Dr. Kay’s Thoughts on Open Education

05 Oct

Dr. Kay will be blogging on OpenPhD throughout this experiment in the role as one of my “PhD” advisors.  Look for her posts with Dr. Kay in the title and under the category of Advising.

Originally the idea of a ‘degree’ using only Open courseware seemed to be polar opposite to everything I believed about online education.

Online education is my life’s work now. I believe very strongly that online education can, in fact, be superior to face-to-face education but only when done well.

And doing online education well, to me, means well-designed courses which are facilitated actively by expert instructors. There are several key words in that last statement.

To be a truly excellent educational experience online, courses need to first be well-designed. They should be more than lecture notes and PowerPoint slides placed online! A well-designed course should be interactive between the learner and the:

  • content
  • other learners
  • the facilitator

A key element of my beliefs about online education is that courses must have a facilitator. The facilitator needs to be an active participant in the discussion portions of the course. This person must also be active in providing formative assessment to students; summative assessment alone is not enough.

My friend Dennis O’Connor and others are exploring interactive well-designed courses which do not have active facilitation. I am open to learning more about this but for right now my belief still is that education requires an educator.

So the idea of open courses, truly seemed to go against what I believe is the best potential experience online education has to offer.

However, when I think about the experience 80-90 percent of my family, friends, and students have had in online education, I realize an open course might actually be better than one which is poorly designed and inadequately facilitated yet currently being offered.

I, my family, friends, and many students have reported experiences in courses which were, in essence, lecture notes online. And the gamut of facilitation has run from completely ignoring the course and the students entirely to facilitation which interfered with student learning.

Rather than discussing instructor interference with learning here, I believe I will discuss this in a future posting on my own blog

I see now that a motivated student who wants to learn for learning’s sake, may actually benefit from open education courses. Lisa has opened my eyes to this possibility, and I will accompany on her journey of learning, as an advisor, teacher, fellow learner, and friend.

Signed, Dr. Kay


Posted by on October 5, 2009 in Advising


Tags: , , , , , ,

5 responses to “Dr. Kay’s Thoughts on Open Education

  1. Stian Haklev

    December 13, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Reading this post right now is very interesting to me. I just came back from a five-day retreat outside Beijing where 200 new(ish) teachers at Open University of China where learning and discussing how to design online courses. (OUC is the biggest university in the world with 2,6 million students).

    I wasn’t there as an expert, my friend works there, and invited me to tag along and listen. There was a lot of interesting stuff – and much of it was very much along your ideas: we need to have pedagogical experts, instructional technology experts, and subject experts – as well as outside consultants from top Chinese universities – come together in a group to design these very high quality courses. Then we need to facilitate them in very specific ways etc.

    Then I thought about the first course I did online with David Wiley… he found a number of good resources that were open and put them on a wiki, put some good questions, and we all blogged about them every week – read each others blogs and commented etc. Because the people who participated were so awesome and had so different experiences to share, I learnt much more from that class than from most of my classes in a top Canadian undergraduate program (at that time).

    And currently, what we are doing at P2PU, is also heavily predicated on people being able to create their own learning spaces – facilitated and helped by course organizers, but in a very light-handed way. We’re still finding our way – in the first pilot some courses succeeded wildly, others were much slower at getting off the ground. And one key question to ask is of course how well this model can work with students that aren’t so strong, motivated, self-confident, etc…

    But then of course on a much wider scale, there’s the social learning aspect that Downes for example propounds. After that course with Wiley, I’ve never taken another formal class on open education or online education, and although I study education, my field is kind of different (comparative higher ed). However, I have learnt and continue to learn an amazing amount… By reading blogs, by going to conferences, by trying to build an open education project myself… I don’t think any “well designed and facilitated” class could replace that level of learning.

    Just thinking out loud.

    PS: Lisa, if you are looking for a place to “conduct” research, P2PU is actively trying to connect with different researchers, and we have lot’s of possible projects!


  2. Parag Shah

    October 6, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Dr. Kay,

    Along with helping Lisa, you will also be helping many other people who are thinking of learning online.

    I agree that a facilitator is very important in an online course. A student needs guidance at various levels, and a human facilitator is hard to replace with an online system.

    You also raise very interesting points about the need for interaction with the “content, other learners, and the facilitator”

  3. ph0rque

    October 5, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    To be a truly excellent educational experience online, courses need to first be well-designed. They should be more than lecture notes and PowerPoint slides placed online! A well-designed course should be interactive between the learner and the:

    * content
    * other learners
    * the facilitator

    Why can’t one of the other learners, perhaps who is a bit farther along in the course, be the facilitator?

  4. Lisa

    October 5, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks for weighing in, Kay. As you know, I agree with what you say about the need for good facilitation in making online learning “be all it can be” considering it’s what I do for a living as well.

    I don’t believe the intention is for Open Courseware to replace facilitated online courses in the big scheme of Open Ed. Nor is it really in my pursuit of this “Open PhD”. In fact, as I dig deeper into this topic, I am finding more and more courses that are facilitated. They are simply offered for credit if one pays and not for credit if one does not. It’s more like allowing the world to “audit” all your courses by making the material available online and asking our educator selves why we felt the need to keep it so secretive in the first place. After all, we’re in the information sharing business.

    I will be “taking” an Introduction to Emerging Technologies open online course facilitated by George Siemens and Dave Cormier starting soon as well as catching up to the massive Connectivism and Connected Knowledge course (also facilitated – 12 weeks long and began in September) as part of my studies.

    With open education the learner certainly interacts with the content – no problem there. I believe through building a strong PLN (Personal Learning Network) in the field, the open education learner could also interact with other learners via blogs, wikis, email, Twitter, etc., to satisfy the learner-learner angle.

    IF the Open Ed learner is able to extend their PLN to include experts in the field (while not necessarily the course author), will that be enough to satisfy the triad of learner-facilitator to be high quality learning? That remains to be seen. That’s why this is an experiment and not a true PhD program. And that’s why there is room for failure that we can all learn from.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: