Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Open Learning Initiative



Reviewed by:  Linda B. Nilson, Director, Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation, Clemson University, USA

The Open Learning Initiative (OLI) is a carefully selected collection of free and publicly available online courses and course materials developed at Carnegie Mellon University.  The courses, all at the introductory or intermediate undergraduate level, span a wide range of academic subjects: biology, chemistry, physics, engineering statics, computational discrete mathematics, causal and statistical reasoning, statistics, empirical research methods (e.g., multiple regression), logic and proofs (modern symbolic logic), economics, French (two course levels), and visual communication design.  These courses are designed for the independent learner--none is instructor-led--and have been tested and revised multiple times by an open learning community.  They feature high-quality graphics, videos, interactive animations, interactive games, exercises, test questions and problems, case studies, data sets, experiments, and even automatically graded workbooks.  Most of these teaching tools qualify as learning objects, which students can play and replay until they understand the material. 

Educational developers can refer faculty to the OLI for several purposes.  It offers well-designed teaching tools that faculty can freely integrate into their own classroom-based courses for demonstrations, in-class activities (with computers), and homework.  As the comprehension checks and other exercises are self-grading, students receive immediate feedback and, in addition to saving grading time, instructors can instantly access the results.  Instructors can even play back student laboratories to monitor participation and decision-making.  Of course, these tools can also be used in online courses.  To prepare faculty for online teaching, educational developers may want their faculty to take one of these courses, instead of enrolling in a standard online course, in order to experience being an online learner.  Moreover, both new and experienced online instructors can accelerate the often long process of online course design and development by drawing resources and activities from these course packages. 

Keywords:  online courses, introductory courses, learning objects, interactive

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