Donald Clark on OpenLearn (or is it LearningSpace?)

Donald turns his attention to the UKOU's attempt at open courseware. It is sobering reading. Despite the investment of millions the result is less than stellar, not least because of the embarassing course materials (which, incidentally, they should allow the community to contirbute to and improve). This is a pity in many ways. The OU has done an interesting job of integrating some of the wonderful social tools it has been developing over the past few years (everything from collaborative knowledge maps to webinars to geographical presence indicators to vlogging, not to mention tag clouds and discussion forums) and it ought to be great – this has the makings of a self-organising learning environment. Maybe it will get better as more people use it – it was a bit disappointing to find no discussion, no knowledge maps, no other people present in all the courses that I looked at – but I doubt it, at least in its current form. The tools are great and the presentation is (mostly) fine, but there is something missing. I think it is a problem of integration. This is not so much a mash-up or a blend as an assembly. The tools are linked very loosely and, with a couple of exceptions, don't adjust to the context, so you can be looking at a course on computer security but seeing users of the whole site. Or you can click the Flashmeeting link and see a list of recordings of all presentations, not those that relate to where you are. Or chat with people who may have quite different needs and interests. While it is important to have bridges and isthmuses between distinct ecosystems, this site provides nothing but bridges. I think they have entirely failed to achieve proper parcellation.

The site feels very raw, fresh and unfinished. Hopefully these problems will go away as they start to think more about what all these wonderful tools are for. Unfortunately, because it is not very useful yet, I think that it is fairly likely that many people will not bother to come back.

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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