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Professor Proposes Taking Open Education Beyond Posting Course Materials

These days many professors make their lecture materials — and even recordings of their class sessions — free online for anyone beyond the campus to learn from. But a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas hopes to try to offer even more of his course to a wider audience this fall by allowing outsiders to participate in course discussions online.

“Serious, you can just take this class for free,” wrote the professor, David Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media and communications at the university, on a post on his blog AcademHack. The course is a graduate seminar on “Networked Knowledge,” and Mr. Parry had already planned to make recordings of class sessions available online. But he’s now offering to hold a weekly online discussion group by video chat for those tuning in remotely as well. “Think of it as a more formalized reading group,” he said.

Those auditing the course who aren’t enrolled won’t get any credit, though. “The knowledge is free, the degree will cost you money,” he wrote.

He cautioned that he might not be able to pull off his proposed experiment in open education, but that he hopes 5 to 10 people will take him up on the offer — and keep up with the assigned readings.

Mr. Parry made news earlier this year for experimenting with Twitter in his courses. In an interview on Monday, Mr. Parry said that he got the idea to open up his course after a couple of graduate students from other institutions contacted him via Twitter saying they would love to take his course, which he had been writing about on a blog.

He predicts that it will take him an extra couple of hours per week to do the online discussion group, but that it would be worth his time. “I get a lot back from this in that I’m really interested in the future of education,” he said.

Have others already tried allowing outsiders into online course discussions? Should professors open their classroom doors even wider online? —Jeffrey R. Young

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