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Making Open Courseware Count (Alana Harrington)

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Robert Farrow
16 October 2012

Since 2008, the Saylor Foundation’s focus has been on our free education initiative, through which we’ve built over 200 self-paced, automated college-level courses, made freely available via www.saylor.org. After flying under the radar for three years in order to focus on curating freely available educational resources and developing courses around them, Saylor Foundation staff have ramped up marketing and communications efforts in order to notify knowledge-hungry individuals of our free courseware.
 
Over the past year, we’ve found that our courseware attracts a diverse student constituency. Students hail from a sprawling array of socio-economic backgrounds, cultures, and geographic locations. Some cannot afford traditional educational opportunities. Others find themselves in war-ridden countries like Afghanistan, where it is too dangerous to venture to a brick-and-mortar institution. Still others have rejected traditional schooling models, or decided to pursue academic interests late in life, or chosen to use Saylor.org for remedial purposes.

Our free education model – like others in the open education community – has succeeded in increasing access to education around the world and creating an open environment in which students can learn for free. However, students are largely unable to translate their open courseware experiences into credentials that enjoy currency within the workforce, the job market, or the traditional academic community. In response, we are designing partnerships and strategies that will enable students to obtain formal credit for their work here at Saylor. This talk will present these approaches to the Open Educational Community in the hopes of participating in a dialogue about how we can “make open count” or -- better yet -- spurring the actions and partnerships that will affect this change.

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