We’re announcing on the MIT site that two of the courses–8.01 and 18.06–have each received more than 1 million total visits, the first courses on the site to reach this milestone. I wanted to take a minute in this space to comment not about these courses, but about the rest.
To date, we’ve recorded 41 million total visits to the OCW site directly (with our translation affiliates, the total is up over 67 million). The two courses above clearly represent the short head of our traffic distribution, but in the figures I see a celebration of the long tail. The average number of visits to any course is roughly 200,000 20,000, so you can guess how far apart the mean and median must be. And while the two classes above receive over 600 visits each per day, every course we publish–even the most obscure graduate topics–receives at least a couple of visits a day.
If the joy of the internet is that you can find information on any imaginable topic, one of the joys I hope the OCW Consortium will eventually provide is access to materials from a course on any topic imaginable, and we see this long tail growing already. Millions can learn the fundamentals of physics and math from OCW, and this is certainly important, but those fewer in number around the world who are pushing at the boundaries of knowledge can also find information to help tham move forward, and this I think deserves celebration as well. A toast, then, to the long tail as well as the short head.
The three-part model for open education that I first heard articulated at the OCWC discussion about accreditation at the Hewlett grantees meeting last March in Pittsburgh seems to be gaining traction. D’Arcy Norman shares his version here, and David Wiley’s been on it for some time.
I had been thinking of the three-part model–content, learning experiences, and accreditation–as silos, but I’ve been thinking lately of them more as a pie with three pieces, each of which borders on the other two. Then, to extend the bakery-based metaphor further, I’m now envisioning the model as a two-layer cake, with traditional closed education–content, learning experiences and accreditation–underlying the open.
As before, my interest is in the margins between the pieces rather than the pieces themselves. Each margin has a set of negotiations associated with it, and those negotiations underpin the ecology of open education (if a cake can have an ecology).
To mangle the mixed metaphor even further, I’ve been thinking of these negotiations or interfaces as EPI’s–Educational Program Interfaces–the APIs of open education. The kinds of accreditation issues D’Arcy seems to be examining are at the margin between open content/learning experiences and open accreditation opportunities. When David talks about hacking the system, he’s dropping down a layer and trying an interface with the traditional accreditation piece.
OCW publication is itself one type of EPI, an interface between closed content and open content. David’s open course represents an interface between traditional learning experiences and open learning experiences (I’m staying away from D’Arcy’s articulation of open access due to the confusion with the open access journal movement). Notre Dame is using their OCW to help incoming students adjust to college, an interface between open content and traditional educational systems.
License incompatibility, seen in this light is a conflict of EPIs in some respects, with the NC license being a key part of the interface between traditional and open content, but an issue in the interface between open content and the other pieces of the open pie. The focus has to date been on finding a fix at the closed-to-open content EPI, but I think there are more fruitful avenues to explore at the margins of the open pieces.
If we assume the body of open content will never be under a uniform license, how can we successfully work within that body of content to support open learning experiences and open accreditation? I see this as being more realistically addressable than trying to achieve uniform licensing across all content.
It’s also worth noting, though my sleep-addled brain has lost the attribution for this, that someone recently proposed a fourth piece that has merit–social and reputational capital, which is an important part of traditional education, both at the institutional level (the reputation of the school) and at the personal level (interpersonal connections made in the educational process).
There are some emerging EPIs here. OCW relies on institutional reputation to help provide context for users. Online social networks can build relationships during the educational process, traditional or open. But this is going to be in some ways the toughest nut to crack. How do you build the social and reputational value of open learning?