I’m utterly happy about the evolution in open source education and research, making learning and knowledge available for everyone. One important aspect however is that the quality of such open sources remains high, but when reputable institutions and organisations take initiatives to make such high quality sources publicly available, I’m really positive of how this will evolve. Already the resources available range from a wide variety of topics, from arts to exact sciences. I think there is something to find for everyone (see my previous blog on OpenCourseWare for a couple open courseware providers).
Although I don’t believe open courseware can really replace the classroom, I do believe they can serve as a great complement or be a great resource for the lifelong learner. Other important skills, aside from following courses in itself, like the development of social skills, learning to ask questions, communicating ideas and explaining yourself verbally, learning how to learn…, are still a part of personal development as well. There is an important role of the teacher as to guide and tailor programs/knowledge to the individual and intervene where necessary.
This individual guidance in the classrooms is however something I think that is already missing today. I mean no offence to you teachers out there, I think you’re doing as great a job as possible and putting great effort into educating your students, but what I’m missing is a real mentor. Like Socrates was for Plato, and Plato was for Aristoteles. Someone who can intensively guide you, motivate you, inspire you. Someone who allows you to make mistakes and learn from them, someone who’s always available and open for advice. An open source in itself. Although there probably are some teachers who succeed in doing so, I think they are limited. Teacher themselves don’t have the resources to really provide such a guidance, since classes are mostly too large and there is a shortage of teachers at this moment. Maybe a program in which older students (or bright peers) guide younger students could partly cover this problem, but these students should be motivated to put time and effort in providing such guidance and perhaps if they don’t have the answer, search for it together with the younger student.
Not only with regard to educational resources, but also with regard to the public availability of scientific findings, we have come a long way. PloS offers a variety of online journals, open to everyone. In addition, high impact journals like PNAS, Neuron and Nature now make some of their journal content open access as well.
For those specifically interested in Sleep, there’s the journal Sleep. Articles published more than 6 months ago are available for everyone.
Open access… it’s like donating for charity, but instead of money, you donate knowledge and experiences.