OER14 homeApplication › Prof Megan Quentin-Baxter

Disrupting educational norms through open education and access

Tuesday 9:00-10:30 (1), Jenner Suite

Type: Workshop

Theme: Open policy, research, scholarship and access

http://www.medev.ac.uk/ #oer14 #abs117


Megan Quentin-Baxter, Professor of Health Professions Education, School of Medical Sciences Education Development, Newcastle University, [email protected]


Disrupting educational norms has become something of a habit for open education and open access. MIT's bold 1999 OpenCourseWare movement set out to find a new model for the dissemination of knowledge and collaboration. MOOCs heralded the arrival of 'disintermediation', cutting out the educational middle man (or at least the fee), and revealed a lucrative business opportunity for independent 'education agents' or 'curriculum guides' (Saffo, 1998).

Institutions are justifying MOOCs from their marketing and publicity (rather than education) budgets while learning the lessons of delivering large-scale courses online in collaboration with others. Managing quality assurance issues and tapping into previously unlocked or uncoordinated institutional talent among academic and professional support staff provides a focus for transforming online learning. The market intelligence arising from belonging to one of the major consortia outweighs the disadvantages, and risks are shared, although learners impressed by their MOOC experience may find signing up to a conventional course somewhat different.

Education agents can earn a living by signposting pathways through the best of the free content making up an average degree in, for example, economics, maths and art history. While the provider charges a nominal fee for accreditation on successful completion (hoping for large numbers of learners), the education agent can invoice upfront for outlining complementary learning sources equating to a pathway for academic credit. Social media allows learners to find collaborators and co-learners, whether in a formal role or not. With the help of initiatives such as the OERu learners may fulfil assessment requirements for formal recognition of their achievements, with the fee going to the accrediting body rather than those providing the education.

Evidence from the US suggests that students who register to study a course whose content has been openly available learn in less time and to a higher standard (Lovett et al. 2008), arguing that students don't actually register on a course until they feel confident that they will succeed. Educational institutions could dramatically lower the cost of programme delivery if they authorised would-be students to access their platforms in advance of arriving for study. Georgia Institute of Technology has gone further offering different price bands from $6,600 to $45,000 for courses with different numbers of learners (Khan, 2013). Now consumers are paying brands for service, quality and experience.

There are also some unintended consequences. The University and College Union has undertaken discreet soundings to try to understand the long term implications of open education for staff, and worries have been expressed about 'unbundling' educational provision into it's component parts (Clark and Baxter, 2002). With new players like Amazon and Google in the content market book publishers are being squeezed into the education space. With the addition of a few videos and quizzes the disciplines' favourite textbook becomes a saleable replacement for xxx101.

'If you do what you've done you will get what you've got.' This interactive session will try to lens forward and identify the next source of educational disruption with a based on notions of 'similar fact' elsewhere.


Clark, P., Baxter, M. (2002). For a bit more security and satisfaction, 'unbundle'. The Times Higher. Available from http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/for-a-bit-more-security-and-satisfaction-unbundle/167545.article (accessed Nov 28, 2013).
Khan, G. (2013). The MOOC that roared: how Georgia Tech’s new, super-cheap online master’s degree could radically change American higher education. Slate. Available from http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/07/georgia_tech_s_computer_science_mooc_the_super_cheap_master_s_degree_that.html (accessed Nov 28, 2013).
Lovett, M., Meyer, O., Thille, C. (2008). The open learning initiative: measuring the effectiveness of the OLI statistics course in accelerating student learning. JIME Special Issue: Researching open content in education, May 2008. Available from http://jime.open.ac.uk/article/2008-14/352 (accessed Nov 28, 2013).
Saffo, P. (1998). DisinteREmediation: Longer, not shorter, value chains are coming. Saffo essays. Available from http://saffo.com.s161216.gridserver.com/essays/disinteremediation-longer-not-shorter-value-chains-are-coming/ (accessed Nov 28, 2013).
Wikipedia. (2013). Disintermediation. Wikipedia. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disintermediation accessed Nov 28, 2013.

Funding acknowledgements

HEFCE, Jisc, Higher Education Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Council

Further details

Keywords: OER, policy, third party, creative commons, licensing, sharing, disruption, disintermediation, business models, paradigm, education

Website: http://www.medev.ac.uk/

Prof Megan Quentin-Baxter, Professor of Health Professions Education, Newcastle University

Twitter: @meganqb

Twitter abstract: Exploiting new paradigms for profiting from free education in the open education disinteremediation environment