Designing OERu Credentials: Aug 29-Sept 13, 2011

Jumping Right In

Jumping Right In

by Paul Stacey -
Number of replies: 76
The possibility of defining a credential using OER is intriguing. There are a variety of post secondary credentials that could be developed including certificates, diplomas, bachelor's degrees and graduate degrees.

Most jurisdictions around the world have established a framework for post secondary credentials. See the Ontario Qualification Framework for example. For each credential the framework defines a range of attributes including admission requirements, duration of study (expressed as number of instructional hours), and depth and breadth of knowledge.

OERu accrediting institutions, such as the existing anchor partners, will likely be working within a similar framework. One approach to defining OER credentials is to structure them in such a way that they align with these frameworks.

Do you think OERu should focus on using these frameworks or design credentials in a different way?

A great deal of the OER currently available have not been developed as complete credentials. Instead OER are largely courses or more typically course components. A challenge in designing an OERu credential is assembling these smaller units into a coherent credential framework.

So lets say I want to use the Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative OER in creating a credential. If you access the For Students section of their site they explicitly state what is being made available. Course Materials, Simulations, Computer Based Tutors, Virtual Laboratories, Self-Assessments, and Formative Feedback are all freely available to students as OER. But look at what isn't part of the OER - Access to an Instructor, Graded Exams, Tracks Student-Learning as Feedback for Instructors, Credit/Verification of Course Completion. So a significant challenge around using these OER resources in creating a credential is fulfilling all the elements not part of the OER. OERu anchor partners have the opportunity to take on any or all of these elements as part of their role.

I've jumped right in to the deep end of this Designing OERu Credentials so let me stop there and ask all of you some questions:
  • What are your ideas for designing an OERu credential?
  • What do you think the first OERu credential should be?
  • What existing OER do you see being used for that credential?
  • How would your institution or the OERu anchor institutions support students pursuing that credential?
Paul




In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: Jumping Right In

by Christine Horgan -
Paul:

I am at the "conscious incompetence" step on this topic so I plan to follow my own advice: be quiet, and listen (or in this case, read).

Fascinating concept, though.

Cheers, Christine (Chris) Horgan,
Curriculum Co-ordinator,
SAIT Polytechnic, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

In reply to Christine Horgan

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Hi Christine,

I have a good remedy for ""conscious incompetence" at the organisational level -- Have SAIT Polytechnic come and join the OER Tertiary Education network. You could claim the accolade of being the first Community college from Alberta joining us and making OER futures happen :-).

Activity-based authentic learning is a great way to discover new meaning! Learn-by-doing has a great way to model the OERu.

Welcome aboard -- don't be shy to ask now and again. It's the focus on answering the tough questions that has been the driver behind moving the OERu agenda forward.






In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Jumping Right In

by Christine Horgan -
Wayne:

"Conscious incompetence" is such an interesting and uncomfortable step to be on. It provides the motivation to step/crawl/drag oneself to the next level.

No stranger to "alternative/non-tradition" learning (my undergrad is through Athabasca U), I like the OER concept (as I believe I understand it).

Already passed info along to my boss...

As one of the leaders in the eCampusAlberta (eCA) consortium, SAIT is already an early adopter in different educational models.

Cheers, Chris
In reply to Christine Horgan

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Christine Horgan wrote,

"Conscious incompetence" is such an interesting and uncomfortable step to be on. It provides the motivation to step/crawl/drag oneself to the next level."

Great concept - and I know the feeling all to well. I can assure you -- the OER crowd are a friendly and helpful bunch -- we don't mind sharing our ideas, knowledge and thoughts.

Will keep our fingers crossed that your boss and SAIT consider joining the OER collaboration. We have an interesting collection of colleges / polytechnics in the group who are working through our collective organisational "conscious incompetence."

Aaah -- your disposition for independent discovery makes sense-- You're an AU graduate! Wow -- there must be something special in the delivery model. :-D





In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Jumping Right In Helpful bunch

by Joyce McKnight -
I second Wayne's comment about being a "friendly helpful bunch"...the OER Foundation folks are among my favorite people in...well...in the whole wide world. smile
In reply to Paul Stacey

Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Steve Foerster -
I wonder how much of this should be designing a special credential to accommodate those using OERs, and how much should simply be encouraging processes for accepting credit for learning that occurs outside the classroom (physical or virtual).

At least in the U.S., many schools have a process whereby students who are already familiar with a particular subject can demonstrate that familiarity either by challenge exam (passing the final examination in the course that corresponds with that subject) or by prior learning assessment (creating a portfolio of evidence that demonstrates prior mastery of that subject). There are also a number of credit-by-examination systems, such as CLEP, DSST, ECE, and TECEP, which many colleges and universities will accept as the equivalent of transfer credit.

It doesn't matter how the student has acquired the knowledge that is required to earn credit through any of those means. For example, I might be able to pass a challenge exam or create a portfolio of evidence for a computer programming course from studying programming from OERs, or from having been attended non-academic training, or from having learned on the job, or from having bought a "How to Program" book and followed its material. How the knowledge got into my brain isn't the point, it's that it's there that matters.

The process of recognizing credit in that case wouldn't bear a direct relationship with OERs. That doesn't mean that OERs don't play an important role, because they do — they're an accessible means for students to gain the knowledge necessarily to take advantage of those processes. I'm just not sure the processes we discuss should necessarily use OERs as the starting point or as the only expected learning resources for students who participate in whatever processes are developed.

-=Steve=-
In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by David Porter -
Hi Steve.

I do agree with your perspective re. prior learning assessment. I think what we're all trying to do here is describe some of the models and shapes that might make sense for OERu configurations.

OER has been the driver for OERu, but I believe that the combination of self-directed learning, OER and PLA are the synergistic building blocks for moving ahead.

d.
In reply to David Porter

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Ken Udas -
Good Day! Although this might be a bit tangential, it is my feeling that the core intellectual content assets and processes for credentials defined by competencies with robust assessment methods could be licensed and distributed as OER as well.

What I do like about a competency based approach is that competencies may be expressed/articulated in ways through assessment that have local meaning, which has been one of the opportunities that OER provides for localization / internalization. Ken

ps: pardon all of the "z's"
In reply to Ken Udas

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by David Porter -
Totally agree, Ken. Great point.

Processes and systems are just as valid as content and should be considered as OER assets that could contribute to an OERu model. Competency frameworks, too.

d.
In reply to David Porter

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by simon fenton-jones -
David Porter wrote,

Processes and systems are just as valid as content and should be considered as OER assets that could contribute to an OERu model.


Thanks for this one David. From my perspective, I'd say they are more important, only because that's where substantial bucks are allocated in every institution. To draw an analogy. A (full priced) airline doesn't start a low-cost carrier on the old systems and processes. Fuel=content is an important element, but its the new systems and processes which make it (travel) affordable.

N.B. The successful ones don't use glitzy terminals or expensive (landing fee) airports.
In reply to simon fenton-jones

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Hi Simon,

mmmm -- I don't think the fuel=content in the analogy works.

Fuel is a rivalrous product and is consumed when used. In the case of OER, the marginal cost of replicating digital data is near zero. So the more institutions who use OER, the cheaper the costs of production become. So digital OERs and open source communication engines is the new system and enablers that make this possible.



In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Stephen Downes -
Over time I have come to think of OERs less like static products produced once and then copies and more like dynamic products produced frequently and then discarded.
In reply to Stephen Downes

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Mary Pringle -
As a learning designer, I wish I didn't have to do that--I'm always looking for high-quality materials that are easily adapted. These often have taken a lot of resources for an institution to create and for that reason tend not to be released for open use.
In reply to simon fenton-jones

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by David Porter -
I get what you're saying Simon, and I agree. The underlying systems for enabling OERu are very important, and will require a significant engineering "think" once business models get better described.

Where I was going with my original comment was towards making open the code, templates, business rules, PLA frameworks and portfolio formats, etc. These are vital pieces that often have a proprietary rather than OER feel at many centers for accreditation/credentialing.

d.
In reply to Ken Udas

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Hi Ken,

Absolutely -- given our commitment to open philanthropy all the artefacts we produce will be openly licensed and distributed freely.

At this stage we are planning to develop and release all our supporting policies as OER. Makes it so much easier for new institutions to join the network and to help build the ecosystem. For example, Athabasca University is leading a research project examining the existing systems, PLA policies etc which can be leveraged for the implementation OERu concept. I supose one of the research outputs could be a suitable PLA policy for engaging in the OER to be released under an open license. In this way the policy is available for any institution to adapt and modify to suite the local context. Far better than reinventing rounder wheels imho ;-).

I like the idea of a competency framework. What is the possibility for developing an international competency framework as OER for implementation by OERu partners? mmmm that's a good idea.


In reply to Ken Udas

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Mary Pringle -
Yes, students need reliable ways to demonstrate to themselves and to employers or credential granters that they have the desired competencies.
In reply to David Porter

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

David Porter wrote,

OER has been the driver for OERu, but I believe that the combination of self-directed learning, OER and PLA are the synergistic building blocks for moving ahead.

David, good summary of the key elements. I've got a feeling that the OERu will also be able to add considerable value to closed university systems as well. Win-win for all involved.

In reply to David Porter

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Joyce McKnight -
I concur that PLA and OER's have to be approached together...one of the exciting things about this endeavor is that some of us have rather extensive PLA experience and some of us bring OER experience... the edge thing from my point of view is helping people find and use OER's effectively for self-directed learning and for PLA's of various kinds if they so choose...it is a great blending. JMcK
In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Mary Pringle -
The possible isolation of the autodidact concerns me also. It would be good to articulate processes and standards for becoming part of a professional or scholarly community for online and distance learners--I imagine the guild-like online groups that have sprouted up around various DIY activities, for example.

(I'm another educator--a learning designer at Athabasca University, and I've been teaching composition and literature online for US universities since 2001.)
In reply to Mary Pringle

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Mary Pringle wrote,

The possible isolation of the autodidact concerns me also

Hi Mary -- a good point and this is something which the OERu anchor partners have on the agenda which we will need to address.

The OERu logic model incorporates a number of initiatives, including:

  • Open pedagogy -- where the OERu will need to design and implement pedagogies which are appropriate for the digital age. We're very fortunate to have Prof Jim Taylor AM from the Australian Digital Futures Institute at the University of Southern Queensland who is leading research work on developing pedagogical exemplars for consideration by the OERu. The "new" pedagogies are founded on the interplay and integration of between digital literacies and a pedagogy of discovery -- ideally suited to utilising existing OERs.
  • Open student support -- in addition to effective integration of social networks and peer-to-peer learning support, the OERu model proposes to incorporate support through "Academic Volunteers International". We will still need to design the detail -- but conceptually it should be doable.
Great to have Athabasca University of board as an founding anchor partner. We look forward to the advise and direction from the design team at AU.




In reply to Mary Pringle

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -

Mary, I wonder if the OER initiative is going to exclude non-affliated teachers. Does the system intend to isolate experienced online instructors and course designers and include only faculty of the institutions that joined the OER university? It would make sense to only include faculty of the educational institutions to ensure quality of content and for the purpose of accreditation. How open and how free (tuition) can the resources and courses be under the OER movement for instructors and students who are not affiliated with the schools of the OER university? Will the system allow non-affliated teachers to receive payment for their work and students free online learning without having to pay for the courses?  For example, I was very disappointed to learn that a free online course headed by the OTAGO PolyTechnic in New Zealand was cancelled twice recently after 3 years because the instructor was told that she would only be paid if there were enough paying students who would in turn receive certificates. The free facilitating online course started with Leigh Blackall (affiliated with Otago Polytechnic in 2008 on WikiEducator. Is this going to be the situation with the universities who join the OER movement?

In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Nellie Deutsch, Ed.D wrote,

I wonder if the OER initiative is going to exclude non-affliated teachers.

No. OER is free for all teachers to use and does not exclude any teachers by virtue of the open content license.

Nellie Deutsch, Ed.D wrote,

Does the system intend to isolate experienced online instructors and course designers and include only faculty of the institutions that joined the OER university?

No. It would not be in the interests of a sustainable system to isolate experienced online instructors and course designers. I would imagine that the OER university network is best served by the most qualified and experienced teachers. Participating institutions employ their own staff and contractors and in my experience institutions will employ the best person for the job within the funding constraints of the institution.

Nellie Deutsch, Ed.D wrote,

Will the system allow non-affliated teachers to receive payment for their work and students free online learning without having to pay for the courses?

All educators delivering services for anchor partner institutions are entitled to earn a fair living for their work on a fee for service basis. This is one of the reasons we do not advocate the use of the non-commercial restriction for OERs because everyone has the right to earn a living. Some people may be willing to donate time freely as part of their community service and this is also this could be a valuable source of support for learners.

In the case of providing free access to high quality OERs designed as independent study materials - -there is no additional cost to the institution in making these materials freely available at no cost. (The marginal cost of replicating digital knowledge is near zero.) You are incorrectly conflating the notion of free (gratis) access to OER independent study course materials with the sunk cost associated with the course development of these resources. From a business decision perspective sunk cost should not be a factor when determining investment decisions or be confused with the income stream for variable costs of delivery. Their are multiple ways in which tutorial, assessment and credential services could be funded. You present an overly simplified view which does not explain the open business models. As the OER university planning progresses we will be developing these open business models transparently for all to see. I hope that these plans will be of benefit for the success of your own business activities.

I do not have the personal detail regarding the course to which you refer at Otago Polytechnic -- however, your citations appear to be incorrect. If there are not sufficient registered students for an official course for which government grants and subsidy are awarded -- most institutions will take the correct business decision not to run the course. It is unlikely that institutions will carry overhead in the absence of the revenue stream to support that service that's not sustainable. I suspect there were not enough registered students within the threshold parameters to run the course. This has nothing to do with providing free and open access to non-credit students when the course is running.

That said, the course materials of the Facilitating online learning are freely available as OER and there is no restriction for any learner to access these course materials at no cost.

The added advantage of OERs is that your organisation - Technology for Active Lifelong Learning (IT4ALL) which offers free e-learning workshops and courses on how to integrate technology into classes can use these materials freely.

That's a win-win for access and sustainability in my view.






In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
Dear Wayne,

Thank you for the clarifications and for relating to Integrating Technology as I do wear a few hats. However, I was referring to the hat I wear as an instructor of English as a foreign language (EFL) at a campus-based engineering college and high school and not as the CEO of IT4ALL. I agree that having a good business model is our bread and butter. However, I was still disappointed along with many other students who may not have the money to pay for their education. The online course I was referring to is on WikiEducator. In the past few months, there were not enough paying students who wished to take the course for credit, so the course was cancelled. I have been an invited speaker on a volunteer basis for the course a number of times, so I thought I had the correct information, but I'm always ready to be corrected. I highly recommend this awesome course on "facilitating online" by Sarah Stewart which can be accessed on WikiEducator. 

Additionally, we each have our philosophies of education. I would like to contribute as much as I can to making e-learning free of charge for those who cannot afford the tuition. I am willing to do my part on a volunteer basis. If anyone in this seminar or if you know of someone who is looking for a volunteer, please feel free to contact me

I love the win-win for access and sustainability. 

Warm wishes,
Nellie
In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: Three-tiered funding model for OER

by bronwyn hegarty -
Nellie you may be interested in Three-tiered funding model for OER we are researching at the Educational Development Centre at Otago Polytechnic.
  • Open access to all learning materials for no fee.
  • Access to course facilitation for a limited fee for service
  • Assessment and accreditation for a full fee.
Having some kind of fee is regarded necessary to keep the 'bread and butter' work going. It fits with the open source model of fee for service as opposed to charging a fee for content or tools.

I ask the group, is it philosophically impossible to charge any kind of fee in an OERu? In many situations, people do not value 'something for nothing'. The savings made on collaborating to create learning materials could be transferred to keeping the fee for service as low as possible. Somehow the OERu has to pay the bills doesn't it?

You may be interested to hear that I originally facilitated the Facilitating Online course when it was closed and could only take participants who were enrolled. And along with Leigh I pioneered the open version. Initially, facilitation was provided to everyone who participated, enrolled or not, and the spin off was that some very experienced facilitators like yourself supported that facilitation which provided huge benefits to all concerned.

However, Sarah has been told as a result of budgetary constraints that facilitation services can only be provided to people who pay some sort of fee or who are enrolled. Consequently, informal participation has almost totally disappeared. This has occurred because the pedagogy of the course sits upon the provision of facilitation - after all there is little benefit in blogging about your experiences in the course or tweeting etc if no-one is responding or giving you feedback. This illustrates a flaw in a learning system where the emphasis put on content open or not.

We have to be careful to design learning that is experiential, reflective and interactive - content should not be the emphasis. Another course I teach - Flexible learning is designed in this way, and has had a few informal participants over the years but again, the effectiveness of the course rests on the facilitation not the content, so people soon lose interest. I am interested to hear what people think are the solutions and if the three-tiered funding model is an option for OERu.
Bron
In reply to bronwyn hegarty

Re: Three-tiered funding model for OER

by Wayne Mackintosh -

bronwyn hegarty wrote,

you may be interested in Three-tiered funding model for OER we are researching at the Educational Development Centre at Otago Polytechnic.

  • Open access to all learning materials for no fee.
  • Access to course facilitation for a limited fee for service
  • Assessment and accreditation for a full fee.
Bron -- the OERu is very interested in the progress and outcomes of this research work.

The notion of unbundling core educational services into optional packages is a very useful approach. One difference I envisage in the OERu model -- is not so much a progression typology, but rather a list of options calculated on a fee for service basis. So for example -- a student should be able to purchase assessment and accreditation services without the need to purchase course facilitation. (This will have learning design implications -- but is nonetheless an option to consider.)

The OER Foundation and the Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic are also exploring options and encouraging the Tertiary Education Commission (the New Zealand Government's funding arm for higher education) to consider alternate funding formula. In theory, government should be able to develop a funding formula based on the services provided. Rather than providing one full-time equivalent grant for a student - it would be possible to package grant funding for the services supplied. We've not done detailed calculations yet -- but we estimate that the OERu model with an assessment and credential service only could be provided for roughly 20% to 25% of the current cost of a full package. Huge potential savings and efficiencies to be gained using the OERu model. This is huge - -especially for countries which cannot provide places for the majority of their young adults. With this model where governments start funding services -- it would be possible to provide no-cost options for OER learners to acquire credentials because the revenue stream is covered by government grant (or other sources of funding).

What OER facilitates is the ability to radically bring down the costs associated with the learning materials component of the total package.

Agreed content should not be the emphasis - but learning cannot take place in a vacuum. We can't learning in the context of nothing. Content and learning resources are a component of the cost structures of education. These may be accessed openly on the web or developed by paid educators working at our post-secondary institutions. In the case of learning materials developed by educators in public education systems -- why must taxpayers be expected to pay twice for their learning materials? This is often the case. The salaries of educators are indirectly funded by taxpayer dollars -- and then students are expected to pay again for the content components of their courses. So from a costing perspective -- what percentage of salary time of staff are spent on the development of educational resources, preparing course outlines and structure in the LMS or alternate delivery system. In the OERu model -- all these costs will be shared as OER.

Lots to think about -- look forward to seeing the outcomes of your research!


In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Three-tiered funding model for OER

by Dick Heller -
There are many parallels for the kind of fee model described by Bronwyn and Wayne in the open source world, where you charge a fee for the services around what is otherwise open source. Red Hat around Linux, Moodle partners around Moodle etc. By making a charge, you can create a kind of social enterprise to support the infrastructure required to run the open version. Dick
In reply to bronwyn hegarty

Re: Three-tiered funding model for OER

by Jacky Hood -
There must be charges for the use of OER for several reasons:
  1. As you mentioned, people do not value free services. The no-show rate for free classes and seminars is very high.
  2. The grant-funders want to provide funds for new development, not for day-to-day operations.
  3. OER that are not maintained and improved do not remain useful.
  4. Large OER (classes, textbooks) require a whole team of people, not just authors. Authors receive other benefits (prestige, career advancement); others on the team (editors, copy editors, fact-checkers, illustrators, etc.) typically need to receive payments.
Of course, we want OER to be very affordable so sliding scales and scholarships are appropriate.


In reply to Jacky Hood

Re: Three-tiered funding model for OER

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Hi Jacky,

In many parts of the world within public funded post-secondary institutions the income stream required for sustainable OER is considerably less than we may think.

  • Design, development and maintenance of OER and textbooks etc does not require new money. All that is needed is a requirement for the institutions who are funded by taxpayer dollars to release these outputs under open content licenses. No money needed -- just an open IP policy.
  • OER must move beyond dependence from grant-funders -- and I agree the funders should not be funding operations, only strategic development and innovation.
  • If governments start implementing sliding scale funding formulas for services package around OER -- it is conceivable that a no-cost alternative could be provided in a state system. Its not rocket science ;-)
Interesting times ....


In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Three-tiered funding model for OER

by Joyce McKnight -
If governments start implementing sliding scale funding formulas for services package around OER -- it is conceivable that a no-cost alternative could be provided in a state system. Its not rocket science

In some ways it is harder than rocket science given government budgets...at least in the US colleges have been hit hard by state budget problems...while it might be technically possible for state universities to do this for free in this economic climate it would be nearly impossible but together we will find a way. mixed
In reply to Jacky Hood

Re: Three-tiered funding model for OER

by Irwin DeVries -
I would like to highlight Jacky's third point. Course/OER content can have an extremely limited shelf life and if we do not have a reasonably well-understood OER/course lifecycle model in mind at the outset, within 1-2 years the system will start to deteriorate. That means thinking beyond startup and into a steady state scenario. Perhaps it need be incumbent upon each contributing university to commit to a level of maintenance - and/or alongside have an ongoing quality assessment of OER such that the stale ones can be identified and dealt with.
In reply to Irwin DeVries

Re: Three-tiered funding model for OER

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Irwin DeVries wrote,

content can have an extremely limited shelf life and if we do not have a reasonably well-understood OER/course lifecycle model in mind at the outset, within 1-2 years the system will start to deteriorate. That means thinking beyond startup and into a steady state scenario.

Clearly you have experience in the planning and design of asynchronous learning models ;-)

I agree -- the OERu must plan for the maintenance aspects of the system, how it can scale and how we assign organisational responsibilities for course maintenance in the future using an increasingly mass-collaboration model.

I also have a suspicion that "new" pedagogical models enabled by networked learning in an OER context will have an impact on the life-cycle of courses. Stephen Downes mentioned in an earlier post that "Over time I have come to think of OERs less like static products produced once and then copies and more like dynamic products produced frequently and then discarded."

This is a complex topic - -but I hope we will have a chance to brainstorm a few ideas about open and digital pedagogies in a world where knowledge is accessible on the web and how this might impact on the design and implementation of OERu.

In short - -yes, we must think beyond startup.



In reply to bronwyn hegarty

Re: Three-tiered funding model for OER

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
Hi Bron,

Thank you for correcting me. I just remembered that it was you who had originally created the facilitating online communities workshop on WikiEducator. Learning is not only about acquiring information, it's about utilizing and building on the information. Authentic (experiential, interactive, reflective) learning should be empathized. I believe we can expand and create OERs that are dynamic. It's time the educational system went beyond content and into the realm of "flexible learning". The jargon may be different across languages and countries, but the idea is the same. Let's guide the learner to experience learning.

This seminar is great because it has brought admin, people with business ideas, and instructors together. The OER initiative is brilliant but needs leaders to move it forward.
In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Mary Pringle -
It reminds me of the crisis the music industry went through with file sharing and piracy. I haven't followed it closely, but now individual artists seem to be finding ways to make a living by distributing music at a lower cost without the layers of middle men. It would be great if non-affiliated teachers could make a living in a similar way. The question of authority in teaching is different from that of talent in music, too. In an online educational utopia, teachers could build reputations through open online journals. (In spite of the corporatization of the university, I still dream of a community of scholars :))
In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Joyce McKnight -
Hi Nellie: I am not sure I understand your question about unaffiliated teachers. If a good part of the OER-u network is based on prior learning assessment portfolios then presumably students could gain their learning anywhere including workshops etc. provided by independent instructors charging for their services...on the other hand, if you are wondering if the affiliated institutions will have to somehow have enough "paying" students in a particular section to cover the cost of a teacher, I am afraid they probably will...I am not sure, though, that they would need to add anything for overhead (sunk costs).

In another life I was a college administrator in an off-campus center. I always ran courses even with small numbers if I had enough tuition to cover the teacher's stipend...but I don't imagine many institutions would feel they could afford to offer completely free things.

I do like the MOOC model (although not the huge size) where some people register for credit and receive grades etc. and others can just join for free. In that model, the paying students would get their credit directly from the sponsoring institution...the other participants would have to somehow document their learning and add it to a PLA portfolio...it would be the student's choice...I hope this makes sense to others...it does to me.wink
In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Hi Steve

That's a good question and I think the answer is a bit of both.

The fact that we already have many processes and policy protocols in place to enable the assessment and accreditation of learning derived from OERs is a significant enabler for the OERu network. As you mention, credit transfers, articulation agreements, qualifications frameworks, prior learning and assessment models are already in place at most post-secondary institutions. Many of the OERu founding anchor partners are world leaders in PLA and will have the processes in place to implement the model.

The concept of accrediting learning irrespective of how it was acquired is certainly not new. With reference to the OERu -- Sir John Daniel reminds us that the University of London launched an "examination only" model through its External Studies Programme 150 years ago. The idea that the University of London would award a degree if you could demonstrate mastery in the examinations worked extremely well given that the model has produced 5 Nobel Laureates. Sir John notes that the OERu idea makes the original examination only model look very modern ;-).

Today, with the open web and social technologies we can do a much better job than the University of London's original examination only model. We will certainly be able to improve pedagogy, student support etc in a cost effective way without necessarily increasing the marginal cost of delivery.

I think the trick is not to innovate beyond the capacity of institutions or society to integrate those innovations.

For example, we already have PLA policies and systems in place at many of our institutions - so lets use these as a starting point. However, how do we make them better? The trouble with existing PLA systems is that they are relatively expensive for students and they do not scale well. How do we cater for millions of additional learners in a more cost effective way?

With OER -- students can have access to learning opportunities for free. If we find scalable and sustainable ways to provide assessment and credentialing services - -I think OER is the way we can provide access to the estimated 98 million additional learners who will be seeking a place in post-secondary education.

At a pragmatic level -- OER provides a unique advantage, radical reduction in the cost of study for learners but also opportunities for institutions to save costs while improving quality of the learning experience. Close resources would not be able to replicate these cost behaviours.

As you know -- most of all I like the philosophical underpinnings of the open model. Knowledge should be free in my view. I joined this education profession because I wanted to share knowledge freely. With OER we can return to the core values of education with the added advantage of doing it quicker, faster and better :-).

Although as a free culture advocate - -I suspect you already know that ;-).





In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: what is PLA please?

by bronwyn hegarty -
Hi Wayne
can you please clarify what PLA stands for - performance learning accountabilities?....Bron
In reply to bronwyn hegarty

Re: what is PLA please?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Oops -- with apology Bron.

PLA == Prior Learning and Assessment

The north American equivalent of Capable NZ :-)


In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: Is it best to use OERs as a starting point?

by Benjamin Stewart -
It doesn't matter how the student has acquired the knowledge...

I agree. For this reason, accrediting institutions might consider including an array of evidence that demonstrates one's understanding, knowledge, skill set, and habits of mind. The types of evidence might include informal/form discussions, academic prompts, performance tasks (e.g., task-based learning, problem-based learning, Wiggins and Mctighe's notion of performance tasks), eportfolios, and quizzes/exams. The OERs could reflect these difference types of traditional and alternative forms of assessment which would need to be predetermined before instruction begins - in my humble opinion.

The following questions come to mind:

Are anchor partners going to adhere to similar, keystone assessments that reflect similar criteria for learner success?

or

Are keystone assessments and criteria going to be specific to each respective anchor partner?



In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: Jumping Right In

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
Hi Paul,

I would like the admin or policymakers of institutions of higher education to join this seminar so they can answer your questions. I'm just a course designer and instructor.
In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: Jumping Right In

by Steve Foerster -
I'm an administrator at my institution. :-)

-=Steve=-
In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: Jumping Right In

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
Great, Steve. So you are able to make decisions based on the policies of your academic institution. Is your institution interested in developing or outsourcing OERs? If so, what is your institution looking for when accrediting a course developed by an outside organization/instructor?
In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Hi Nellie,

You raise an important point regarding successful implementation of new innovations. We need both "top-down" (institutional policy and decision makers) as well as bottom-up (educators, learners and society actively engaged in the process.) for the successful and mainstream adoption of the OERu concept.

I know that the OERu initiative will succeed. The business fundamentals are right -- i.e. organisations do not need new money or new investment to be part of the network, plus recurrent institutional costs will be covered at the individual institutional level. Organisations who are reluctant to engage, will ultimately loose "competitive" advantage by virtue of the fact that it will be possible to gain credible credentials from the OERu network at an affordable price.

Moreover, I think the OERu project has succeeded in getting the balance between decision-makers / administrators and implementers about right. The senior executives of each of the founding anchor partners have agreed to join the OERu network -- so there is high level leadership support. The November planning meeting will comprise senior decision makers. This scope seminar is attracting engagement and posts from senior executives and administrators. Already, I see a few CEO's posting to this forum :-). The OERu is adopting an open and transparent approach for developing and implementing the project and this seminar is a good example of how instructors and course designer can collaborate in building more sustainable education futures.
In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: Jumping Right In

by Steve Foerster -
To be honest, I'm a fairly low level administrator, so the scope of my decision making is pretty limited. If I can show that a particular initiative has the potential for financial benefit to the institution in a reasonably short amount of time, yes, I can probably get a hearing. Otherwise....

-=Steve=-
In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: Jumping Right In

by Christine Horgan -
Paul:

For those of us just starting to wrap our heads around the concept and implications, would it be possible to pull together (perhaps at the end of each week) a summary of the main points (pros and cons) of the discussion.

Also, is there one defining document that discusses the concept, the business model, and the pros/cons of OERu?

Thank you, Chris (Horgan)
In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: Jumping Right In

by Irwin DeVries -
A response to the first two questions combined: One thought is to see if there are a few credentials that are quite commonly available worldwide and devote some early OERu efforts on those, particularly those credentials that appear to have a good base of OER in their domains. This is something of a bottom-up approach but it could provide an opportunity to learn where the challenges are in developing credentials and frameworks, and how institutions or jurisdictions are responding.


In reply to Irwin DeVries

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Hi Irwin,

The availability and quality of existing OERs which can be assembled into courses leading to a credential should definitely be an important criterion when selecting credentials.

Assuming the following two selection criteria, which one should carry more weight in our planning decisions when selecting the inaugural credential for the OERu:

  • Availability of high quality OER which can easily be integrated into existing credentials?
  • Student needs / or demands for learning?

Ultimately -- I think the OERu network will be successful in what we set out to achieve. We are going to create what Jim Taylor calls a "parallel learning universe" which means that in an ideal world, there will be an OER version for all credentials in the formal sector. That must be good for the planet :-).

mmm Still lots of work to do before we get there. Glad you are here to help us!


In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: Jumping Right In

by Asif Devji -
Hi All,

Fascinating initiative.

Question: Does focusing on credentials not reinforce the logic (dare I say hegemony) of traditional educational institutions?

Ostensibly, one would want to earn credentials to get a job, with particular credentials serving as shorthand for qualification for a particular job.

What if employers used prior learning & assessment (i.e. a portfolio of a body of related work and/or a test of job-related skills) as the primary means of evaluating an applicant's qualification for a job?

What would happen to the need for credentials then?

Steve puts it beautifully: How the knowledge got into my brain isn't the point, it's that it's there that matters.





In reply to Asif Devji

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Asif Devji wrote,

Does focusing on credentials not reinforce the logic (dare I say hegemony) of traditional educational institutions?

Yes - - I agree. The OERu model could reinforce the logic of the traditional model. I think that there are a number of projects which are better equipped and experienced to respond to the needs of "informal", "non-formal" and "Edupunk-like" learning -- for example, P2PU, initiatives like the Saylor Foundation and many dimensions of the MOOC model.

From my perspective -- I see the OERu initiative as a contribution from the formal sector to a growing and maturing ecosystem of networked learning. The contribution of the OERu network is to provide the millions of learners around the world who will not have the privilege of a university or college education more affordable access to gaining a credible credential.

Unfortunately -- we live and work in a world where a university credential has token value in the economy and society. I'm one of the lucky ones -- I hold a terminal degree, but I concede that most of my relevant learning for the job I do today was acquired through non-conventional means. I do think we will see changes in the future where employers will implement alternate and more flexible ways for assessing "knowledge" -- that will be a better world.

In the mean time - -we're focusing on widening access to credentials by using the power of OER :-).


In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Jumping Right In

by Asif Devji -

Wayne Mackintosh wrote,

Unfortunately -- we live and work in a world where a university credential has token value in the economy and society.

Agreed.

I guess I was hedging towards a model in which OERs, or an OERu, could be used to help people without access to a university education build portfolios of work in their chosen fields and prepare for job-skills testing -- thereby developing a workaround to university credentialing while nonetheless gaining 'credible' experience/knowledge of the field.

Approaching the OERu model from such a perspective, I guess I would see the focus in terms of getting buy-in to be the workplace itself, rather than the university.

But then maybe that's me just taking it one step too far -- I certainly see the value in 'widening access to credentials' despite the fact that I believe credentials to be a less valid measure of knowledge/experience/skills than the body of work produced (inside or outside of the university context) by an individual.

My only worry is that the OER credentialing process done this way would tend to mimic that of the university -- and that makes me wonder if this would provoke necessary changes to the current educational model and its consequences in economy and society.

Perhaps that's another discussion for another seminar though.

In reply to Asif Devji

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Asif Devji wrote,

I guess I was hedging towards a model in which OERs, or an OERu, could be used to help people without access to a university education build portfolios of work in their chosen fields and prepare for job-skills testing -- thereby developing a workaround to university credentialing while nonetheless gaining 'credible' experience/knowledge of the field.

Absolutely! I like your model :-D

I think a successful OERu would be able to integrate workplace learning into competency frameworks and or national qualification frameworks as part of a holistic model. One which recognises life and work experience, provides opportunities for work-based learning augmented with a resource based learning model based solely on OER.

Ultimately this process should lead to a college or university credential which ensures of equivalence and parity of esteem with qualifications gained through the conventional system.

So this is definitely a topic for discussion for this seminar. In your view, What would OERu need to do in achieving these aims.

To the best of my knowledge - -progressive prior learning models incorporate experience gained in the workplace as a valid form of learning. Any PLAR experts on the list who could help out here?


In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Jumping Right In

by Mary Burgess -
Asif I think your idea is great! As someone who employs a number of staff with varying levels of education, I can certainly see hiring more based on competency than credential. And in fact, when we do hire, we test candidates competency as part of our short-listing process. If a candidate sent me a link to an e-portfolio that included learning through OER and was able to demonstrate all the competencies of someone with a credential, I'd be happy to hire them.
In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Jumping Right In

by Asif Devji -
Thanks Mary -- always great to get validation for an idea from someone actually living the reality.

I was thinking about how to evangelize the value of hiring OER-educated employees to HR departments of organizations, but your response makes me wonder if the best way for that message to get across might not simply be for well-prepared OER-educated applicants to go ahead and apply for jobs backed by a professional e-portfolio, as you describe.


In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Mary Burgess wrote,

If a candidate sent me a link to an e-portfolio that included learning through OER and was able to demonstrate all the competencies of someone with a credential

This is a very pertinent and relevant line of reasoning.

Hypothetical question -- as a University employer, let's assume the position announcement advertised the role requiring a PhD. A candidate submits an e-portfolio and demonstrated competencies etc. You employ the candidate. What salary scale would RRU HR department pay for the position. PhD equivalent or other scale?

In theory the candidate should receive the same remuneration and benefits as someone with the PhD & experience as advertised. I'm curious to know if the average university HR department is geared up for this yet.

W

In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Jumping Right In

by Mary Burgess -
Good question Wayne, I was actually thinking about that last night. Our HR department uses the Hay evaluation system to determine salary ranges for each position, and that valuation is partly based on the level and type of formal education we think someone should have to do the job (i.e. a credential). In addition to that, when we are in the offering stage, whether the candidate has the credential we asked for in the posting is part of our decision making around salary, but I would say experience is much more relevant to that decision for us. Fortunately we have quite a lot of influence as the unit doing the hire, and ultimately if we can make a good case for a particular salary, usually we get what we want.

What complicates things further is that I work at a University, which of course means the atmosphere is perhaps more focused on credentials than other employers might be. It's not just HR who wants the credential, it's the faculty member who needs to take my instructional designers seriously when they are giving pedagogical advice. If the ID doesn't have a credential, their credibility as an expert may be in question.

I wonder what would happen if someone applied for a faculty position that required a PhD. and a candidate had done an equivalent amount of learning using OERs but had no actual credential.

Wow, here we are again, question the whole system! I love it!!
In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Mary Burgess wrote,

Wow, here we are again, question the whole system! I love it!!

me too -- we're on a global mission to facilitate the mainstream adoption of OER in all our post-secondary institutions. Wouldn't that be amazing!!!
In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Jumping Right In

by Maria Droujkova -

Mary Burgess wrote,

I wonder what would happen if someone applied for a faculty position that required a PhD. and a candidate had done an equivalent amount of learning using OERs but had no actual credential.

I believe this happens with prominent people (e.g., bestselling book writers or visionaries otherwise recognized) in some fields. For example, if Steve Jobs decided to adjunct at a university, now that he's retired, I bet pretty much any place in the world would gladly take him and offer him a competitive PhD-level salary. At which he would probably laugh, but that's beside the point. At my traditional graduation ceremony, Steve Wozniak gave a speech welcoming us shmucks to the grown-up world (better late than never) and got his honorary PhD too. I treasure the memory of getting my diploma from his hands; his accomplishments definitely count at the PhD level.

Maybe we can look at these precedents for pointers. Then we can build a system that gives people more prominence and recognition within their networks - analogous to the "Apple co-founder=PhD" or "bestselling author = MS" schemes.

In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Jumping Right In

by Christine Wihak -
I just posted some information in the Inaugural Credential thread, because I'm finding this one a bit intimidating to follow smile I'm the Director of Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition at Thompson Rivers University, and we've got some pretty progressive approaches going compared to others I'm familiar with.
In reply to Asif Devji

Re: Jumping Right In

by Rory McGreal -
Asif,
Employers rely on credentials so that they DON'T have to look at portfolios. They get dozens of applications and they sift them or even pre-sift them by advertising the necessary qualifications.
Employers, except for high level positions in a few exceptional fields like art, advertising or architecture, do not look at portfolios.

Our university evaluates portfolios for prior learning assessment. It is an intensive process taking many hours of work. We then give the candidate credits which the employer accepts for the most part.

All the best.
Rory
In reply to Rory McGreal

Re: Jumping Right In

by Asif Devji -

Rory McGreal wrote,

Employers rely on credentials so that they DON'T have to look at portfolios.

I get that Rory -- it's shorthand -- more efficient in the short term.

But as Wayne writes above: I concede that most of my relevant learning for the job I do today was acquired through non-conventional means.

Let's take the field of online learning, or management, or administration -- would the best employee for the job be one who has just emerged with credentials from a university or one who has gotten their hands dirty practicing with the tools in the real world, or created relationships with actual practitioners in the field and learned from their stories, or on their own initiative sought out and grappled with educational resources (which may in fact be the same resources used in university courses) to build their own learning pathway?

Nor does there need to be a schism between credentialed/non-credentialed OER learners. One could both follow an OER educational pathway on the way to credentials but apply the pre-credentialed learning to getting a job as they continue to pursue those credentials.

And as I think about what I have written above, it raises another question for me: How are we defining OERs?

Is Google an OER? Is a relationship with a practitioner an OER? Is a discussion such as this one, which might not happen in a university course, an OER?

In reply to Asif Devji

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Asif Devji wrote,

How are we defining OERs?

Fortunately the OER definitional discourse is pretty well argued territory and there is a level of maturity on what we consider to be OER. Stephen Downes has provided a succinct definition:

Open educational resources are materials used to support education that may be freely accessed, reused, modified and shared by anyone.

The are pedagogical aspects, technological and legal.

The OER Foundation has a tutorial which explains what we mean with the concept of OER.

Asif Devji wrote,

Is Google an OER?

By our under standing Google is not OER. We need to distinguish between open access and the legal rights to reuse, modify and share the artefacts freely.

Asif Devji wrote,

Is a relationship with a practitioner an OER?

No. However, the OPAL group in Europe extend the concept of OER to Open Education Practices which could encompass relationships in the sense of an educational practice.

Asif Devji wrote,

Is a discussion such as this one, which might not happen in a university course, an OER?

It depends. The distinguishing characteristic of OER is not whether it is part of a university course or not. The discussion itself is not generally considered to be OER -- however, its manifestation (how it is recorded and made available) could be OER. So for example if the copyright owners licensed their discussions using an open license or dedicated it to the public domain, it was freely accessibly and in editable file formats -- the discussion could be an OER.






In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Jumping Right In

by Asif Devji -
Thanks for the clarification Wayne -- will help me to focus my comments.
In reply to Asif Devji

Re: Jumping Right In

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
I may be late in responding, but I feel that the OER can function in formal and informal education. It can follow the traditional accreditation with degrees or other credit system/work promotion for formal learning and cater to those who wish to learn for skill development and/or other reasons.
In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -
You are absolutely right --

OER does not discriminate -- it functions equally well in both formal, non-formal and informal education contexts.

Ultimately learners are independent and autonomous thinkers and will choose their pathways accordingly.

To cite Mark Twain -- although I believe there is some controversy as to the origins or exact citation -- but nonetheless useful in this context: "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education".

In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: Jumping Right In

by Paul Stacey -
Great comments so far!

A critical decision the OERu faces is whether to define its own overarching strategy, policy, and framework for qualification and assessment or simply go with the processes used by its academic partners.

There are significant challenges around simply going with qualification frameworks of partners. As Wayne points out "We already have PLA policies and systems in place at many of our institutions - so lets use these as a starting point. However, how do we make them better? The trouble with existing PLA systems is that they are relatively expensive for students and they do not scale well. How do we cater for millions of additional learners in a more cost effective way?"

In a broader context I like the way the European Union puts it:
"New qualifications proliferate worldwide and countries are constantly changing their qualification systems and educational structures. With an increasing number of mobile citizens seeking fair recognition of their qualifications outside their home countries, the non-recognition and poor evaluation of qualifications is now a global problem. Since original credentials alone do not provide sufficient information, it is very difficult to gauge the level and function of a qualification without detailed explanations."

The European Union quote comes from their work on the Diploma Supplement. Kudos to the European Union for its work on:
All of which to me seem related to what the OERu is tackling.

Does the OERu need to adopt a similar overarching approach within which all OERu partners fit or let a thousand flowers bloom?

Should future OER development be encouraged to position itself within a global OERu qualifications and assessment framework? Or simply continue to develop OER for specific institutional goals?

Paul
In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: Jumping Right In

by Paul Stacey -
This Jumping Right In thread started out exploring the OERu's role within traditional models of education - with credentials, qualification frameworks and institutional partners. A number of you have made very interesting suggestions that have the OERu pursuing a non-traditional education model.

I'm personally finding the non-traditional suggestions very intriguing so I've created a separate thread Non-traditional OERu Models for a more in depth and thorough exploration of ideas for an OERu that works outside existing traditional education models.

Welcome further discussion within this Jumping Right In thread on the OERu working within existing education models and processes.

Paul
In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: Jumping Right In

by Yves Simon -
I don't think the OERu credentials should be based on the same ones as those of the traditional universities. An open education institution as in the case of an OER university should be me more open than existing open education institutions. The admission requirements, the number of hours that a student is required to take for a course, assignment of grades,etc don't fit in the open world. I think the OERu credentials should reflect the realities of the 21st century where learning doesn't necessarily take place behind closed doors thanks to the information technology where information can be accessed anytime and anywhere. Many working people don't have time to go to regular universities. Others are living in remote areas, can't afford the high costs of higher education or simply disenchanted by the frustrations of the current educational system. Many bright, talented people around the world are yearning for independent learning that can be credentialed because of the culture in which we are living. Credentials should be based on learner's trust and engagement, the presentation of a portfolio, credits for previous courses taken disregarding of their oldness and life experiences,etc. The credentials should encourage lifelong learning and the fact that learning is not limited by time, space, grades, diplomas, degrees, status, etc. Learning is a natural activity of animated beings.
In reply to Yves Simon

Re: Jumping Right In

by Rory McGreal -
Yves,
That is fine. There is room for both. Those students who want to have their learning and experience accredited by traditional institutions will be able to apply to OERu. Those that don't can either choose not to have their learning recognized or pick other alternative assessments as they emerge.

All the best.

Rory
In reply to Yves Simon

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Yves Simon wrote,

An open education institution as in the case of an OER university should be me more open than existing open education institutions.

This is an interesting line of conversation. There are strong similarities and synergies between the history of distance education, open learning and what we commonly refer to as the "Open universities". This pre-dated the open content and OER movement. The University of South Africa (Unisa) became the world's first single-mode distance teaching university in 1946 -- Predating the British Open University by two decades. The point being that there is a long organisational history of open universities.

The concept of open learning refers to the policies and practices which remove the barriers to learning but it is also strongly based on a learner-centred philosophy of teaching. The large single-mode distance education universities, are often called open universities because they subscribe to the philosophy of open learning but in addition the separation of time and place in distance education as a mode of delivery makes them more open because learners can learn at any time, any place etc. Many open universities do not have admission requirements. With the advent of digital technologies, elearning etc -- there has been prolific growth in traditional face-to-face institutions offering more flexible and blended learning options.

It is also interesting to note that the majority of founding anchor partners of the OER university are in fact open universities (for example: Empire State College, New York's open university; Athabasca University, Canada's open university; Thompson Rivers University, with strong historical connections to distance education through the BC Centre for Open Learning, the University of Southern Queensland, Australis leading distance education provider with 75% of students studying by distance (online) education; and the University of South Africa - -the worlds first open university.)

So when you say "OERu credentials should not be based on the same ones as those of the traditional universities" -- do you mean the delivery model associated with traditional face-to-face institutions?

For example, you can earn a degree at Athabasca university without ever visiting the Athabasca university campus in Alberta. There are no admission requirements and Athabasca university learners will be able to "complete" a number of course credits through their prior learning and assessment models thus gaining credit for learning outside the classroom. All the open university anchor partner of the OERu are more open than traditional universities.

However the credential (i.e. the university degree) is of equal standing when compared to the same degree earned at a conventional institution. With regards to the OERu initiative, quality assurance and institutional accreditation is the foundation stone on which we are building the network.

With regards to the OERu network, in our view we must ensure equivalence and parity of esteem for qualifications gained through the OERu network. We believe that we owe this to OERu learners, that is our qualifications must have the same stature and marketability of the qualifications earned from conventional or traditional institutions.

Given the flexibility of the OERu model, we will be able to incorporate portfolios, be able to structure the learning sequences in ways which facilitate work-based learning etc. However -- the degrees earned through the OERu network will be of equal standing to any university degree conferred by any of the top 100 universities of the world.

In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: Jumping Right In

by Prince Obiri-Mainoo -
So when you say "OERu credentials should not be based on the same ones as those of the traditional universities" -- do you mean the delivery model associated with traditional face-to-face institutions?

For example, you can earn a degree at Athabasca university without ever visiting the Athabasca university campus in Alberta. There are no admission requirements and Athabasca university learners will be able to "complete" a number of course credits through their prior learning and assessment models thus gaining credit for learning outside the classroom. All the open university anchor partner of the OERu are more open than traditional universities.


While I share most of the views expressed by Yves and also Wayne's explanation above, the problem with majority of traditional universities and employers is seeing degrees awarded by such universities as Athabasca that accept prior learning experiences as sub-standard and therefore when it comes to applying for further studies or jobs it becomes a problem to such applicants. This is especially so with the so-called elite/premier universities in the developing world where I happen to be involved with in the promotion of e-learning, especially by OERu and OERs generally.

I wish that this problem could be addressed as well as we discuss the issue of credentials and accreditation because at the end of the day, the degree should be seen as authentic and of the same standard as the traditional ones and to enable such graduates to gain employment or accepted for further studies.

Prince Obiri-Mainoo
In reply to Prince Obiri-Mainoo

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Prince Obiri-Mainoo wrote,

The problem with majority of traditional universities and employers is seeing degrees awarded by such universities as Athabasca that accept prior learning experiences as sub-standard and therefore when it comes to applying for further studies or jobs it becomes a problem to such applicants. This is especially so with the so-called elite/premier universities in the developing world where I happen to be involved with in the promotion of e-learning, especially by OERu and OERs generally.

Hi Prince -- that is most unfortunate that some institutions do not accept formal prior learning assessments and regard these as substandard. I would challenge any of those critics to submit themselves to the rigour of a portfolio review assessment. I realise this is a challenge for some institutions.

In reality -- there are hundreds of top universities around the world who do recognise these robust forms of assessment. Moreover, the same national qualification authorities and credentialing authorities which oversee the open university and prior learning assessment activities oversee the credentialing of the traditional universities. In many countries, the practice of not recognising the accredited qualifications of the organisations the national authority credentialises would be farcical if not illegal. Its a perception problem not one of substance in my view.

The OERu will solve these problems ;-) especially when we start becoming the learning network of choice for the majority of learners wishing to learn at more affordable cost with added advantage of our OER learners gaining respected and credible qualifications.


In reply to Prince Obiri-Mainoo

Re: Jumping Right In

by Christine Horgan -

Prince:

There was a time where Athabasca U's courses/credentials were seen as "poor cousins," but I don't believe that's the case  any more. AU has long been the leader in open education and it long ago earned respectability. Perhaps the OER movement is where AU was 30+ years ago.

cheers, Chris

In reply to Prince Obiri-Mainoo

Re: Jumping Right In

by Yves Simon -
I am sorry for responding late. I didn't have time to go to the discussions and I couldn't find the thread associated to my post. I hope you will be able to read my reply. I am mostly talking about assessment of learning. Originally I was thinking the OERu as an entity by itself that would assess self-learners'knowledge through independent learning through OER and/or other learning materials and validate that knowledge by a degree but it seems that there are the traditional attendance and the non-attendance. But ehat about validating knowledge of people who candemonstrate what they learn independently and through networked learning? For example people like Lisa Chamberlin, Leigh Blackall, etc are modeling examples of how to obtain a PhD degree through self-learning and networked learning. Lisa mentioned in her blog that she is not interested in using her independent study to get an academic position nor to put the title Ph.D in front of her name. That's wise from her but why not? I don't know her personally but having read her blog and being in the same social network I am sure that she has the competence and knowledge to be treated as equal to anybody else who has a Ph.D once she gets her degree. Blackall as an university professor at Canberra university in Australia is doing a Ph.D by publication. This model is very known in England for university professors but it is not practiced at all in United States and many other countries in the world. Why not expanding it to people who are not university professors?. There is also the Ph.D degree "by research only" also well known in England but not in United States and many other parts of the world. Auto-didactism, networked learning, other alternative education theories are all part of the theories of Philosophy of Education. Why are idealism and pragmatism the predominant theories in Education throughout the world? Kamenetz mentioned in her DIY Education guide the equivalents of the credentials of the traditional universities. For example the socialization in traditional universities are equivalent to study groups at P2PU and many others. Recognition of academic competence can be earned through reputed social networks. I would suggest this guide to the people responsible at the OERu as a guide to completely open universities. I continue to mention the higher access to open while privileging competence. For me the open education movement should educate the academic world and the society at large that competence should not be limited to BS, MA, Ph.D, grades, diplomas, degrees, etc. Knowlege and competence are more than that. We should go beyond those myths in the 21st century. As a matter of fact most of the successfull people in the materialistic world don't have those credentials and there are many autdidacts in the academic world. It is time to change those myths and I think that should pass by the open education movement.
In reply to Yves Simon

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Hi Yves,

Glad you could join us and no need for late apologies.

Yves Simon wrote,

As a matter of fact most of the successful people in the materialistic world don't have those credentials and there are many autdidacts in the academic world. It is time to change those myths and I think that should pass by the open education movement.

You are right, many successful people including leading scholarly thinkers who have had a major impact on the world did not have a PhDs.

A PhD is a rite of passage in the apprenticeship of knowledge production within a particular epistemology and understanding of knowledge. Openness is deeply rooted in the traditions of this form of knowledge production. Any traditional research worth their salt knows the finding the answer to a perplexing research questions begins with a literature review or study on the current state of thinking. In other words we build on the open ideas of others in the pursuit of new knowledge. That said, a conventional PhD is but one path of knowledge acquisition is not necessarily better than any other paths of knowledge pursuit and anyone who holds a PhD will know this (even thought they may not be prepared to admit is.)

So I do agree with you -- in the 21st we must go beyond the conventional forms of knowledge pursuit and societies recognition of how knowledge was acquired and credentialed.

I must concede that the OERu network is working within our own limitations -- We will not be able to resolve or find answers to all the questions and suggestions you raise. Of necessity, given government legislation and requirements for credible credentials, a conservative market and society we are restricting our level of innovation to what we can realistically achieve achieve in the formal sector -- its not to say what we are doing is better than anything else, but think of the OERu concept as our contribution from the formal sector to the rapidly evolving context of alternative learning for the 21st century.


In reply to Yves Simon

Re: Jumping Right In

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Yves Simon wrote,

Recognition of academic competence can be earned through reputed social networks.

While we have been critical of the academy to be fair to the university as institution, we must remember that many confer the the degree of Doctorate honoris causa. This is a good example where universities actually recognise the contributions and scholarship of individuals and award the highest qualification without traditional prerequisite degree requirements. Recipients of an honorary doctorate may use the degree in the same way as a substantive degree (except in some cases where the formal academic background would be a necessary requirement.)

The blessing in disguise is that no-one is forced to get a university of college degree.

Furthermore, the university is one of only a few institutions which welcomes and respects critical discourse from is paid staff even when its levelled at the university itself. Not many institutions welcome this level of internal self-reflection.

Bear in mind -- I do not work for a university and choose to work outside the sector but I believe that the University is an institution worth protecting for future societies.


In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: Jumping Right In Similar credentialing from partners

by Joyce McKnight -
I am not an administrator (although our administration does listen ...and Betty is an administrator). My own gut feeling is that the easiest thing for Empire State to do will be to first integrate OER-u portfolios etc. into our already existing and very fully fledged (i.e. 40+ years) of prior learning assessment and then move with the other partners toward joint processes...if we try to move to a joint process first we will get stuck before we start...I speak not only from ESC experience but experience in trying to build a collaborative college years ago...if you start with trying to come up with procedures and processes for everyone it will be like mating seven or eight dinosaurs...dead