Course management systems offered through open source software have opened many doors in the education field. There are courses available for free on a variety of topics. Not all open source courseware is equal. Each course will need to be evaluated to determine its quality. Courses should be well organized and clearly state learning objectives and requirements. Learning activities should be hands on, learner centered, and relate to the course content (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009).
School Geography: Exploring a Definition
School Geography: Exploring a Definition is an example of an open source course. This course focuses on the importance of Geography in education and how to think like a geographer. The course is designed to take approximately nine hours. The content is well organized and a brief outline is accessible as the learner progresses through the course. The course content is divided into sections by topic. When the learner begins the course, they first read a brief overview of the course and the course objectives. The learner has the ability to follow the organizational flow set by the designer or use the outline to skip to other sections based on interest. While it does take a few minutes to get a feel for the layout of the course management site, navigating though the course is fairly simple (Laureate Education, 2011).
Each topic or module presents information in multiple formats meeting the needs of the various learning styles. Information is presented in text, audio clips, and video clips. Additional documents and transcripts can also be accessed. The materials and resources are relevant and help the learner to better understand the concept. For the convenience of the learner, the entire course is available in multiple formats including online, downloadable eBook, or downloadable word document (Simonson, 2009).
The learning activities are either hands on or opinion based. They are designed to get the learner involved and thinking about the material and concepts. Activities are learner centered and relate to the course resources and objectives (Laureate Education, 2011).
School Geography is offered through Learning Space, which offers hundreds of free open source courses. Learning Space offers several tools for registered users such as video conferencing, video capture and editing program, mind map tools, and a rating and review system. A unit forum is also offered for students to discuss the concepts being studied during the course. These tools enable learners to connect with each other and share what they are learning (Learning Space, 2011).
School Geography does not properly utilize many of the resources available through Learning Space. The learner is very isolated throughout the course without an instructor or classmates to interact or communicate. The course was designed to be completed individually or with a group. The designer states in the directions for the initial activity that the course would be better to complete with a group. Without an instructor to guide the students though the learning process, this course is meant to be more of an independent study or used by another instructor for their course content. Considering that there is no instructor continuously monitoring the course, it is understandable why the designer chose not to include the Learning Space resources into the class. Students do still have to option of using the unit forum to communicate, however there is not an instructor who will monitor and respond to the posts.
Laureate Education. (2011). Planning and designing online courses. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=4894951&Survey=1&47=6923808&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1.
Learning Space. (2011). School geography: exploring a definition. Retrieved from http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/course/view.php?name=TL_GEOGSK6.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.