Getting to Know at Open Education Week writer Sarah Wright has been detailing her experiences as a student in one of's open online courses. As part of Open Education Week, Sarah attended a webinar hosted by that focused on open education in community colleges. Read on to learn more about how community college students and faculty can benefit from an open platform like Saylor's.

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By Sarah Wright open education free online classes

Learning More About's Goals

Our readers know that I've been making my way through a Shakespeare class on The class follows the site's standard model - though it's self-directed, there's a carefully organized syllabus that includes links to all of the necessary course materials. The only thing I've had to do is follow the syllabus, click on some links and read the assigned material, and the only thing I've paid with is my time. It's a great model for open education, and makes good use of available technology to present quality courseware.

I'm familiar with's class format at this point, but the webinar on Tuesday gave me the opportunity to learn more about the organization itself. The Saylor Foundation was established in 1999 by Michael Saylor, a businessman who believed that 'education should be free.' The current site was born out of that idea, and the foundation has produced a free online education center that uses technology to make open education available to a wide audience. Cost isn't the only issue the Foundation is concerned with, though. Quality is also an important factor.

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Course Development

In one of my diary entries about the Shakespeare class, I mentioned that an assigned reading didn't really seem that educationally relevant. representatives responded to my complaints with an explanation of their course development process, and I was impressed by their commitment to quality. I got to learn a little bit more about how their quality-control process works during the webinar. Course development for Classes takes place in seven phases, with trained and credentialed education professionals taking charge of each course's creation.

The first phase is research, followed by what the foundation refers to as 'blueprint design.' During the blueprint design phase, the architecture for the course is developed through the definition of foundational concepts, terms, principles and core educational goals. Next, the content pairing phase begins, wherein appropriate open-access course materials are located for each lesson. The final phases involves the editing and peer review of course materials. Three professors work through each course and provide feedback in order to ensure quality.

Community College Usage

It was interesting getting to learn more about the organization from which I'd been taking a course for the past few months. I've long been impressed with, but learning these details really helps make the operation seem all the more vital and useful. One of the most interesting parts of the webinar, though, was the discussion of how the site's courses can be used in traditional educational settings.

Rather than solely being of use to independent learners, courses can be used by educators and students in community colleges and universities in a variety of ways. Course blueprints can be used as syllabi by adjunct faculty who have little time to develop their own materials. Advanced students can be pointed toward courses to provide additional learning material that is beyond what they will be engaging with in their current classes. Professors can point students toward courses in order to fill in knowledge and information gaps that are not covered in class. These are all uses that hadn't occurred to me as I worked my way through the course, but they make perfect sense. is definitely one to watch in the open education movement.

For more information about Open Education Week, and information about our previous coverage of the open ed movement, click here.

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