July 18, 2008 § 3 Comments
Peoples-Uni offers online professional development courses to public health workers in developing and emerging economies. Interesting enough in it’s own right, but more interesting is how they do it:
- The focus is on teaching and online facilitation, not materials creation. Which means all the energy goes into responding to student needs. All the materials are off the shelf existing open educational resources from places like Johns Hopkins.
- All the instructors are volunteers. The volunteer pool includes: a gaggle of retired professors; recent graduates from a public health masters program in the UK; and 30 health care economists. Heller is having to grapple with the kinds of volunteer management issues common in open source projects, but rarely dealt with in open education.
- At the end of each course, students have the option of being accredited through tests administered by the Royal Society of Health. This is the same test that students taking similar courses in formal institutions would get. If they pass, they receive a certificate.
The intersection between ‘hacked together volunteer run courses’ and ‘very serious, buttoned-down assessment and accreditation’ is very cool. Right now, almost all education fuses instruction and accreditation. The result is often inflexible, boring instruction driven by the testing process. Unbundling accreditation from instruction changes this. It creates space for innovation on the instruction side, especially when combined with open educational resources. I think we are going to see more of this.
Heller’s presentation was one of about 20 on open educational resources, mostly from poorer Commonwealth countries. Which, really, was amazing. All of the presentations are well documented on WikiEducator. It’s worth taking a look.