QUESTIONS: What will the future of higher education look like? What impact will the open education movement have? How will we get there from here? What will be the effects of open education movement upon K-12 education? (alessandro giorni)
First, thanks to Alex for the addition of the question about K-12.
I’ve given this question a lot of thought and don’t have a clear vision. I can think of many idealistic scenarios I wish would come true (open resources change the face of education; mass collaboration triumphs; transparency and competency-based education leads to a wholesale turnover in teaching practice; educational publishers are forced to change completely or die; students learn more as a result of all this) and a few nightmarish scenarios I fear could happen (the engineers and technocrats continue dominate OER discussions; instructors don’t embrace it; the whole thing implodes in a cloud of PDFs, license debates, and system specifications).
What will really happen? Unfortunately, education, both K-12 and higher ed, is a vastly bureaucratic and slow moving beast. The industrial-education complex, as I like to call it, resists change like no other institutional group I know. Most likely, OER will have no noticeable impact on formal education.
However, the realm of informal education is another matter entirely.
Informal education in the United States is alive and well. There are many educational opportunities available for lifelong learners, including state- or other agency-provided resources, libraries, and perhaps most importantly, the Internet. OER presents the opportunity to increase dramatically all of these resources, both in terms of quantity and quality.
Even if the “formal” OER community (higher ed courseware projects, Hewlett funded projects, etc.) implode under their own weight, there are a number of other open efforts that cannot be stopped. These include Wikipedia and all of its associated projects (Wikibooks, Wikiversity, etc.); other wikis such as Wikispaces, WikiEducator, etc.; user-generated content sites like YouTube, TeacherTube, MySpace, Facebook, and countless others; and a plethora of other brilliant web sites. These sites will continue to multiply, build strong communities, and improve in quality. This will be a huge boon for lifelong learners.
One question I have is whether all of these resources and the learning opportunities they present will at some point decrease the value of a traditional higher education degree? Especially as formal education gets even more removed from truly relevant content (critical thinking, collaborative skills, higher order thinking), will industry realize that a solid informal education and demonstration of real-world competencies outweighs a piece of paper from a university? I’d be interested in others’ thoughts on this.
In the developing world, the situation is different. Currently, informal educational opportunities are much more limited. This is the case for a number of reasons, including low literacy, low primary and secondary education rates, and low access to Internet connectivity. Current circumstances and OER together offer an opportunity to change all of this.
Foremost, Internet connectivity will dramatically increase in the developing world. Most likely, this will happen through mobile devices not desktops or laptops. And when the content flood starts, learning opportunities will explode. (A critical presupposition here is that early learning resources will be available, increasing literacy rates to be almost universal. Technology will bypass government bureacracies and other obstacles. I believe this will happen. It’s too important not to, and it isn’t that difficult especially with a open model.) Then will follow the dramatic expansion of user-generated content. What an empowered Africa and Asia will contribute to the world will make MySpace and Wikipedia look like baby steps.
There are many more people in the developing world than in the developed world, and those trends are accelerating. It is essential to the future peace and prosperity of the world that learning opportunities be expanded and that we finally achieve the long-espoused goal of universal education. Fortunately, it’s not necessary that this be done through formal educational institutions since they’ve proven unable to accomplish much. The wave of connectivity and informal learning won’t be stopped by anything, and the world will benefit as a result.
So I guess I have an optimistic outlook after all. :)