Things are rarely free, good things almost never… but when MIT in 2001 decided to put up online their entire course catalog, it resulted in the Open Educational Resources Movement which opened a new era in teaching and learning. This era made “the education” free and allowed people to be free in acquiring knowledge from every open resource. The calls for the movement started even before that. The name of Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen is very often cited in the works on the topic. In his work “Development as Freedom”, the Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, talks about the importance of providing people with opportunity to have “basic education” (Sen, 1999) as it, with other components of freedom, expands the idea of freedom and contributes to the economic development of the whole society.
During a conference hosted by UNESCO in 2002, it was said that “Open Educational Resources are critically important for ensuring wide access to quality higher education in developing countries and full participation of universities in these countries in the rapidly evolving world higher education system.” Daniel Atkins, John Brown and Allen Hammond (2007) took this to a higher level combining what Sen said with what was discussed at the UNESCO conference and citing Amartya Sen again defined Open Educational Resources Movement as a “Plan intended to be a strategic international development initiative to expand people’s substantive freedoms through the removal of “unfreedoms”: poverty, limited economic opportunity, inadequate education and access to knowledge, deficient health care, and oppression.”
Now let’s take all this theory and see how it works in real life. “Education”, freedom”, “development”, “access”… these all are very beautiful words to which, I guess, everybody strives for and which everybody tries to achieve. I will take this to a personal level again, because I believe that “personalizing” the issue allows to better connect to it.
The first time I saw a link “200 free course lectures online” (can’t find the link now to post it here), I was extremely excited. I spent several hours on that day watching several lectures on philosophy. Those were recordings of actual lectures happening in real classrooms in various well known universities of the world. I was truly thankful to the people who took the care to just take a video of what was happening in the classroom and posting it online. I started telling about that to my friends and sharing it to my social networks online. The wave of MOOCs reached to Armenia too, and my excitement grew and people got involved. My friend, with the support from the US embassy in Armenia, went to Armenia’s public schools and presented the idea of “free education”: Coursea, EdX, Khan Academy and so on. Suddenly everybody who had access to internet and a computer could study online with the professors from the best Universities of the world. Suddenly everybody who wanted to “learn” gathered together and became a community.
What I personally love about this movement, is that it is not just about free education. It is more about freer people with more access to worldwide development. That’s what, I believe, education should be about: freedom and liberation!!!