We’ve learned from the successes of many Open Source Software (OSS) projects that the health of a volunteer developer community is a key element in successful project completion and maintenance. I think orienting much of our practice in the OERu around meeting the needs of volunteer course developer communities will benefit the OERu in the long run, and micro-courses could be a step in the right direction.
While folklore has it that developing with OERs is easier and faster than traditional practice, in fact the workflow of creating and/or finding, adapting and recontextualizing OERs can be a real challenge as it is quite different from traditional work patterns for educational developers. Also it takes time to learn to operate efficiently in a wiki – challenges include technical aspects of wiki syntax and page layout, structuring an entire course in a flat-file file environment, developing good communication habits that leave a trail for later joiners to pick up on, collaborating with developers who may have a different approach to the project, the need for developers to take on multiple roles where there are gaps in the community, and so on. Mentoring is critical in getting novices up to speed on all of this.
Developing one’s first course in this environment forces a huge learning curve, and by the end developers typically say they’d like to go back and re-do the project based on what they learned – if they had the time.
I believe then that the shorter development cycle of micro-courses can have multiple organizational benefits, including shorter learning curves and thus better courses sooner, more likelihood of a micro-community of developers to stay with a project to completion, a developer mix that includes the diverse skillsets needed to round out the team, and less burden for mentors to come alongside a group of novices and assist them through the development of their first course.