When it comes to online learning one of the real advantages is embedding a range of resources in the environment students are engaged in. This is distinct from the lecturer using some videos in their presentation or providing a range of resources in the reading list. It gives an opportunity to interact with and experience a range of different media, opinions and voices as you are learning.
This is not to absent the educator – a course is more than just a bunch of resources. But rather it allows the educator to concentrate on the areas where they add value such as explanation, support, discussion. Since the days of learning objects we have been arguing that there really is little point in every maths lecturer teaching calculus (or pick a similar well understood subject). And we have since developed OER repositories, and seen some success with open textbooks, particularly in North America.
But the tendency is still to create content from scratch, and I would argue that this is driven in main by the lecture focused model of higher ed. Creating your own lectures is what it means to be a lecturer, so if we use the lecture as the base model for online education, we transfer across the same mentality.
The online pivot may change some of this (or it may reinforce it). OpenLearn, the OU’s OER site, saw almost a doubling in traffic during the pandemic. This may be mostly individual learners, but there will be some educators in that 24 million also, hoping to learn from or reuse content. Many HEIs are now caught in something of an economic bind – they are deeply rooted in the face to face model, but know that in the long term they need to develop a robust hybrid model. These operate on different economic models, and so bridging the gap between the present and the desired future is tricky to negotiate. The original economic argument for learning objects, shared content, reuse and adaptation may come in to play here as a means of achieving this shift.
But even ignoring the bigger picture, and the various OER arguments, creating an online course allows educators to embed videos, podcasts, blogs, and interactive tools creating a richer environment. There is an argument around cognitive load for not overdoing this, but also one around engagement for not repeating the same approach. So, with this opportunity at hand, why replicate the limitations of the lecture model?