I'd mentioned earlier that there seemed to be something promising in a platform which took content as its atomic structure, rather than courses. That point could use more unpacking.
'Unbundling' is a concept near and dear to the conventional analysis of how the open web disrupts traditional industries. It's the flip side of the rise of the power of the consumer: software is unbundled from support, songs are unbundled from albums, reporting is unbundled from newspapers, and now courses are being unbundled from universities. Along the way the consumer gains new choices, new customized options outside the control of providers. Business models that assume the former bundles start to quake. Analogies made between the unbundling of different industries are often overdone, but it still has explanatory power.
There is a sense in which this is what the OAE is doing to the course itself. It does not assume that learning activities happen in the context of a course, and in so doing it opens up possibilities for making other connections, or finding new points of entry.
To be sure, there are problems with the unbundling of course bits. There was a time when the 'learning object' seemed like the promise of the future. But as has been pointed out elsewhere, the great unbundling of education has run up against the fact that the key role of educators is to provide context: unbundling strips off that context, and that may often not be helpful.
But one way in which it can be helpful is by presenting opportunities for connecting other people and content without needing to be mediated by your teacher or the structure of a course. Most universities have in fact a variety of learning support services: tutoring, a writing center, and the library, among others. A recent trend that's been valuable to all involved is the 'embedded librarian' who becomes a kind of co-teacher for a course. Their pedagogical contribution is to help the students become better researchers, a skill now more important than ever as we're often overwhelmed by a sea of dubious information.
But the embedded librarian obviously doesn't scale. Since doing education by hiring more people doesn't seem to be in the cards, we need to look for an alternative.
And so to our library project, which might be explained as an attempt to scale the embedded librarian.