Monday, March 05, 2007

Open content!

Open source is hot. You cannot start a conversation about e-Learning without the magic word. But what about Open content? It is definitely not really 'the new kid on the block'. In educational settings Open content could be the thing we are missing the most. There are to many learning environments without good and challenging content. Open content could be the break thru for e-Learning.

When we look for a definition Wikipedia tells us: "Open content, coined by analogy with "open source", describes any kind of creative work (including articles, pictures, audio, and video) or engineering work (i.e. open machine design) that is published in a format that explicitly allows the copying and the modifying of the information by anyone; not exclusively by a closed organization, firm or individual." Most of the time the Creative Commons licenses are used.

Under the Creative Commons license you can chose different options. MIT for example defines that you cannot modify the materials. MIT started the OpenCourseWare initiative in 2001 already. In 2007 MIT will offer all their 1800 courses online. Sometimes it is just a summary of a book or a PowerPoint presentation, sometimes it is multi media material. Another recent initiative is from the Open University in The Netherlands. They are offering extended online courses with some great quality. The number of courses are limited but growing every month. Visit their website and enjoy the courses.

Open content is not the same as free content. Free content can be closed in a way that it is not possible to modify it. But also free content can be interesting. MERLOT is probably the first repository for educational content (at least the one I know). It started in 1997 and contains more then 16,000 materials for higher education. But MERLOT owns the material. You can use it. There is some really good material and because of the peer reviews and ranking it is easy to get your hands on the right stuff.

Also on a national and local level, all kind of initiatives to share free (and sometimes open) content are started. Sometimes from universities, sometimes from branch organisations.

One of the most positive initiatives is the "e-Learning for Kids". This foundation from Nick van Dam wants to offer good quality e-Learning courses for kids, for free. There are various materials, from various developers with various quality.

So if you feel like learning or like creating and sharing; make Open content the best performing and nicest kid of the block! The best friend of learning people.

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