OpenFiction [Blog]

Collaborative courseware development

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on June 1, 2006

So I did pick up Wealth of Networks yesterday, and got through the introduction on the train. Before doing so, I took a peek at the index to see what if anything Benkler had to say about MIT OCW (ah, vanity). In a brief mention, he says essentially “It’s great but networks probably provide even greater opportunity for collaborative creation of courseware.” Fair enough.

I always have an innately skeptical reaction, though, to the issue of collaboratively created courseware, and I felt it again in reading this. I’m completely open to the possibility that it’s simply a failure of my own imagination, but I’ve heard about it on the IIEP forum, and in various discussions with colleagues, and I keep having the same reaction.

In part it may be that I’ve never seen a good example of it having worked. I know of no case in which a group of faculty, even at the same school, came together to create a common set of courseware that they all taught with. I’ve seen a common set of tools created (slides for a media studies class, exercises that by rule or consensus were used in a set of introductory essay writing classes) but I know of no good examples where a whole course–or even major units of courseware–were co-created and co-taught with great success.

It may be because I find the creation of course materials to be in some ways similar to creative writing (as I practice it, anyway), a process of developing an extended argument (in the case of teaching, usually a logical one; in the case of creative writing, more often an emotional one). Creating the product is part of the process of understanding the material, and while I can certainly draw on the work of others for inspiration and include elements of it into my own work, I can’t imagine actually co-creating it.

This is why I can more easily imagine the creation of course materials with OER as a reference, not rip-mix-burn, process. Anyway, I’m sure there are examples out there, and it would be great to see a few. In the mean time, I’m going to assume it’s a matter of my own misanthropy.


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  1. […] Still gnawing on Wealth of Networks, and have come back around to the mention of MIT OCW. There was actually another passage a few pages on that I’d missed on my vanity read, with a little more extensive assessment. Benkler has very kind things to say about the project, but does again repeat that, while MIT OCW is in his words a “major event” as an intervention in the ecology of free knowledge and information, it really doesn’t represent a substantial change from the production perspective. Fair enough, when discussing how the project works at MIT. The site is produced, and the course materials publication is facilitated, by a central organization funded by the school. It’s clearly not peer production. […]

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