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There’s no shortage of hype these days around elearning, particularly that which involves the words ‘open’ and ‘massive’. It seems that if you are a professor at Stanford or MIT your every utterance on matters educational is lapped up by the education press, and much of the twittersphere. Status ironically conferred by the very institutions that the new open, online approaches supposedly challenge. There’s a depressing re-inventing the wheel seemingly taking place as the new enthusiasts begin slowly to discover, perhaps, quite why we have educational institutions. Their desire to come up with models of accreditation of these open courses (aren’t ‘badges’ just a more hip way of saying ‘credit accumulation and transfer’? ), struggles with the limitations of automated assessment engines, questions over learner/student ID and fraud, funding challenges (many OER programmes being supported to date by significant grant funding, for example). And what of the implicit pedagogical framework? Self-organised learning cooperatives might work for those with sufficient educational experience and confidence (the demographics of those registered on the some of the heavily publicised MOOCs might be interesting to explore – we know that in many cases a significant proportion are academic staff and researchers in other universities for example), but does it really work for all? And isn’t there a danger of simply strengthening the common misconception that learning is mainly about content and if you provide access, then all will be well?  University courses apparently will be challenged by all this free material – perhaps, but perhaps not, since maybe it will lead to rediscovering the vital role played by the tutor and the dynamic of formative feedback, dialogue and interaction, that the real magic of learning is in being pushed in directions you yourself might not have considered, in being guided gently and then left to flourish?

All interesting topics, some of which are touched on, in a far more intellectually robust manner, by Jeremy Knox in his Five Critiques of the OER movement.  Read and join the discussion on his blog. 5 critiques of OER

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