Open Courses and Motivation

Open Courses and Motivation

“Open Courses are more than OER and OCW as you can really follow a complete course at no costs (although some ask for a small fee). These open courses include services like interaction with the instructor (s) and other students” (Jansen, 2012).

I recently experienced an open course provided by the University of Washington, titled Introduction to the Study of Personality. The following is the link for the course This is a portion of the Psychology 203 course that is “a four-credit, undergraduate course offered online through University of Washington Educational Outreach. The full-length course was created by Jonathon D. Brown, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington.” (University of Washington, n.d). It appears that the purpose of this open course is to incite interest in taking the full four credit course online, but it would certainly serve current students well who would like to review information presented in this portion of the class, or students who were unable to attend the face to face lecture. If the former is the primary purpose, this certainly “places colleges in the role of bakers laying out cake samples, with free content an inducement to for-credit courses” (Parry, 2009). The intended audience could be prospective-for-credit students, or could be current students, and serves a very different purpose depending on which audience is participating.

The objectives are clearly stated for the course and for each training module. The professor uses Adobe Presenter to offer visuals and bullet points of key facts and information, and then has a voice recording for each slide with further explanations and lecture notes, which follows Dr. Richard Mayer’s principles of multimedia learning (2007). At the end of each lesson, or presentation there is a quiz. Sometimes the feedback from the quiz is linked to the portion of the lesson that described it, but sometimes this feature does not work.

The course has four lessons presented as narrated power points with self-graded quizzes and activities in each module. In the first module the professor shows a picture of his actual lecture, and class, as the class is protesting tuition hikes. He advises distance learners to treat this online course like an actual lecture class and turn off cell phones. Students have the ability to move at their own pace, back up, fast forward and pause as needed or required, thus benefitting from the features of distance education (Smaldino, Simonson, Albright, Zvacek, 2012)

However, the motivation behind taking an open course is important. Students take free courses, but do not receive credit, certificates, or degrees, typically. This means that participation is truly based on intrinsic motivation, and that motivation can easily be replaced by more imminent needs in the participant’s life. Note that “in the past year, free online courses — once considered a force that could reshape higher education — have lost some of their luster…but traditional bachelor’s degree programs taught in novel ways, using the latest technology and online instruction, are a growing field” (Long, 2014).


Jansen, D. (2012). Why open education, open courses and OER might be the future of education. Retrieved from

Long, K., (2014, January 20). UW, WSU appeal to huge market with online-degree programs. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from

Mayer, R., (2014) .Principles for multimedia learning with Richard E. Mayer. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Mayer, R. E. (2007). Five features of effective multimedia messages: An evidence-based approach. In Fiore, S. M. & Salas, E. (Eds.). Toward a science of distributed learning. (pp.171-184). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., Kalman, H. K., & Kemp, J. E. (2013). Designing effective instruction (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Parry, M. (2009). Open courses: free but oh so costly. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S., (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Boston, MA: Pearson.

University of Washington (n.d). Introduction to the Study of Personality. Retrieved from


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