One of the most interesting aspects of online education is that digital content can be provided to an unlimited number of learners. With digital technology, letting an additional learner participate in an existing online course will not lead to any additional costs.
Open Education is One of the Most Intriguing Ideas in Digital Teaching
Once digital teaching materials are created, they can be provided to millions of learners. In this new world, there is no longer any need to restrict access to education, either through academic admission procedures or monetary hurdles.
This is true at least if the original content production is financed by the public. (Private education providers, who need to generate some kind of revenue, may have a different view on openness.)
Why should you have to pass an entrance test for a digital course at a public university? And why should only "rich kids" be able to seek and obtain higher education?
This led to the general demand that digital teaching resources should be made available to anyone for free. Proponents of this idea proclaimed that digital educational resources can and should be open for anyone to use and share.
Broadly speaking, this is the idea behind open education (no academic admission requirements) and open educational resources (freely accessible teaching materials, OER).
New Open Education MOOC Launches on edX Platform
True, open education has been around for a while now, but this latest course offering gives a comprehensive overview of the field. In launching its Introduction to Open Education, the University of Texas Arlington provides a new landmark for how to engage and instruct in an open online setting.
Led by Professor George Siemens, the course teaches about the evolving landscape of online education. It equips participants with an understanding of the principles, primary elements, and broader features of contemporary open online education. Professor Siemens is widely known as one of the early pioneers of MOOCs.
The course also provides a practical overview of rules surrounding copyright, Creative Commons licenses, and other permissions that are essential to the daily operation and diffusion of open education.
Finally, it also discusses open pedagogy, data, algorithms and competency mapping. This allows graduates to grasp the theoretical and working principles that inform online education, as well as the best practices that underpin it daily.
The MOOC is provided via the edX platform and requires about 3-5 hours/week of studying and engaging with the course over 6 weeks. As usual, the course is free to learn and an optional certificate can be purchased.
[Update October 2017: All course materials are now also freely accessible here.]
An alternative course about open access is focused more on where to find the right OER materials. It is also provided on the edX platform by IEEE ("Open Education and OER Repositories").
Learn About the Future of Education
Open Education is something that has been pioneered in mainstream culture with the rise of MOOCs, and will continue to grow in the future. It is even being seen in day-to-day culture, as the prominence of online seminars, podcasts, and perhaps most notably the Ted talks have created a renewed interest and even greater demand in open distance learning.
It is this change and opportunity for open education that activists like George Siemens have identified as forthcoming for a number of years now.
In a recent interview with EdSurge, Siemens says he sees his new MOOC as "a good opportunity to expand the audience and get a message out about the importance (…) of openness." He expects thousands of students will join his course.
And for interested learners who wonder about the impact of digitization on higher education in general, there is another related MOOC: "Digitizing Higher Education", also offered by the University of Texas Arlington, explores the effects of a digital world on universities and their administration, academics and research practices.
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