- What credential would you recommend as the starting point for the OERu anchor partners to consider?
- What factors should the OERu take into account when choosing the inaugural credential?
I will then share some thoughts and ideas being proposed by existing anchor partners for consideration and we can compare how these match up with our collective advice emerging from this SCoPE seminar. Yes this is for real - -your inputs will form part of the open planning of the OERu implementation :-).
Working together, we will be able to lay the foundations for designing a university network which will be able to provide free learning opportunities for all learners worldwide with opportunities for these OER learning to gain credible credentials from accredited and respected post-secondary institutions.
one of the most flexible credentials is a general studies degree...many institutions offer something of this sort, very flexible, lends itself well to prior learning.... but not everyone wants a degree...what about options around a general studies certificate, diploma (associate degree), undergrad degree?
I see Christine Wihak from Thompson Rivers University (TRU) has confirmed that it is possible to obtain some degrees 100% via PLAR at their university. TRU have one of the most progressive and robust PLAR models I have seen -- Canada leading on this front again ;-).
TRU is a founding anchor partner of the OERu concept -therefore OERu learners would in theory be able gain selected credentials 100% through PLAR. Another example demonstrating how global networking can be more effective than institution-based approaches.
I share your reservations regarding the cost of PLAR (still too expensive) and I'm not sure that existing methods will scale very well for large numbers of learners.
However -- the BIG positive is that policy protocols for recognising alternate learning pathways outside the normal classroom do exist in our partner institutions which therefore makes it easier for policy recognition for OER learning. So not too much innovation needed on this front. We can move forward :-D.
We haven't planned the detail yet -- so this will need to be an agenda item for the planning meeting in November -- but I suspect it is conceivable that we could design e-portfolio like assessments to accompany OER courses offered through the OERu network. Should an OER learner decide to pursue formal accreditation at one of the OERu partners at some point in the future -- the "pre-design" of the portfolios within the OER courses mapped against the agreed competencies among OERu partners would be cheaper and more scalable than what we have at the moment.
Another possibility for the OERu model is how learners might be able to mix and match different methods of formal assessment for credentialing purposes. An OERu learner should be able to combine OER coursework, work-based learning, prior learning assessment, credit transfers from other institutions etc as options for earning a degree. We'll also need to think about these alternatives in our planning.
I am curious about Thompson Rivers University...if you give complete degrees with PLA-R...do you have any fees? If so how does that work? Right now our PLA is very reasonable at least by western standards, but I can't imagine anyone here giving degrees free...especially since we are under a seemingly constant budget pinch from the state government...
As I indicated in an earlier post - TRU has one of the most progressive PLAR systems I have seen. I suspect TRU will have "competitive" advantage on this dimension within the OERu network at this time - -and that's good. It will drive innovation and continuous improvement across member institutions.
Do you have any thoughts and ideas on how we might be able to reduce costs while improving scalability of the assessment model within the context of the OERu collaboration. Looking forward to working with TRU on this one.
We're aiming to serve and additional 98 million learners of the next 15 years without breaking the systems ;-)
Based on my experience working as Professor and an administrator in the university sector in a previous life, referencing the professional development course and organisation has been enough for internal recognition for performance appraisal purposes. Some organisations provide certificates of attendance or completion which can help where the host organisation carries some level of status or recognition.
However, I don't think that the formal accreditation route is the best alternative for the kind of professional development recognition you are referring to. This is where I think more informal approaches are likely to be more effective as the OER ecosystem matures.
A leading initiative in this space is the Badge System being pioneered and tested by P2PU and the Mozilla Foundation. IT4ALL could become a badge issuers within the network -- you should check it out, its an impressive concept.
The way some QA agencies have been moving, the idea is that the qualification is vetted and registered of the national qualifications framework, the institution is registered with one or more bodies to give it the ability to operate, and then the institution must be accredited to offer each course that leads to a registered qualification. It is easy for a public institution (and therefore registered to operate as a provider of programmes) to offer a non-accredited qualification if it creates it itself, passes it through its own senate or academic board but does not register it on the national qualifications framework. It would also be breaking the rules if the (registered) institution offers a qualification for which it does not have permission to offer. And the learner is left with an 'unaccredited qualification'. The systems are being tightened up in the face of the campaign against ‘degree mills’ which now seems to include all institutions that have not secured the necessary sanction from their national government to operate AND offer each course which may need to be applied for separately by each institution.
Care needs to be taken to comply in each country and to be aware of the movements in QA circles. The concerns over institutions not registered with national governments and not having every course offered, agreed to by the national QA agency may be going to catch out some institutions. This may sound strange to some of you where there is total institutional autonomy. Your QA agency may have changes in mind for you too!
Are there any global QA agencies that could be approached in addition to the national QA agencies? Accreditation from both national bodies and international ones may be a good path to take.
Paul G. West
Paul West wrote,
Hi Paul, this is well founded advice on a number of important points and thanks for the contribution. Apology for the long response, but important issues we need to consider.
Care needs to be taken to comply in each country and to be aware of the movements in QA circles.
Judging by discussions from OERu anchor partners thus far - I think we are on track to ensuring that we will be able to comply to the QA requirements at national level. Our meeting of founding anchor partners in November will confirm these decisions. Sir John Daniel in his opening video at the inaugural open meeting advised the OERu that "students want credible credentials" and we aim to get this right. Quality assurance and institutional accreditation from duly registered and approved institutions is the foundation stone on which the OERu network is built.
With regards to the inaugural credential for piloting the OERu concept, we are erring on the conservative side and have established two baseline requirements at this time:
- The qualification must be on the books of the anchor partner organisation and in countries where there is a National Qualifications Framework (NQF), like New Zealand, that the inaugural OERu qualification must be registered with the respective NQF.
- The OER Tertiary Education network leading the implementation of the OERu will only accept organisations who are duly registered and legally entitled to operate within their national jurisdictions.
The work which you initiated at the Commonwealth of Learning to develop a Transnational Qualifications Framework for the Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth will be a valuable resource for planning cross-border recognition and course articulation among OERu anchor partners. So we have a good starting point here with thanks to your leadership on this front.
Paul West wrote,
That's a good question -- to the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of a global Qualifications Authority as such. Prof Jim Taylor AM during his opening keynote introducing the OERu logic model suggested that we could approach the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) for advice and direction here. Speaking personally, I think that Unesco is best positioned to play a leadership role in finding appropriate solutions for a global "OER Qualifications Authority" - there is a definite need here. I have been in communication with Unesco on this topic. As you know, quality is high on Unesco's agenda and the OER model provides significant opportunities for raising quality of post-secondary education on a global scale. The OER Foundation has extended formal invitations to UNESCO to join the planning meeting in November and I hope that they will be able to attend. The OER Foundation has also invited the Commonwealth of Learning to join us during the November meeting. COL can provide valuable guidance from their experiences in distance education, VUSSC and OER around the Commonwealth.
Are there any global QA agencies that could be approached in addition to the national QA agencies? Accreditation from both national bodies and international ones may be a good path to take.
We will need to see how the global OER QA scenario matures -- in the absence of international agencies being able to assume this role -- perhaps this is something which the OER Foundation will need to consider?
Quality is of paramount importance to the future success of the OERu network and the learners we aim to serve.
Bernard Nkuyubwatsi wrote,
Hi Bernard - -I think that would be true in many societies in both the industrialised and developing economies of the world. When it comes to education, society and the economy is generally speaking quite conservative.
In some societies, degrees are widely regarded as the benchmark for promotion, salary increase and getting job.
A post-secondary credential still carries considerable token value in the market place. Until we find a suitable replacement for post-secondary credentials -- we will need to work with this model.
I would not be able to do the work I do and get paid for my job in the absence of the pieces of paper I have. That's not to say that all I have learned was gained through formal education -- but I must concede that in my case, my formal education has prepared me well to engage productively in non-formal and informal learning contexts.
The saving grace of education is that we can learn in spite of teaching ;-).
Christine Horgan wrote,
Snap -- this is well aligned with talk among anchor partners so far. I post a separate thread on what we think might be a good starting point for the prototype -- a credential covering the first year of an arts degree. This would also match will with your point about other credentials or exit points within a degree programme.
one of the most flexible credentials is a general studies degree...many institutions offer something of this sort, very flexible, lends itself well to prior learning
mmm - -very interesting. I think we're onto the right track here.
Mary Pringle wrote,
Again the Bachelor of general studies plus option for a "specialisation" stream or endorsement like "Cognitive studies", "Learning design" or "Vocational education" sounds like a viable model.
Hybrid credentials or degrees that offer a set of skills needed for emerging jobs are useful. One of my kids took a degree at UBC in cognitive studies that included psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science.
I'll post a separate thread documenting ideas on the table so far. Your suggestions could easily be accommodated with the OERu partner suggestions on the table so far.
Including a variety of specializations would probably be a good idea. The limitation would led to the facts that the picked specialisations are not offered in some societies. Institution that do not have the selected specialisations will not be motivated to join the partnership.
We've just done a pilot project with students in Myanmar (Burma) and those students were able to earn the first 60 credits of their degrees through the competency-based portfolio approach. We're now working on how they might use OERs to put together "courses" that they could study as a cohort with a local facilitator. We would assess learning through PLAR -- course-based portfolios and/or challenge exams, etc. If the "courses" are similar enough in content to one of ours, it can be transcripted that way. Otherwise, we can transcript as, for example, ENG 1XXX .
Our Canadian students who earn a degree with PLAR credits do not encounter difficulties with employers or with graduate programs in professional areas. Some disciplinary-based graduate programs are sometimes sticky about PLAR credits for courses that count towards GPA for admission.
CAEL published a huge study in 2010 showing that use of PLAR actually is related to positive academic outcomes for adult students -- higher GPAs, more courses taken, more persistence to degrees. Download full study Fueling the Race to Postsecondary Success from http://cael.org/Research-and-Publications/Colleges---Universities
Christine Wihak wrote,
Very interested to learn more about this approach. In what ways is your pilot similar or different from the Western Governors University (WGU) competency based model.
We've just done a pilot project with students in Myanmar (Burma) and those students were able to earn the first 60 credits of their degrees through the competency-based portfolio approach
Christine Wihak wrote,
Thanks Christine -- this is extremely useful. I must concede, PLAR is not my area of expertise and we are very fortunate to have the calibre of your experience and leadership helping to inform successful futures for the OERu - -thanks for sharing.
WGU's "competencies" appear to be program-level learning outcomes, which require the student to demonstrate learning that conforms to those discipline-specific outcomes. Our competencies reflect the breadth of knowledge and skill expected of a graduate, rather than specific content knowledge, and are used across disciplinary areas.
If I have this right- the Burma PLAR project was more holistic -- i.e. assessing competencies against a graduate profile rather than subject specific competencies. Agreed this does provide considerable flexibility. Two related questions:
- Is it possible to develop an holistic PLAR profile for a first-year bachelors "graduate", 2nd year etc.? The New Zealand Qualifications Framework (and others) provides for level of study -- so in theory PLAR should be able to recognise alternate learning for validating the equivalent of first year study at a college or university. The reason I'm asking is that this may be a mechanism for dealing with cross-border differences in course loads and credit systems if you know what I mean. Thinking about systems for "block" accreditation of OER course learning.
- In an holistic graduate profile PLAR model how do we mix and match different forms of learning --eg life experience, on the job, a few traditional courses and in the future a mix of OERu learning.
We already mix those different types of learning within our credential structure and I think most "open" postsecondary institutions in Canada and the US do, too.
We also need to figure out how to integrate this with other dimensions of OER learning.
1. economic development track (or community organizing)
2. I think a "track" that a student could take with emphasis on various web skills, e-learning, etc. would be a terrific idea
Conflate the two and you've got me, and I think a few thousand others. Sponsors?
N.B. "Track" is to "trash" as "Course" is to "garbage", depending what side of the Atlantic you're on
I don't have the time to set an ideascale box up. But maybe it would be useful here.
Athabasca University's Centre for Distance Education will be offering a course in Open Learning, focusing on OER and using OER. This is part of a certificate in Instructional Design and/or the MEd in DE. Other courses in the program could have an OER theme as part of the students' individual work. There is a tuition fee. Also the Open Ed course will be available more widely as a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), however the credential will only be given to tuition-paying official AU students.
Until we find an alternate mechanism for financing these courses, they will not be OER. At the undergraduate level, AU has challenge exams and Prior Learning Assessment that would lend themselves better to OER study.
Rory McGreal wrote,
Agreed -- this is mission critical for building sustainable OER ecosystems. Thinking openly about the business of open ....
Until we find an alternate mechanism for financing these courses, they will not be OER.
Drawing on our experience at the OER Foundation it would appear that the critical path enabler for "OER-based competitive advantage" is the requirement for an open collaboration with a minimum of three institutions agreeing to credential the proposed qualification. This is the theoretical point at which a participating institution gets more in return for what they put in from a cost advantage perspective. Increase this number - -the more likely that mechanisms for financing these courses will emerge. Eg sharing teaching load (variable cost) across institutions irrespective of the conferring institution.
In theory -- any institution can establish a postgraduate paper in OER and draw on existing OERs. In terms of the development cost -- these institutions will not necessarily have "competitive advantage" in that they will develop and teach the course cheaper than anyone else for the same quality. In this example, the business model or competitive advantage is established by means other than OER, eg. institutional reputation, leadership in the subject area, stature of faculty teaching the course etc. (With the proviso that the reason for teaching a course is not always a pure business decision - -eg cross-subsidisation of financially non-sustainable courses .)
When the OER Foundation was established in 2009 -- we launched a number strategic prototype projects or ideas under the CollabOERate initiative. One of the proposed projects was to "collaborate on developing syllabi and OER course materials for a postgraduate elective course(s) in open education." We approached a number of institutions who tentatively agreed that this was a good idea -- but no organic collaboration emerged. Similarly, the other strategic ideas are also laying dormant. This may be because they are simply bad ideas or that they were ahead of their time.
However, the OERu concept does attract attention -- at least from the perspective that senior executives and presidents are signing off to participate in the network. I think the strategic lever is the fact that we have achieved the critical threshold for substantive collaboration that is OER-based in a material sense. In addition, the OERu will:
- open education markets for participating institutions, which are currently not served, more cost-effectively than most of the existing delivery models (i.e. the additional 98 million learners post-secondary education must serve over the next 15 years.)
- Is a real threat to the existing delivery model. We will be able to provide free learning opportunities for all students worldwide with pathways to achieving credible credentials for comparable costs of less than 25% of the out of pocket cost to the learner.
I can imagine a whole array of OERu credentials. However, I think its worth considering two main things:
1. What academic fields of study have a lot of OER already been developed for?
2. What academic level have those OER been developed for?
I did some quick exploration and thought I'd share back some observations/findings related to each of these questions.
Q1: What academic fields of study have a lot of OER already been developed for?
A1: It seems to me the best place to start is in an academic field of study which already has a lot of OER. I've not done an exhaustive survey but looking at a few collections reveals some common trends.
If you go to OER Commons and look at Subject Areas you'll see (as of today Sept 2, 2011) the following number of OER by field of study:
Mathematics and Statistics (3033)
Science and Technology (16562)
Social Sciences (4861)
If you go to Connexions and browse by subject the Refine Subject view shows the following:
Arts - Modules 1278, Collections 75
Business - Modules 574, Collections 51
Humanities - Modules 1955, Collections 170
Mathematics and Statistics - Modules 4242, Collections 147
Science and Technology - Modules 6629, Collections 435
Social Sciences - Modules 2151, Collections 156
When I analysed the BCcampus OER fund outcomes by field of study I found that 20% of the OER development had been done in health, 17% in Sciences, and 15% in Liberal Arts and Humanities.
Even this cursory review of OER collections reveals that large collections of OER have been developed for the field of Science. Based on that alone I'd suggest that the first credential be for a Science field of study.
Q2: What academic level have those OER been developed for?
A2: Answering this second question is actually much harder. Very few OER collections, with the exception of the BCcampus one, identify what credential the OER was originally developed for. The absence of this information makes ascertaining the relevance and use of an OER for a particular certificate, diploma, undergraduate degree or graduate degree more difficult. OER Commons lets you search for resources based on Primary, Secondary, or Post-secondary but at the post-secondary level there is no further refinement. Connexions doesn't even provide this level of granularity. I think this is a major oversight for OER collections as the more information provided about academic context the better.
All that said, and given what others are saying, it makes sense to start at an introductory level I'd say as that will likely maximize the potential pool of students. So how about an Associate of Science type degree?
That's insightful data. Clearly, in terms of availability of existing OER's for remix the Sciences take first place. Moreover, that's not all bad -- because the hard sciences migrate better across different cultures and contexts.
I really like the depth and breadth that is emerging in the criteria for selecting the inaugural credential for the OERu network. I agree availability of existing OER plus level are important criteria.
In addition to these criteria, we should also add a credential which:
- Is politically safe but scalable
- Produces non-zero sum outcomes for all OERu member institutions
- Adopts the path of least resistance
To be candid - I don't see the top 200 universities in the world putting their Bachelor of Science degrees into the OERu collaboration -- just yet. We'll change that for the future ;-) -- but we need a little more time. On the other hand, a Bachelor of General Studies does not limit the number of science-based courses which can be offered as options within a Bachelor of General Studies with options for a "Science" specialisation or designation. So for example, the Bachelor of General Studies at Athabasca University provides alternatives for designations in Arts, Science and Applied Studies.
So this does not discount or exclude the opportunities to leverage the areas where the most OER is available, but provides more flexibility for OERu members institutions who are not quite ready for the Associate of Science Degree as a universal credential on the books of all partners. However, the OERu model would not exclude any institution or group of institutions from offering the "Associate of Science" Degree as a legitimate offering under the OERu umbrella. Gee -- you gotta love the flexibility of the OER model :-D
In short -- lets do both:
- Diploma of Arts / Bachelor of General Studies (For those OERu partners who will accredit this qualification)
- Associate of Science (For those OERu partners who will accredit this qualification)
That said, I agree with my colleague Betty H-Das from Empire State...we would have a terrible time getting into the associate degree granting business outside of the SUNY context and certificates might be problematic too. I look forward to reading this thread...perhaps I am misinterpreting where it is going.
Joyce McKnight, SUNY/Empire State College
I bow to my colleague Betty but I think that for the OER-u to itself offer any kind of "credential" anywhere in the US higher ed system would be extraordinarily difficult and not worth the time needed. Joyce McK...SUNY/Empire State