Talk:Free Open Source and Open Content Educational Materials

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The heading for a comment should have == on each side of it. This translates into being a first level, bold face heading. In addition, please put your comment above the most recent one and put a date in the heading. It is all right to use your "real" name of a "screen" name.

Accreditation, Certification, Degrees, and Etc. Dave Moursund 5/6/08

How does one communicate how well they are educated? A simple way is to assert that one has a particular level of formal education and has earned particular degrees, certificates, accreditation, and so on. There is a reasonable amount of agreement on what it means to be a high school graduate, a college graduate in Psychology, or have a Ph.D in physics.

We know, however, that the quality of programs of study, and the standards they set, vary widely even within a particular country. Degrees, certificates, and accreditations are not necessarily good measures of what a person can actually do well.

Thus, it is common to add extra layers or accountability measures. Many states require students to pass various statewide exams in order to graduate from high school. Teacher education programs may require candidates to pass various state-approved tests in order to become licensed. Graduates of law schools must pass the "bar" exams to become certified.

The underlying assumption of these extra hurtles or requirements is that they help to define and maintain standards. A business school graduate who can say "I am a Certified Public Accountant" in conveying important information about his or her education, work experience, and ability to pass a certain exam. A person who says "I have an MBA (Master's degree in Business Administration)" conveys useful information, but the added statement "I graduated third in my class at Harvard" conveys very valuable additional information. (Harvard has a highly ranked MBA program.)

Now, how do we deal with the situation of informal education and self-taught education? As more and more components of our formal educational system are made available free on the Web, many people will use these resources. They may well gain the equal or better knowledge and skills than many of the people who are in our formal educational system. This exacerbates the problem that we do not have very good ways of communicating the quality and quantity of our knowledge and skills gained outside of a formal school setting.

Note that we have developed systems to handle this challenge in measuring the quality of athletic prowess of good athletes.

Comment by JQ Johnson 5/2/08

In addition to "open source" (implying most significantly that faculty can easily modify and expand the textbook for their own purposes), we probably want to discuss open access textbooks, which are a rather different beast. And, there are lots of other library-related connections where library or university may centrally license textbook type materials for student use. Also, there are infrastructure issues associated with the use of copyrighted materials. For instance, you're probably aware of the big Georgia State copyright case which pits a few big publishers against the Georgia State library over their electronic reserve policies (GA State, like most libraries, has processes to make available through their reserve systems copyrighted works for student use; to some extent, what is legal for the institution to do based on fair use depends on whether the institution has established a system like blackboard that narrowly limits access.

Comment by David Moursund 4/28/08

Worldwide production and sales of cell telephones is now about a billion per year. There is a steady increase in the percentage of these devices that ca access the Internet and be used to surf the Web. A billion a year is more than one per seven people on earth.

The "$100" laptop program is now beginning to distribute laptops that cost somewhat under $200 to produce. The expectation is that the cost of production will get down to $100 in about three years. There machines can access the Internet and Web. Over time, they will greatly change education throughout the world.

Let's try to get the $100 (or, even $200) laptop numbers in perspective. The yearly U.S. expenditure on the war in Iraq is about $200 billion. This would by a billion laptops at $200 each, or two billion laptops at $100 each.

Now, here is a vision. Suppose that by three years from now the U.S. decided to stop spending the $200 billion a year on the war in Iraq, and to spend the money on educating the people of the world. That amount of yearly money would soon provide Internet access and a computer and for every person on earth—assuming a life cycle of three to four years for such machines!!!!

Meanwhile, the free and open source educational materials available on the Web will continue to grow. My vision is one in which eventually free good quality computer-assisted learning materials are available in every discipline that students might want to study in school, and at every grade level, and in hundreds of different languages.