Saturday, February 9, 2008

OpenLearn not doing the business??

To be honest I think I could have published this lot using free software in less than a week or two.
Donald Clark Plan B: OpenLearn – another document dump


Ouch!  A stinging review of the OU's OpenLearn... which does contain some extremely valid criticisms.  On a purely aesthetic level, the blandness of the layout is hardly enticing.  Couple that with the lack of a real 3D person to enthuse you when times get dull (as they invariably do with distance learning) there's a definite certain something missing from OpenLearn.  I use Compendium.  I've used FlashMeeting.  But would I be motivated enough to find myself an OpenLearn course and study it?  Would I be inspired to learn? 

When I look at OpenLearn I wonder how much completion of courses occurs?  I wonder whether people really get a learning experience from it or a reference source?  LabSpace I like.  It gives you the freedom to use resources and 'play' and seems confident in its identity.  OpenLearn seems to want to be more than it is.  It's worthy... but does it have real worth?  I've done some of the courses which have material on there.  Boy oh boy am I glad I studied them as they were meant to be studied and not attempted it via OpenLearn.  Can't put my finger on why the concept doesn't quite gel for me, but the Donald Clark blog entry certainly touches on some relevant issues even if I don't agree that overall it's lacking academic credibility.  The credibility is there, in my opinion, but the all important context is missing.  It just doesn't feel like a real learning 'community'.

5 comments:

  1. Community is exactly what's missing from OpenLearn.
    At the OpenLearn conference in October, the OU people were banging on about all the tools in OpenLearn. Conferencing tools, IM tools, etc. I kept asking them "Why?", as in, Why is someone going to want to abandon the tools they already use and use your new tools (especially when there isn't a community around them)? I never got an answer. They seemed to have an "If we build it, they will come attitude". At this rate, it'll be hard to justify the £5m+ spent on this project. It certainly doesn't look like 5 million quids worth (what's that, 10m Aus dollars?) at face value.

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  2. Interesting comment! I think the questions that remain unanswered or that people feel don't need an answer are where the really interesting issues lie.

    And it's about 11 million Aussie dollars. Ouch again!

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  3. I keep looking at its offerings...but I do like a nice picture or two and a glossy textbook to annotate. Just doesn't 'grab me' I'm afraid.

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  4. I use OpenLean almost every day and I love it. As an online learner I love it for what it has taught me and as an online teacher I love it for what it has allowed me to do with its content.

    In my view OpenLearn is the best working model of OCW with added learner community building tools yet available. The key to getting the best from OpenLearn is to engage with its content, researchers and developers and work with the learner networking features such as the profiles, blogs, forums and communication tools. Do so and OpenLearn will respond. Questions get answered, developers seek to resolve issues and participant OpenLearners feel they are not alone when seeking to learn collaboratively online.

    As an online teacher currently building a community of online learners of English drawn from over 70 countries the downloadable Moodle modules have proven a godsend. Within weeks of finally finding affordable Moodle hosting facilities Native English Online has been able to augment its chat, audio and video conferencing web toolset with free to use and generously provided content from a trusted brand. We now have something substantial to discuss to replace the 'Hi & Bye chit chat' more usual in the lively online world of language learner exchange. For example - one group I worked with over a period of several weeks included a woman from Gaza City, a Moodler from Kazakhstan, two enthusiastic learners from Slovakia and two people from the UK. As a collaborative exercise in using OpenLearn's tools and material it was instructive and rewarding but the greater reward was that 6 people from quite different backgrounds and cultures made the effort, found common ground and took the opportunity to test their opinions and learn from others.

    My fear is that as the philanthropic funding dries up the project may falter especially as, in my experience, 99.5+% of online learners are content to take and give back nothing in exchange. For example I have an contact in India who constantly complains that although his ESL support costs him nothing he wants more – he wants a certificate.

    I've worked and taught with computers for over 30 years and spent much of that time in the City of London as a systems analyst programmer on major global banking projects. To me, at least, OpenLearn will be seen as good value for money once its users stop taking it for granted and start to appreciate its potential. If there is better expertise in e-learning than the OU is offering it must be time for it to step forward and offer leadership. We, the learners, will prove to be delighted disciples.

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  5. Thought provoking response - I really appreciate it. Sounds like it has some real potential for those who engage with it properly. What was it that motivated you to engage with it? Do you know?

    Sarah :o)

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