QUESTIONS: What do these representative open education projects have in common? What differentiates them? In the context of open education projects, what does "quality" mean?
These representative open education projects all offer online free materials for learners and instructors. All of them provide summaries or outlines for courses to help users get a quick picture of the whole contents. Creating free online materials is the goal for these projects, and their central idea is bring something good to human kinds. Those projects are all engaged in designing higher-quality materials to fit the needs of a variety of learners. In addition, helping users learn by their space and get the highest learning performance as learners expect would be the objectives for these projects.
Although all of the courses from different projects are offered through internet, they have different designed interfaces. As for the format of course cotents, most of the projects, such as Open U., Rice Connexions, Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative, MIT OCW, and NROC, provide web-based course content; that is, you can read the contents directly through the internet. UNESCO, instead of providing web-based contents, mainly offer pdf. documents for learners to download. Printable documents are also provided Rice Connexions and MIT. In addition, almost projects have their own uniform format for the layout of course except for the Rice Connexions. As we can observe, each project presents their courses in the same uniform. However, it seems courses in Rice Connexions don’t follow the same format sometimes. For instance, some of Rice Connexions courses, instead of presenting contents directly on the webpage, provide links to other websites designed by the instructors.
As for the online course number, MIT OCW and UNESCO have the most amounts of courses. MIT OCW provides about 1800 courses which are categorized by department. UNESCO has about 1243 courses which are categorized into 21 subjects. 306 courses are created by Open, and they are classified into 11 areas. Rice Connexions has about 244 courses from 6 subjects. It seems that Rice Connexions is focusing on providing science & technology related courses. More than half of the courses, 155 courses, are regarding the contents of science & technology. No education courses are found in Rice Connexions. Similarly, NROC also provides more science-related courses that are categorized by the level of college, advanced placement, and high school. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative has 9 courses.
As for the search engine, most of projects provide this function except for CMU and NROC. Rice Connexions search engine allows learners to search by titles, courses, or authors. Basic search and advanced search which focus on the search of units are both provides in Open U. Most projects are English-based websites. Rice Connexions and UNESCO have some courses which are translated into different languages. Rice Connexions support for about 17 languages, but not for all courses. UNESCO has some printable pdf. learning materials for other languages, such as French, French, Spanish, Arabic, etc. MIT OCW materials have been translated into at least 10 languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, French, German, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian.
Learner-centered design can be observed in these websites. Rice Connexions also emphasizes on how to help instructors create an online material. It provides detailed directions for instructors. As for assessment mechanism for learners, most of their assessments are based on activities, quizzes, tests, etc. Assessment is found in each course in NROC. As for other courses in other 5 projects, not all of them include assessment.
Most of learning websites presented static learning materials, not filled with lots of interactive multimedia. Compared to other 5 projects, NROC provides more interactive multimedia learning environments which help students engage in learning processes. NROC provides audios/videos for each course. Similarly, CMU also provides some interactive learning tools to enable instructors or students without programming expertise to create simulation-based learning activities. Generally, all of these OER projects provides feedback or chances for discussion through discussion forum, email service, etc. Learner can find a ways to solve their problems by contacting course instructors or though collaborative discussion with learners around the world.
In the context of open education projects, I think the quality means the way in which those learning materials are presented through the internet, the depth of contents, the clearness of contents, etc. Basically, quality of open education projects can be spilt into two parts: 1. the content: profession, depth, clearness, abundance, correctness, feedback, interaction, etc. 2. The functionality of the course websites: user friendly interface, the arrangement of color, the way of presenting courses, search engine, the resolution of graphics or videos, etc. The quality of contents of OER can be assured by professionals in specific areas. The present of learning materials can be worked through the collaboration among course designers, professionals, instructors, and learners. Sometimes, professionals do not know how to present their learning contents appropriately to learners. Course designers can provide strategies to help professional to arrange course contents in the way by which learners can easily grasp the central. Learner can provide their learning experience to professionals or instructor to help them modify the description of contents which is more understandable to learners. To sum up, OER with good quality means not only having professional contents which meets the learning needs of learners, but also having an appropriate way to present the course contents.