In response to Amy Kinsel

David Wiley, iterating toward openness, Aug 26, 2010
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Amy Kinsel responds to David Wiley's case for open education. "I know first-hand that education does not consist primarily of the transfer of information from books or professors to students," she writes. "Access to information alone does not equal education." That's why the teacher plays such an important role. "If I were responsible not for 25-30 students per online class but 60 or even 100 students, I would need to change how I teach. I could not assign analytical papers that I'd have to read and comment on, I could not field student questions, I could not read or reply individually to student posts, and I could not ask students to write essay exam questions that told me how well students understood important concepts and were able to apply critical thinking skills."

Wiley responds in this post. He agrees with Kinsel's premise. "Access to a wealth of content, information, books, articles, and other resources is a necessary – but not sufficient – condition for learning." But he notes, "What we must not overlook in this statement is that access to content is a necessary condition for learning." And he agrees there are limiting conditions to teaching online. "Amy and I agree that no faculty member can legally post student work in public. And we agree that students need to feel safe in order for them to engage substantively in conversations and other activities." But where he disagrees - and where I agree with him - is in the contention that only the teacher can be the locus of the analytical and reflective work essential for an education. "I explain to my students that discussions on the open internet can still be framed as formative, learning conversations and not as one's final opinion."
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