I have to admit I didn’t notice. I knew nothing about it. Well, that is, not until the Times Higher Education (THE)31 October – 6 November p.8, brought it to my attention.
The THE has almost on a weekly basis this year written about MOOCs, the greatly over-rated offerings of “massive open on-line courses” that have emerged as universities across the world put their lecturers who stand up and talk in lecture theatres up in front of cameras and clip the ticket on a wider market. The freebies are there to whet your appetite for this. The higher education sector can’t decide whether or not they are spooked by the MOOC or not. Better inside the tent than outside seems to be the call.
Well , the THE prints a small story headlined “Mooc rival puts accreditation “beef” on the menu.” Interesting I thought. Then I came across “the New Zealand-based organisation” and my heart beat quickened – I had to know more.
What appears to be happening is this. An organisation called Open Educational Resources Foundation, “domiciled” (Scoop, 25 October 2013) at the Otago Polytechnic is developing the “Open Educational Resources university” (note the lower case “u” in university, it is not in error, that is the correct name) which is bringing together a number of tertiary providers who will offer short web-based courses which will be taught on-line (so far sounds like a MOOC to me) and in a process that I am quite unclear about, the payment of a fee will enable students to have that learning assessed for crediting into a qualification.
The OERu (for that is their abbreviated brand) brings together a range of providers so I am guessing that it works something like this: I study for a number of short courses and then on successful completion I take them to a member provider who will assess whether they can be credited and whether I have enough credits for a qualification. Certainly that seems ahead of the Mooc movement. The cost to have this done for each unit might be about $NZ220 if the indication of a University of Southern Queensland estimate reported in the THE is correct.
But it is early days and no doubt the processes will become clearer over time.
In addition to the short web-based courses, the OERu will also offer mOOCs which are very small courses for those who simply want to learn and extend. Now all this playing around with upper case and lower case letters probably has a purpose. Using OERu seemingly avoids issues around the use of the word “University” which is protected. But is the notion of protecting the word “University” now under threat in this open world of the internet?
While the promoters of the OERu are punctilious to a letter, others find it less easy to be so. The Scoop report of the launch noted that an event was held recently in Canada “to formally launch the university to the world.” And the THE quite boldly and without subtlety calls it the “Open Education Resources University.” This raises an interesting question which no doubt the promoters of the idea are well aware of and have taken good advice on. Is it the start of questioning the protection of a small number of words in education?
This development needs I think to be placed alongside the MOOC movement. Trying to get qualifications through MOOCs is expensive and takes some time. Does this approach speed things up? Will it be more or less expensive. The OERu providers do not charge for their “MOOCs” and so the accrediting institution’s charges for that process are all that will be required so it might end up a little cheaper.
That certainly is both the claim and the aspiration of the OERu and good on them. Is New Zealand once again leading the way?