Trendy edudogma states that open educational resources (OERs) will be the salvation of higher education. Not so fast...
Over the past few weeks I've become fascinated by MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), registering and experimenting with several courses offered by Udacity and Coursera. Except that these are not classic MOOCs as originally envisioned by the connectivist pioneers. They are much more centralized and regimented than the free-form bring your own tools learning environments originally envisaged by those crazy Canadians. Courses offered freely online by providers such as Coursera, edX and Udacity are tied to the providers sites and use copyright content which is not (directly) reusable - so they are not open in the classic sense.
If Udacity teaches a course to 100,000 students (or more), that trumps an OER that only 1,000 people (and I'm being optimistic there) will ever see or use. The uptake of OERs has been a massive failure. The new online "MOOC" providers have not. I've never bought into the philosophy that Apple is inherently evil because it uses proprietary software. Neither is Microsoft inherently evil, nor the fee-charging university that you work for, or that commercially published textbook you recommend. These companies produce products that work. Just do it. Education is, and has always been, as market-driven as any other commercial transaction. And if the new providers speed the process of change, that's probably a good thing. Any market capitalists out there want to fund my microbiology µOOC? (Yes, µOOC - more of a pun than a typo.)
The current generation of providers has not got the new model quite right yet. Rumour has it that completion rates for most of these courses are low, in the 20% range. Darwinian completion rate survival of the fittest may be just as valid an assessment tool as criterion-referenced marking, but my bet is that these agile newcomers will continue to evolve and refine the model of the course until their systems work a whole lot more efficiently than they do now.
All your courses are belong to us.
"in a highly competitive environment, those that do not search for and select ... rules that enhance net benefits will lose out to those who are successful in adopting better rules"