Welcome to iBerry - The Academic Porthole

Open Education: Learner Support, Higher Education Resources, News Aggregator, Open Courseware (OCW).

More about iBerry.

Open Educational Resources for self-learners - iBerry's past and future.


iBerry, 'The Academic Porthole', has seen many changes since its birth last century. Before the rise of Google we played a part in directing self-learners to university and college websites where they could find lecture notes that were freely available on the web. In those days there was some resistance to the release of this type of material because of intellectual property fears. "Suppose I want to write a book based on my lecture notes?" was a typical excuse, even though funding for lecture courses often came from the public purse.

Open Courseware (OCW), formally introduced by MIT in 2001, saw big changes in attitude as forward thinking institutions began to see the advantages of releasing all materials associated with entire lecture courses, often including videoed lectures. At this stage, iBerry compiled lengthy link lists covering most academic disciplines but the amount of available OCW grew so rapidly that comprehensive coverage became impossible. Hundreds of well-presented courses are now freely available on the MIT OCW website alone and Google will find many more. At this point, iBerry decided to publish only representative lists of the best OCW and adopted a 'links-to-links' approach for resource pages. That is, instead of making any attempt at comprehensive listings of resources for a particular subject area, we link to portal sites that in turn link to a wide variety of reference sites.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) came along in 2008 and were adopted by many universities and colleges from 2011 supported by growing numbers of commercial MOOC providers. iBerry started a MOOC Resource Page but once again we were overwhelmed by increasing numbers of new courses. Yet again, a links-to-links approach provided links to specialist MOOC services.

Currently, and in the wake of all these changes, iBerry is being reorganised and simplified, focusing on providing support for self-learners with links to Open Educational Resources of all types, including Open Textbooks. We are moving away from the Drupal content management system to a less complex and more convenient setup. This takes time and is already limiting available resources for normal day-to-day site maintenance and updates. As always, we rely on any help we can get from anyone, anywhere and at any time. In particular, we urgently need new recommendations for some of our resource pages as well as up-to-date OCW examples - please see our 'help us' page.

Finding and Using Open Educational Resources (OER)

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 Education and Refugees

"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)

Is Higher Education moving towards this ideal expressed by the United Nations of almost 50 years ago? In some ways the opposite of what the UN intended has come about. Higher Education has become expensive for most people and an impossible dream for the poorest. Regardless of the widely-acknowledged benefits higher education brings to societies, the financial burden of sustained education continues to fall mainly on the individual and with little support from the public purse. Open Educational Resources (OER), Open Courseware (OCW), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Open Textbooks help to make a difference but on the whole, universities and colleges are severely limited by financial and political constraints and have yet to embrace open education.

Climate Change and Online Learning

Climate Change Summit (COP21/CMP11)

The Climate Change Summit (COP21/CMP11) is being held in Paris from 30 November. 190 nations are coming together to discuss a new global agreement aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and avoiding dangerous climate change. The best scientific evidence indicates that there is still time available to achieve this although the window of opportunity is closing. Carbon dioxide levels have already exceeded the 350ppm threshold considered necessary for climate stabilization and the temperature of the Earth, already 1C above pre-industrial levels, is halfway to the 2C limit agreed by world leaders in 2009. (See, Everything you need to know about the Paris climate summit and UN talks)

New Connections - Old Philosophy

"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

iBerry's mission is to foster free and accessible Higher Education by every appropriate means but the appropriate means do change with time. Originally we tried to provide comprehensive lists of open education resources but now the focus is on supporting online learners in making their own choices and finding their own way through whatever open educational paths they wish to follow.

We can go so far in providing links to useful sources of information for most areas of academic knowledge but success in learning is much more than mere exposure to facts and figures. Learning with and from others of different backgrounds, cultures and levels of expertise is an education in itself and is also an enjoyable and very effective way to study. Thousands of learners from hundreds of different countries have already benefited from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) and there are now numerous opportunities for interaction between self-directed learners.

Higher Education - AnywherePeace
Peace by Cayusa, on Flickr)

iBerry and Open Education - New Format

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.

Learning for Life

Formal Education - and when it ends.

After studying for years in formal education you pat yourself heartily on the back when you land a job. School was boring, not much fun and you couldn't wait to give up studying math/ French/ science/ history/ geography/ ..... whatever - because you're not academically minded/ disliked the teacher/ not clever enough/ hated the exams/ easily distracted from study/ etc etc. University or college was better but mainly because of the socializing and the connections you made but you skipped or slept through the lecture courses and only scraped through by making a supreme last minute effort before the final exams.

But now all that's all behind you and you relax. You don't find your job very challenging but there's plenty of time to watch TV, keep up with 'friends' on Facebook or Twitter, glance at your favourite newspaper, even read a book. But things are not quite as they seem. For example, in your job clever people are promoted over your head because they're clever and you're not. They learn things more quickly than you do and pass these irksome professional exams your bosses harp on about. But wait ..... you've learned a bit about the job yourself. You've discussed it with others at work and elsewhere and some of these clever people, including the bosses, do pretty stupid and incompetent things at times. How can that be? You don't feel qualified to raise your concerns with management and you remember poor Fred who was sacked for discussing his boss's shortcomings on Facebook!

Learner on the loose
Learner on the Loose - by Nick Rice

Who can give the best advice about your learning?

From time to time I get emails from learners asking for help.

"What courses should I take to advance my education?".
Are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or Open Courseware (OCW) really free?"
"I need a formal qualification in Whatology. What college or university courses are best?"

All iBerry's information is freely available on this website but there are no resources for offering detailed advice to individual learners. Higher Education is now going through a period of significant change and I doubt if anyone can keep track or understand how recent innovations such as MOOCs will impact on what we think of as 'courses'.
Higher Education - AnywherePeace
(Peace by Cayusa, on Flickr)

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 !

iBerry and Open Education - Work in Progress

iBerry was founded in 1999 when universities and colleges were just beginning to publish courseware and other educational material on the web. Listings of accessible courseware provided by iBerry were useful to students, self-learners and other academics and shortly afterwards MIT popularized open education by introducing Open Courseware (OCW). This consisted mainly of lecture notes and videoed lectures taken from courses given by MIT and other universities for their own students.

Now things are very different. Vast amounts of static OCW are available to online learners whenever or wherever they want to study and open education is becoming much more dynamic. There are open forums for debate and discussion covering most subject areas of Higher Education as well as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) given by top universities and colleges connecting learners to experts and to each other for more effective learning.

Image by opensource.com

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