What have we learned from prototyping?

What have we learned from prototyping?

by David Bull -
Number of replies: 6

Hi Everyone,

I'd like to gather a few thoughts from the experience of prototyping on the OERu so that we can get better at offering courses and programs for the future.

Here at USQ we are in the middle of the second offer of AST1000 Regional Relations in Asia and the Pacific and while our enrolments have been relatively minimal we have learned from the experience.  However, our experience is based upon limited feedback and needs to be confirmed by greater participation.

Firstly, the 'discovery' pedagogy employed in AST1000 seems to have worked well.  The original developers of the course (Anna Hayes and Jim Taylor) have produced a quality product which essentially facilitates participants to self-direct their studies.  This free-ranging approach has enabled learners to pursue specific areas of personal interest and relevance.  It's an empowering approach to pedagogy and simultaneously has been building e-literacy skills through self-discovery and appraisal of relevant resources.  We think this has worked extremely well in this environment.

Secondly, in order to offer AST1000 we needed to develop operational processes, such as registration and payment for assessment, which didn't interfere with normal USQ practices and regulatory requirements.  These 'gateway' systems have functioned quite effectively but stand apart from the University's normal processes.  We've negotiated a path from successful completion of AST1000 through the OERu to on-going and formal enrolment in a USQ undergraduate program (General Studies degree) but as yet haven't converted any students.

Perhaps the major challenge for our prototype offer has been recruiting students.  There is lots of genuine interest in OERu and the promise of free and global expansion of education but getting the word out to those persons who will benefit the most from the opportunity has been a real hurdle.  I suspect that the greatest interest in the offer has been other educators rather than prospective undergraduate students.  I also suspect that prospective undergraduate students find the offer of a free (or almost free) undergraduate course, almost too good to believe.  That is, they are so use to internet based offers which turn out have a 'catch' attached that they suspect this might also apply to this situation.  It is an understandable reaction to an altruistic offer over the internet.  I also think this has been compounded by the fact that AST1000 is currently the only undergraduate course on offer through OERu.  This might well be overcome once a suite of courses are in place.

One of the matters which I think should be a focus of the anchor partner meeting in Kamloops is how to further develop a brand for OERu and also how to promote that brand and its promise to the populations who can best benefit.

I hope these thoughts can be a bit of a discussion starter for how to improve future offers of this course and others.

Great to be participating in this SCOPE planning session

All the best,


David Bull


Open Access College

University of Southern Queensland

Toowoomba, Qld, AUSTRALIA 4350

Ph: +61 7 46311814

Email: david.bull@usq.edu.au

In reply to David Bull

Re: What have we learned from prototyping?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Hi David,

We've learned a lot through the AST1000 prototypes.  

Processing payments may appear to be trivial, but USQ's solution is a good example worth sharing with the network. I imagine that a number of OERu partners would have administrative challenges in processing payments for assessment services from OERu learners who are not formerly registered students at the institution concerned. Moreover, this has issues for internal reporting systems for calculating government grants at our publicly funded partners because most of our partner institutions cannot claim government subsidy for OERu learners under the current funding systems - so OERu learners must be reported separately.  The USQ solution avoids these complications associated with EFTs funding. 

Apart from the pedagogical advantages associated with "free range learning", Jim and Anna's work has generated a reusable template for E-Activities.  I reused these templates and a "free range learning" design approach for the prototype contribution from the University of Canterbury when developing Change with Digital Technologies in Education course. This course also incorporated the Scenario Planning for Educators micro Open Online Course (mOOC). Deploying the "pedagogy of discovery" significantly reduces the time and cost needed for development because learning resources are distributed on the web.  A good example of how open education can reduce the capital costs of course development. 

I agree, the 2nd meeting of anchor partners will need to allocate quality time to thinking about how we work towards developing a programme of study leading to credentials, and how best to find smart and affordable solutions for recruitment. I have a few ideas.

For example, our experiences from the Scenario Planning mOOC at the University of Canterbury has demonstrated the value of integrating micro courses within existing university courses for registered students and offered in parallel with free OERu learners. Numerous advantages for addressing a number of our current challenges -- we'll chat more about these opportunities during the session on micro-credentials.   

In reply to David Bull

Re: What have we learned from prototyping?

by tony cairns -

Hi David

Value is normally attributed to price, scarcity, ease of use and cost in terms of access, time and resource commitment - low price or even worse free price is normally related to something of no or low value, easily accessed or achieved by many in a short period of time.

Students are paying with 3 years of their life minimum - (I spent 14 plus years enrolled at universities in New Zealand) up to $300K (Ten students owed $2.9 million in loans by 2012) Fees are rising and living costs too - universities are placing more restrictions on entry with higher grades needed to enrol and return to higher studies.

If it looks too good to be true (as in OER0 then it probably is or is perceived as worthless. If few or no universities are crediting te courses with real value - how can the students, market and teachers be expected to respond in any other way - if it looks like a goose, if it swims like a goose and honks like a goose maybe it really is a goose and not worth a gander.

I think OERu needs to move away from accreditation, gateway coursing and certification and recognise OERu as a potential  source of positive PR, learning for life and love of learning, and as a free add on for their pre-existing paid for courses.

I note in NZ that when I enrolled in my first degrees in the late Triassic that only 13% of our population enrolled in university degrees - now its touching 50 -  perhaps its those extra 40% who can enrol free in OERu and take the pressure off campus, classroom and lab space at schools and universities.

When I  enrolled there was just one big computer in its own building with men in lab coats servings it needs - feeding it paper tapes with holes punched in it - my first programmes in basic sought the how and why of hostel relations and used all the social science departments annual budget to do crosstab and regression analysis - performed free now on any spread sheet in microseconds -  now my kids flip effortlessly  from android uberdevice to Ipad to laptop to net - where once it took weeks to run a programme successfully - so its all changed and will keep changing faster and faster

Why not stream all your lectures, notes, virtual field trips and labs to free websites and give away all your teaching and learning resources - that may make you a magnet university (tho this may further devalue your products processes and degrees) whether it’s for 10, 100 or 100 students it makes little difference in access and upload costs to service 10,000 100, 000 or 1,000, 0000 people many of whom have already paid for your salaries, chairs and buildings via fees taxes and grants over their own and ancestors lifetimes.

With NZ universities in free-fall in the academic ranking stakes it makes no financial, ethical or moral sense to further impede, impound or inhibit the flow of info from producers to consumers and back again. I think we should let the info flow and stop building our careers on clipping the ticket every time it runs through our minds, fingers and servers. This will be unpleasant in the short and medium term but such a democratization of knowledge will be useful in reordering the future, I think certifcation will be a blind alley in a fully sited world.

Cheers tony



Tony Cairns - tony.cairns@paradise.net.nz - www.nzgdb.co.nz
42 Fortunatus Street, Vogeltown, Wellington, 6021 NEW ZEALAND
Science Teacher at Wellington High School tony.cairns@whs.school.nz
Home phone (644) 934 8669 Work (644) 385 8911 Mobile 022 653 4021


In reply to David Bull

Re: What have we learned from prototyping?

by David Porter -

Thanks for this summary, DavidB.

I'm really interested in the marketing and recruitment aspects of OERu, as well as getting the messaging, student service processes and learning experiences organized and described in a way the meets the needs of the target demographic that OERu seeks to reach.

For me, the branding item you raise requires better definition of the items above and a real-wolrd assessment that those values are resonant with the target population. That is, the value we think is there in OERu *actually* resonates with the students OERu hopes to reach.  



In reply to David Bull

Re: What have we learned from prototyping?

by simon fenton-jones -

Terema Kasih David,Guys,

I hope you don';t mind my sense of humour, but I feel I'm reading something like that episode of Yes Minister where he visits the most efficient hospital in south-western England. "But it's got no patients!" says the Minister. "Yes Minister, but there's so much to do" comes the reply.

I've just spent 20 minutes trying to see what is being offered here, and get orientated, and try to find some community or some content with which to engage. A prospective student would likely get concerned when they see the incorrect map. The welcome reads like a Late Triassic bureaucratic definition of the colonies (including Australia and NZ). The Aims sound like they're addressing a Monotron.

Even "Reference materials are materials that, if accessed by students, may improve their knowledge and understanding of the material in the course and enrich their learning experience" sounds so condecending.

Apart from Anna's video story, which is nice, and the Reference materials, which are handy, there's simply nothing for a surfer to immediately engage with. It's such a pity cause there seems to be quite a community of interest, just no ongoing conversations.

I can think of so many ways to engage a new surfer; from gathering feeds from APAC English-speaking newspaper sites, to offering an insight into open conversations and saying "Join us!"  (which comes back to Wayne's comment about getting people to use open forums rather than below the radar email). Or contacting some people in unis, in the region, and ask them to contribute a daily/weekly/monthly report.

So far as the marketing is concerned, you've also got to work by the new marketing principle. You're not trying to raise the OERu's brand profile or 'deliver' and education, which is soo pre-Web. You're trying to get some collaboration happening. i.e. build a community of interest. And share your learning.

Ok. Sorry for the riot act. But it needs to be read.

Choe dee Kup (from Asia and the Pacific, including Malaysia and Thailand)

In reply to simon fenton-jones

Re: What have we learned from prototyping?

by Wayne Mackintosh -

Hi Simon,

Had a good chuckle with your Yes Minister reference: "But it's got no patients!" says the Minister. "Yes Minister, but there's so much to do" comes the reply. 

One of the downsides of open and radically transparent planning is that you see the the naked pre-draft discussions and planning activities before you get to see the "marketing" front-end website. A different approach when compared to our comercial start-up counterparts. 

The plus side is that the comments and insights in this forum are informing the development of the OERu launch website because understanding our point of difference (the first session of this SCoPE seminar) will have direct input on the launch website. But hey, if we get the launch website wrong - -it will be openly licensed so we can improve living out our philsophy of incremental design.

Let's make the future happen!


In reply to Wayne Mackintosh

Re: What have we learned from prototyping?

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -

I would say that the discussions are in line with fitting in rather than in making any waves. I presume the waves will come when things are in place.