Designing OERu Credentials: Aug 29-Sept 13, 2011

What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Number of replies: 46
The OERu is planning to select and identify an inaugural credential for prototyping and refining the model.
  • 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?
Would be interesting to get a few ideas flowing on these questions.

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.


In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Christine Horgan -

Wayne:

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?

Chris

In reply to Christine Horgan

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
I find that the educators who take online professional development workshops at Integrating Technology (IT4ALL) are not interested in degrees, but they are interested in taking courses that can be used for promotion and increase in salary. The workshops I provide are not accredited by a university. How will the accreditation work for workshops provided by educators such as myself?
In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Christine Wihak -
We have a form of PLAR that we call "credit bank" in which we pre-evaluate training ( http://www.tru.ca/distance/services/plar-ol/creditbank.html ). Usually, we work with large organizations providing PD opportunities, because there is a significant expense in doing the evaluation. A lot of PD lacks the assessment component that is de rigeur in getting credit recognition. For individual students, they may be able to use their learning from such PD situations to challenge exams, do a competency-based or course-based portfolio, etc. to provide the missing "assessment" component. Our university actually has the capacity to issue transcripts showing credits earned this way to students who are not admitted to a program.
In reply to Christine Wihak

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Stephen Downes -
What I wonder is whether it is possible to get a full degree or other credential via PLAR - most systems I've seen limit the number of credits you can get through assessment rather than instruction, so PLAR is a bit like a loss leader to (still expensive) course enrolment.
In reply to Stephen Downes

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Hi Stephen,

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.
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Christine Wihak -
At our institution, the expensive part of PLAR is assessor compensation. We did our Myanmar (Burma) project with retirees (trained assessors) who volunteered their time. Given the age of the professoriate in North America, there may be many generous-spirited individuals who might contribute in this way. We also kept costs down by using a coach paid at local wage rates.
In reply to Christine Wihak

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
We do not pay our assessors very much and those of us who are full time faculty do quite a few for free especially if we enjoy it (I do) but I think some pay would be better than none and I think some kind of title or professional recognition would be important too...even volunteers like to be able to tell people that they are doing something that has a "name"...many years of community organizing (my own other life) have taught me that it is somewhat risky to build large projects strictly on volunteers...although even a little compensation and some professional recognition can go a long way.
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
I know I am always bragging about Empire State, but we can recommend the award of credit for all the things Wayne mentions...and have for years...we do require that folks take at least 32 credits (of a 128 credit BA or BS degree) with us and at the present time we do not award our PLA credits for transfer to other institutions but as we have begun our anchor partnership with the OER-u I believe this may be on the table.

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...
In reply to Stephen Downes

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Steve Foerster -
It's possible (although probably pretty impractical) to complete all of one's degree through PLA at Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. It may also be possible through Excelsior College in New York and Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey.

-=Steve=-
In reply to Christine Wihak

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
HI Christine,

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 ;-)


In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
I too feel the burden of the many learners who need access (98 million) but I am also concerned about quality...for me prior learning assessment has to have a reflective component that allows the student to turn tacit learning ("stuff" they have learned from a variety of sources) into explicit learning that they can transfer and use. I will be very disappointed if in our push to grow we leave out this qualitative aspect. Dr. Joyce McKnight, Associate Professor in (among other things...adult education) SUNY/Empire State College
In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
For educators working in the formal sector, I think you're right -- they are not looking for degrees or diplomas in this short course professional development scenario. Very often faculty participating in professional development already have graduate degree(s) and are not looking for more qualifications.

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.



In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
Thank you, Wayne. I will check out the badge system. My main concern is not participants since we have so many educators joining the free online workshops at IT4ALL, but the lack of funding for the sever, volunteers and tech support.
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Paul West -
Wayne and Colleagues

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.

Regards

Paul

---
Paul G. West
http://www.paulwest.org/
http://za.linkedin.com/in/pgwest

In reply to Paul West

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Paul West wrote,

Care needs to be taken to comply in each country and to be aware of the movements in QA circles.

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.

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
We're definitely not going to be breaking any rules here -- the future success of OERu is too important for the learners we will serve. I believe that we have the necessary checks and balances in place.

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,

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.

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.

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.

In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Deleted user -
In some societies, degrees are widely regarded as the benchmark for promotion, salary increase and getting job. Certified copies of the degree comes at the fore front among job application documents and once this copy is missing, the application is rejected. This is quite different from North America and probably other societies where a CV comes first. Degrees is indeed the key motivating factor for learning in societies where it comes first in Job application documents.
In reply to Deleted user

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Bernard Nkuyubwatsi wrote,

In some societies, degrees are widely regarded as the benchmark for promotion, salary increase and getting job.

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.

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 ;-).


In reply to Christine Horgan

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Christine Horgan wrote,

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

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.

mmm - -very interesting. I think we're onto the right track here.


In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Mary Pringle -
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.

An e-learning specialist could use a foundation in a subject area, instructional design, editing, information design, and some technical skills (HTML, CSS, JavaScript). Even if the person doesn't become adept in all areas, they could get enough background to work with specialists as needed.
In reply to Mary Pringle

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Mary Pringle wrote,

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.

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.

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.


In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Deleted user -
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.

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.
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
If we stay away from the term "credential" which to be honest folks gives me nightmares about endless arguments with our State Department of Education dead I think a "track" that a student could take with emphasis on various web skills, e-learning, etc. would be a terrific idea. J. (SUNY/ESC)
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Christine Wihak -
As an Open university, Open Learning at Thompson Rivers University has a whole range and variety of degrees that can be completed 100% through Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition ( http://www.tru.ca/distance/services/plar-ol.html ). The Bachelor of General Studies is very flexible, in that students can earn up to 75 of 120 credits through a competency-based portfolio that expresses their work and life-related learning. The other academic credits could be earned from demonstrating their learning from OERs in specific subject areas.

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
In reply to Christine Wihak

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Christine Wihak wrote,

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

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.


In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Christine Wihak -
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. They are based on notions of the outcomes of a Liberal Education and employability skills. Most of our credentials are structured to include "elective" credits, without discipline being specified. That's where we award these competency-based credits. The portfolio method we use to assess allows the students oodles of latitude in terms of what learning they can include, how they want to express it, and what supporting evidence they will use. At this time, we provide written instructions and samples, but minimal personal support.
In reply to Christine Wihak

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Christine Wihak wrote,

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.

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.

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.
mmm -- I think we're onto designing exciting futures for credentialing OER learning.

In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Christine Wihak -
At present, TRU - OL has criteria defined for the critical (generic) competencies defined at the lower level (1st and 2nd year) and upper level (3rd and 4th year). With certificate and diploma programs, the focus is on developing specific competencies (e.g. practical nursing), so these programs tend not to have much, if any, room for elective credits, where this type of PLAR credit can be used, within the structure.

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.
In reply to Christine Wihak

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
I think you are right Christine...we mix all of the various types and the two other US colleges that I know a little about...Edison in New Jersey and Excelsior have various similar approaches as well. J.
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
I think there are exciting futures here too...they just have to be managed country by country and in the US we will need to cope with accreditation bodies as well...but these are great ideas. J.McK
In reply to Christine Wihak

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Betty Hurley-Dasgupta -
I really like TRU's project in Myanmar. That sounds like an exciting model. The concept of a cohort with a local facilitator makes so much sense. Perhaps this is a model that OERu develops for other locations in its first year?
In reply to Betty Hurley-Dasgupta

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Agreed -- I think TRU's project in Myanmar combined with experiences of the Open University of New York will constitute an important part of the functioning of the OERu model.

We also need to figure out how to integrate this with other dimensions of OER learning.

Exciting times!
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
I think the integration will be challenging because of the details but not impossible. We began this discussion talking about "credentials" I prefer "tracks" for reasons already mentioned...but we could develop a few "tracks" or "routes" for students who want a somewhat structured experience...for instance someone in the conversation mentioned a sort of "general learning" track with a mix of humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, math etc. Someone else mentioned a "technology" track or perhaps a "technology ed" track...both of those have lots of OER materials on the web that students could use...we might also consider a community and economic development track (or community organizing)...my personal favorite...smile
In reply to Joyce McKnight

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by simon fenton-jones -
I like both of these Joyce,

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 onwinkwink

I don't have the time to set an ideascale box up. But maybe it would be useful here.
In reply to Betty Hurley-Dasgupta

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
I agree with Betty. JMcK smile
In reply to Christine Wihak

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
This looks really great and the fees seem reasonable...sorry I did not get down to this point before I asked the question earlier...by the way did you come to visit ESC a year or so ago? I seem to remember a very interesting discussion on PLA-R from someone from Thomson Rivers but I have a poor memory...at any rate it looks like an especially good fee schedule as a well as several great approaches to the process. Joyce McKnight SUNY/ESC
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Valerie Taylor -
I would like to see some credentialing for OER-based teaching and learning - perhaps a Masters of Education, that addresses OER creation, use, reuse, assessment, evaluation, pedagogy concerns... Lots of people in this group are clearly demonstrating that they have a good grasp on many of the elements of competence that would be assessed.
In reply to Valerie Taylor

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Rory McGreal -
Valerie,
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
In reply to Rory McGreal

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Rory McGreal wrote,

Until we find an alternate mechanism for financing these courses, they will not be OER.

Agreed -- this is mission critical for building sustainable OER ecosystems. Thinking openly about the business of open ....

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.
Sadly -- its the economic imperative which is carrying more weight than the the educational imperatives for institutions to join the OERu network. That's OK because our strategic mission is to mainstream the integration of OER in all post-secondary institutions. I think the OERu model is going to get this right :-)

In reply to Valerie Taylor

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
Interesting thought. SUNY/ESC (I don't think we are not yet quite officially the Open University of New York but Betty might know more) is starting a Master of Arts in Adult Learning in January. It will probably have courses in OER and its uses...especially since I am going to ask for permission to develop some.wink (My actual "terminal degree" is in adult education. We also have a new masters in technology and learning and one in the proposal phase in community and economic development. I am not sure we will ever have one strictly in OER etc. but with us one never knows. wink J.McK
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Paul Stacey -
Wayne:

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:
Arts (1665)
Business (724)
Humanities (6573)
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?

Paul
In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Hi Paul,

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
I don't see these criteria as water on the innovation fire. You will be familiar with the idiom: "You can lead a horse to water ...." However, there is an inspirational twist which I attribute to the political satirist during the peak of the apartheid years in South Africa, Pieter-Dirk Uys. Uys intimated that "You can lead a horse to water, but if you can make it float on its back, you have achieved something" In OER and the OERu initiative -- we need the credential or credential(s) that can float the proverbial horse on its back.

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)







In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Betty Hurley-Dasgupta -
The credentialing of an Associate of Science degree raises some delicate issues for SUNY Empire State College. SUNY includes community colleges and our chancellor is encouraging increased cooperation between community colleges and those offering a bachelor degree. In fact, SUNY Empire State College has been very active in documenting such partnerships through Memorandums of Understanding. We need to be careful that we are not perceived as competing with our partners for the only degree that they can concur, the Associate degree.


In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
Excellent work Paul...I think this will be very helpful to us all. J.
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
Hi Wayne and everyone: I am sorry I missed so much of this session. I had some health issues and had to finish a book manuscript...that said...I am a bit confused...I thought that the OER-u was going to help students develop e-portfolios and other documentation mainly for Prior Learning Assessment at established institutions...I did not think that we were getting into the credential granting business.

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
In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What inaugural credential would you recommend for OERu?

by Joyce McKnight -
I have at least scanned the replies and I am seriously disturbed by the use of the term "credential" at all. I would be far happier with perhaps something like a "menu of studies" (probably in general learning areas) that students could develop through some kind of guided portfolio process...it might then be possible for some of the anchor partners and others to accept the student's selections for more or less automatic credit.

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