EDUC-6135 – The Impact of Open Source

The Impact of Open Source

The 21H.116J / STS.029J – The Civil War and Reconstruction – is a free open source course offered by MIT. The course is the same version of an online course available for credit. This course is an example of a course ill-structured for a distance learning environment.

Far from retooling the traditional course to shift instruction to visual presentations, engaged learners and careful timing of presentations of information as suggested by Simonson (2009), the free open source course is lecture based, text intensive, offers little visual content and no opportunity for student group work. The course design adheres poorly with many of the recommendations for online instruction outlined by Simonson (2009). Specifically, the course is broken into 22 lectures rather than 3 or 4 core units centered about specific bodies of knowledge and representing major subdivisions of the course’s content. While the quantity and quality of assessment in the form of short reflection papers and quizzes seems within the guidelines set forth by Simonson (2009), the absence of a stated learning objective makes observing and measuring learning outcomes impossible.

Instructor participation is also absent in the open source course. By Simonson’s recommendations, the instructor should comment on discussions as part of threaded discussion board, should provide progress reports (grades) to students every 2 weeks, should make the organization and requirements of the course clear to students, and keep students informed constantly. These elements are absent. Further, according to Simonson, the instructor in a successful distance learning environment will think about course outcomes, test applications and not rote memory, integrate the power of the web into the course, extend course readings beyond the text (or to replace the text), and train students to use the course web site. The open course at MIT employs none of these principles. Rather, the course seems to have employed the common practice of ‘dumping’ a face-to-face course onto the web (Simonson, 2009).

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

The Civil War and Reconstruction


About Darlene Loebel
Software consultant with 20 years experience in Software Engineering and graduate student in Instructional Design & Technology at Walden University.

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