For the past decade or so, universities and colleges have been using course management software (CMS) such as Blackboard to facilitate communication between professors and students. Discussion forums, blog posts, wikis and other social web tools enhance the learning, and both on-campus and distance learning students benefit from 24/7 access to their work and the ability to quickly check in on all of their classes through a single site.
But online learning is extending far beyond the campuses of higher education, as we hinted at in Thing 11. Long known as "the people's university," libraries of all sorts are poised take what they've learned while training their staff and bring that expertise to their patrons and communities. Think of the possiblities for outreach and a renewed enthusiasm for libraries.
What do you think of these ideas of "what might be?"
Moodle, an open-source CMS, is quickly gaining ground as a competitor to high-priced commercial software. Smaller non-profit institutions can offer classes of the same technical caliber as larger organizations through such low-cost software. Here's what NELINET is offering using Moodle. (Click on the small blue "i" to the right of the class title for more information.)
Also for library staff, there's Webjunction, an online community hosted by OCLC. In addition to course offerings in technology and library management skills, they provide a place for staff to chat and network, share ideas and upload their own course content. You don't need to be part of a member institution to take a course, though it is for-fee.
On a much larger scale, Wikiversity comes to us from the developers of Wikpiedia. Educators and experts worldwide are creating a growing treasure trove of educational resources and courses, and it's a neat example of using wikis as the basis for a course. (We'll be covering wikis next week!)
Imagine searching for lectures as easily as you look for the latest pop hits? That's the premise behind iTunesU -- a new service from Apple for educators. Just type "iTunesU" into the search field of this popular media management system and programs from institutions around the world are at your fingertips.
Learning By Ear gives us a quick glimpse of another path for distance learning. This program from Deutsche Welle provides skills training and education for young adults across Africa using radio broadcasts, but imagine if it were made up of podcasts, videos, blog posts and videoconferencing! As projects like One Laptop Per Child help to lessen the digital divide, such a vision moves closer to reality.
For this one, I'm going to ask you to dream a possible dream: What kind of online learning program could you develop for your patrons? Reach for the sky -- let's hear your most outrageous and funky thoughts. Consider all the programs you offer inside your walls...how might some of them become 2.0? Don't worry about implementation right now. Just dream.
Now, after such heady thinking, you all deserve a bit of a break. So, check out what your running mates have discovered along the sidelines of our course in this week's mini-Thing -- Thing 17.2: Harvesting the Bounty.