Thursday, October 15, 2009

Open Course Ware Is Not Going to Die

by Andrew Gillen

The good news, as relayed by Jeffrey R. Young
Students Find Free Online Lectures Better Than What They're Paying For
The bad news as relayed by Marc Parry
According to David Wiley, "Every OCW [open course ware] initiative at a university that does not offer distance courses for credit will be dead by the end of calendar 2012."
Quick question: what exactly is the advantage of having every school try and do it’s own OCW? We simply don’t need 4k different versions, and having that many has a number of drawbacks, not to mention invalidating the main advantages of such efforts – specialization and economies of scale.

Bottom line, the demise of OCW at Utah State is not a sign of things to come, but rather the part of the natural growing pains of a new way of doing things. OCW will see lots of things come and go, but it’s going to continue to get better and better, and will never die, for the following reasons.
  • Students today are much more comfortable doing everything online. And given how much cheaper it is, there will be continued demand for OCW.
  • It is an extremely cost effective way to reach large numbers of students – something that the big foundations know and will increasingly be involved in providing support for. Even the government is trying to get involved.
  • For elite schools this it is perhaps the most philanthropic thing they do. As such, it provides a degree of protection. While the endowment tax issue has disappeared for now, you can be sure it will come roaring back. When it does, those elite schools that can point to OCW programs that reach thousands or millions of students have an iron clad case that they are indeed using the money for the public good and are therefore deserving of tax exemption.
Given that OCW is a product that consumers demand, some producers have an incentive to produce, and foundations and governments have an interest in seeing survive, predictions of it's demise seem somewhat strange. I certainly don't know what OCW will look like 10 years from now. If I had to guess I'd say that it would be dominated by the schools with the biggest endowments and/or foundation initiatives. But OCW will certainly still be around.

1 comment:

Steve said...

MIT isn't going to start offering distance courses any time soon but I guarantee that it's OCW is here to stay.