Learners need support. That’s my overall gist from reading recent constructive criticisms of open education and open education resources (OERs) by Michael Feldstein and Tony Bates. Dumping class lectures and notes online (which comprise the vast majority of OERs and opencourseware materials) is not very supportive of learners. I forgot the reference, but I believe even students IN the class often don’t view the resources online if it’s just a dump of what they already heard in class. The study I remember reading showed that students who DO view the resources had higher test scores, but that’s actually a correlation, not a causal relationship (perhaps better students viewed the resources more, or worse students got no supplemental benefit from the online lectures). When you do post resources online, it’s better if they are designed specifically for the online learner, or to supplement face-to-face instruction, such as shown in this research article on instructor-made videos. And of course, learners need spaces to interact, create, share, etc (wikis, blogs, whatever). Opencourseware sites unfortunately are not interactive or participatory. Even on Curriki you see Moodle zip exports, not actual Moodle courses you can participate in. These sites are designed more for instructors, not learners, which is fine, although instructors are not as keen on re-using/re-mixing as we would like to believe. I’m really encouraged to see the first really free Moodle hosting site appear: http://www.keytoschool.com/
In response to a post by Stephen Downes arguing against Michael Feldstein’s post I commented:
The kids/students that Michael is talking about (who need learning support and guidance and so forth) are not at any of those sites you linked to. They aren’t at opencourseware sites, either. Those (adults) who are at opencourseware sites are not re-using/re-mixing anything. There is no producer-consumer collapse, unfortunately.
Survey kids or the general public, and they don’t know anything about any of this stuff.
They know Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, Youtube, Facebook. The last 3 are where they really interact, and Yahoo Answers is where you find many students actually learning (and yes, cheating).
Yahoo Answers is the type of ‘support’ site that Michael might be referring to, and that David Wiley has mentioned before as one of the critical services of education (he thinks can be disaggregated from the others, I think there might be problems with disaggregating education services, as we’ve seen in the programming industry).
And yes, corporations and educational institutions are providing support for learners/trainees. Even by just putting multiple learners in the same room together or in the same office as other employees you provide some support or allow them to find/offer their own support. It may be poor support, but you don’t see corporations and institutions just dumping lectures and expecting people to learn from them on their own. [I meant to say ONLY, not just. Unfortunately for people outside the institution, that is the only thing they have access to]