Thursday, September 02, 2004

ITI: Wiley, Lambert, and OLS

I'm listening to Dave Wiley and Lambert discuss their Open Learning System project. If you were in the program last year (but I guess most of you in 692r weren't), you heard Dave speak in a seminar about MIT's open courseware project. USU is now doing the same thing. The basic ideas is that learning and knowledge should be available freely to everyone. So MIT and USU are actually putting EVERY single course, and EVERY recorded lecture and EVERY instructor material online so someone could basically teach themself Linear Algebra using MIT's linear algebra class and accessing the linear algebra professor's materials.

The problem is, as Dave says it, "No matter how smart you are, someday you will have a question. And having the material online is not enough. You need to talk to somebody."

They are working on a possible solution for this with OLS. This is basically a collaborative component tied into every open course. For example, if you are reading the Linear Algebra material, you see a link on the menu bar for OLS. You go there, and there are discussion boards and features to support a growing community where students help each other learn the material.

It has some interesting features, including the ability to click a button and give "kudos" to someone's post. If someone gets more and more kudos from lots of people, they gain credibility in the community, and people will start listening to that person more (kind of like ebay's feedback feature). This way, if you have a question, you can choose to read the posts written by the smartest people in the community.

They also learned the hard way that too many advanced features can kill a growing community. So the default features of the software are simple. As the community grows and wants more features, the software is extensible and can grow and add more features.

Great idea!

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