Open Educational Resources: January 19 - February 8, 2009

How do you create OERs? Finding the balance

How do you create OERs? Finding the balance

by Scott Leslie -
Number of replies: 6
Some great discussions so far in the 'How do you find OER' and 'Creating OERs...so - why?' threads - I promise I'll spend some time when I get it to distill some of the points in there and add them to the wiki. I know I am learning lots!

Thought I'd introduce a topic which is, as an educational technologist, something I've focused on a lot - the actual practice of how we create educational resources (in general) and how we could do so in way that both enables OER to flourish and is also more sustainable.

I'll start with a provocative statement - "LMS are where OER go to die." That should get some reactions I hope ;-) But it should probably not come as a surprise that systems made to prevent access are not very good vehicles for sharing.

There are some important exceptions which should be emphasized, because much as I personally disdain them, LMS represent the common way in which people deliver online education throughout much of higher ed these days. To me, one fantastic example of a 'have your cake and eat it too' situation is Moodle and Modern Education & Technology Associates' (META) OCW MetaMod (aka OpenShare). Because Moodle is open source and easily extensible, the developers at META were able to create a module for Moodle that allows instructors to "open and close all or just parts of a course." So, without really any additional effort, an instructor can use the same platform they are developing and delivering their course in a formal setting to also share the content more widely.

There is much to critique about the very model of education that this supports, as well as the content-centric model of 'open education' it enables, and I do hope we will get into those, but as far as those go, this is one of the slickest things I've seen, one that does not require people to radically alter their workflow or do much to 'publish' their materials (which in my books goes a LONG way towards sustainability).

I've got many other techniques to share in this regards, but how about you - how do you go about creating online course content? Are you doing it in a way that then is easily shareable? What are some other things to consider that can help make the actuall process of building and sharing OERs more sustainable, more part of the everyday workflow of teaching and learning?
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: How do you create OERs? Finding the balance

by Gina Bennett -
Scott, I am enjoying your provocation thoughtful.

So... "LMS are where OER go to die"... well, maybe they don't go to die -- nothing really dies on the internet -- but I can agree at least that LMS are where OER go to hibernate. You made a comment earlier this week: "if we start to identify the benefits to learners, the institution and instructors of learning taking place out in the open so that serendipitous interactions with real world experts can occur ... our efforts at openness will by default become sustainable." So both these comments got me thinking about our reasons for hiding the act of teaching behind LMS logins. Often we say it's to protect the privacy of our students but of course much of it has to do with the shyness of the instructors about making their (possibly substandard) work public. It is this focus on Creating Content as if content -- knowledge itself -- were somehow a fixed thing, a product rather than a process. How can we get used to teaching in the open?

I audited an online sort of course a couple of years ago from UC-Berkeley. The course was InfoSys296A: Open Source Development. Although one of the instructors was the founder of Lotus software company, the course itself wasn't really flashy: a bunch of (poor quality) videorecordings with some standard mp3 podcasts. The really interesting thing about the course was that the entire class delivery was radically open. There was a class website & all work was done in the class wiki. Nobody seemed to worry about the fact that the students' work was visible to the world. Our first assignment was to add something new or to substantially edit something in Wikipedia. This is an incredible lesson in contributing to open education & I think everybody should try it at least once (the experience is not always positive!) Anyway, it opened my eyes to what 'teaching in the open' could be like; to the notion that one's OERs need not be works of art, & that the teaching & learning process need not be something to hide behind closed doors.
In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: How do you create OERs? Finding the balance

by rachel sale -

As a univerisity-employed instructional designer, I quickly discovered that many faculty are extremely concerned about stipends, release time, and publishing rights. Is is frustrating--yes! But, they counter that these elements are critical to making enough money to survive. On the other hand, most are quite willing to use YouTube videos or links to others' works in course development. At least one step forward was that the distance ed committee policy on "course ownership" is dual where the professor can take a course with him/her when leaving but the university may also continue to use it. We are a long way from open source with our content.

In reply to rachel sale

Re: How do you create OERs? Finding the balance

by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers -
Hi Rachel,
I hear you. I think that people have a right to have paid jobs, and I think university systems are changing in terms of what careers will look like -- what will be needed. There needs to be structure -- but helping post-secondary teachers/ instructors feel skilled, supported, and giving them adequate training and exposure to new OER will take time. Change is happening. I started as a
T. A. in my masters program back in 1973 and I was scared that the old slide projector would get stuck. Three years ago I started teaching online in Psychology by contract -- and the experience was such a contrast -- I felt that I could really teach in the forums and facilitate learning. Also as a student, two years ago, I created a moodle course in one of my fields -- art thrapy -- not the best mind you. I put a lot of work into it and learned what not to do next time. It was a good enough experience, especially for my first. Then I collaborated with a small group and did another moodle course -- and really it was excellent and that felt like a giant step. However these courses although they can be accessed if I give people the code, are complicated to access as they are behind log ins. Next year I want to lead a Wikieducator course -- using WiZIQ -- initially introduced to me by Nellie Deutsch on Scope.

As you mention, some teachers access YouTubes as OERs. These OERs can be wonderful resources to use in classes and how they are integrated into the lesson plans may be key as collaborative discussions are important, including learner to learner sharing of other materials and expanding contexts, while making the material one's own through application.

I agree with others that one advantage of OERs is that teachers can access OER material and rework the material for their own lessons or see what others are currently developing. This is a huge advantage for teachers, but the teachers still have to take time to organize the material, know the material and present it in a form that appeals to learners with various learning styles and skills. Some teachers are concerned with balance in their lives and competition for career jobs, and getting enough students in competitive universities. These are people concerns in these economic times. Hopefully learning will continue to have educational financial support and humanistic values will actually be renewed to support our collective goodwill throughout the world -- whether that be the development of a modest OER or whether it is the leadership -- as Karen Baker talks about in her posts on this Scope.

In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: How do you create OERs? Finding the balance

by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers -
Dear Gina,
Thank you for this thoughtful post about OER and teaching. What struck me is that manifesting more confidence about using OER can only really come with practice and exposure. You also mention that not everyone has a good experience when contributing to Wikepedia, for example. I think that learning is about the willingness to make mistakes and to learn from those expeiences -- and with OER -- that may mean having the courage to be criticized -- deleted -- over-ridden, or ignored completely. This brings me to the qualities of couraged and diligence that online OER need to find within themselves.

A light bulb came on that said -- content is only a small part of the delivery, as is the LMS, as is the amount of technology that we gradually add to our repetoire, if we teach online. Over the past three years I have dedicated a lot of my personal time to studying various aspects of distance education, teaching (especially online), and technology. My teachers were lifelong learners who were willing to risk exposure to "I don't know, but what do others think?" I have been reading the posts on this Scope e-conference and I sense that many of the professionals taking part -- lurking or adding posts -- are willing to share what they know, help others, and teach. Not all my many teachers along my rather long educational journey, knew the benefits of sharing openly. I have read posts about copyrights and appreciate that people work hard to produce new material. However -- I think we all re-create from others -- we are not islands unto ourselves and it has been my experience that the more we share -- the more our own lives are enriched -- deeply. Thanks everybody for all the valuable contributions that you have put into this learning environment through this OER called Scope.

In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: How do you create OERs? Finding the balance

by Scott Leslie -
"the notion that one's OERs need not be works of art" Amen! Gina, this SO resonates with my own experiences. Exposing the process is as, if not more, important, and it doesn't have to be perfect. I see us make this mistake over and over again, not just in higher ed, of over complicating, over designing, of focusing on the wrong parts because they are the ones we feel like we have more control over. Not only do I believe this will improve our teaching, it also shifts OER away from being too 'content centric' and finally starts to bring in the other missing actor in these discussions, the learners, both the formal ones and informal reusers.
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: How do you create OERs? Finding the balance

by Scott Leslie -
I want to acknowledge right off that the 'solutions' to the 'problems' of OER are never going to be solely technical (indeed may only minorly be technical ones). But I did start this particular thread to explore how the ways we create OERs can have a profound effect, on what we create, how we teach, and the sustainability of the whole enterprise. So I'm going to keep trying to introduce some ideas along those lines.

Many will be familiar with the idea of using blogs and wikis for online learning. There are many good reasons to try this, not least of which is - they are simple. Rather than thinking of blogs as 'personal journals' instead it might be more profitable to consider them as the simplest web-publishing system there is (similarly, the creator of the wiki termed them "simplest online database that could possibly work.")

Why is this important? Well, as friends have tried to explain http://opencontentdiy.wordpress.com/ and demonstrate in courses like http://newmediaocw.wordpress.com/, once you start creating your courses in blogs, not only do you have a simple thing to then maintain, you are also at the start of a distributed platform for remixing and reuse, as demonstrated in projects like http://eduglu.learningparty.net/ and http://bavatuesdays.com/proud-spammer-of-open-university-courses/. Because not only are blogs the simplest web publishing platform around, they produce RSS, XML, a format that frees the content from it's specific presentation and let it flow where it needs to go. Where the students or other instructors might like it to go.

And wikis - not just simple collaborative editing places. With the addition of the WikiInc plugin, for instance, mediawiki is transformed into a distributed publishing platform.

I am not really doing justice to each of these innovations in this short post, but if you are not already familiar with these techniques I urge you to follow up on some of the links. The reasons why many of us have been excited by the potential of social software and 'web 2.0' in education extends far beyond the fact that the tools are easy to use and reflect more the social nature of learning. They extend to how they can become (have already become for many of us) an everyday platform for swimming in the seas of open content, remixing as we go.