Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Open Content and the Workplace

This month's Learning Circuits Big Q is about open content and the workplace:

How do we leverage open content in workplace learning?

Tony Karrer gives a couple examples of open content stores for adult education, such as the OER Commons and the Open Courseware Consortium. The Big Q is a search for answers as to why open content appears not to be on the uptake as much as the sheer access to the material would seem to attract eyes and downloads. If I may tie this question to my current masters studies for a moment, these open education consortiums seem to fit the mold of what Merriam & Brockett (2007) call an "educational response" to limited educational access (p. 204-208). The educational response is defined as efforts to spread education outside the university setting and into community colleges and other less formal organizations. But the problem isn't always getting the material out there; the problem can center around each person's self-reflecting "What's in this for me?"

Let me describe what I mean.

I cannot speak much as to why these may or may not be used, as I have not had exposure to the use of this content within my particular workplace. However, if I had to offer my perspective as to what may be behind the moderate traffic, I might say that the workplace is a very specific thing, even from company to company. No two corporations are alike. As such, I think many companies would want their WLP pros to look these over and shop for the bits and pieces that are most useful to build out an internal curriculum or course specially tailored to specific gaps. The other problem is that the people within each company are going to want some sort of impactful credit to add to their resume (this being the diverse skills and knowledge-driven world of work we now live in). While I think it's possible to put these courses to good use, our internal customers, being self-directed learners who best know how to put together their own individual improvement plan, are going to want a return in the form of either college credit or a certification.

Also, I think it would be an important step if a company sought to use these courses, and partner with the university or college in question to recognize its employees for having completed the study. But then, what's in this for the university if it is granting credits for free to outside companies? I think here is where the current and common private industry-public U partnering takes over.

Another thing that occurred to me after looking at some of the offerings of these efforts is that I am immediately reminded that there are competing media. I am not sure what affect the iTunes store may or may not be having on OER/OCC or similar efforts because iTunes is primarily a commercial retail interface. But, for example, looking at OCC's course materials, I access class materials uploaded by UC Berkeley. Many of the classes are lecture recordings. Where the a-ha! for me comes in is with the iTune store. I can access many very good, class-like podcasts through iTunes. For example, if you're a history buff, I strongly recommend The History of Rome, 12 Byzantine Rulers, or American History Before 1870 podcasts. In fact, the American History podcast *is* a class re-purposed as a podcast. So, I see a lot of competition between outlets.

Feel free to post your thoughts.


Merriam, S. B. & Brockett, R. G. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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