According to a recent article, universities in Europe are interested in making more content available to students through open content learning. With the combined efforts of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Higher Education Academy, open content pilots will soon be initiated. The pilots will include individual professors, subject areas, and institutions in an effort to explore the impact of the learning method and understand how to contextualize existing online material. Several universities across the world already participate in open content learning and David White, co-manager of technology-assisted lifelong learning at Oxford University, believes that students will benefit from the learning style. He explains that the role that professors and students play in the classroom is changing with the advances in technology and students need to learn how to communicate in a variety of forms including: collaborating a distance, managing multiple streams of information, and leading online discussions. In turn, professors are likely to transition into a facilitator role for this process. Additionally, students will be more in control of their learning because they can enroll in one school while participating in online forums at other schools worldwide.
The open content model is also gaining attention here in the states. Initiatives like Connexions and Flat World Knowledge offer open access textbooks. The most recent issue of EDUCAUSE Review (Jan/Feb 2009) EDUCAUSE Review Magazine (January/February 2009) had several commentary articles on open access textbooks. Open access textbooks was also the topic of two panel discussions at the SPARC-ACRL Forum on Scholarly Communication at the American Library Association meeting in Denver this past weekend. If open access is here to stay, stores must consider their role when the content itself is free. Our opportunities lie in providing locally printed versions when students request them, or in providing other educational resources that add value to the core textbook to promote student success. The complexity of our environment in the age of digital just got a little more challenging.