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Friday, May 1, 2009

Prepare for Disruption

Back in November I wrote a blog article on the momentum that was building behind Open Educational Resources (OER) and I have just published a similar essay in the Language and Linguistics Area Studies (LLAS) Liaison magazine.

When I was writing the article I was hoping to address many of the concerns that teachers and lecturers raise over OER, such as worries over copyright and competitive advantage, but I increasingly found myself seeing OER as part of the Education Sector's response to a significant challenge - the Web as a disruptive technology:

"It seems that the Web is changing the balance of power; in the future Universities will no longer be seen as the primary custodians of public wisdom, there is a need for us to reinvent ourselves as voices of authority in a more open information world.

The growing movement for Open Education Resources (OER) is one attempt to rise to this challenge. OERs are teaching materials that have been released into the public domain, normally through one of the Creative Commons licenses that makes it free for public or educational use as long as the original author is acknowledged.

The argument is simple, by developing OERs Higher Education Institutions are able to contribute to the public information space, share new ideas, raise the profile of teaching, and give individual academics a more public voice."

Having also written recently about the demise of the TV industry I think that its likely that any industry that is based on information will need to change its business model or practices. Higher Education may be dealing in knowledge and learning, rather than just disseminating information, but it will still be effected by this change in values.

Increasingly what I like about OER is that it's pro-active action to reorientate ourselves to a world where information itself is of low value. The core business model of Univeristies, providing an education for a fee, may be reletively stable, but the way in which we deliver that educational experience, and how we participate with broader society is likely to change dramatically. If we accept OER it should mean that we are better prepared for that disruption.


Wilbert said...

I wonder whether rather than "contribute to the public information space, share new ideas, raise the profile of teaching, and give individual academics a more public voice." the real contribution and unique competitive advantage of Universities is trust and authority.

Dave Millard said...

That's pretty much what I was trying to get at when I talked about voices of authority. I think the issue is that we need to persuade our colleagues that this contribution can still be true in the context of an open space, rather than a closed one.