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Open Content Learning and UNISA

MIT’s OpenCourseWare project is giving free access to all their course notes, exams, recorded lectures and other course materials. All the material is open access and open content. MIT does not confer degrees for working through the OCW materials, but you are free to educate yourself.

I’ve tried using some of the OCW material, and it’s far from perfect. It was designed to be used at MIT, and it is therefore not in a format appropriate for self-learning. The distance learning format is a better way to present materials for self-learning.

UNISA started out life as an examining body. They administered exams and conferred qualifications, but they did not provide tuition. Later on they began providing tuition and distance learning services, while continuing to act as an examining body. Today UNISA is South Africa’s leading distance learning institution.

I think UNISA should start using and publishing open content materials, and give everyone open access to it. Most of their study guides are already available as PDF files - If they started using some of the open content textbooks available online, they could distribute the coursework for entire degrees on DVD.

I’ve been trying to tell people inside UNISA about open content and open access learning materials, but I haven’t had much luck so far. It’s difficult to find out who I should speak to, and the meetings I’ve been promised never happened.

How about this for the future of higher education: If you want to learn, you buy a cheap subnotebook, get your courseware DVD burned at a Freedom Toaster, and you educate yourself. If you want a qualification, you write UNISA’s exams.

Right now schools pay hundreds of thousands of rands for textbooks. If that money instead went towards developing open content textbooks, then each kid would simply need a subnotebook to read his textbooks on. UNISA has been developing textbooks and course materials for many years. They are the ideal agent for producing open content textbooks.

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  1. [...] written about open content learning materials before. In that post I mentioned that I’ve been trying to talk to people in UNISA for a while now, [...]

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