sponsors
  • Individual Donations
Stated Area of Focus
Gives free access to course materials from The Open University. "A place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc." " A collection of openly available and free online courses and course materials that enact instruction for an entire course in an online format." "UNESCO facilitates a collaborative access to existing free training courses and promotes open licensed resources to specialized groups and local communities for development."

"MIT is committed to advancing education and discovery through knowledge open to everyone."

"NROC is a grwoing library of high-quality online course content for studetns and faculty in higher education, high school and Advanced Placement"
Contributors  of Content
Open University
  • Anyone
  • Option to collaboratively develope
Carnegie Mellon
Open Partners:

Others who successfully submit

  • academic institutions,
  • publishers,
  • teaching organizations,
  • US state and federal agencies,
  • international distributors
Target Audience of Learners
Adults Anyone
Post secondary:
  • for credit - bring your own instituion
  • non-credit
College Level
  • High School
  • College Level
Open Resources (Content)
Course materials
 Course modules
Courses in Economics, Statistics, Causal Reasoning, and Logic.
Course materials
  • lecture notes
  • exams, and
  • other resources from more than 1700 courses
  • materials may not reflect entire content of the course
Full Courses
Open Learning Practices
  • peer forums
  • no access to tutors.
  • facilitated using Moodle.
  • cognitive tutors
  • virtual laboratories
  • group experiments
  • simulations
  • assessment and evaluation that are built into all courses
  • OCW does not grant degrees or certificates.
  • OCW does not provide access to MIT faculty.
Repository or Directory?
Research / Quality Control
Research Lab
  1. Contextual studies
  2. Effectiveness studies
  3. Component studies
  4. Learning studies
  5. Assessment studies
  6. Design studies
  7. Dissemination studies
Designs each course from submitted materials


  • Attribution

  • Non-Commercial
  • Share Alike 2.0

  • UK: England & Wales

  • Attribution 2.0

  • Generic


  • Attribution
  • Noncommercial
  • Share Alike 3.0

  • Unported  

Full Copyright?


  • Attribution
  • Noncommercial

  • Share Alike 3.0 United States

Full Copyright?

QUESTIONS: What do these representative open education projects have in common? What differentiates them? In the context of open education projects, what does "quality" mean?

I completed the matrix above to help me understand what these sites provide, who is "behind" them, what steps are being taken to address "quality" ... all in order to try to get a sense for similarities and differences. Here are a few things that come to mind:

Repository / Directory: As noted above, some repository sites host content while other sites are directories (pointing to content). Some are a hybrid of the two. Obviously, online content needs to be housed "somewhere", but I question why (in this day of Google and other search engines) efforts aren't moving away from repositories - or specific OER directories for that matter? Wouldn't our efforts be better spent on properly categorizing and tagging the original content so that it can be "found" by the increasingly sophisticated search engines? Why should learners and teachers be forced to travel from one site to another to find content? Shouldn't they be able to pull in the content that is properly identified and tagged?

The back room: It amazes me the outside funding that has poured into these OER initiatives. As noted above, major foundations (including Hewlett which is listed on all but one of the sites) play a major role in building and sustaining these efforts. Tied to above, I wonder how these open education spaces would evolve if the funding sources shift focus? As noted several times during the recent Open Education conference, it costs thousands of dollars to put a single course up on these platforms. Apparently, this cost must be associated with back end digitization and formating of content and not with instructional design, as most schools (aside from the Open University and Carnegie Mellon) are not using THEIR OWN content to support their own blended or online programs. In fact, I asked several people during the conference if their institutions used THEIR open content to support THEIR own learning programs and each looked at me like I had two heads. I found this reaction fascinating. What a waste of effort? If you take the time and money (apparently thousands of dollars per course) to make an existing courses content "available", why on earth would you not design it to also support your own online or blended learning initiatives? Circling back to Brian Lamb's keynote, there is a hint of arrogance in originality, right?

Quality:In discussions with the awesome folks at the Open University, I found that their upcoming conference this month will have a major research focus. Their representatives told me that, in general, research is lacking in this area. If the focus is on putting out content (as information) versus education (as content + practices), I would agree. As Anne and I discussed in our presentation (and quoting D. Wiley), "content is necessary, but not sufficient" to support education. Therefore, I wonder what is the true educational value of some of these initiatives that do not fully consider how learners will use the content? Again, I found it strange that so few conversations at the Open Ed conference focused on learners and how teachers and learners would use the content in the support of learniing. My guess is that localization (in other words, how the content is used to support learning) will be the focus of future research into "quality".

Similarities and Differences: Getting back to the main point of this exercise ... the similarities tend to lie in the focus on open education as "content." Therefore, activities focus on what to "do" with the content (how to digitize it, how to store it, how to categorize it). While I am repeating myself, I see open education as much more than content. Therefore, I appreciate the institutions that are differentiating themselves by recognizing that learners need more. For example, the Open University also offers forums for peer support. Carnegie Mellon invites learners to bring their own institution and use the courses for credit at their own sponsoring institution. To me, these practices - that expand the conversation beyond content - are currently the exception, but with hope they will one day be the rule.

 p.s. I also noted the various licensing choices from various CC licenses to full on copyright. I guess we are tacking those issues in Week 6.



Jennifer - absolutely excellent summary. You hit several key points in your analysis, including "I wonder how these open education spaces would evolve if the funding
sources shift focus?" and "If you take
the time and money (apparently thousands of dollars per course) to make
an existing courses content "available", why on earth would you not
design it to also support your own online or blended learning

The answer to the first question is - we're about to find out. The funding can't last forever... In fact, several of us are already operating on the assumption that the funding targeted at building new content has basically run out. USU's OCW has been running without foundation funding for a while now. MIT OCW is now trying to figure out how to support a 4 million dollar / year operation with grant funding, and while I full expect them to succeed in figuring it out, I don't expect it to be easy for them.

As to the answer to the final question, I expect it has more to do with people not understanding that resources are revisable and remixable. Even if you want to be "original," there's still lots of value in starting from somewhere. I think the problem here is the "ubiquitous assumption of full copyright."

great analysis

It's nice seeing all the projects in a side by side comparison like that.

I've been very impressed with what I've seen so far of Carnegie Mellon's stuff. 

They seem to be more focused on learning, and trying to make stuff that is even better than face to face courses.

 But yes, without all that funding, who knows if any of it would have ever happened. Without (major) funding though,

we are also getting projects like WikiEducator and Wikiversity. 

But anyway, I'm a new teacher, and yes, I'm finding it odd the separation between content I need (and am developing now)

and content that goes into OCW (for others to use).  Perhaps it would be nice to have a Moodle/OCW two-way bridge or something.