OpenCourseWare and the Capability Approach - Technology, Education for Development and Quality of Life

Houwen, Gijs (2011) OpenCourseWare and the Capability Approach - Technology, Education for Development and Quality of Life.

Abstract:Globally we are facing a growing demand for education, an issue that is especially prevalent in lesser developed nations. A lack of resources for education is one of the main limitations in provision of education. The occurence of Information and Communication Technology now provide us the means to share digital educational resources openly. The scarcity formerly found in terms of educational content has now turned into abundance. These educational resources have been attributed a number of different roles, ranging from providing input for the development of curricula, to providing an education in itself and thereby accelerating development and improving quality of life. The main challenge related to this is: how to make meaningful use of this resource? In this thesis I aim to provide a normative framework in which it is possible to accurately evaluate digital educational resources and their use and (possible) impact. The framework for this will be provided by the capability approach and applied to a specific case study on digital educational resources. The capability approach provides a framework for evaluating quality of life on the basis of the notion of development as specified in the capability approach. Development in the capability approach is seen as an expansion of freedoms by creating or expanding capabilities and provides an alternative to the dominant paradigms in which development is measured by availability of resources or utility. Both education and technology are seen as important means for expanding capabilities, and the capability approach will be expanded in such a way that it can be applied to evaluations of education and technology. Using the means-ends distinction found in the capability approach, together with the conversion process from resources to capabilities, an analysis of the use of technology will be made and contrasted to the visions held towards the use of that technology. The case study of this thesis is OpenCourseWare, an initiative by the Masschussets Institute of Technology, in which they are now sharing all the courses that are taught at their campus in an openly accessible online repository. In order to analyse this case study by means of the capability approach, I will start with a descriptive analysis of OpenCourseWare and the stakeholders involved in it. Presenting the capability approach, and its links to both education and technology will follow this. Finally, the visions that the stakeholders hold towards the use and application of OpenCourseware will be presented. Based on those three elements, OpenCourseWare will be analysed by means of the capability approach. Based on the analysis by the capability approach I will draw conclusions on the impact and value of OpenCourseWare in the context of education for development, and how this might result in improved quality of life. Following that I will show the merits of the capability approach as compared to a resource based paradigm, and argue that OpenCourseWare could have benefitted from taking the capability approach as the framework in which to develop OpenCourseWare. Finally I will make some recommendations towards possible improvements of OpenCourseWare by including 'Value Sensitive Design' and the notion that pedagogy has to prevail over technology in the process of education. Both the recommendation for using the capability approach as a framework in which to evaluate and develop OpenCourseWare and the inclusion of additional theories for design and education, are aimed at maximising the impact OpenCourseWare in education for development, thereby truly realising the potential of its contribution to an improvement in quality of life.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:08 philosophy
Programme:Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society MSc (60024)
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