Open? Educational?

OER (Open Educational Resources) 2015 took place at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on 14th and 15th April in a very sunny Cardiff.

The question of the conference was “What does it take to move OER into to the mainstream?”

Introductory Video

After the usual interminable welcomes we got Cable Green’s keynote. I won’t give a blow by blow account as you can watch it yourself here

They key elements I got from him though were

He opened with the 5 Rs of openness from David Wiley, where OERs should have the following 5 attributes –

• Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
• Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
• Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
• Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
• Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

The original 4 Rs
The addition of the 5th

He put forward his OER Proposition which included
• Open as a tactic rather than a goal – open practices rather than just lots of open content
• People leaning in new ways with students as co-creators
• Reducing barriers to education
• Transforming teaching and learning through open practice
• Enabling free access to human knowledge
• Introducing internet and digital technologies into education
• Re-professionalising education – not using prepared publishers material
• Connecting communities
• Increasing efficiency of public funds spent on education

There are challenges though. 65% of US students skipped required textbooks due to cost
66% of faculty unaware of OER although 25% who use it are quite passionate about it.
Staff don’t think about cost as they don’t have to buy the textbooks
Staff want content that is of trusted quality – what does trusted quality mean?

Lots of research in this area

His plan –
• Default set to open – all publicly funded education and research must be open – CC BY or CCO no embargo period
• Publicly funded resources should be openly licensed resources
• Learning shifts to solving global grand challenges
• Assignments that matter – eg update the OER for classmates and the world

How do we take it mainstream?
The time of the Cape Town and Paris declarations has passed and it’s now time for an implementation strategy

Would the OER movement benefit from a co-ordinated OER implementation strategy? If so, would his strategy be the right one. He invited everyone to take part in developing the strategy –

There were lots of parallel sessions in a variety of formats. There are videos of all the key notes here and I’ll give a bit of a flavour I picked up from the sessions I attended.

Christine Davies from UWTSD talked about finding and using OER created with Xerte. There will be more new on our own Swansea installation of Xerte will follow at the SALT Conference on July 2nd.

In a presentation from the University of Cape Town a key point from this that struck me was the Global North/South divide in the creation of OER. Who creates and controls knowledge? There is an imbalance north creating and the south consuming.

Hannah Watts talked about adapting the MOOC model for mainstream students at Southampton Solent. It was all about transition, academic skills and socialisation. They created open area on their VLE – no need for a university account to access the materials. Students were involved in development of the MOOC with one student being the week by week narrator of the course.

Short online CPD Courses from Chris Rowell Regent’s University. The first ‘course’ was the 10 days of twitter as run here by the Librarians the next was the 12 Apps of Christmas. He didn’t know what the apps would be when started! The process for each app was
• what is it
• what can it do
• then a 10 min task for someone to do then followed by a discussion form and then a follow up task

It was not a MOOC and open ‘course’ where staff could just dip in. He had four conclusions
• Learning should be situated – people use own space and device wherever they are
• Learning should be discursive
• Learning should be authentic- task should be real things staff could do with students
• It was also important to have a daily joke

You can read more here

There was a really interesting session from Rob Farrow of the OER Research Hub #oerrhub that raised lots of interesting questions.

• Being open with research data may make it easier to identify subjects
• Gorilla research with open data – no need to get ethical approval
• What ethical responsibility do you have when you use open data?
• What about learning analytics? Is this and Open Education Heaven and Hell? Are students just a node on a system? Does as system originally designed to help students end with denying students a place at university because students often fail if they come from certain postcodes?
• Being legal and ethical is not always the same thing.
• The OER Research ethics manual on OER research hub

The third keynote was by Sheila MacNeill at the lovely time of 9am!
Openness isn’t free – some large universities spend lots of money on being ‘open’
It needs to be recognised that it can be difficult for academics to find the time to be open. There is a danger that only those that can afford Use a lot of gardening metaphors an argued that we don’t all need a garden or a meadow can just have OER pots
She also made the point walled gardens have a purpose to protect vulnerable plants from the elements and the walked gardens in education are therefore not always a bad thing as they create safe, protected spaces.

Paul Richardson for JISC posed some interesting points. He suggested we are better teachers by using OER. However, what is needed to get people to make OER? In universities a great deal of money is often spent on creating nice new paths across campuses. The students then often walk straight across the grass and create a new muddy path. With OER we need to put paths where people have been working. However, we need to recognise that some people are quite private and don’t want to share and publish their teaching.

Is a lot of OER just rebadged Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) that in itself was rebadged e-Learning? There seem to be a number of people doing the same things and saying the same things about disruption that were being said 5 or more years ago. All perfectly valid but not perhaps the cutting edge to be shared at a conference.

I know it was a relatively small conference but one of the quotes in the overview video, about the conference being about the people who were there, is quite revealing. There seemed to be a sense that everything was marvellous and everyone was brilliant. This has carried on in many of the post conference reflections. There seemed to be very little dissent or rigorous debate and questioning. For example, while there is a lot of great OER significant amounts of it are very poor. Why are the OER repositories such a poor experience? JORUM isn’t really very good but no one is allowed to say. Is OER just TEL? Is OER always the way forward?

I asked this in a tweet and most of the responses were along the lines of ‘we do like dissent and we are a group the welcome questions’. The framing of the responses with ‘we do’ and ‘we are’ emphasised the point that this was something of an echo chamber with lots of people who know each other well and have built up the group. Communities can be great but they can also be excluding. Perhaps this is a case of this is local OER for local OER people. Interestingly the Twitter comments defended the OER community, while many non-Twitter conversations also raised the issue of the echo chamber. For OER to really enter the mainstream the OER community have to let go of it.

Enough of my thoughts. I leave the last words to the final Keynote, Martin Weller
He argues that Open Education is a set of coalescing ideas.
There are 3 types of users – OER Active, OER as facilitator and OER consumer
Open Access publishing has reached a tipping point – publishers are double dipping and predatory Open Access practice where we now have pay to publish.
Education is the next tech target of big companies. Another mention of openwashing and the concept that “education is broken someone should sell me something”.
He raises the questions –
Why does openness really matter? What can it do for you? He suggests that it not inevitable that open will go into the mainstream.
Watch the video and see what you think.

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