Educause Learning Initiatives (ELI) 2011

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I had the opportunity to speak at ELI this year with a good friend and colleague, Cole Camplese.  'Openness' seemed to be the theme throughout the event, with several featured sessions focusing on open education, open courseware and open online learning repositories.  Overall, some very interesting thoughts about where education might go in the future as it relates to open access to high quality educational content.

David Wiley keynoted the second day, and gave a very broad perspective of Open Education.  He covered the usual territory of creative commons licensing, various open courseware initiatives and how we need to connect openness with more analytics.  By really taking a close look at data from, for example, LMC/CMS systems, we can identify who needs help and intervene much earlier.  He discussed an approach that involved "intelligent tutoring", akin to the way Amazon.com or Netflixx recommends movies for users, where our systems have built-in analytics to better cater for our students' learning.

David covered specific open courseware initiatives and associated models, and he discussed one that really jumped out at me:

Western Governors University

The majority of WGU's programs are accredited.  Nearly everything can be completed online.  But...they don't offer any courses! The program is entirely assessment driven, where students can take professionally crafted assessment instruments and receive credit based on their performance on assessments.  If you want to learn something but don't have the knowledge to pass the assessment, one of WGU's faculty will work with you to find external resources that cover the content, such as materials from open courseware initiatives or online tutorials. 

I need to learn more about WGU, but the model is certainly intriguing.  An accredited university that does not offer any courses, but rather builds on the immense content found online in open content repositories and other spaces.  Entirely assessment driven.  Will this model begin to permeate online universities, or is this something that only a handful of universities will experiment with?

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