Appreciate the feedback and link to your paper. Its a good read. The OER Foundation experiences concur with your work on "Informal Learning Projects as a Vehicle for Collaborative Professional Development in Online Communities" Our experiences are very similar to those you have reported.
For example, we convene an international volunteer community of +25,000 registered WikiEducator users from almost every country in the world. Small groups cluster around interests and through the processes of self-organisation combined with centralised support in professional development the model appears to be working and is scalable.
The planning and development of the OER university is another example. All our planning is conducted openly and transparently. This SCoPE seminar is an example of a small group of volunteers who are assisting with more detailed planning of the AVI sub-activity of the OERu logic model. There are many similarities with your project, for example:
- The SCoPE seminar planning volunteers are using resources developed by the OERu Founding Anchor Partners (the proposer) as well as contributing links to other resources and personal experiences.
The OERu network (as proposer) is getting "a conversation about their idea[s], a variety of hand-picked resources and often a solution that [we] could use. A win-win all round."
I think there are important lessons for us to learn from the history of the Internet and the bazaar model used in open source software development (as opposed to a Cathedral model) for designing the OERu. (See for example: In an Open-Source Society, Innovating by the Seat of Our Pants by Joichi Ito, Director of the M.I.T. Media Lab).
The ethos of the OER Foundation planning model draws on this open source thinking, namely to find "rough consensus and running code". At this juncture of our planning - -we are aiming to achieve rough consensus about how AVI could work, and then cobble together a few working technologies to get a prototype of the system running for the 2012 OERu course offerings.
To be fair, we are not going to be able to design a "perfect" system out of the box. No individual involved in the planning of the OERu network can presume to know the detail of the whole of our future network system. It's too complex. However, I think that our distributed intelligence combined with a strong moral commitment to achieve free learning opportunities for all students worldwide (who would otherwise be excluded from a formal education), we can achieve achieve great things.
I hear your concerns about Fordist education systems and the "idea of learners hacking away at self-study material and supported by forums such as those you find for solving IT problems" -- That said, I feel that the aim of providing free learning for all students worldwide is worth the risks of an imperfect system. Hacking away using high-quality OERs designed for independant study has got to be better than no education at all. After all -- we can learn in spite of teaching ;-). Working together I think we can design something which has the potential to be an order of magniture better than leaving students alone. However, it must be affordable, scalable and practically doable.
We welcome your inputs into the design and development of the OERu - -Perhaps the University of Glasgow would like to join the OERTen as an anchor partner in the network? Europe is noticably absent in our innovation partnership :-(.