Open Educational Practices: Khan Academy, Udacity and MITx

(The post bellow is an excerpt)*

Ehlers (2011) suggest that the Open Educational Practices (OEP) is seen is as a second phase of this open educational resources (OEP) movement, where organizations such as the International Council for Open and Distance Education, remarks the importance to “promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path. OEP address the whole OER governance community: policy makers, managers and administrators of organizations, educational professionals and learners” (ICDE, n.d.).

The “Open Educational Quality Initiative” network defines OEP as “set of activities around instructional design and implementation of events and processes intended to support learning. They also include the creation, use and repurposing of Open Educational Resources (OER) and their adaptation to the contextual setting”. (Andrade et al., 2011:13). In addition, the Open e-Learning Content Observatory Services asserts ”priority must be given to open educational practices that involve students in active, constructive engagement with content, tools and services in the learning process, and promote learners’ self-management” (Geser, 2007: 37).

There are notorious OEP initiatives, such as massive open online course (; Khan Academy ( or “peer to peer” education ( Here are summarized two initiatives that can be associated with OEP. These living examples, which are still under continuous development, suggest disruptive practices of education associated with two renowned institutions: University of Stanford and MIT.

1) U. of Stanford: Late in 2011 the New York Times announced a free online course Online Introduction to Artificial Intelligence offered by Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun in the University of Stanford (Markoff 2011). The course was a success and got the attention and interest of thousands of individuals around the world ( According to Thrun this course taught 160,000 students over 40 languages; and graduated over 23,000 students from 190 countries ( Today this unprecedented experience is evolving toward a new initiative called Udacity ( Its goal is to offer online courses that are both high quality and low-cost. Udacity aims to connect “teachers to hundreds of thousands of students in almost every country on Earth” and those students who complete a course will receive a certificate signed by the instructors.

2) MIT: The MIT, regarded as a “game changer“, announced an online, open-source, largely free educational platform that will allow users outside of MIT earn certificates for completing Institute-caliber courses online. The initiative dubbed as MITx pushed MIT’s educational reach beyond campus borders in a way the current OCW cannot. It is envisioned as a laboratory to experiment with online learning techniques, while collecting data from a large user base. So far the principal difference between MITx and its own OCW is a reconfiguration of course credentials where the new system will asks users to complete exams and assignments online. Students would be graded automatically. That open possibilities based on individual credentials rather than entire degrees. Also, its distinctive aspect in relation to the traditional “distance-education” is that students will be asked to solve problems in a freer, creative way, without step-by-step guidance. MIT is preparing a fee structure for individual courses and groups of courses. The aim is to make credentialing highly affordable. Plasmeier, who works in this project adds, “We shouldn’t be afraid of researching new methods to see if there is something better than the standard lecture-based classes”. (Solomon, 2012 and MIT’s News Office, 2011). More in The Chronicle and David Wiley’s blog.

OERu OL2 0 life cycles by J. Murray / CC BY

So far, some of the ideas linked with the OEP are labelled as “innovative pedagogical models”; “practices associated with the creation”, “disrupting the traditional role of the university in society”, “new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning” which match particularly well with the innovation-rhetoric. However, the examples provided are still “under construction” and it will be necessary to follow up their evolution in order to see if they either become an improvement of the existing technology-based practices (“incremental innovation”) or they represent a breaking point in education (“radical innovation”).

(*) Excerpt of the paper to be presented at the Cambridge 2012: Innovation and Impact – Openly Collaborating to Enhance Education.

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