Process and products: thoughts on Oped12 week 2

As George Siemens acknowledged in his video intro to week 2, the openness in education MOOC didn’t get off to a great start. For me, the combination of emails not arriving, no blogs to engage with, inaccessible readings and the fact that I was on holiday meant that I didn’t really engage much last week. I am hoping to make up for that this week.

A significant part of my interest in taking this MOOC was to experience the tools for this type of course and online peer learning in a more focused way that in my usual PLN which is based around Google plus and Twitter. So this week I really want to read other people’s blogs and make some comments, but first I want to do some more reading.

Talking of tools, I am trying to do this whole thing digitally on my Android tablet so am starting with the readings that are downloadable as pdfs because these I can easily annotate with EZpdf reader which seems the ‘natural’ way for me to engage with a text. I realise this is very rooted in my experience as a student in the 90s when scribbling on photocopies of chapters and papers was the most common way to work in my discipline area (literature and gender studies). When I have done the pdf readings it will be interesting to see how I can engage with Web-based readings. This is important for me to think about because in my day to day practice as an education developer I am frequently referring colleagues to Web pages (including ones I have created) without thinking too much about how the ‘reading’ of such resources might differ from more traditional reading such as journal articles (though of course these too are often online these days).
Later…I actually found a URL-to-pdf Android app so all my reading and annotating is now happening in EZpdf reader but still want to think about how people might be reading the materials I am creating. That’s one for the to-do list!

I am intrigued that the Open University is to be used as an example because much as I love the OU, which got me started on Higher Education in the 80s, I am thinking back to the rather stringent definition of ‘open’ we read last week and am not convinced that the OU I experienced met the requirements – although there were no formal entry requirements, the fees were (even then) quite considerable and the course materials were copyrighted….. Having now read the piece on the history of the OU I am not sure that their materials are OERs, or at least not all of them. There are some free ‘openlearn’ courses in recent years, but I am not sure whether they are copyrighted in a restrictive way. And are open access TV programmes produced by a university any more OERs than any TV documentary?

The Cute Kitten Syndrome blog post by Stephen Downes from 4 years ago was interesting in that it still seemed relevant, suggesting that the OER movement may not actually be moving very much or very fast. Apart from the sudden glut of MOOCs there does not seem to be a rush for HEIs to produce or use a wide range of OERs. I have seen YouTube lectures which seem as much about marketing as education and examples of digitizing archive materials to improve access (which seems like great idea for opening up research to students) but, at least in the UK there does not seem to be much use of OERs in HE teaching. In all my interactions with faculty I have only come across one or two people using such resources (a lab simulation from MERLOT and Physlets) as part of teaching practice. As both of these examples are from the hard sciences I wonder if there is a disciplinary split going on here, with digitization of archives/resources on one hand and use of simulations/learning objects on the other? I would be interested to know whether anyone else has observed a humanities/science split in the use of OERs.

Now I am off to do two things. First, to read and engage with some other #oped12 blogs and second, to think a bit more about what I wanted to get from this MOOC and what it wanted me to get from it (learning outcomes) and how either of us is going to evaluate / assess that.

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10 Responses to Process and products: thoughts on Oped12 week 2

  1. I can’t say about the humanities/science split but I also wonder how many professors actually make use of OERs such as those from the OCW Consortium, Connexions, or MERLOT. I’ve worked with quite a few American and Canadian faculty (mostly from humanities and business areas) as an instructional designer for online courses, and many of them have trouble producing course content due to a lack of time. But so far I haven’t come across anyone that actively seeks out OERs. Every now and then I suggest resources that they can link to such as open access videos or podcasts, but I am reluctant to suggest that they make use of OERs/open courseware. I think some of them would interpret that suggestion as an insult, and they would need to invest a lot of time learning to navigate, select, and remix the materials. They also don’t have institutional incentives to contribute back to OER repositories.

    On the other hand, many of them don’t have any issues with relying heavily on a publisher’s PowerPoints, teaching notes and test banks, because they assume those materials are reliable. Unfortunately a lot of those materials are just awful.

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    • annehole says:

      Thank you for your comments. You make a few interesting points here. First, finding appropriate OERs then working out how to actually get them into a format that suits your teaching is not easy. Also, I think, where teaching is still predominantly face-to-face it is not immediately obvious (to me either) how OERs fit. Are they to replace or augment reading? Or an ‘added extra’ in a VLE?
      The issue of status/authority/reliability is also significant which is where I think the sadly now defunct HEA subject centres had a lot to offer in terms of ‘quality-marking’ materials.
      I wonder if these issues are repeated in earlier years education? I think school teachers with their much higher number of contact hours have been sharing lesson plans etc. for some time but there is a very different culture in HE, especially perhaps at the ‘research-intensive’ institutions where the idea is that teaching is informed by cutting edge research which does not seem compatible with externally produced OERs. Of course schools work to a national curriculum and standard exams whereas universities each have their own curriculum and assessment processes so it is easy to see why OERs may be slow to take off there.

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  2. maryakem says:

    Conf. I attended yesterday discussed this split. I also am starting to believe that there is a system of orders to learning we should address, and criticize, ‘these days’. Something like the division of the engineer in the first generations of mechanization mechanical, chemical and civil.. the division of the educator in this first generation of publishinzation splits in orders of the linguist, the scientist and the technologist? Do I have a gist here???

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  3. Jaap says:

    Hi, starting a MOOC always has some difficulties. Thanks for sharing your view.
    Some OER-problems you mention are not unfamiliar in the Netherlands. Our Open University is more open than your OU. Dutch OU has a stake in Wikiwijs, the national Dutch OER project. The OER project includes all different levels of schools.
    The Dutch OER is financed by government, so it has some power for a start. First years of an OER-project are difficult because it has to get momentum and mass to become interesting for teachers and students.
    @Maryakem, I do not know about this split. In my mind teachers were always involved in publishing, in language and some even in technology. Could you tell more about this split?

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    • annehole says:

      Thanks for commenting on my post. I am not very knowledgeable about funding systems for OERs in this country but I think the issue of ‘power’ which perhaps I can translate in this context as ‘political will’ is very important. For me, a key question is whether we have the evidence that OERs are worth the investment of time and money that goes into them.

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  4. mrTengel says:

    “I am thinking back to the rather stringent definition of ‘open’ we read last week and am not convinced that the OU I experienced met the requirements”
    — I assume the OECD definition of ‘open’ is too strict to be truly useful for my college. And I agree, the history of OU (in UK) is more a history lesson than a best practice in openness, I think!

    About split: Our social studies use open resources in the forms of laws, white papers, articles, media etc. Our engineering department seems reluctant to reuse anything; they like to build. So nurturing a culture where we use OERs may prove harder than convincing lecturers to create (more) OERs. Thankfully, I’m paid to accomplish the latter.

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    • annehole says:

      Thank you for commenting. I can easily imagine university lecturers being more comfortable creating OERs than using them. It may be a matter of professional pride as well as concerns about tailoring content to particular courses and groups of students. The idea of remixing content from elsewhere probably sounds as much work as creating your own with less assurance the end result will be a good fit to the course.

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  5. Dear Anne and others – thanks for a great conversation.
    Just one point from an open distance learning context in South Africa – one of the major issues we need to get faculty to grasp is that our value contribution no longer lies in the creation of content, but in the curation thereof, the support and mediation of learning and the accreditation of learning.
    For years our faculty’s claim to fame was the production of content in the form of printed study materials – and as the OER, EdX, Udacity and Coursera movements grow, we will have to re-assess what our unique value proposition is. Paul

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    • annehole says:

      Speaking from a research intensive university the creation of ‘content’ in the sense of new knowledge/understanding is still incredibly important. How that translates into teaching is another issue. From the student perspective though I believe that using the content as a medium to teach critical skills for life should be a big part of university education. I have also been thinking about education for sustainable development recently and those lifelong learning skills are a key plank of ESD too.

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