Open Courses

Please see posting here on Facebook relating to Open Courses.

Refer to this paper by Dave and George. I hope Dave and George would allow me to post this here. Thanks in advance.
Through the Open Door Open Courses
Would you like to continue with the discussion and conversation on open courses?
What does an open course mean to you? How could you use open course for your institution or community? Why would you use an open course? What are the merits and limitations of open course for institution/community?


32 thoughts on “Open Courses

  1. Well, I tried to read this paper, whilst having a glass of wine. A short ways into it, what I starting reading/hearing was blablabla. (Started to gag). Kinda like what Charlie Brown heard from the teacher in his class….

    Accompanied by a lot of exaggeration and b/s. for example:

    > The term was coined in response to Siemens and Downes’s 2008 “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” course.

    No, this term was actually created by Siemens and Downes as part of the salesmanship in relation to the course. MOOC became SOOC (small open online course) with the reduction from 2,000 participants to some 200 participants as the course progressed. So bragging about a large initial enrolment number is just b/s and illusory.

    Now, about this openness thing. Sure, open courses up, make them free. Then they approach the value that their zero cost would suggest. Here is where the calculus really assists. As the costs of a course approaches zero (openness reigns) then the value added and received approaches the limit of what? Zero!

    Why is this so? Because commodities are little valued if they are free. Basic economics.

  2. I’ll address the point of fact in your comment @deadvocate. It was either me or Bryan Alexander who coined the term MOOC. And it was coined for an edtechtalk episode where i was trying to put language to them having over a thousand people register for a course. also, if you’d finished the article, the issue of the decline in enrolment is addressed in the ‘filtering’ section.

  3. The previous commenter has a very old view of economics. The Linux / GNU community has shown that because something is without financial cost, does not necessitate that it is without value. As a basic example, this site is built on WordPress, an open source program. It is probably being run on a LAMP server, which is entirely open source.

    “Well yes,” you say, “but somewhere someone is paying for this…” You are correct. FREE and OPEN things are often what people are willing to pay to support. Nothing is generally financially supported out of the gate, the difference is that the development process in the open model is open.

    Now, you are telling me that this is different; that the whole idea of an open course is not capable of generating revenue. I would argue that the value of this endeavor is to generate knowledge, not money.

    We academics do no participate in our work because we hope to get rich. If I wanted to do that I would have stopped at the Master’s level and got a different degree. We participate in our work to further ideas.

    Perhaps this model of open education will not be the best model, but it is A model, and being open, cannot help but learn from its mistakes. George and Dave are doing some of the most interesting innovation I have seen in recent years.

    No, I am not a fan-boy. No I’m not even participating in their course. I simply follow their work because they are in a related field.

    Innovation is innovation.

    “Oh Tom, just give it up and come have a pint; no one will ever use that ‘light’ over a candle.” – Imaginary rebuke to Thomas Edison

  4. So long as this “commodity”, like air, gives me the capacity to breathe, I am really alright with that.

    And then again what is free to you may not be free for me.

  5. Well John, I guess there is no interest in debating my provocations. Perhaps my act has worn a little thin. I was kinda hoping someone would make an economics counter-argument and help me straighten out my thinking. Perhaps I offended some with my somewhat brash claims?

    As it stands, I still think that humans place high value on items that are scarce; when commodities become free-ish (I’m thinking about potable water in Canada) we tend to undervalue them.

    And isn’t education a commodity in our systems?

  6. @DaveCormier

    Thanks for clarifying about the MOOC, but even if it was you or Bryan (or someone else since you aren’t sure) who coined the phrase, the way it was used suggested a marketing ploy, at least to me.

    I did manage to finish your paper.The section on filtering that you refer to seems to be merely conjecture on your part. I could equally ‘conjecture’ that participants left the course because it held little value for them. Spinning this as ‘filtering’ seems to sugarcoat this issue.

  7. @Jonathan

    >We participate in our work to further ideas (not get rich)

    I hope so. I did note that both Dave and George took the opportunity to mention their private businesses in their paper:

    Dave Cormier….president of Edactive Technologies, a social software consulting firm.

    George Siemens…is the founder of Complexive Systems Inc.

    (Now I’m guessing you’re going to say they don’t intend to get rich from their endeavours!)

    Your comments about Linux/GNU etc. were useful for me. What you appear to be describing is a business model that is based on (financial) support post development, as opposed to a business model requiring capital at inception. But at the end of the day, aren’t these both still business models upon which some people make a living/profit etc?

    I’m all for innovation.

    “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success”.
    Thomas A. Edison (

  8. @deadvocate – I don’t know why anyone would be offended by brash claims. I think many of us are trying to discover the economic value point in education. Why do academics publish papers? They don’t get paid for that. Or why do they deliver public lectures (often without pay)? Or why do academics attend conferences presenting their work without pay?

    Universities are different entities from corporations. The lifeblood of a business is profit seeking. The lifeblood of a university is knowledge growth. You are applying a profit seeking attribute to a knowledge growth field. The comparison simply does not hold.

    Additionally, not all elements within an economic system provide value in themselves. Sometimes, an element serves as a catalyst or foundation for future economic value. Your Edison quote overlooks that the entire knowledge base he relied on for many of his inventions were freely available to the public. Did he use math? Language? Symbols? Did he rely on work of Einstein? Newton?

    I am (and humanity as a whole should be) very grateful that the greatest philosophers, artists, and researchers in history did not confine their and passion and creativity to the mundane pursuit of profits. If they had done so, their entire foundation of knowledge now needed to drive economics would not exist.


  9. @George

    Thanks for your economic counter-points. I thought academics were required to research/publish etc. as part of the conditions of their appointments?

    I differ from you on your use of terms. I think the lifeblood of both corporations and universities is their people. I think that profit-seeking is a characteristic of capitalistic corporations, but not all corporations are profit-seeking or capitalistic. Many are non-profit, including universities, yet they all operate under economic and financial environments that require them to obtain funds in order to pay their bills including the salaries of their employees. Obtaining funds to operate is required by all corporations, wouldn’t you agree?

    And I was not applying a profit-seeking attribute to non-profit corporations like universities. I was merely observing (from Jonathon’s examples) that open business models take their funding as support, as opposed to other business models that require start-up funding . The latter may use profits to pay for the start-up funding, the former may not require profit but still support livelihoods (where profit is used to denote marxist surplus-value).

    And concluding that they are both business models. Your points seem tangential to this.

    I don’t understand your Edison critique at all. Sure, language, math etc. is common and free. I suspect he was a capitalist, as I have read he filed for many patents. And I would guess he used previous knowledge to create new knowledge. What’s your point?

  10. Here is a post by Allison Miller on OER
    Does it add value to our conversation? Open course needs OER to be of value, isn’t it? So, if Edison was going to have all rights reserved, that’s fine at that time. But, would that model of innovation with all the copyrights move us forward in an attitude of “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success”? If utility is success, then would our blogging here be a success? We don’t blog just for success, we blog also for our faith, for ourselves and others, in sharing and contributing to and with the community. I received no monetary reward out of this blogging, and wouldn’t it also be the case for George, and you?
    How “right” and “appropriate” is the business model in education is a big topic for debate. Openness is just the start of this debate…….
    Aren’t we at the crossroads of business and education – with a business model superimposing on education (HE)? Yes, every university and HE institution needs funding to survive. Every administrator and educator needs employment to continue their work- management, administration, teaching, researching, and networking. So, what is challenging us is how to strike a “balance” between a business model of running an education system (with openness) that would thrive in the future. I am interested in David Jones’ views on HE here
    We simply can’t override the “disruptive power” due to technology, and neither can we force the HE doors to open without considering the implications of openness on education and learning both locally and globally.
    I resonate with George’s comment: “Universities are different entities from corporations. The lifeblood of a business is profit seeking. The lifeblood of a university is knowledge growth. You are applying a profit seeking attribute to a knowledge growth field. The comparison simply does not hold.”
    I also appreciate your view that”And I was not applying a profit-seeking attribute to non-profit corporations like universities. I was merely observing (from Jonathon’s examples) that open business models take their funding as support, as opposed to other business models that require start-up funding . The latter may use profits to pay for the start-up funding, the former may not require profit but still support livelihoods (where profit is used to denote marxist surplus-value).”
    Aren’t we living in a capitalist, business blended educational structure that are so complex that we might have put business first before education and learning. We need funding to run education, from an economical and business point of view. But we need support to sustain those vision and mission in education. Without some openness (like OER), we are just wasting our global resources for the sake of protecting ourselves from competitors, a survival and protective mindset, which may limit our capability to spread education and support learning.
    There are many strengths in having a capitalist sort of education in every nation, with centralized system and a command control hierarchical structure to decide what might be best for the citizens, administrators, educators, and learners. This is up to each government to decide, based on their national interests.
    The openness debate opens up new and novel avenues for “us” to consider, to adopt and adapt to our education system where appropriate, so as to enrich the knowledge, skills and learning experience of the learners, especially for those who don’t have access to the HE that are afforded to them in their countries. There are no legal obligations as educators to provide such “extra open education”. However, would educators be the ambassadors of their own institution, community and country in promoting such a meaningful movement, so as to benefit the global communities?
    The above views are solely of my own, and do not represent any of the authorities of education. So, I declare this upfront to avoid any misunderstanding. I respect all those authorities holding different educational ideals from mine. My ideas could be shared freely and that is my understanding of openness.


  11. I’m just not sure about the premise “Open courses need OER to be of value”

    If you mean “open EDUCATIONAL resources” that is, resources specifically created for educational purposes…than I must disagree. I would far rather my students work with resources that come directly from people’s work, their research and their lives.

    If you mean “OPEN educucational resources” meaning open resources, freely available on the web, that can be used for educational purposes, than, yes, it probably is a large part of the success of the open agenda.

  12. What I mean by OER refers to open resources, freely available on the web (may or may not be under Creative Commons) that can be used for educational purposes, and not the “open EDUCATIONAL resources” that are limited to those created for educational purposes. Thanks Dave for your elaboration and clarification.

  13. Yes, they have used Creative Commons
    I can’t speak for Stephen, George and Stephen and so you may have to ask them for their reasons for Creative Commons inclusion.
    My blog here is under Creative Commons too. Why? I have often found some others copying everything from my blog post and faked that they have composed the post with their blog title. That was plagiarism at its worst, and I don’t think that should be tolerated in education, and in internet. So, what I have done is to ensure that others would acknowledge their source of information, rather than copying everything from others word by word. This is a disrespect to the blog composer and also the course organizer (in case if the blog is a course blog). This also explains why I still haven’t made up a course blog open to public formally, as it could easily be copied and used for commercial purpose without my knowledge. I have my formal course on Moodle which is available for all my enrolled students. It is not yet open though, due to policy and procedures that I need to follow.

  14. Clearly then, you are now suggesting that some degree of protection from theft can be desirable. So Edison may have been wise to own so many patents? Or do you still think he was wrong, as you have suggested, and should be more ‘open’ with his ideas?

  15. Yes, some degree of protection from theft is desirable. I won’t judge Edison personally, as that is unfair to him. He had passed away long time ago. He was not obligated to “obey” the openness that we are debating here. However, would you agree that there are at least two sides of the coins – merits and limitations in openness in education, in society? Would it also depend on the contexts upon which openness prevail? Should we force a closed door to open? Or should we open a closed door? History tells it all. Have a review on the countries which switched from closed to open – Japan, China, and even many developing countries in the world. What could we learn from the openness journey? Win some, lose some… There are also lots of great lessons to learn from such open-close education philosophy. If we want to shut the door, and keep education closed, then we could. Why would we continue our blogging? Could we close our door of blogging? Yes we could.
    So, what are our concerns of open courses, open education? Should we continue, or should we stop altogether? Why?/Why not?

  16. I am not so sure I agree with your assumption that education is closed, at least in the country I live in. Education is open to all, and strong government support exists for it. I think comparing education to trade relations is a red herring. Who, and why, says education is closed? To whom is it closed?

  17. Yes, education is open to all, in many countries. However, when we talk about open education, what does it mean? Could the courses in the institutions of your country open to any outsiders or the outside world? May be only paid and eligible candidates are allowed to join the courses, in most cases, right? So, we are not saying that education is closed, only that education is not meant to be “open and free” for others to join in in most online courses, and in most countries. Do these institutions need to open the education to others (free)? No? Would this depend on the institution policy? Would this depend on the national education policy? There are still many considerations in openness which are not under our “control” as they are decided by the policy makers, the education authority, for accreditation purpose or economical reasons. The examples that I quoted in my comments refer to the globalization of education, where openness in education seems to be a trend where most institutions would be affected, and where most educators would also need to be aware of. The MIT Open Education
    Resource (OER) is just one example out of many to illustrate the impact of open resources on the open education movement.
    These are the challenges that we have to face – in this openness journey.

  18. So are you now meaning ‘free’, when you say ‘open’? I think these are two different concepts, but you seem to think they have the same meaning, is that right?

    MIT publishes some course content on OCW, but still charges money to attend and get a degree, right? So what impacts has OCW had, in addition to serving as advertising for MIT?

  19. Thanks Ken. I don’t mean they are the same. There are lots of networks open to the public, but they are not free. Similarly, in online education, there are courses and resources which are open to public, but not necessarily free.

    Relating to OCW, have you seen any one using the resources formally in their courses? There are implications here. So, one still have to pay for the fees to get the degree, to have the accreditation. It’s the resources that are free for use only. I don’t know enough about its use for advertising for MIT, but you may be right. Nevertheless, MIT has set the precedence in its OER, and now there are many online course lectures, lecture notes and resources available on the university websites & Youtube practically free of charge. So, how do institutions (HE in particular) respond to these challenges? Do they have to follow suit?

  20. I don’t know whether anyone has to follow suit or not. Interesting thought just occurred to me. A marketing theory: “we don’t sell the steak, we sell the sizzle”. I wonder if substituting ‘content’ for steak, and ‘interaction’ for sizzle equates to the new marketing strategy for (some) educational institutions.

  21. Like to hear your definition of open education then, as you see it. Does open education involve a fee in your country? How open is open in education? Are the “education” open to others who want to register but not able to pay the fees? No? I suppose you may be interested in responding to my questions of my previous comments.

  22. Well John, I don’t really have a definition, I am trying to understand these memes that are being tossed around: open education, closed education. Everybody seems to know what they mean, except me. Your definition definitely seems to be related to fees. I know that the governments in my country assist with fees, on the premise of egalitarianism, or equal opportunity to education. On that basis then, education is open in my country, using your definition.

    What other questions would you like me to respond to?

  23. Hi Ken,
    I think we have come to some understanding of the terms or memes on open education. If we are talking about open education with fees, I could see such open education everywhere. Do we still need any discussion on that?
    What do you see are the merits and limitations of open courses (for free)?

  24. Ok, Open Courses it is. I assume you mean open courses such as CCK08 etc. If not, please let me know.

    Merits include: fun, meet new people, no cost, don’t have to worry about studying or assignments, more like a social gathering than a course, learn a few new things/concepts

    I don’t see any limitations to them. If people want to join up and talk about stuff, and as long as someone provides the gathering place (moodle, elluminate etc.) then it’s not much different than meeting at the coffee shop to discuss the latest news, is it?

    When accreditation is offered through this type of medium, then fees are involved and they no longer fit your definition of ‘open=free” courses.

  25. That sounds interesting to me, thanks Ken. Yes, accreditation costs in open courses. If accreditation is free, would that attract many more thousands to join 🙂 ?

  26. Ah, now you are on to something, John. Accreditation is not free. Educational institutions, professional organizations etc. control this through fees and/or as a barrier to entry into a profession.

    Interesting to me is the number of ‘professional’ organizations that grant accreditation to members who in turn get to use designations with their name, such as CFE (certified fraud examiner), CFP (certified financial planner) etc. There seems to be an organization that will certify for just about any occupation you can think of (the government regulates many trades), in return for taking their courses, paying some fees for entry and for ongoing professional development. Knowledge and accreditation costs money.

  27. Hi Ken,
    That’s how professionalism comes into place. Well said.
    So, here comes a new chapter on professionalism, and its relationship with open education, and open courses. What questions do you have?

  28. Pingback: #EduMOOC Openness | Learner Weblog

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