Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Scott Leslie -
Number of replies: 17
Well, it was pretty quiet in here over the weekend; hopefully this means that you, like me, were out enjoying it with your loved ones, but if it's because people's energies for the discussion are waning, that's fine too. I'm going to toss out a few last big topics and see what happens, but already I feel like there has been a lot of productive discussions over the last 2 weeks, and hopefully you've gotten something useful too.

I think it's undeniable that there now exists large numbers of both formal and informal OER, but a criticism we see fairly regularly now is that, in focusing on the 'publishing' of static resources, the OER movement is promoting a 'shopping cart' model of education, one that is too content-centric.

Do you think this is true? If it is true, is it a problem? If it's a problem, what can we do differently? How might we change our educational practices themselves to become more open, or position educational resources to facilitate more learner to learner interaction?

In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Scott Leslie -
I meant to include a reference to one of the many putting forth this argument - http://learnonline.wordpress.com/2008/11/13/do-we-need-open-educational-resources-oer/ - lest it be seen as simply a 'straw man.'
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Nicola Avery -

Apologies for quietness - I was hoping to be able to contribute something useful from Surrey following attempts last week to generate discussion around OER but nothing coming through yet (it was first week of semester last week which may have affected things).

I think I agree with the idea of looking at ways of making OER less content centric - I would like to find ways of linking and visualising the linking of conversations to content and use of mapping or other ways - a bit like some of the amazing personal learning environments people have shown over the years where you can have anything ranging from a 'tweet' to a research paper, wiki and blog entries etc etc

Maybe that would add a more dynamic dimension with less need to perhaps repurpose something ?

I could sketch something I guess if this doesn't make sense.


In reply to Nicola Avery

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Emma Duke-Williams -
Apologies for my silence too ... these 3 weeks have exactly coincided with our 3 week exam block and, for a number of reasons, I have a lot extra to do ...

However, I agree with Nicola's point here & also Scott's point about many OERs being developed for teacher/content centric learning, and I agree, but I wonder how much that is
a: A lot of online material, be it OER or $$$$ *is* content/tutor centric. (Come to think of it; a lot of offline materials pretty content/teacher centric too!)
b: Material that's very content free & user centric, by its very nature, tends to be unique & thus harder to share.

So, ideas for activities, experiences of using them etc., can be shared; But... each activity, the way it's introduced... the particular slant on it, has to directed to the needs of the particular cohort - so the same teacher might be using the same idea in a different way year on year ... which makes sharing with other teachers - who have different groups & different needs hard.

Does that make sense??
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Tannis Morgan -
Hello, I've been enjoying these discussions, and am glad to finally jump in. As a brief intro, I work at BCIT as an instructional development consultant, and have been working with distance education for about 8 years both at BCIT, UBC and elsewhere. I see OERs and distance education as philosophically complementary, so I'm quite interested in where all this is going.

My sense is that OERs are at a stage where moving beyond content publishing is timely. Obviously content is needed, but it's only a piece of the education component. I'm interested in seeing how OERs can contribute to both the formal and informal education puzzle, across a variety of contexts. In formal contexts, I suspect that this requires busting open a very closed, course-centric education system, and coming up with new models for participation in these formal systems. Of course, this is starting to sound a lot like the Open University system...
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
I admire your effort to engage the participants of the workshop in ongoing discussions. However, we seem to be very comfortable with the traditional content-based framework where most of the interaction is between the teacher/moderator and learner. The OER is rather static. I would like to see more social student led learning. I decided to try to engage over 100 learners in developing a community of inquiry framework with social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence (Garrison & Vaughn, 2008).

I am currently running a free 6 week workshop with 3 co-moderators on ning called digifolios and personal learning spaces with over 150 participants that are initiating all the discussions. The workshop started with Challenge #1: Siblings Birth Order Contest on January 12, 2009

Challenge #1 will engage the members of Digifolios in a contest that will reveal the impact of collaborating with over 100 members.

Are you the first born, middle child, last born/the baby, or an only child? The goal of the challenge #1 is find out the birth order of all the members of Digifolios including the moderators. Contact the members of digifolios and find out who shares the same siblings birth order in the family as you. Members will communicate with one another to find out their places in the family in any way they wish.

Ground Rules of the Contest
Members will share their findings in any format on their individual blogs on the ning. You can locate the blogs tab on the top navigation bar . Enter it and start "Add a Blog Post". Make sure you write only me when you add the results of your findings. You can edit the blog post up to the closing time.

(Please click on the hour to check your time zone for the starting and closing times of the contest) Starting time 11.00 AM PST and closing time 11.00 PM PST Please feel free to ask questions. Every question is important. Good luck. Ladies and gentlemen, let the contest begin.

I believe online learning can be more engaging than face-to-face because of the many OERs available.

Garrison, D. R., & Vaughn, N. D. (2008). Blended learning in higher education. San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Peter Rawsthorne -
Great question... sorry i haven't engaged more. Just I'm really busy with other tasks. From my perspective OER is all about the act of creation and reuse. I believe that it is the person(s) who create the OER who learn the most. Sooooo... OER is about finding, reviewing, reusing, localizing, creating, deriving... etc, etc. To be successful with OER one has to eat it, make it thier own and publish for others to do the same. Consuming static OER is just the first step of many. $0.02.


In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Sylvia Riessner -
"in focusing on the 'publishing' of static resources, the OER movement is promoting a 'shopping cart' model of education, one that is too content-centric."

Although I see the concerns with the focus on content and finding free content that you can insert into your teaching (after all that's what learning objects were supposed to do and they didn't get the widespread acceptance or use that we might have anticipated) I'm not sure that the OER movement is focusing too much on that.

I agree with Leigh Blackall that there is an important distinction "...between educational practice and content production." And I believe that a growing number of OER sites demonstrate that they recognize the distinction and are trying to support a change in educational practice. Go and visit Wikieducator or OpenLearn's Labspace. UNESCO' Open Training Platform ostensibly provides the same type of online sharing platform but I went and checked and I don't see that they provide the same kind of collaborative tools as these two do.

I think that some people are drawn to OER because they feel a need to share. For many teachers, that impulse seems to be primarily one way..."I have this great lesson plan or learning activity. The students love it. I think other teachers will benefit from using it too". But to create the kind of educational reform that I think many of us recognize as desirable (if not essential) teachers need to take the next step and think about giving and receiving (a simple way to put it but you might get my drift?)

Open educational reform, to me, requires that teachers recognize that the tools are available to truly create open education where students can contribute as much (in some instances) as teachers. Learning can be truly interactive and participatory.

Just some early morning thoughts. What do you think?


In reply to Sylvia Riessner

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Scott Leslie -
Sylvia, I do actually think it's unfair for the OER movement to carry too much of the load for "content-centric education" as that is not at all exclusive to it; bad pedagogy is bad pedagogy, period, and we find it everywhere.

I think the examples you point to (I hadn't seen the UNESCO Open Training one, though - thanks!) are good examples of efforts to break away from a solely content-focused view of OER. And their are others too. I believe there is a growing awareness of the issue but it does seem like a valid concern, one that should hopefully inform all of our practice.
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Gerry Paille -
I like this quote from Li's CETIS blog:

"The value of OER will not be best achieved through static resources, but rather through their potential to engage a wide range of educators and learners to share ideas and expertise, and collaborative knowledge building. Therefore, institutions should not only require staff to develop content for the use of others, but also encourage them to use content created and modified by others in order to improve our collective knowledge and improve the quality of teaching and learning at universities as a whole."
In reply to Gerry Paille

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Prince Obiri-Mainoo -
What is more, Gerry, it saves time and goes a long way to authenticate their work. And anyway, why reinvent the wheel when same materials are already available for use? Except for a good reason to develop new content on the same topic, I don't see the need!

In reply to Gerry Paille

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Roger Powley -

Gerry and Others: Sorry for jumping into this forum so late in the discussion, but I thought I would contribute some of the experiences of universities in developing nations. I am currently working as the Head of Special Projects for the University of the West Indies. One of my duties is to lead the OER effort. UWI is engaged in a European Union ACP applied research project to investigate the use of OERs in third world universities who rely heavily on DE. The participating universities include UWI, U of South Pacific, U of Mauritius, OUUK and the University of the Hebrides.

The developing universities throughout Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean are in need of high quality course content that they can use to educate their population. In most cases the developing universities do not have the manpower, expertise or money to build online courseware from scratch. Yet higher education is a key building block for economic development, social development and good governance throughout the developing world. If used properly OERs can contribute to the growth of these developing nations.

The lead researcher for the project is Dr. Robin Mason at OUUK. The research project is in its first year and will last for three years. The aim is to examine the impact of OERs on the ability of third world universities to create and deliver high quality learning experiences to its learners. Some of the questions being examined include:

1. How much time and effort does it take to create a course using OERs? Is it more or less than creating a course from scratch?

2. What is the quality of the OER supported course?

3. What is the impact on and reaction of the faculty and other staff involved in the design and delivery of OER supported courseware?

4. What resources exist to support large scale OER development and sharing?

5. What is the impact on the pedagogy of a course and on the learners when a institution creates a course using multiple OERs from different sources?

6. What is the impact of the Creative Commons licence and other copyright laws on the use of OERs in the developing world?

UWI is responsible for creating and supporting an OER Research Forum that will engage researchers and academics from a variety of different universities and agencies. It is hoped this site will be up and running by April of this year. What we have learned so far is:

1. There is no common definition of an OER? It is anything from a single file to a whole course module/unit.

2. Does an external link to another web page constitute an OER or must the OER be embedded in the re-purposed course? This is a debate that is being debated by the project researchers.

3. The quality of OERs varies widely.

4. No agreed upon standards exist for OER development or publication.

5. Not many full online courses are available in the OER repositories. Most are face to face course outlines or individual resources/files such as a video clip, audio clip or flash file.

6. Not all OERs conform to the Creative Commons licence. Many institutions have very restrictive copyright rules that limit the use of the OER.

7. Time spent in searching for OERs is often extensive, especially in domains where not many have been published.

8. Using multiple OERs in a single course requires considerable effort to ensure the language and course flow is consistent throughout the courseware.

9. The OER movement is strangely similar to the Learning Objects movement.

Hopefully this gives the members of this forum some ideas and questions to consider as you hopefully engage in the OER movement. I will share with this community the link to the OER Research Forum once UWI has set it up.

My closing plea is that we should encourage our Canadian institutions to embrace the OER movement and share their content for the betterment of the world as a whole. If each unversity published at least five courses into a common OER repository, we would have an instant library of courses larger then the OUUK LearningSpace repository.

In reply to Roger Powley

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Scott Leslie -
Roger, thanks for the reminder of a key constituency for OER - universities in the developing world for whom access to OER content may provide a less expensive means to educate their students. This worthwhile goal can easily get lost amidst some of the other concerns expressed here, valid as those may be.

"The OER movement is strangely similar to the Learning Objects movement" - that made me laugh. Partly because it resonates, but partly because it only resonates when people are trying to force new models to fit old patterns. That to me is when OER start to resembles LO - for instance when you start from a posture of 'closed' and then figure out incrementally how to open select parts of it. Then all sorts of really dumb interoperability issues and questions of 'granularity' etc arise.

I say 'dumb' because as many many many many people are trying to show (I should say, "Have showed already"), if instead of starting from the position of everything being closed and then meting out access, bit by bit, we instead acknowledge the benefits of openness right from the get-go and provide network learning opportunities, many of these issues quickly fade away (as indeed they seem to do on the wider net, where remix and reuse just, well, happen.)

I wish you luck on the research project; feedback from intended reusers of OERs has got to be a positive thing, I would think. But I guess my comments above would be to urge you NOT to simply accept the terms of the problem as set out by the existing 'OER Publishers' but to challenge them to rethink these from the perspectives of what really would make this work, BOTH for your institutions and for themselves, as well as challenge them to think outside of the frame of straight 'publishing.' I know there are lots of folks who would be receptive to these ideas, and indeed it's my take at least that the way to "do OER" is not at ALL a 'done deal' but one that's still emerging.
In reply to Roger Powley

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Gerry Paille -
I did some work with a group of teachers from Trinidad and Tobago a few years back and one of the things I worked on was an IT course for the instructors of pre-service teachers in TT. We adapted an existing course for this purpose, and while working with Dr. Sam Lochan from the U of TT, he made me aware that not only did we have to adjust the content, but we also needed to be aware of cultural relevance and adjust for that. I can see this as a big issue for your West Indies project Roger being that the great majority of the OERs that we have at this time come from North American, the UK and Europe.
In reply to Gerry Paille

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Roger Powley -
Gerry, you are correct.  The OERs that are useful to a developing university are those that allow re-mix, re-purpose and tweak.  For example we are in the process of using some of the OERs from the OUUK, but we need to remove the British examples, case studies, pictures and in some cases the language.  Cultural and social relevance is very important to our Caribbean learners.
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Paul Stacey -

Most OER that are publicly viewable are in fact not "freshly baked" but rather a snapshot of resource as it existed in the past. MIT's OCW for example are not what faculty are actually using in their current courses, merely content published earlier. This definitely creates a content centric model.

I'm hoping we'll eventually get to a freshly baked model of OER where we can see these resources live and in use. This will add an essential ingredient for us all - a chance to see how the OER performs.

At the risk of mixing metaphors Content-Centric OER are like buying cars from a lot without seeing them in use or taking them for a test drive. If we could see how teachers and students engage with OER, like Gina's example where everything is in the open, we get a much better sense of whether the OER is to our liking or not. Not seeing it in use is like not starting the engine. Who knew that that clunky looking OER was a wonder when students and faculty revved it up and took it out for spin? Who knew that the slick looking OER beside it looked good but didn't perform well? And isn't it amazing how a really good driver (and interesting passengers) can get the most out of an old vehicle and make that journey a joy?

I know from my own online teaching and learning experiences that its not the package of content that counts its what teachers and students do with it. Its the discussion, the assignments, the activities, the comments, the exploration, the eye-opener surprises, ... Those are what make the whole experience work.

Perhaps at some future time when we register for courses we'll be given options:
1. closed education with all learning happening privately with classmates behind password protected environments (or campus based classrooms)
2. open education with all learning happening publicly in open online systems viewable by all

Which would you choose?
Would they be priced differently?

In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Roger Powley -

Hi Paul, it has been a long time.  I understand your argument for fully open and transparent education, but personal experience with adult learners from around the world tells me that it would not be welcomed.  I say that because it is difficult to get most online learners to communicate their ideas and experiences to their cohort even when no one else is watching or listening.  I also note that different cultures have difficulty communicating in public and a truly open forum would certainly inhibit them from responding in an honest manner.

In an open system I would suspect that most learners would not express their true feelings if they knew anyone could read them.  Even in cohort learning, where individuals move through together, it takes a lot of time to build the trust necessary to communicate ones ideas or to openly challenge someone else's postings.

I can enviage a boss looking in on one of his employee's to see how he/she is responding in the course.  Forgive me for the "big brother" fear, but I believe learners will be less inclined to exchange ideas, challenge others.  It will stifle learning, not enhance learning.

In reply to Roger Powley

Re: Week 3 - Making OER Less Content-Centric

by Mary Burgess -

Hi everyone - I'm pretty bummed that I'm just now getting into the discussion - we did a major Moodle upgrade at Royal Roads (I'm from the Centre for Teaching and Ed Techs there) in mid January that went pretty awry and took up most of my time and energy - trying now to get back on track while the bit marks fade.

Re the issue of making courses completely open, I agree with you Roger that learners would have concerns - but/and I think so would faculty. A few months back I was at a BC Campus session Scott facilitated in which a faculty member said she was hesitant to make her course materials open because of the scrutiny she would face from her peers. Having not just course materials but also a course facilitator's interactions with learners open to anyone could be pretty scary. I'm about to try to convince faculty at Royal Roads that sharing is a good thing, but I think I'll come across others with that same fear. One of the ways we're hoping to share more than just content is to provide the pedagogy behind the course's development when we share a course. It's not the same as seeing course activity, but at least it would give other course developers an idea of what was behind the decisions to use particular activities or ed techs.