Trends in OER

The status and future possibilities

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13 February 2009

Thoughts about how the field has developed to date, what the status of OER is today, and where might it go in the near future.

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Patrick McAndrew
12:43am 4 March 2009

Christine Ngugi, James Woolliscroft and Rachel Wise join Vic Vuchic (David Goddy should be there as well but plane delayed).

Patrick McAndrew
1:02am 4 March 2009

James Woolliscroft first: describing move from sage on the stage and way OER can help change attitudes. Open approach such as feeding lectures out through iTunes suits current students.

Patrick McAndrew
1:03am 4 March 2009

Catherine Ngugi – OER principles very suited to challenges of Africa. However most OER initiatives are based in developed world, instead need to value the creative power of those in Africa.  While this does not mean that the existing resources should not be used – must move to opportunities for knowledge creation through producing. This will need alignment with strategic needs. OER movement offers a catalyst for change – power of sharing knowledge in all forms and all levels. Share experiences, challenges and solutions through community of practice.

Patrick McAndrew
1:03am 4 March 2009

Rachel Wise – a member of the NROC community. Looking at scope for educational reform for school system (K-12). Aim is greater success in students completing high school. Students needing “credit recovery” can use the post school resources from NROC. This led to a “tipping point” as OER tools and content then gave a foundation for a transformation of approach.

Patrick McAndrew
1:11am 4 March 2009

Q what got you started? RW: NROC and cash limitations. CN: chance to gain skills and improve curriculum. JW: Hope that in future faculty will be able to help learners in the context in which they are learning (especially for medicine).

Patrick McAndrew
1:16am 4 March 2009

Q What are the challenges to going open: JW: IP issues. How to stay current? How to have sustainable funding model? Fundamental change to what it means to be a professor – it means becoming a coach or assessor. Dan Atkins added – there is also variation across faculty with some seeing it as competition.

Patrick McAndrew
1:17am 4 March 2009

Q Have you considered assessment with OER rather than in curriculum. A (JW): OER one building block in transforming medical education. Assessment is another brick in doing this.

Patrick McAndrew
1:17am 4 March 2009

Q Are issues the same in Africa. A (CN) Same sensitivities, which are tackled through awareness workshops. Key question is what is in it for me – turned around to “what will you do with your content otherwise?” and look for working together to fill gaps.

Patrick McAndrew
1:17am 4 March 2009

Q NROC alignment to assessment – has this led to teachers as curriculum developers? A – NROC allows exploiting at learning object level. Means can help align various things including assessment. Need to break 8 year cycle around text books too limiting – need more fluid process for changing times.

Patrick McAndrew
1:20am 4 March 2009

Q: What are particular challenges for collaboration in African context? What helps? NC – Helps to work with existing structures. Challenge to balance established universities with just established (e.g Sudan Open University) working in difficult circumstance. Mixed languages but need expensive get togethers to form collaborative groups.

Patrick McAndrew
1:24am 4 March 2009

Q: What should Northern organisations do to form equal collaborations with South? CN – Important question to ensure that addressing real need rather than imagined need. Ask institutions what needed right from beginning.

Patrick McAndrew
1:27am 4 March 2009

Q: Has OER helped K-12 districts and states collaborate? RW – yes has helped groups collaborate with biggest change chance to address transition from secondary to post-secondary.

Patrick McAndrew
1:35am 4 March 2009

Q: Will new teachers have an awareness of how to exploit OER. Will there be requirement in the future  to spend 20% of time contributing back to the commons? NC – need to recognize and reward this time first. JW – where there is death there is hope! May need to wait for generational change. RW – resources to support change were starting to happen. New teachers need to realize that everything won’t be handed to them.

Patrick McAndrew
1:41am 4 March 2009

Q PBS base has been looking at media and though key issue was rights. But is it that value in OER is about process and change? RW – rights is an issue, but right that process is key.

Patrick McAndrew
1:43am 4 March 2009

Q: Any attempt to monitor and evaluate these initiatives to see impact? Is there research as part and parcel of OER? JW – must not be seduced by technology and newness. Must look at different things – but problem is that students are creative and so cannot do control trials. Anecdotally the vodcast is key – drift off during lecture but watch podcasts at 1-2x speed with attention. Not rigorous but over and over relayed. JW – not as rigorous as like but students in credit recovery are being successful. Used interviews to review dropouts (common factor lack of relationship with teachers). Social networking important to address. CN – too soon for impact analysis but research is built in from the start in looking at needs in Africa and assessing opportunities and concepts.

Patrick McAndrew
1:45am 4 March 2009

Q: Have funded OUUK and CMU for OLnet – more tomorrow.

Patrick McAndrew
2:03am 4 March 2009

Q: Education is more than a bag of books. OCW has become OER – do we need access to more than content, labs, people, resources beyond the written (e.g. wold wide telescope). CN – limited bandwidth restricts this. Need to avoid only working for future. Most powerful at the moment is the written, printed resource. RW – yes. Learning objects that are easy to find and easy to embed are needed. Use a repository to bring resources together.

Patrick McAndrew
2:03am 4 March 2009

Q: Relationships are changing (learner-learner, learner-teacher) with social media. Is the evidence that there are changes emerging in the field? JW – learning in context e.g. a team in medicine means move from link just to content.

Patrick McAndrew
2:07am 4 March 2009

Q: Do we need to offer support for students who use OER in high school? JW – the changing learner is a challenge for secondary – will soon be in post-secondary. Challenge is that some students have resources now in home environment and need to deal with that. Q: what about familiarity comfort crossing over to use same OER? JW – not yet there for most. GL - Some data now coming in through NROC and OCW-MIT.

Patrick McAndrew
2:07am 4 March 2009

Q: Economic problems will change education – are there opportunities and challenges for your work? CN – global recession hits everybody. But greater opportunity for OER than before. Free! And other costly alternatives may stop being  available? JW – “Too wonderful opportunity to waste” (Barack Obama aide) but may lead to retrenchment. Ubiquity v proprietary. JW – resources limited mean avoid large ticket items. Includes text book adoption and staff development. Want to reduce impact on learner. Instead opportunity to reevaluate professional development and resource adoption. CN – governments are source of funding in Africa – will change. E.g. other universities will use open university resources whether technically OER or not.

Jonathan Lopez
2:49am 4 March 2009



Trends in OER Panel Discussion

James Wooliscroft
Dean University of Michigan Medical School

Why should Michigan engage in online education? The question is, is there a better way to learn? The students are quite engaged in online capabilities, such as in podcasts, or sharing websites, etc. There are a number of technological options available. We are dealing with a global economy, and cultures will intermingle and mix. Faculty must be brought into the 21st century. The teachers are now, in some respects, the learner. How do we continue the relationship with graduates? Sustainability is another important factor that must be addressed.

Christine Ngugi
ED OER Africa

What is the relevance of open education? The keys are access, openness, and collaboration. African educational institutions can develop and adapt material from other countries, however, material developed locally in Africa will help reinforce the benefits of OER materials. A key benefit is not just the material produced but also the methodology. Short-term proof of pilot projects may prove an effective mechanism in stimulating investments. Substantial advances can be made by students, policy makers, and others who share their solutions, challenges and knowledge.

Rachel Wise
Director of Secondary Education Omaha Public Schools

Credit recovery is indicative of the lack of success. We found that the content in the curriculum of the old tool was not up to date for standards set in the state of Nebraska. Students who need credit recovery were students who were failing traditional courses. We have had a lot of success with this new tool. With the tools available, we can start to align a variety of resources with the curriculum structure to create a more engaging environment for students. Enriching content, moving away from credit recovery towards “in progress”. We transition young people who may not be successful and challenge them to look at content in a new light and get back on track towards high school completion. We have been working on project-based learning, such as with the Omaha Media Science Project.

Q&A session

Q- One of the challenges is explaining OER in a simple manner. When you think back to how you began your initiatives, what were some of the main motivations in kicking off an OER effort?

Rachel- When teachers started to see the quality available, it opened our eyes to what kind of options were out there. It gave us an opportunity to rethink curriculum and instruction design, as well as working with limited resources.

Christine- These institutions are supposed to create the future leaders, and they are not accomplishing that. When we started talking about OERs, many of the faculty saw it as an opportunity to expand the skills that they have. Creating spaces in which people can take time to do this was the main push for us.

James- For us, it was the hope that in the future, we could have at the shoulder of our learners teachers who could coach the learners.

Q- What are some common challenges?

James- Some faculty embrace the challenges in using this, but not all faculty. As we go forward, how do we make sure this information stays current? How do we come up with a sustainable funding model? This also means a fundamental change in what it means to be a professor. How do we work through the sociological changes that go along with that switch? Instead of the traditional idea of a professor, the concept is more of a coach.

Q- Have you talked about an assessment that goes along with your OER?

James– OER is one building block. The other is an academy of professors. We had to think up prototypes that emulate the work of being a doctor. OER is a tool, the assessment is the other, thinking differently about the academy is the last.

Q- In the context of Africa, how do you see some of the challenges facing professors and the academy?

Christine- Just the same as anyone else. When people are forced to rethink where they stand and what they are supposed to do within the academy, we must explain what is OER and answer the question of what is in it for me? Why must I share? The answer is why not share it, also it is the potential of building upon what you have, fill the gaps, that kind of sharing makes sense to people.

Q- For Omaha, you have high quality content. It sounds like it must now be aligned to separate standards. What is necessary to pushing faculty towards their new role?

Rachel- We’ve redesigned our curriculum so that it is designed around key concepts, learning experiences, etc. We align this with our standards and then our teachers can use that creativity to suit their needs. It’s an evolution, not necessarily something that is complete. We see it as a process that must be refined over time.

Q- What do you as the particular challenges for collaborations across institutions?

Christine- We’ve been working with collaboration networks that already exist. In terms of challenges, we have universities that are long established, and within that network you have much less funded institutions, as well as several different languages. Different resource bases, different languages, and then communication are the challenges. How do you get people together? You eventually need to be face-to-face, and that is expensive. Opportunities are immense, especially with meeting people with similar challenges. Solving challenges together can be much more successful.

Q- What are the things that I need to think about for collaborating with northern institutions?

Christine- It doesn’t matter where we are from, the common problem unites us. If someone comes with an idea for a new project, you hope somehow the project will be most valuable to you. Are they collaborating just for the sake of it, or can there be other benefits?

Q- Collaboration within medical school- how can institutions use OER for more collaboration?

James- Promotion and tenure are very important to think about for this. We are wrestling with the question of how do we solve this? We don’t have the answers. On campus, we are trying to create boundaries that wouldn’t be graded. How do we get the medicine department to rub shoulders with engineering?

James- One thing to remember is not to get seduced by the technology and the newness of the OER concept. One problem is that students access material from across the globe. The Vodcast gives students the opportunity to modify the content. The Vodcast could be played at 1.5x to 2x normal speed. Problem areas could also be concentrated upon- they would slow down when running into problems. This has proven successful in attaining higher marks.

Rachel- The human connection is another aspect to consider. Social networking could help promote solutions there.

Q- With the emergence of social media, there are also changes within the relationships between teachers and students, as well as between students. There is an emergence of several different types of relationships which involve bringing in several other resources to collaborate. Do you see any changes such as these?

James- Learning occurs in the context that we as teachers want to replicate from what they will experience in the field. Frequently, the content expert may not be present. The focus is going to the literature, however, the focus must also change to the individual so that they can emulate the role that we want them to.

Q- One of the advantages of OER could be for students coming from high schools that use OER going to universities that use OER, and how comfortable they are using it and trying to find it.

Rachel- This could definitely be the case. The challenge could be students that have these resources available going somewhere where those resources are not available.

Gary- There is some data available of students coming to community college looking for the kind of OER resources they are used to.

Q- How will the current economic crisis affect the transformation of education?

Christine- Opportunities for using OERs will only increase as time goes along.

James- Innovation can come to the forefront. Teacher-to-teacher interactions can prove a great opportunity to rethink how we do things. Part of OER is the globalization movement and ubiquity trumping proprietary ownership.

Rachel- From my perspective, when resources are limited, you start to look at objects in the budget that you must alter. The impact is on the student. Typically, that’s professional development and resources materials and textbook and how can we continue to meet those needs in a different way?

Christine- With funding coming directly from the government, what other ways are there to fund the important things for an institution?

OER Africa
10:36pm 4 March 2009

If you would like a copy of Catherine Ngugi's comments, please clik on this URL:


Gráinne Conole
10:46pm 4 March 2009

Thanks for the link - I found Catherine's talk yesteday really inspiring.

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