- Open Education Directory (help)
- Open Courseware (OCW) Sites
- Open Educational Resources (OER)
- Learner Support
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Formal and Informal Education
In contrast with the formal education system provided by schools, colleges or universities, most of life's education arrives informally through a natural process of trial and error. The idea of knowledge as a series of undisputed 'facts', transmitted from teacher to learner, is quite mistaken and should not discourage would-be learners from exploring the new and more flexible educational opportunities offered by Open Educational Resources. Fortunately, many learners, particularly those excluded from formal education because of location, full-time employment, health problems or just because they learn differently, now have the means and motivation to educate themselves informally through independent and self-directed study.
What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?
Open educational resources are teaching and learning materials that can be freely accessed, reused, modified and shared by anyone. Open Courseware (OCW) is a good example and many links, covering a wide variety of academic subject areas, are available in iBerry's Open Education Directory. Full courses, syllabi, video lectures, assignments, quizzes, lab activities, games, simulations and even exam questions with solutions are freely available in digital repositories from around the world.
Open Textbooks are another good example of OER. These are licensed under an open copyright license and are freely available online for use by students, teachers - or anyone. Many open textbooks are distributed in a variety of formats such as print, e-book or audio and are challenging traditionally published textbooks in terms of access and affordability with little or no compromise in quality.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) vary considerably but essentially are free online courses with start and end dates that are open to all. The 'Massive' can mean thousands of participants and little available expert assistance but there is normally unrestricted access to lectures, videos, quizzes, forums etc and interaction between the participants is encouraged. Some features of MOOCs may not be properly classed as OER. Access to educational content is usually free and can be downloaded but may come with traditional copyright restrictions. Also, there may be charges for optional certification or expert assessment.
How to find OER ...
You can now find OER very easily. iBerry's OER listings - lead to the main repositories and related resources. OER material may be changed or withdrawn resulting in broken links but searches using common search engines along the lines of 'topic OER' where 'topic' is 'physics', 'history', 'science' etc can produce good results, particularly if advanced search techniques are used to select only recently updated material.
... and use it effectively.
This is not so easy, particularly if you are a first-time OER user with little experience of independent study. OER is plentiful but there's not much advice available on how to choose OER for particular needs and how to use it effectively. But independent self-directed study means just that and you can view, scan, download, study at any depth or just ignore whatever OER you come across with or without advice from anyone else. If you want to study some topic try starting with OER that you simply find interesting rather than boring or obscure. Leave more challenging material until you have a reasonable impression of how the topic is organized, what the important sub-topics are and a basic understanding of technical terms.
Joining a MOOC can be useful at any stage of learning as you're completely free to engage in whatever way you like. You could simply monitor proceedings, download lecture videos and go away but the more you put into a MOOC the more you get out of it. Whatever your own academic level you'll almost certainly find similar participants in the forums as well as more knowledgeable ones who are more than willing to help. In contrast with traditional courses, typical MOOC participants have very different educational backgrounds and interaction with other participants can be a very effective and enjoyable way to learn.
Many tools are available for supporting your studies. Jane Hart's Directory of Learning & Performance Tools lists over 1000 tools in 4 main categories! Find and use whatever you are comfortable with but there are many circumstances where basic aids such as text editors or just paper notebooks can be quite effective.
"Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education." (Article 13: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16th December 1966)
"Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education." - Article 13: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16th December 1966
The page on Science - is the last to be finished in iBerry's new format as discussed in iBerry and Open Education - Work in Progress. All the main topics listed in the Open Education Directory (see menu in the left margin) are now in this format with links to open access (free) textbooks, support for learners and the best resource sites etc all on the same page.
Who then is the best person to go to for advice? The answer is very simple - YOURSELF ! The future is with the self-learner. You know your own learning objectives better than anyone else and you probably have a shrewd idea of your own capabilities. iBerry's Open Education Directory or even Google will provide more than enough basic information on any subject you care to study. There is plenty OCW available to stimulate your interest and then why not join some MOOCs to experience study in your chosen field? You can take as much or as little interest in a MOOC as you like. From participating in discussion forums, doing all the assignments and earning a certificate to just watching a few videos, your level of participation is entirely up to you. Join as many MOOCs as you like to find out what you like and what is most useful to you. Unlike most traditional courses you will not be out of pocket!
Please enjoy whatever celebrations the end of the year may bring and have a happy and prosperous New Year !
While updating iBerry's MOOC Resource Page I had difficulty in deciding whether some online courses really deserve to be called MOOCs. Providers are always happy to jump onto the MOOC bandwagon but some 'MOOCs' now seem to have drifted a little too far from the original concept of a Massive Open Online Course.
For example, 'self-paced MOOCs' are apparently online courses consisting of Open Courseware (OCW) and maybe a discussion forum but with no formal start or end. In contrast with other MOOCs, participants cannot be focused on the same part of the course at the same time and so availability of mutual help and support is less likely. These open online courses may or may not be excellent for self-study but the term 'MOOC' seems inappropriate without a massive body of participants moving through the course together.
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