Educators climb open source Operation Matterhorn

The goal is a simple, open source podcast creation platform with a great user experience.

The University of California is using $500,000 in grants to build an open webcasting platform dubbed Operation Matterhorn, designed to automate the production and distribution of courseware.

The project wiki lists almost 40 people actively involved, with six being from UC-Berkeley but five active developers from the University of Osnabruck in Germany.

The goal is a simple, open source podcast creation platform with a great user experience. Meanwhile, an early version of a system called REPLAY is being made available through ETH Zurich in Switzerland, which is a participant in the main project.

In addition to the Wiki the project's members are trying to communicate in a variety of ways, including newsletters, mailing lists, videoconferences, even a Twitter group.

At the shared blog, Olaf Schulte described some of his own difficulties in publishing the above video on YouTube, expressing the hope that Matterhorn will make this process easier. "Video is certainly not an easy object to work with yet and open video probably even less so," he writes.

It is one thing to deliver a project, and this one is due for early delivery within a year. It is another thing entirely for professors to use it. And it is yet-another thing for colleges to accept the use of such technology as providing credit for real courses.

But given the recent explosion in online colleges, big-name schools realize that their big names won't be enough forever. So this is a start. Has it started in time?

It's true that schools like Walden University, the University of Phoenix and Capella University may have no status, but with real schools like Troy State and Central Michigan now actively engaged in the business, the clock is ticking.

How long will it be before graduates of online colleges start claiming that their coursework is as good as that offered by "real" schools like those in Project Matterhorn? How long before such graduates attain status in the real world? How long before their coursework really is just as good as what "real" schools offer?

Major universities claim they offer a "true" liberal arts curriculum, that on-campus living has real value, and that the friendships you make at college last a lifetime. But many of these online schools have offices in major cities, and their cost to produce a product is much, much less.

With many U.S. colleges in the last lap of preparing for a new college year, something to think about. Should your alma mater be worried?

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