Trending: Open Education – part 1

by Anissa Chitour

We're in the middle of the summer semester – internships, holidays, maybe class – and here at iversity, we're thinking more than ever about education for everyone. Through new technologies, learning doesn't have to follow a strict, regulated schedule. While students are away from the regular school year, open courses are still going strong all over the world. In our first blog post about Open Courses, we launched our own Open Course platform, but today we'd like to take a closer look at some of the people and institutions who are leading the field in open education and how they've changed over the years thanks to technology and the new ways we can use the Web.

MIT Open Courseware


First, we start with the most well-known and the oldest of the open course resources online: MIT OpenCourseWare. For the past decade, OCW has provided MIT academic materials from thousands of courses to a global audience. No registration is necessary to access courses, and the wide range of academic material means that there is something for everyone. Many open courses seem to focus on technology and science, and while MIT is of course known for its math and science education, they also offer a huge selection of courses in topics as diverse as Victorian literature, game theory, and anthropology. Additionally, some course materials are also translated into various languages – Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Portuguese, Farsi, and Turkish – to expand accessibility. 

After providing MIT content online, the program's next step was OCW Scholar, which offers more than just videos. Instead, problem solving videos, problem sets, links to related material, learning exercises and interactive quizzes, and exams with solutions all establish a more comprehensive approach to studying. In our next blog post, we will discuss MIT's newest venture, edX, which, when it launches in the fall, will go even further beyond OCW Scholar by providing a truly community-based learning experience.


Khan Academy 


Technology is literally changing the way we look at the classroom. Salman Khan's famous Khan Academy video series demonstrates that more than nearly any other program. His math tutoring videos were originally created to help his cousins across the country. But since then, the scope of Khan Academy has expanded across the world: classrooms are integrating his YouTube videos into their curricula and sponsors include the Gates Foundation and Google.

"Blended learning" is a system of utilizing the YouTube videos as lecture material, while spending classroom time with the teacher focusing on problem-solving in groups and individually. Instead of completing assignments at home and listening to lectures in school, the Khan Academy setup flips the system. The videos themselves are simple and clear, and the program can be tailored to an individual student: mastery is required to progress in the video series. If something is unclear, a student can repeat the video or exercise at their own pace until they are ready to  move on.

According to Mr. Khan, the structure works "how every video game works", providing a measure of progress for each student. While the videos are not complex, and Mr. Khan's face is never shown – only his voice as the screen fills with his calculations or instructions from his tablet – the Khan Academy YouTube channel has far surpassed OCW with over 150 million views. The website is integrated with Google and Facebook accounts, and with over 3200 videos in various topics, Khan Academy is undoubtedly at the top of the open course market today.

Watch: Salman Khan – Let's use video to reinvent education

Next time, we'll take a look at three of the big players in open course technology in 2012: Coursera, Udacity, and edX. While MIT OpenCourseWare and Khan Academy are great examples of using the power of the Web to educate and empower students across the globe, the world of open courses has expanded dramatically as recently as this week, with Coursera's announcement of 12 new university partnerships. In the mean time, please feel free to share and discuss your experiences with OCW and Khan Academy in the comments.

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