The Center for Open Learning and Teaching (COLT) is a proposed center at the University of Mississippi. It will support the study and implementation of effective and open Internet-based learning practices in formal education. COLT’s purpose is twofold: to benefit schools and educators by supplying useful and rigorously-produced guidance; and to benefit learners in both formal and informal environments, by improving their access to learning materials and learning communities.
Educators and schools, ever seeking to improve and update their practices, are increasingly looking to the Internet as a tool for broad collaboration. For educators themselves, the Open Educational Resources (OER) model permits fluid collaboration in creating and improving course materials. For their students, Open Educational Practices (OEP) offer contact with learners around the world, supporting self-directed learning and personal networking that can greatly enhance more traditional learning environments. Teachers and learners alike have much to gain from engaging openly with expert and diverse partners around the world.
Today, there are numerous projects involving OER and OEP. They show great promise for transforming formal education, but there are more and less effective approaches. Innovation and experimentation are ideally based on formal research, relevant case studies, and detailed documentation, so that mistakes are not repeated and new approaches build on existing knowledge. But the research, case studies, and documentation are scarce and, all too often, developed in isolated silos.
COLT will improve the study and discourse about openness and education with two complementary programs:
- A global research network: Cohorts of research teams will study and document the application of OER and OEP in formal education;
- A Mississippi-based teaching & learning center: The center will directly support experiments in OER and OEP, and produce case studies.
When Does it Start?
The first meeting of the COLT Research Consortium will take place in January 2012, with calls for participation issued in July 2011. The Teaching & Learning center is a longer-term aspiration; its structure and funding are a work in progress.