2011's Biggest and Best Developments in Free, Open Education

The last 12 months have been a busy time in the world of Open Educational Resources (OER), and throughout that period's Education Insider has been on the scene, covering the biggest and most exciting developments in the world of Open Ed. Join us now as we look back on some of the landmarks that made 2011 a watershed year for OER.

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By Eric Garneau

2011 OER OCW open education

OpenCourseWare (OCW) Consortium 2011

Held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in early May of this past year, the 2011 OCW Consortium marked the tenth anniversary of OCW as a potent force for change in the world of higher ed. You can check out our coverage of conference events (day one and day two) as well as a general wrap-up of the proceedings, but for us the real excitement of the conference was getting to interview several luminaries whose work is changing the world of open ed as we speak. If you'd like to get the skinny on some major projects, check out our talks with figures like:

  • Andy Lane, whose Open University makes the most of viral videos to emphasize practical knowledge
  • Bakary Diallo of the African Virtual University, who works to unite the African continent through education
  • Tom Caswell, pioneer of Washington State's game-changing Open Course Library, which aims to make textbooks more affordable for every community college student

We also spoke with people behind the organizing of the consortium itself, so if you'd like an inside look at how such a group is run, check out our talks with executive director Mary Lou Forward and membership coordinator Igor Lesko.

Open Education 2011 Conference

Six months later, the year's other major OER event took place in Park City, UT. Once again Education Insider made itself a part of the action. If you missed the show, you can read our reflections on the first and second days of the conference, but again the real thrill for us was the interviews we conducted. We got a chance to get up-close and personal with people like:

  • Keynote speaker and open ed mastermind Jim Groom, who advocates not for open educational resources but open educational experiences
  • Rory McGreal, chair of OER University, a global institution that wants to find a way to cheaply accredit online learners who take advantage of OER no matter their geographical location
  • DeLaina Tonks, director of Utah's Open High School, who's changing the education game in her state

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People's Choice Awards

Throughout the year has done its part to spread the word about the burgeoning OER/OCW movement. That reached its apex in July when we launched our first-ever OCW People's Choice Awards. We asked readers to vote on their favorite exemplars of OCW in a number of categories. What did they choose as winners? Check out our list for some majorly exciting OER players from 2011.

Open Badging

Maybe the most exciting OER development in 2011 came in mid-September, when Internet giant Mozilla announced the launch of its Open Badges project. This announcement responds to one of the key criticisms surrounding OER - how do its students proved they've learned anything? In Mozilla's ideal future, websites will offer custom digital badges to learners who've proven their aptitude in a given category; those learners can tote their badges around the Web like a digital portfolio, showing off their competencies and knowledge to prospective employers. Though the implementation of open badging is still a ways off, this will certainly be one trend to watch in 2012 and beyond.

We talk a lot about OCW, but what's it like to actually take a course? That's what our intrepid blogger Sarah aims to find out as she catalogs her journey through a class on Shakespeare.

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