Open Educational Resources for Higher Education: A Boon or a Threat?

Open Educational Resources for Higher Education: A Boon or a Threat?

Jessie Choi (Hong Kong Education University, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5255-0.ch010


This chapter offers insights into, the benefits, and the problems behind the use of MOOC courses in the higher education arena. For the last two decades, the education world has been obsessed with the use of technology, particularly with respect to course development and delivery, which has changed the way courses are created and taught. In addition, higher education institutions are now open to knowledge sharing and the role open online programs can play in the new ecosystem is worth looking at. The emergence of open online programs strengthens innovation as co-creation, co-operation, and joint ventures among institutions are now made possible. Nevertheless, more and more research is beginning to highlight the concerns of the development of free open courses. In some cases, such developments are seen as a growth, but in other cases, a threat. This chapter analyses the current situation and suggests ways to better utilize the development.
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The advancement of technologies has prompted the growth of open online courses, resulting in the emergence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). This new mode of learning has opened up chances for the provision of education on a massive and global scale. Open educational resources are course materials that can be shared freely online. This freely available chance for education is for people who would like to further develop themselves using an online study mode. The proliferation of MOOCs is worth noting as many universities are taking advantage of this rapidly evolving development to create their online massive courses. Some regard MOOCs as a positive change for higher education, bringing benefits to universities, teachers and students. This rapid change will definitely affect higher education. As it is, however, some people are concerned about the threats brought by MOOCs. As open learning education has become high on the agenda of the universities worldwide, it is essential that its benefits and challenges be closely looked at. This chapter provides a good starting point for the discussion. The author therefore thinks that it is time to consider the potential impact, including both benefits and threats, so as to get the best of this trend.

History of MOOCs

Prior to having an analysis of the impact of MOOCs, it is essential to understand its historical backgrounds to gain some insights for the subsequent discussion. Similar to all reforms in the educational context, MOOC is an innovation from the past. Distance learning could be seen as the precursor of MOOC as it explains how traditional learning evolved into online learning. The history of distance education can be dated back to private correspondence programs. According to Bower and Hardy (2004), “correspondence programs spread rapidly at the end of the nineteenth century, particularly in Britain and the United States, where Anna Eliot Ticknor was a pioneer in distance education”. Distance education was a learning mode that was student-centered and that students were physically separated from institutions (Perraton, 1988).

The emergence of the Internet transformed the teaching ecology from distance learning to online learning. The use of the Internet greatly facilitated the delivery of course content. As a result, correspondence mode of distance education was replaced by asynchronous and synchronous communication of online learning. Online lectures, meetings and discussions were made possible by the advancement of technology. With the development of online learning management systems (LMS), learning became more convenient and student interaction could be better promoted. Nevertheless, many teachers still used the LMS as a repository for teaching material and as a tool for assignment submission only (Groom, 2014). In other words, online learning was used as a support for traditional learning. Following the new opportunities opened up by the Internet, the initial idea of MOOC emerged in 2001-2002 in the Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative and the MIT Open Courseware project led by William and Flora Hewlett, in which students could get the course materials from these institutions online freely. However, it was not a real MOOC because there was a lack of pedagogical elements such as teachers, discussions, assignments or feedback. In 2008, the term “Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)” was created by them when they first offered the MOOC (Safwan, Mohamad & Mihaela, 2014). In the same year (2008), a more well-shaped MOOC named “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” was offered by the University of Manitoba in 2008 (Bovern, 2013). The course made use of the learning network and was based on the constructivist theories (Savery & Duffy, 2001), which emphasized connections between participants and connections between participants and the material and was then categorized as cMOOC. 2012 was named the Year of MOOC as it was the year which some of the well-known tertiary institutions started offering their MOOCs in the platforms like Udacity, Coursera, and edX (Pappano, 2012). Besides, the term “xMOOC’ appeared, which is referred to the MOOC that could accept many participants and is usually operated through a large course platform.

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