Proposal for Development ofOpen Learning Courses in the College of Arts and Sciences at theUniversity of North Dakota W. R. Caraher, Department of History, University of North Dakota The past 5 years have seen a significant increase in the number of universities making coursematerial available in an open context, free of charge to the general public. MIT’sOpenCourseWare and Stanford’s and Berkeley’s robust offerings on iTuneU and YouTuberepresent the best-known examples of this practice. While it is commendable that theseuniversities make their course material publicly available, the medium – podcasts, YouTube videos, readings, and syllabi – remain limited in that they do not allow for interaction with their world class faculty or offer opportunities to interact with out students in the course.
Proposal and Goals
. I propose that UND make a limited slate of online courses available tonon-paying, non-credit, students with opportunities to interact with faculty. These same opencourses would also be available to for-credit, paying students, who would have the ability (although it would not be a requirement) to interact with non-credit students in a monitored andacademic environment. Recent experiments with similar type courses have shown that suchopen offerings have potential not only to attract large number of non-credit students to the openenvironment, but to also break down the barriers between the classroom and the world beyondthe university
. This limited slate of open-learning type classes would allow the college anduniversity to showcase its world-class faculty, the engagement of its for-credit student body, andthe high-quality of its online classroom environment. Such “content-based marketing” would both tap into an audience of traditional university stake holders (including alumni and other localsupporters of the University) and develop a global audience for the University’s online offerings.
Local Relevance, National Significance.
A designed program of open-learning courses would beunprecedented among our peer institutions and almost certain to garner national significance.Our new emphasis on e-marketing would complement a greater faculty presence on the web andproduce synergies between campus information services and engaged faculty and students.Finally, and, perhaps most importantly, open-learning courses would reinforce our commitmentto serve the state and local community in innovative ways.
Mechanics of Course Delivery
The courses would be delivered through the existing Blackboard infrastructure in two parallelprocesses. Enrolled students would register in the regular manner, but would be informed thatthe course was in a unique Open Enrollment offering. Non-credit “open learners” would enter thecourse through a simplified version of the existing distance/continuing education enrollmentprocess supported by Distance and Continuing Education.Both open-learners and for-credit students would have access to course materials and spaces fordiscussion with faculty. To ensure the privacy of for-credit students, designated “safe” areas would be limited to students enrolled in the course for credit. These might include gradeddiscussion posts or student project areas. The ability to turn in longer written assignments,papers and essays, for example, would likewise be limited to for-credit students to ensure time forquality responses. At the same time, limited access to evaluated assessments would be providedto non-credit students allowing them to chart their progress through the course and their graspof key concepts. “Adaptive-release” technology, where access to areas of the course would bedependent on the successful completion of an automatically graded assignment, would createspaces where particularly committed non-credit students could gain access to more robustmaterials and contact with faculty and all of their for-credit and non-credit peers.