OpenEd: Why I was distracted I

November 22, 2007, [MD]

I know that I am egregiously late with this assignment, and I apologize for that. In addition to some major events in my personal life, two important things have happened that are quite related to this course. The first is that I finally submitted my application for an MA in theory and policy studies at Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, part of University of Toronto, with a specialization in higher education. Here are some excerpts from my statement of intent, which gives an idea of what I’d like to study, partly inspired by this class.

Universities are [...] currently undergoing rapid changes both reflected through the pressure of dramatically higher enrollments, marketization and pressures to remain current and therefore serve the knowledge economy. [...] Nowhere is this more true than in the emerging massification of higher education in developing countries, for example China and India. Technologies such as electronic distribution of academic scholarship, distance education and electronically mediated learning hold great promises in making education more effective, widening access to higher education, and redefining the traditional concept of buildings, institutions and processes that comprise a “university”. However, intellectual property regulations not only severely limit access to most institutions and individuals, but also limit how these materials can be used, reused and adapted into other cultural and linguistic contexts. I believe that the various open movements, beginning with open source, which inspired the campaign for open access to scholarly publications, and the open educational resources movement, have the potential to significantly broaden access, and qualitatively change the way students interact and learn, as well as the way in which knowledge is created and disseminated.

*The Open Educational Resources movement gained publicity through MIT’s Open Courseware Project, [...]. It is a trend that is rapidly expanding and gaining significance, and which I have began to study and reflect on through my distance class on Open Educational Resources with professor David Wiley from Utah State University. I am interested in examining to what extent, and how, Open Educational Resources might improve access and quality of higher education in developing countries, facilitate the production and exchange of educational resources in and between developing countries, and enable higher education in local and regional languages. I have been very much inspired by the words of University of Oslo’s Birgit Brock-Utne, who stated that universal primary education must be pursued in concert with strengthening pre and in-service teacher education, research on schooling in indigenous languages, and the development of locally relevant curricula and textbooks. In all this, strong and effective universities in developing countries play a crucial role.\ *

Having spent a year teaching in a Chinese university, and speaking Chinese, I have developed a particular interest in this region. [...] China is one of the developing countries that have most aggressively adapted Open Educational Resources, both by translating MIT courses, and by several of the key universities producing and distributing their own lecture material through China Open Resources for Education (CORE). MIT promotional material states that this has “significantly changed the face of Chinese higher education”, yet research is underdeveloped in regards to how foreign educational resources are adapted and implemented in Chinese universities and classrooms, and what the educational and non-educational outcomes are.

Thus I am applying to do a Master of Arts [...]. My thesis research will be based on field work conducted at one or more of the key universities in China, which are currently actively implementing internationally produced Open Educational Resources, and are themselves producing and distributing Open Educational Resources based on their own teaching and research. Through in-depth interviews of administrators and professors, a study of policy documents and processes, an examination of curricula and Open Educational Materials themselves, and observation of lectures, I will explore the political and institutional processes that enable or promote the usage and production of OERs, how OERs from abroad are adapted to a different cultural context, if they are efficient in raising the quality of instruction and teaching outcomes, and their impact on educational and non-educational outcomes.

I have been struggling between choosing to focus more on the policy and macro-part, or more on the teaching/pedagogics/instructional technology part, both of which interest me a lot. OISE, which I really wanted to attend, did not seem to have a strong faculty in teaching and learning that focus on higher education, and they have a very strong faculty in internationalization of higher education, higher education in China etc, so I went this route. I was also wondering whether I would need lot’s of psychology and what not to go the pedagogics (andragogics?) part… However, I hope to be able to cover both somehow, or at least gradually find what interests me the most. I should have know the answer by mid-March. I also considered several other schools in the US, including even instructional technology at Utah State University But I think for know, an MA at OISE would be perfect, since they have a very broad faculty and staff in all the areas that I am interested, and a great Center for International, Development, and Comparative Education center that I will be affiliated with.

Although I was obviously interested in these areas before taking the course, since I wouldn’t have taken it otherwise, I came across my proposed research topics through the readings in the course, and I also think it helped me think and formulate my thoughts more clearly. Thanks a lot to David Wiley, and all the participants!

Stian\ (thanks to CarbonNYC @ flickr for the pictures)

Stian Håklev November 22, 2007 Toronto, Canada
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