Open CourseWare and Open Education in Life Science

A week to go and I shall be leaving on a jet plane for the big learning technology conference in the US. Although speaking for 50 minutes is a considerable amount of time it has been a challenge to summarise all our work on open education (or Open CourseWare as they would say in the States) in the life sciences that we have undertaken at De Montfort over the last 3 or 4 years or so. Well the slides are now uploaded to SLIDESHARE so I can fiddle with them no more.

Open CourseWare in Life Sciences Talk


What is Open CourseWare?

Open CourseWare is just another term for Open Education that is more widely used in the US and other parts of the world. In the UK, we refer to Open Educational Resources or Open Education. It is all part of a changing face of global education where universities, colleges and schools are simply sharing their learning resources, course materials and STUFF via the internet. This is not just for their own students and staff to benefit from, but ANYONE who wishes to look, whether they are enrolled students, informal learners or just plain curious!

Why the Change?

A few universities tinkered with open education and sharing materials in the 1990’s but it was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that launched the OpenCourseWare initiative in the millennium to really drive sharing big time, mainly by developing the web portal or software to be able to upload and share. It also seems to me to change an organisation is such a dramatic way, ALL the staff and students must have believed in the philosophy behind it and there must have been strong leadership and resources to make the shift. The key that really unlocked the doors to education establishments came a little later with the advent and adoption of the open license Creative Commons.

MIT Here I Come!

So this all makes me very excited that as part of my trip I shall be visiting MIT and hearing all about their Open CourseWare activities. All their students have access to resources before their classes and courses, and this means that lectures and sessions can be more wisely used discussing and exploring rather than simply delivering.  This might seem straight forward, but to make resources openly available the institution must own the copyright before they can place an open license on it. We are permitted to use resources provided by publishers, or perhaps use images that perhaps we don’t have permissions for, so sharing my materials personally is sometimes quite a lengthy process.

Boston Beans

Whilst visiting MIT and Boston in general I shall also take in Harvard University and Boston University itself. Being a bean fiend, I certainly hope to sample the local cuisine and of course come hope laden with photographs and video to share as Open CourseWare! Often it isn’t the completed course or resource that is useful, but a simple photograph or video clip illustrating a point. I shall do my best to take photographs of lots of interesting things and share them on Pinterest and Flickr.

So, one week to go and there is plenty to do before I hit Heathrow next Tuesday morning. Now where is that passport?


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