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Hurdle #1 – Open Ed at the Graduate Level

When I first had this idea of an Open PhD, I really thought the difficult part would start when I started cracking the books (or the pixels, as it may be).  Instead, I have encountered Hurdle #1 at the very start – though I suppose in any good race, that’s exactly where you expect the first hurdle to be, right?

Over the last few days, in between prepping for a course I teach that started on Sept 24th, I cross-referenced my comparison schools and comparison degrees, trying to sort out exactly what kind of coursework I really needed, from what kind of course work some of the schools added in to justify their online existence.  I then cross referenced these titles against various local universities’ face-to-face PhD offerings just to make sure I was in the ball park.

Once I created my proposed course program, I ran it by my virtual advisor looking for holes.  We allowed for my background in education and distance learning to be “transferred in” (my Masters is in curriculum and instruction with a technology integration emphasis), so we focused forward from there.  We came up with this list for my Open PhD program. Obviously, I couldn’t use any particular university’s course title, so I left it more descriptive to make sure I could find the right subject matter.  Creating the ideal program on paper was the easy part.

Finding graduate level open courseware to fit my needs has not been so easy and I wonder why that is. Could it be as Gideon Burton says in his blog post:

The traditional scholar, like the scholarship he or she produces, isn’t open–open-minded, hopefully, but not “open” in a public way. No, a typical scholar is very exclusive, available only to students in specific academic programs or through toll-access scholarly publications that are essentially unavailable to all but the most privileged. In the digital age, the traditional barriers to accessing scholars or scholarship are unnecessary, but persist for institutional reasons. To put that another way, institutions of higher education are invested in keeping their scholars and those scholars’ intellectual products limited and cloistered.

Is that the school protecting the intellectual property of it’s scholars, or the intellectual property and its associated dollars? In other words, does it come down to just plain economics for the institution?  With hundreds, if not thousands, of incoming freshman required to take Bio 101, for instance, is XYZ University really sacrificing anything if they post a three year old video version of one instructor’s lectures and some handouts online?  However, as the enrollment numbers for courses get smaller when the course number nears the graduate level, the economic impact of making that coursework freely available may cause the school to think twice.  I am curious what the research shows. I don’t know yet, but, anecdotally, I do know there are proportionally many less graduate courses available as Open Courseware than undergraduate ones.

Your thoughts as to why?

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2009 in The Plan

 

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