Open Content Methodology and Subject-Oriented Educational Environment
Febuary 2008

Open Content Methodology and Subject-Oriented Educational Environment

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Valery S. Meskov


e-Learning is perceived as a new word in pedagogical science and practice, a way of overcoming of crisis of education in all its manifestations. However, technological solutions influence on the organisational aspects of training, allowing making educational processes more flexible and focused on the user. But as usual in the basis of e-learning system still lay traditional pedagogies build on a paradigm of transmitting of knowledge and cultural samples, conceptually rooted in ‘The Great Didactics’ (1657) by Jan Amos Komenski (Comenius). 

Post-non-classical methodology

There is a correlation between the level of social development and dominant methodologies. The transition to the next level is accompanied by the paradigmatic transformation of methodology. The methodology corresponding to the Industrial Society is a classical methodology, ‘classical picture of the universe’… but an integrated picture of the universe could not be shaped when taking into account the existence only of the macrocosm and microcosm and not considering presence of the world of information (Infoworld).

Knowledge with which the educational theory and practice operates is the same information which is somehow transferred, structured and created by Subjects during inter-subject interaction and/or through a cultural layer (and education, as it known, is a part of culture). For this reason, in order to understand the post-non-classical approach to education it is necessary to consider at least three central points: a challenge of the Subject’s destination; role of the environments surrounding the Subject, including society and its concrete varieties; and conditions for the subject-to-subject interaction.

Society as Environment and mediator

In general case, we, in our capacity  of possible Subjects (or differentiator of inner and external), always find ourselves plunged into some environment which is per se a specific exemplification of the Holistic World. Socium and all its professional and social areas (including education) exist as such environments and exemplifications.

The question is to which extent the Subject can see the subjectiveness of the Holistic World through a concrete, formed, or designed environment? If this extent were equal to zero, the subjectiveness of the Subject itself would stay indistinguishable. Subjectiveness is a property imparted by a Subject to some components of the environment, which interact with it, or the environment as a whole (i.e. the whole world). The Subject’s inclusion into the Picture of the World means not only the inclusion of a person into all observed processes but also the inclusion of the other part of interaction, namely of the World as a Subject. The environment (including such as societies) serves as their meeting point and mediator.

Object-oriented environment and normative educational paradigm

Both Industrial and Consumer  Societies are unaware about a  human being as a Subject and the World as well as about their ‘middle’ position. Knowledge about a human being is unimportant for them. In this sense, the Industrial and Consumer Societies are rather Objects than Subjects. In both Societies, the  borders of the socium are the borders  of the World. Hence, the aims of the mass education systems of these societies exist within the range from pragmatics to socialization. These societies have no need in Subjects and they lean not on Subjects (and World) but on norms and  hierarchy of prescribed relations  that allow the elite to govern/
manage the non-subject majority  of people, organisations and productions.

Below, there are several characteristics of the Industrial and Consumer  Societies given in correspondence to the aspects mostly general and important  for a Subject.

Industrial society

  • Observable Reality: Description of Macroworld (without a Subject)
  • Used methodology: Classical methodology (methodology of classical/natural science)
  • Human Role/Image: Person as a mechanism (mechanical clock) – Worker.

Consumer society

  • Observable Reality: Description of Microworld (with a Subject as a Recipient, Consumer and Observer)
  • Used methodology: Non-classical methodology
  • Human Role/Image: Person as an organism (algorithmic model) – Consumer and Observer.

These types of socium are object-focused, and the object-focused and normative educational paradigm corresponds to it. Such a paradigm generates a normative educational environment, which is oriented to socialization and implies strictly limited roles for conditioned and externally motivated actors.

Educational Paradigm for the Industrial and Consumer Societies: Object-oriented Type

  • Mass Education Strategy: Embodying an individual into society (socialization, unification, loyalty of a human being)
  • Social Role Training: Worker, Consumer, Observer
  • Principals: From Jan Amos Komenski (Comenius)  (‘educational conveyor’)
  • Educational Environment: Prescriptive and normative

The normative environment pushes out a Subject and determines it externally inn such a way that a Subject is ‘reduced’ (diminished) to a sum of normalizing parameters and correspondingly to the normative interactions.

Route of Subject’s Coming-into-being 

A human being as a Subject exists to the extent of the completeness of its individual Picture of the World. He/she comprehends the World and him/herself indirectly, through activities, observation and reasoning. The validity ofeach separate conclusion can be estimated through comparison with all others through finding of cognitive integrity inherent only in the
human being.

The human being is compelled to seek for integrity within intra-subject continuing formation of him/herself via cognitive activities expressed in dynamic redefinition of structural  limits of ‘Ego’ (‘myself’) and, accordingly, of the Holistic World.  This is his/her internal reason (cause)  of activity.

The Subject is a possible, continuously becoming but never the completed project. In reality, the Subject’s route is hardly so direct and smooth. However, on  the Subject’ way from ‘folded’ to ‘unfolded’ state there is an important spot where a person finds out the evidence of existence of him/herself in its capacity of a Subject and, consequently, the evidence of existence of the World as the Subject. This spot (more precisely – event) which figuratively refers to as ‘Second birth’ is a point of transition from the ‘Object being’ to ‘Subject being’, that is subjective self-identification, both internal and external.

Hence for the Holistic World. Education as a part of the World should serve, first, to the World, and only after that to its particular incarnations that themselves require the coordination of their purposes with the interests of the Holistic World. Education should be shifted from social-oriented to world-oriented one.

Subject-oriented educational environment and new educational paradigm

The post-non-classical Picture of the World assumes an ‘uneliminated’ inclusion of the Subject in it that requires the adequate use of concept of environment. In this context, environment is a dynamic set of the opportunities identified by the Subject in only cases when it has a corresponding value motivation and the concepts of environment and Subject have complimentary relations. The Subject can only be found within an environment. The only Subject can define (and interpret) the boundary between itself and environment, i.e. between the senses ‘inside’ and senses ‘outside’ (or inner senses andexternal senses).The post-non-classical methodology claims that the Subjects cannot interact directly, and this interaction is always carried out via an environment. The environment operates as a carrier of certain properties and opportunities that can be transferred to the Subject and expressed through the competences. In case of education, the necessary degree of coherence of the environment and the Subject can be articulated within the framework of the competency approach according to which a competence constitutes a generated multivariate fixed image determining one’s ability to be engaged in some professional or social practices.

The inclusion of only one Subject into the environment imparts it a property of subjectiveness.

  • What the subject-oriented environment transmits?
  • From the denotat’s point of view: forms.
  • From the designat’s point of view: senses.
  • From the professional point of view: competences.
  • From the Subject’s point of view: subjectiveness.

The basic, fundamental distinction between e-learning and any others concepts of mass educational practices is the following: e-learning exists and functions within a specific environment with a potential to educate. e-Learning environment contains a set (in the 21st century increasing in quality and quantity) of educational opportunities which can be found, identified and acquired by the Subject in course of personal interaction with environment. Properly designed e-learning environment allows accumulating, generalizing and radiating subjectiveness required for transformation of ‘Ego’ in its capacity of Subject and thus assumes the roles of the Teacher.

In contrast to earlier mentioned characteristic features of Industrial and Consumer Societies, the Knowledge-based Societies should possess not simply other but fundamentally new characteristics:
The coherence of the Subject and environment in narrow and wider
sense attributes to new educational paradigm some exemplifications of which can be observed in e-learning practices of the latest
generation (e.g. developed with Web 2.0). We suggest the motto for new education: ‘Embodying an Individual into the World through embodying the World into an Individual’. (Note: embodying into the World, not only into a community/
social group!).

Subjectiveness via competences: roles of actors in Subject-oriented educational environments

Each subject-oriented environment promotes the Subject’s coming into being (birth). The educational environment is intendedfor doing this massively, and tuned for the Subject’s transformation, which is its professional competence. The environment has this competence because it possesses properties of stretching, storage, accumulation and translation of the competences, which belong to the Subjects (in our case of the learners), included inthe environment. Thus, the environment becomes the carrier ofthe Subjects’ competences and realizes  their interaction.A competence is described as readiness to some activities, which combines knowledge, skills, motivation, necessary experience, personal characteristics and ethical ground rules for activities. The readiness holy belongs to a Subject. The transition to a model of competences means in practice a long-expected inclusion of a Subject into the Picture of Educational World.

Acquiring of a competence is a result of the dynamic interaction of a Subject with the educational environment. A Subject and the environment undergo transformation throughout this multifaceted process. A degree of the transformation could not be measured (by anyone and by anything) but could be assessed to the Subject (and not to the environment).

According to the European model of the competences as well to the findings of Russian researches, the basis of all professional, social, cultural and (inter) personal competences consists of basic (humanitarian) competences:

  • Motivation for self-development and activity of a Subject;
  • Development of thinking and intellect, coming to Open Mind;
  • Communicative competences, openness and benevolence;
  • Creative competences, respect for cultures, creativity, history, religions, traditions, etc.

The competence model allows clinching an old argument on priorities by giving the priority to education as upbringing and not as training. What is more, this model regards the Subject’s transformation as a crucial prerequisite for upbringing/education of a person as a member of the Knowledge Society. Via the gaining the competences the educational environment pilots a learner to the birth of a Subject, i.e. to the forming of a holistic image of himself/herself. This forming conforms to the initial meaning of the word ‘formation’ (in many languages relevant to ‘education’).

Taking into account our model of roles and functions of the educational environment, we must adjoin to former roles some new ones, namely those which are related to the level of a Subject and serve for upbringing and ‘obstetrics’ during the actualization of the Subject: from a possibility – through the ‘Second birth’ – to a manifested and maximally completely realized one.
The first three (normative) functions do not require the participation of a Subject and can be realized by an environment itself.

Roles of actors in educational paradigm and properties of educational environment of Subject-oriented practice

Subject-oriented educational environments potentially exist and always have, but the system of mass education formed by the moment leave the issues concerning a Subject, its transformation and (worldview) behind the area of its activities, and this situation is unacceptable for the Knowledge Societies.

The task of forming for a Subject of the mass, accessible and open environment may be accomplished with e-learning. However, in the case of design of such environment with the use of the object-oriented methodology a normative educational environment is trivially produced. The post-non-classical methodology (for example the open content methodology) allows forming the subject-oriented educational environment of e-learning adequate to the Knowledge Societies.

The mentioned environment has a property of stretching, stocking, accumulating and translation the competences of included in it teaching and learning Subjects. The environment turns into bearer of their subjectiveness and in such a way obtains the abilities (competences) of a Teacher. Such environment gains the properties of atmosphere, ‘nutrient medium’ which promotes the included Subjects’ coming-to-being and develops into more and more sophisticated. At the same time it undergoes transformation by way of each subject-to-subject interaction.

Open content: exemplification of Subject-oriented educational environment

The post-non-classical methodology is a generalized theoretical concept. However, the true exemplification of it may be found in some virtual community practices under name of open content and open source projects.In the narrow sense, the Open Content means digital content under the specific (open) regime of using, usually regulated by the special open license for dissemination of content. But the concept ‘content’ must have not so primitive exploration. In Post-non-classical Paradigm, the content as a Sequence (collection) of Subject-organized senses indissoluble with carriers will play a key role.

In the broader sense, the concept ‘open content’ (or simply Content) constitutes a holistic virtual milieu, which includes:

  • An environment of the virtual (third) culture
  • Individuals as Subjects of interaction with this environment
  • Individuals as Subjects of interaction with each other within this EnvironmentProcesses and products of mentioned interactions

In place of a conclusion

As it mentioned above, historically education in many cultures/languages was equal to formation. Though since the middle of the 18th century one may track the tendency towards interpretation of education as a process of building of a person ‘on the inside’ or its ‘self-formation’, all systems of mass education were shaped for producing of ‘useful members of society’ (whether it be a social group, either a community, or working team, etc.). In such systems the process of the Subject’s coming-into-being takes place spontaneously, sometimes it may correlate with educational procedures (lucky is a learner in this case!) but often it is in conflict with them (in this case both learner and teacher are unhappy).

The modern teachers were brought up and act now in a paradigm of professional school of the classical type, and it could be difficult for them to get used to an idea that the education system instead of polished through centuries translation of knowledge should intervene in the most complicated intrapersonal processes which can’t be assessed with any external criteria. Modern systems of mass education and educational environments are also created mostly in the old style scarcely corresponding to contemporary challenges and still are resistance to any modification or simply inert.

Considering education via a prism of the post-non-classical approach one may find that the sense (or core) of education should be a Subject’s coming-into-being. The Open Content experience of last years has shown possible handling with the unsettled problems mentioned above. The open content environment is a subject-oriented environment, and new open content methodology (as post-non-classical one) applied to e-Learning theory and practice could and should advance mass education towards meeting the Knowledge Societies challenges

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