”Lund wants to educate the whole world”, the Swedish newspaper ”Sydsvenskan” boasted earlier this winter. This is, of course, a bit excessive. It’s rather that Lund University has decided to investigate the possibilities of providing a net based and open university education – a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Ebba Ossiannilsson expands on this with a clear focus on knowledge:
– In order to educate the whole world, we’d need for one new university to open each day. It just isn’t possible. We all have to contribute to a sustainable development. People who are educated are healthier, feel better and can contribute to the development of society in a better way. It’s in favor of us all.
I have a similar focus in a text which was published in LU’s supplement to “Sydsvenskan” and “Dagens Industri” a while ago, even though the headline became the somewhat gloomy “Should knowledge be free?”:
One of the large questions of the present and the future is or should be about who owns the knowledge that we surround ourselves with. While learning is seen as a constantly ongoing process, and knowledge as something that one has to dedicate oneself to, the conversion towards open access and free knowledge isn’t moving straight forward.
In a time when everything around us seems to be tightly woven into flows of information, when we speak of learning for life and the value of both social and digital participation, it should be reasonable that we all follow that particular track, beyond the old fashioned barriers.
In my text, which unfortunately can’t be found online yet, I primarily discuss MOOC as well as OER (Open Education Resources) as a way of giving more people access to knowledge. But there are also financial incentives to consider:
Even financially, setting knowledge free would prove buoyant, at least giving it more freedom would. When Harvard University encouraged their scientists to change to open licenses and publications, $3,5 million dollars per year could be saved. Most of which were license and copyright fees. The purpose of an investment led by the Polish government in OER is, through the help of cooperating academic institutions, to create a library of educational materials which, in the long term, may give citizens without the means to get themselves through the educational system the ability to do so. The students in Poland pay for their own educational materials and since the not too uncommon minimum wage is at around 2000 Swedish crowns per month, the children of people with low income seldom reach higher education.
And I dare say that there is much to gain from starting to think in this manner. For example, the NY Times recently wrote about MOOC from the perspective of making education available to more people:
Welcome to the brave new world of Massive Open Online Courses — known as MOOCs — a tool for democratizing higher education. While the vast potential of free online courses has excited theoretical interest for decades, in the past few months hundreds of thousands of motivated students around the world who lack access to elite universities have been embracing them as a path toward sophisticated skills and high-paying jobs, without paying tuition or collecting a college degree. And in what some see as a threat to traditional institutions, several of these courses now come with an informal credential (though that, in most cases, will not be free).
And certainly, what is suggested in the NYT article seems very probable; this opens up possibilities to a fantastic world of knowledge. The fact that large, prominent universities have started discussing MOOC and OER is a brilliant step forward.
Note: This English translation of “OMG; MOOC & OER?!” was made by Jonathan Lindahl from the LUii Embassy as a part of the new efforts of the Cybernorms RG to make more texts and blog posts available to international readers.