A Yale Education Is Within Your Reach

By Douglas Fehlen

Diana Kleiner

Diana E. E. Kleiner is Founding Project Director and Principal Investigator for Open Yale Courses (OYC) as well as a faculty participant in the initiative. Her image-packed Roman Architecture course, also available on iTunes U and YouTube, is a popular open education class. While Deputy Provost at Yale, Professor Kleiner was the university's Liaison for Faculty Programs at AllLearn, through which she authored three online courses. She has also created Web portals for her two undergraduate lecture courses, Roman Art and Roman Architecture, which are among the most sophisticated at Yale in their use of digital technology and online discussion boards. You're the Founding Project Director and Principal Investigator for Open Yale Courses. Can you explain how your philosophy on open education guides your stewardship of the initiative?

Diana E. E. Kleiner: Even though I have been leading Open Yale Courses for over five years and facilitated the AllLearn online project for five years before that, I have been a faculty member at Yale for much longer. It is, above all, my vision as an educator that informs my stewardship of Open Yale Courses. Teaching and learning is one of the most interactive and transformative of all human activities. What OYC has demonstrated is that this dynamic exchange, normally face-to-face, can also happen beyond the conventional classroom and thereby transfigure the acquisition and application of knowledge. Open education efforts at Yale seem to be designed with the user experience very much in mind. What standard level of materials do you provide for classes to ensure a high quality user experience?

DEEK: For Open Yale Courses, the user experience is indeed primary. Our objective is to open the Yale classroom to the world and to offer the user an experience that is as close as possible to attending classes in New Haven. We record the lectures live and in their regular locations. All the OYC offerings are multimedia and available in high-definition video and audio formats, providing the full experience of the Yale classroom. Searchable transcripts, syllabi, reading assignments, problem sets and other materials are available for each course. We also provide MP3 audio, Adobe Flash and full resolution H.264 closed caption media files. Additionally, iPhone and iPad optimized versions of courses have been created. On the Yale website, we use a standard format for all course pages, including a page that features information on a class, the presiding faculty member, syllabus, reading assignments, class sessions and downloads. Open Yale Courses has a partnership with OpenStudy. Can you describe the reasons for this partnership and potential benefits for learners?

DEEK: Because we have designed Open Yale Courses as a facsimile of the actual classroom, we have given serious consideration from the start to how we might eventually incorporate a platform for discussion and debate, which would be of great benefit to learners. There are, of course, various ways to do that and the pilot project we have embarked on with OpenStudy is one experiment. Because it is a test, we have started with just four courses spread across the sciences, social sciences and humanities and are beginning to learn about what works and what doesn't. This particular exploration is of special interest to me because I have been using online sections for my on-campus undergraduate lecture courses in Roman Art and Architecture for about eight years. Can you explain why Yale University has pioneered its own approach to open education, rather than join the efforts of the OpenCourseWare Consortium?

DEEK: We have nothing but admiration for the OpenCourseWare Consortium and regularly interact with its members at conferences and in less formal settings. And we have learned a great deal from what members of the Consortium have done as a group. At the same time, we recognize that, while academic institutions have much in common, each has a distinctive culture that shapes its educational mission. At Yale, we have sought to engage in fruitful engagement with our open education colleagues while maintaining the autonomy to forge an independent path. Can you provide information on logistical processes, university structures and funding sources at Yale that allow you to produce quality open educational content?

DEEK: From its inception, Open Yale Courses has received its funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. We have made the production of quality educational content a cornerstone of our project, an approach supported by the Foundation and by Yale, which has made in-kind contributions of employee time, space and equipment. The project has benefited from the full support and advice of the university's officers and countless other administrators, faculty, students and alumni. Your school currently has about 35 open education courses. What vision do you have for future offerings through Open Yale Courses?

DEEK: Yale's open courses range widely over the arts and sciences and consist primarily of introductory level college lecture courses. They deal with a wide variety of topics - from finance to physics, chemistry to history and music to ancient Roman architecture. Many classes are complemented by multimedia images, music and film clips. Our objective is to feature the complete course and to provide the same standard components. Each lecture is conceived as a distinct session with a topic overview, reading assignment, problem sets or other activities, and is presented in three formats - video, audio and transcription.

Open courses at Yale are not selected arbitrarily but with an eye to creating a comprehensive and varied liberal arts curriculum, which emphasizes close analysis and critical thinking. In every faculty recruitment cycle, I seek courses on both timely and timeless topics that range broadly across disciplines and approaches and are, above all, taught with engagement and passion. Every year, I try to add to the number of academic departments and to deepen the coverage of those subject areas already online. I also regularly introduce courses with complex technical or intellectual property requirements so that the project can continue to evolve and innovate. A Chinese university has recently violated the terms of the Creative Commons license that applies to Open Yale Courses. Can you offer your thoughts on this violation and what it can teach us about copyright challenges in open education?

DEEK: We are delighted that Open Yale Courses has generated so much interest in China and around the world and the aim of the project remains 'to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.' We greatly enjoy and are deeply moved by the testimonials that come in from individual users. Like other producers of open educational resources, we use a Creative Commons License so that our materials can be easily accessed, reused and remixed for educational purposes. But we also make clear that the terms of use of Open Yale Courses content extends only to non-commercial use of the materials and that the Yale name and other trademarks may not be used without Yale's permission.

While many Chinese publishers have contacted us about the possibility of publishing translations of the transcripts in book form, the particular Chinese publisher you mention is not one of those who approached us. Consequently Yale's Office of General Counsel has reached out to parties involved in the publication, sale and distribution of the book to inform them of these parameters and has worked toward a resolution. This incident underscores that the evaluation of third-party materials for fair use or permission acquisition remains a challenge, but Yale continues to make significant progress in this sphere and each year we refine our set of procedures. Do you have concerns that universities engaged in open education will one day seek to monetize the model in a way that limits access? Are there any other challenges to open education you anticipate in the near- or long-term future?

DEEK: It seems to me that all universities that have created open educational resources are at a crossroads. By making free courses and courseware available globally, they have generated and encouraged a hunger for free high-quality educational resources. But worldwide financial instability has led to diminishing foundation and university support for such philanthropic activities. Whether or not open education initiatives can be sustained in the current environment is a real and serious question. The model may need to be monetized, at least in part. Yet, speaking for myself, I think there may be ways to achieve a healthy balance between continuing to offer the courses for free and some creative form of monetization. We are engaging with that kind of thought analysis now at Yale. As someone who has served as an instructor for Open Yale Courses, you have a unique perspective when it comes to overseeing the initiative. How has that experience helped you in your position?

DEEK: Before I decided to undertake the creation of Open Yale Courses, I asked myself a single question: 'Would you, Diana, be willing to put your own Yale undergraduate lecture course online?' The answer was an unequivocal 'yes!' Only after I answered that question in the affirmative did I feel that I could ask other faculty to do the same. The Hewlett Foundation also urged me to record my own course and I think it was good advice because it allowed me to convey solidarity with my faculty colleagues and to experience the project from the faculty perspective. Along the way, the project team and I were able to use my course to explore thorny technical and intellectual property issues, putting the burden on us to resolve them rather than on the other contributing faculty. I also understand fully the time and effort it takes to participate and what it means to contribute one's intellectual property to the greater educational good. And, perhaps best of all, I get to share the delight of receiving emails from people around the world who reach out to tell each faculty member how much they enjoy, learn from and appreciate their courses.

Nothing has served me better in this project than being a member of the Yale faculty, but that was one of three invaluable experiences that helped me lead Open Yale Courses. These three are: 1) longtime faculty member at Yale; 2) eight years as a Deputy Provost at Yale; 3) five years as Yale's faculty liaison for AllLearn. Finally, is there anything else you'd like to share about Open Yale Courses and the world of open education?

DEEK: I think that those who have been involved in and benefited from open education owe a great debt of gratitude to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the prime mover and supporter of what has become an influential worldwide movement. Their vision is an inspiration and a continued call to action for all who believe that education has the potential to empower minds and foster global academic attainment and intellectual community.

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