Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Howard County Library now offers online learning courses

       Eons ago I became involved in an effort in DC to create an "Open University".  This was before the digital revolution and our business plan looks so outdated today.  Our group was a collection of students, instructors, community organizers and other professionals who were committed to having courses more widely available without any cost.  This movement grew out of the social activism of the 1960's where existing systems were being challenged in many ways.  The idea that learning should only be available in a traditional business sense seemed too narrow to many of us at the time.  Universities and other higher education platforms seemed to be marketing learning as just another commodity.   Many of the instructors in our group were faculty at one of the DC universities.  Most were young and frustrated with the university structures that defined what courses they could teach.  Most courses they were teaching were the traditional courses that were the "bread and butter" of making a university work financially and able to be accredited.  These instructors had interest in teaching courses that would never get approved to be taught at their universities.  These courses were to be the core of the offerings at the Open University of DC.
     The challenges of developing and marketing an open university in the pre-digital age were substantial.  Printing and distributing course offerings were the most problematic component of our business plan.  How could we generate the revenue for this effort and offer the courses for free or for minimal cost.  The instructors and volunteer staff were free but we still got stuck on the other costs of the effort. We tried to find businesses that would buy ads in the catalogs but our mock-ups of the catalogs didn't get us too far with businesses.  They kept saying they would wait to see if we ever got off the ground and could prove how many people would see their ads.  Like most open universities around the Country our efforts were short lived.  We were just ahead of our time and now the digital age solutions to our business model exist.
     This week the Howard County Library launched the Learn4Life  which allows library patrons to take a wide range of courses online for free.  This program is being offered to libraries by Gale Cengage Learning.  There is a good selection of course offering now and hopefully there will be additional offerings in the future.
     The free online learning offerings are growing day by day.  One of the most popular is the Khan Academy with its offerings on You Tube.  You Tube is my "go to source" for learning how to do anything.  Just recently I learned how to use a CO2 cartridge to inflate a bike tire.  It is amazing what you can learn or the courses now being offered for free on You Tube.  You Tube has a whole section on education.
     If only digital technology had been there for us in DC forty five years ago.

From the Hoco Library:

   "Join us Thursday, March 27, 7:00 PM at the Miller Branch for David P. Scheffenacker, Jr., president of Preston Scheffenacker Properties and collector of rare books, discusses and displays precious first editions by famous explorers, including:
Sir Walter Raleigh’s 1614 The History of the World
Captains Lewis & Clark’s 1817 Expedition of Lewis & Clark
Ernest Henry Shackleton’s 1911 The Heart of the Antarctic "

     Alright, alright, alright!   As a fan of Matthew McConaughey it was nice to see his work rewarded by the Academy on Sunday night.  His famous line in his first movie has become a film classic.

P.S. 2
Inner Arbor plans shown.


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