Open or Closed?

Below are some questions and thoughts I think I’ll raise with my cohorts that were sparked by the Weller reading this week, all related to the idea of open education/open access:

How do we deal with the ever-present tensions between open and closed access? Between exclusivity and inclusivity? I see this tension in so many ways in my life as an academic. On the one hand, there is so much more information available to me as a researcher than before. When I was writing my dissertation in the 90’s, only those who had the money to travel and spend months in the libraries and archives of Madrid had access to many of the texts that today are freely  available on Google Books. However, an exclusive private enterprise like Gale-Cengage can also sell digital access to the collections of the British  Library at a price only wealthy institutions can pay, thus excluding small public institutions like our own. MOOCS offer free and open access to the masses (for now) to professors and courses that previously only the most elite could come in contact with, but is it really open education and is it access at all? The digitally native teenagers referenced as part of the net generation represent only one demographic–those wealthy enough to actually be consumers (and sometimes producers) of technology. What about the rest of them–for most of whom their only real engagement with technology is through their phone? I’m guessing some of our students fall in that category when they come to us.



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0 comentarios en «Open or Closed?»

  1. Great questions, Betsy. I admit there’s a tendency to glose over the digital divide question. Back in the late 90’s, when I was first getting started in edtech, there was a lot more recognition that not everyone has access. As broadband has become more ubiquitous for upper- and middle-class, I think we’ve forgotten that it’s still unattainable for some.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, other than making content and ideas as accessible as possible through as many channels as possible.

  2. I remember as recently as early 2011 when I lived right outside Farmville and the fastest internet we could get was satellite (which is only a step above dial-up and frustratingly slow for many things). Broadband was available in town with ease but as soon as you stepped outside the town limits you lost access to those services. And I paid dearly for it ($70/month plus overage charges). For someone in my field it was difficult trying to participate in Skype chats and other online interactions so I definitely felt the brunt of that. I think Martha is right, we have to offer as many options as possible for people to engage with the content. For example while I might not have been able to participate in a live chat very well, I could download videos pretty easily so offering that was a good alternative to the «live» experience.

  3. President Obama is pushing for federally-funded national wifi access. I think this is especially important for rural areas like Farmville (which sounds like a made up generic name for a small town!). The digital divide is now more rural-urban than rich-poor. I live near a library branch in a very poor urban area and people of all walks of life, even the homeless, are always on the computers. Luckily most college students have great library access.

  4. I can’t speak to how most institutions are implementing their MOOCs, but UCSF’s Coursera courses closely mimic in-person lecture-hall courses, where direct and personal contact between faculty and students is basically nonexistent. The question I haven’t yet answered for myself is: does that matter? I attended a small liberal arts college, and I wouldn’t trade the time I spent working directly with my teachers for anything. I also wish that we could provide access to that model to everyone. But right now, at least, we can’t.

    Not everyone will be lucky or privileged enough to attend a small residential liberal arts college. Isn’t it a step in the right direction to provide an infrastructure for a community of peers to engage in thought and discussion around a particular interest, with materials and guidance provided by experts? It’s not an ideal educational environment, and doesn’t provide universal access, but it is more inclusive than any classroom walls could be. And it’s amazing what level of access (web-enabled, or smart) phones can provide.

    Yet, I feel a little queasy whenever I ponder what MOOCs (and online education in general) mean for education. I can’t quite shake the feeling that MOOCs etc will only make the digital divide, and the education divide, even worse.

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