Ridiculously easy and inexpensive course hosting will never fly

It’s not a revolutionary proposition that a blog platform can be a low-cost, low-stress means of hosting course materials. The argument was moved along nicely by a session Jim and D’Arcy did at last year’s Open Education Conference, and many other voices in the blogosphere have offered up such notions.

So David Wiley’s proof of concept showing how a free WordPress.com hosted weblog can serve up OpenCourseWare shouldn’t be any surprise. But when I actually looked at it, like Jim I had something of a minor eureka moment…

This particular case uses a free hosted weblog — 3 GB of file storage, management is simple, multimedia works like a charm, the content is highly portable and eminently remixable. The excellent RSS functionality opens up all sorts of syndication and mashup potential. And as David mentions, a campus-hosted version could go further, tapping some most-groovy WordPress plugins to deliver some nifty effects. One obvious add-on that Jim reminded me of is Simple Forums, which establishes a discussion board functionality. But of course, the really exciting potential of this approach is its inherent mutability, the opportunity to try stuff that no CMS has ever been able to do. Not to mention the ability to allow students to interact with their digital environment using tools of their own choosing, tools that are owned and managed by the students themselves.

But I’m losing myself in pointless reverie. This approach is fatally flawed in a number of respects and it will never catch on. For one thing, it is far too cheap, and can never justify escalating technology infrastructure budgets. Worse, instructors and students could adopt this technology with minimal assistance or oversight from instructional technology specialists. In this profoundly unserious framework, there is nothing to prevent students from previewing courses before they take them, or reviewing courses later on. Indeed, some “learner” might benefit from this content without being an enrolled student at all!

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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