Friday, November 21 • 1:45pm - 2:15pm
Moving from Open Courseware to Student-Created Degree Pathways

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Thanks to the efforts of open content producers, students from all over the globe have access to educational resources to an unprecedented degree. However, aside from a few notable cases (Lumen Learning-Tidewater Community College, OpenStax, Open Courseware Consortium, OERu), there has been a considerable amount of reluctance on the part of higher ed to adopt the use of open resources. When adoption has taken place, it has often been initiated by an administrator or a professor; students in these situations have no opportunity to develop a personal connection with open education, nor to think about how it can apply to their lives outside of the context of their current course. In fact, research by HarvardX research fellow Justin Reich indicates that the explosion of freely available OER and education technology resources could serve to widen the opportunity gaps between wealthy and poor students because the latter lack the tools and institutional support to effectively utilize it.

Thomas Edison State College entered the world of open education by developing challenge exams for credit to match up with open courses. Working with the Saylor Academy, we have developed an affordable and self-directed degree program built around open courses that leads to an Associates of Science in Business Administration. While the creation of a $3,500 degree was ground-breaking, it is essentially a substitution model: "instead of this course, use this open resource to satisfy this requirement and meet this learning outcome." What is missing is an understanding of the real transformative value of open education among our students. We have used this experience to build something that will not only foster a deeper level of comprehension and appreciation, but also incorporate the learning they gain from using open resources into an experience that goes beyond what is possible in a traditional approach.

Our course teaches open education and its application at the student level. Students learn information literacy, critical thinking, and the development of a lifelong approach to learning: how to evaluate open resources for bias and for quality, how learning outcomes work, and how open resources can be used to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to master them in any course context. We show students how they can collaborate with each other and learn from each other, without having to rely on a faculty member to have all the answers. Finally, we teach them how everything they've learned can be applied within the current higher education system, and outside of it. This last component opens the door for lifelong learning, but also can fundamentally reduce the cost of a college education for anyone with the drive to pursue truly self-directed learning.

avatar for Steve Phillips

Steve Phillips

Assessment Strategist, Thomas Edison State College
avatar for Marc Singer

Marc Singer

Vice Provost, Center for the Assessment of Learning, Thomas Edison State University
Talk to me about anything. I will try to keep up.

Friday November 21, 2014 1:45pm - 2:15pm

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