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Open education vs open courses – does one have to win?

September 5, 2010

I’ve just signed up for the open course on Personal Learning Environments, Networks and Knowledge – which goes by the great acronym, PLENK – to be run by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier and Rita Kop in September and October. I’m looking forward to a very stimulating learning experience, and hoping to be able to spend more time on it than I did on the Downes-Siemens first open course on Connectivism in 2008 (CCK08), where I was a very peripheral participant.

As I mentioned before, Dave Cormier recently mused on the concept of openness, and how foreign it still is to many people. A bit of a debate followed his post about whether ‘open courses’ are truly in the spirit of ‘open education’. Scott Leslie (in the comments) said, ‘… at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I still want to seriously question why you and others keep on insisting on adopting the language, with all of its baggage, of “courses” when this baggage is particularly what runs counter to the benefits and effects of openness?’ Further on: ‘I just don’t get the insistence on artificial timelines and curriculum (which seem to me to define a “course”) when we are talking about open, network-based learning.’

Now I have to say, I haven’t read much of Scott’s writing, so I might be missing something crucial here, but my own feeling is that I’m excited about the idea of an open course. Timelines and a curriculum sound good to me. Sure, I will (and do already) participate in the ‘robust communities’ that Scott refers to as the alternative to courses, but I love the idea that someone (in this case a group of people whose thinking and knowledge I have huge respect for) has sat down and thought about how best to guide me through my learning.  And timelines, although ‘artificial’, are a perfectly acceptable way of getting a lot of people to commit to a shared learning process.

From my point of view, there will always be room for open courses in open education.

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