Posted: February 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Open Source

“Open-source course management systems [CMS] are free educational software that are maintained by users who implement, even modify, and ultimately support their system to meet local, specific needs” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p.162).  Open source courses offer a free online education with the intent to gain knowledge, and become engaged in a new learning experience.

Open Yale Courses

Yale University offers free open source introductory courses taught by distinguished Yale professors (Yale University, 2011).  The aim of Yale Open Courses is to expand access to education resources for all learners.  The approach is intended to go beyond the acquisition of facts, and increase the learners’ ability to think independently.  The learner will expand their ability to analyze, ask questions, and to begin the search for an answer.  All the open source lectures are recordings of college classrooms and are available in audio, video and text (Yale University, 2011).

The American Revolution

In the Spring of 2010, professor Joanne Freeman taught The American Revolution course that is know offered as an open source course.  The course was originally structured to be taught for 50 minutes, 2 days a week.  The course provides a brief introduction to the course, along with a syllabus, lessons, downloads, a course survey, and a link for the courses text resources.  The majority of the courses text resources can be retrieved through an e-reader.

Pre-planning and Design

A course that was previously taught in the traditional setting may not be a successful online course.  The focus needs to shift to visuals, engaging learners, and timing of presentations (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, Zvacek, 2012).  The courses offered by Yale University spent a great amount of time planning the courses, but they did not plan them to be successful for online learning.  The first issue I noticed about The American Revolution course was the omitted course learning objectives.  Dr. Piskurich (n.d.) emphasizes the importance of finding out exactly what the learners need to learn, and writing good objectives to meet these needs.  He noted that the objectives must be identified before learning activities can be created (Piskurich, n.d.).  After examining the course, and all of the resources, I have not been able to find any learning objectives.

The second issue I noticed was the lack of differentiation in the class sessions.  Each session had a list of the required readings and lectures.  The lectures could be viewed as an audio, video, or text, but it was simple listening to the professor lecture.  It did not have any differentiation.  The design phase should include activities that provide opportunities for the learners’ to explore and gain knowledge on their own.  There should be more than just lectures (Piskurich, n.d.).  Time is valuable when taking online courses, and simply showing recoded lectures does not take time into consideration.  It is important for online instructors to identify and remove any extraneous information that will take up more time (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, Zvacek, 2012).

The third issue I noticed was the courses text resources.  All of the resources were text. There were no online articles or video presentations.  The site should offer effective course assets like graphics, photos, videos, links, and sound clips (Laureate Education, n.d.).  The course texts were not provided directly in the CMS, but they were linked through Yale University, and were available through an e-reader provided by Google.  It was difficult to navigate to the e-reader, and it was difficult to figure out how to get the text open.  There were no support places to go and learn more about the process.  For students to feel comfortable with the course, they need to be able to get their questions answered.  There is no course support or professor email provided.

Course Activities

The American Revolution course offered by Yale Open Courses did not offer any course activities to maximize active learning by the students.  The course syllabus identifies 2 papers and 2 exams as the only assignments due for the course.  The students are never offered any activities to engage active learning.  They are simply expected to watch class session lectures and read course texts.  Simonson et al (2012), believes distance learning faculty need to “plan activities that encourage interactivity” (p.153), and “allow for student group work” (p.153).  Group work will help the students feel they are part of the learning community, and not alone.  The site needs to create an area for collaboration between students and teachers.  The instructor should be actively involved in the course (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).


Developing online courses. (n.d.)(Video program). Laureate Education Inc.

Piskurich, G. Chauser, J. (n.d). Planning and designing online courses. (Video program). Laureate Education Inc.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Yale University. (2011). Open Yale Courses. Retrieved from

Yale University. (2011). The American Revolution. Retrieved from Yale Open Courses website:


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