A Reality Check For Open Education

Finally… someone dared to speak out about some of the problems they have with open education.  And not just some old fuddy-duddy outsider that doesn’t get it, but an insider that is well versed in all angles.

I’m no fuddy-duddy open education hater myself… but I have felt a little discomfort over several aspects surrounding the open education movement.  One of the oddest to me has been the predictions that universities will disappear by the year 2000.  Opppsss… missed that one… I mean 2010 for sure.  Oh, wait… gonna have to make that 2020 now.  I wonder how long people have been predicting the death of the university now?  I remember those claims associated with closed circuit tele-courses many decades ago.

Finally, though, we have George Siemens breaking through the cute kitten syndrome barrier (as he calls it) on open education and raising some concerns that need to be addressed… not as a person that hates change for the sake of hating change, but as a person who likes the ideal but wonders if things aren’t going that well overall:

http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=151

One really disturbing aspect of the open education movement is the continued association with the fragmentation of the entertainment business (mp3s, Hulu, etc, etc).  I have no love for greedy music companies, but the fragmentation of that industry is seen by many as destroying it.  Less and less money is filtering to the artists, and most attempts to fix that have not worked.  Do we really want to change our educational systems to mirror a system that is choking the life out of the very people it needs to survive?  Sure, you will still have people making music even if there is no money in it, but you can only get so far on free services and volunteer work.  Trust me – I have tried.  Eventually, you have to have money flowing in to a system in order to keep the people in that system alive (at least as long as food costs money).  That flow of money will not happen with fragmentation on the level that we are seeing in the music business.

But that is how many have proposed we get rid of universities: make teaching volunteer work.  Really?  I would have to say “good luck on that one!”  How many classes can a full-time worker, parent, spouse, etc. handle in their spare time?  Many of you reading this are wondering what this spare time myth is.  One professor typically teaches something like 3-5 classes.  This would mean that someone out there (this faceless entity that will someone guide education once universities die) will need to grow the general pool of teachers by three to five fold to get all of these volunteers.  Did I miss the end of the teaching shortage some where?  Was there a memo I missed?

Of course, I know I am dealing with some of the more radical ideas out there.  But they always get brought into the mix when open education is discusses.  Don’t get me wrong – I think at its core, open education is a good idea.  I am just glad it is finally getting some close scrutiny.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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