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October 4, 2010

[berkman] Podcast: Nesson on the university in cyberspace

I got to interview Charles Nesson, a Berkman founder, about the Communia conference in Italy about the role of the university in cyberspace. The podcast includes snippets from presentations at the conference, as well as Charlie’s visionary thinking.

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January 21, 2009

Top 100 Open Courseware courses

A site called Christian Colleges has posted a list of top 100 open courseware courses in theology and philosophy. Open courseware, of course, are real world courses recorded for distribution over the Net. MIT has blazed this path, and this particular Top 100 list is dominated by courses from that school, with Notre Dame showing heavily as well. The Online Education Database has its own, more generic, Top 100 list.

Open courseware is a fantastic idea. It will only spread further and further, because it wrings significant extra value — value perfectly aligned with most educational institutions’ mission — at relatively little extra cost. And while simply recording a class without paying attention to the needs of those watching afterwards is suboptimal, we’re getting better at it. In any case, I don’t mean to carp. Less-than-perfect open courseware is a zillion times better than no open courseware. And we’re just beginning this. Open courseware will change, and it will also change how courses are taught in the real world. Here comes atomization, the Long Tail, network effects, backchannels, and, OMG, spam and undoubtedly porn and …

The most obvious missing piece has to do with metadata. Right now, there is a relative scarcity of open courseware, so sites like iBerry aggregate the known offerings. But, as recording and posting courses becomes the norm, we will have the problems of abundance. And then we’ll want the usual — and perhaps some unusual — ways of filtering to find exactly the courses we want to invest in. For undertaking to listen to a course is not a trivial task. Listening to the first three minutes may lead you to dismiss a course that would have changed your life if you’d made it to the third lecture. We need tags, ratings, reputation systems, trust mechanisms, social networks, and ways to talk with our fellow auditors. And the sites that do this for us well will take on some of the role, value, authority, and standing of universities themselves.

(And now y’all get to tell me about all the sites I’ve missed that do exactly that already.) [Tags: ]