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Really Open Source
Saturday, January 1, 2005
Rice University's Connexions project is an effort to take the idea of free educational materials to a new level. Started in 1999 by Richard Baraniuk, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice, Connexions is not unlike MIT's OpenCourseWare project, which puts course materials from all MIT classes online for free. In contrast, Connexions takes the approach of aggregating course materials from professors at any school. Connexions also offers feedback tools that allow users to rate content, similar to rating systems on sites such as Amazon.com. In Connexions, ratings happen after publication, rather than before publication as in traditional peer review, but Baraniuk believes the rating system can provide an alternative to traditional peer review, a system Baraniuk believes is broken. Baraniuk also sees enormous potential in Connexions to help community colleges, which rely heavily on adjunct professors who often have little time for course development. With relatively limited resources, faculty at community colleges could use Connexions to create courses tailored for their institution and students, rather than the common practice of simply having to rely on a single textbook for material.