Perhaps a good place to start is to use a baseline definition for Open Education. Wikipedia defines open education as a collective term referring to forms of education in which knowledge, ideas, or important aspects of teaching methodology or infrastructure, are freely shared over the internet. From my perspective we need to clear up a misnomer or two. All too often when we see open, we think free. And when we see freely share, we’re thinking free for all.
With open education, the key focus needs to be improved accessibility (i.e. freely share) at a significantly lower cost (i.e. compared to conventional places of higher education). Employing contemporary technologies along with a new way of thinking, we might also see improved flexibility in education.
I strongly believe in the concept of open education as we move forward. As a nation, we must find new ways of educating a higher percentage of our youth, and at a dramatically lower cost. This is less a philosophical issue than one of practicality. To be globally successful, our children need higher education than primary and secondary school provides. Yet, with three of my own children, it is hard to fathom being able to pay for nearly $700K in higher education costs (e.g. an MIT degree can cost $189K, $190K for MSU). And, even as children (mine or yours) contemplate taking on student loans, can a 17 or 18 year old truly understand what it means to carry a $250K debt so early in life?
The topic of open education is gaining visibility. Today alone, I came across three articles on, or related, to open education. The best is Fast Company’s, “How Web-Savvy Edupunks Are Transforming American Higher Education.” The second article in the Wall Street Journal is, “Textbooks Offered for iPod, iPhones.” In Fast Company, Anya Kamenetz does a good job providing a primer to the topic, discussing the key attributes of cost, accessibility, content, and flexibility. The WSJ article discusses how e-textbooks are becoming more broadly available, in this case on the iPhone/iPod devices.
My own MBA was earned using an early form of online education from the University of Phoenix. My employer at the time was willing to cover all my educational expenses, bar none. So money was not an issue. The key was accessibility. Online degrees were just getting their feet in the water by the late 90s. As someone who traveled 80% of the time, I needed to be able to participate in a highly fluid form. Today, I eagerly look forward to my next opportunity to undertake a longer-term education process (I like learning). The richness of students and instructors (from around the world) is far richer than typically experienced in a fixed location.
Moving forward, whether for myself or my children, it is going to be important for schools to evolve. We need improved accessibility, lower costs, and education more tightly tied to current market demands. If you haven’t already, go take a look at the articles I mentioned. They’re well worth the time.
Let me ask: What do you think? Do you agree with my thoughts or do you see going to conventionally formed universities well into the future?