We survey here the state-of-the-art in open courseware initiatives worldwide. First, the MIT OpenCourseWare project is overviewed, as it has been the real starting point of the OCW movement. Usually, open courseware refers to a free and open digital publication of high quality university level educational materials that are organized as courses, and include course planning materials, evaluation tools, and thematic content, under a Creative Commons license. OCW is free and open, accessible to anyone, anywhere, and anytime via the Internet. The OCW initiative started in 2002, and it has been followed by many more programs that offer open access to courseware: Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative, Harvard Medical School's MyCourses, Webcast.Berkeley, Rice University's Connexions, OpenCourseWare Consortium, Open Education Resources Commons, and The Saylor Foundation's Free Education Initiative, along with other major open courseware projects worldwide. The prospects for futur development of open courseware are taken into consideration, while its potential to provide for both social construction of knowledge and for development of open educational models, and therefore for E-Learning 2.0 and Web 2.0 is emphasized.
Computer-based instruction, online or offline, which we will be referring at as e-instruction, provides for the development of new flexible pedagogical frameworks that will offer opportunities for open worldwide lifelong instruction. We claim that these are to be stored in instructional digital libraries in order to be accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere. While many advances have been made in the creation of digital libraries, there is considerable room both for improving how learning objects are accessed/re-used by educators and learners, and for enhanced support for instruction design and for implementation of sound instructional systems.
We present here our ongoing work that aims to build a core instructional design digital library for reflective, learner-centered, e-instruction and to make it available to its potential users. Firstly, we describe our model for e-instruction design and its support tool. We present further on a construction scheme for storing this evolving model into a digital library, using the services provided by an open digital library service system, OpenDLib, which has been built at ISTI-CNR Pisa, Italy. We have chosen OpenDLib as a ``constructor'' for our digital library because it has a powerful document model, it is open, dinamically expandable, and open source. Finally, our research plan that approaches instructional design that facilitates reflective, learner-centered, e-instruction is shown.
In this paper, we present a standard definition for learning objects, a controversy around it, and the resulted working definition, along with features to be held by learning objects, benefits of the object-oriented approach for learning, some pros and cons for using learning objects, and finally some quality standard guidelines for these objects. In addition, we introduce shortly a taxonomy of learning object types and the metadata standards that can be used for learning objects and the way they inter-relate. An overview of the content and capabilities of the instructional digital libraries available on the web is presented too. We conclude by pointing out some possible solutions for meaningful use of the learning objects that can be found on the web, either by construction of really useful community instructional digital libraries, or by using non-authoritative metadata to find these learning resources. Involving the conscious user in the process of making sense of the huge quantity of learning resources to be available on the web is, in our view, the only straightforward way to having fast access to the most appropriate (instructional) resource that is needed for a particular (educational) aim.