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Spotlight topic 1: Shifting from resources to practice

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Gráinne Conole
26 May 2010

Go straight to the introductory video!

Welcome to the online debate on open educational practices!

The discussion will continue for three weeks, with each week one experts statement introducing a new topic for discussion. At the end of each week the moderator will post a summary of issues raised.

In this week's discussion we would like to ge you started on the topic by introducing a a radical statement on which we drawing in a new initiative, called "Open educational Quality Initiative" (OPAL). OPAL considers the age of OER just a preliminary step on the way towards true changed, open educational practices.

The background:

The OER movement has gained considerable momentum in recent
years, backed by key stakeholders in the field such as the Hewlett Foundation and UNESCO and as a result an impressive array of OER initiatives have arisen. The rhetoric behind the notion of free educational resources and a vibrant community of sharing and scholarly practices is exciting and visionary. Despite this however, the actual impact on educational practice has been limited. Yes, OERs are being viewed and used by some teachers and some learners but they are not being used extensively. And evidence of
actual reuse is even more scant.

Why is this? Well, actually taking someone else’s OER, understanding it, deconstructing it and then recontexualising it is a complex cognitive process. Add to this potential technical and organisational barriers and perhaps the lack of uptake is not so surprising. Would shifting away from a focus on the resources to the associated surrounding practices help? i.e. if we can better understand how teachers and learners are creating and using OER perhaps we can get a better idea of what the associated barriers and
issues might be and hence put in place mechanisms to address these. This is at the heart of the work we are doing in OPAL. We have gathered over 60 case studies of OER initiatives and from these abstracted a set of eight dimensions which show how what we are terming ‘Open Educational Practices’ are constituted (see this cloud for more):

  • Strategies and policies: Opening institutions', national and regional policies to promote the use of OER to result into better and imporve quality
  • Quality Assurance models: Open forms of assessment, open quality assurance frameworks 
  • Partnership models: Sharing experiences and content in order to learn and improve institutional practices
  • Tools and tool practices: Employing tools, repositories and building competencies to easyly integrate OER in practice
  • Innovations: Do we do the same (old) stuffwith Ers than without OERs or do we aim at innovation of educational practices
  • Skills development and support: Opening educational practices demand for certain pedagogical and learning skills and competencies
  • Business models/sustainability strategies: Are open eductaional practices economic viable - and if so: how?
  • Barriers and success factors: What can we learn from past initatives and cases throughout the world?

So in this space - until Friday afternoon - I invite you to participate in a
discussion which focuses on the following questions:

Discussion questions

  1. Is a shift from focusing on Open Educational Resources to OpenEducational Practices likely to lead to a) a better understanding of current practices and associated issues and b) improvements in the quality and innovation of OEP?
  2. What are your thoughts on the dimensions we have identified and how might they be used?


Extra content

A quick reminder of the dimensions:

  • Strategies and policies
  • Quality Assurance models
  • Partnership models
  • Tools and tool practices
  • Innovations
  • Skills development and support
  • Business models/sustainability strategies
  • Barriers and success factors

Rebecca Galley
11:13 on 26 May 2010

We are defining Open Educational Practices (OEP) as

the full set of practices around the creation, use and management of OER.


Gráinne Conole
06:20 on 1 June 2010 (Edited 06:21 on 1 June 2010)

Summary of the discussion so far (4/05/2010)

  1. Importance and value of focusing on OEP rather than OER, not least as a means of recognising the value and importance of OER

Barriers and enablers:

  • One of the barriers cited was time. Two keys aspects to this i) finding, adapting and using, ii) time to share experiences and practices. Although a counted argument was made that creating learning materials from scratch is also time consuming and still requires a teacher to look for sources of materials
  • Other barriers: fear of the unknown, concerns about the technologies, lack of skills, not wanting to deconstruct someone else’s OER, tension between teaching and research
  • Not invented here syndrome
  • Changing organisational mindsets
  • Cultural differences between the sectors – FE and schools tend to be very risk adverse
  • Changing attitudes – fear in terms of changing roles, if teachers are not creating resources what is their role?
  • Complex mix of technical, pedagogical and organisational barriers
  • Vision of shifting to teaching, which is challenging and stimulating

Strategies and policies:

  • The role that policy perspectives might play in terms of addressing some of the barriers

Strategies for change

  • Learn from the field of computer programming in terms of reuse and the open source movement
  • Relationship between OER and learning outcomes/assessment. This raises the question what are OEP grading practices? Needs to be a shift from the assessment of learner to the assessment of learning

Gráinne Conole
08:14 on 4 June 2010


(To see slides please watch the video or follow the slideshow that is embedded after the video)

OPAL departs from the idea that we may be standing at the threshold of an exciting new era in education and learning.

The potential lies there, right at the heart of OEP, to redefine the future of learning.

(Slide 1) Indeed, the extraordinary development of OER witnessed over the last couple of years suggests that we can dream of a ‘Learning Utility Agenda’. In other words, the availability of a vast infrastructure of learning opportunities, accessible anywhere and anytime from a variety of devices and platforms, as easily as one accesses nowadays to electricity, water or communications, sparks bold new visions on pressing agendas such as LLL, key skills acquisition and informal learning recognition.

However, there is scant evidence that this ‘big bang’ of OER has lead into the effective uptake in the educational arena of freely available resources. Moreover, the real impact of OER on transforming actual classroom practices and inspiring new learning patterns remains astonishingly poor.

The gulf between an evergrowing supply of OER and the reluctance to adopt OEP comes as no surprise. The truth of the matter is that this apparent contradiction embodies the clash between two traditional paradigms: developing knowledge ‘objects’ (a supply driven strategy) vs. investing in learning ‘subjects’ (a demand driven strategy).

Obviously, reality does not have to be a pick between one or another. Both strategies should go together, hand in hand - which is rarely the case - to avoid major imbalances in the way how pedagogical innovation progresses.

(Slide 2) Our existing portfolio of learning theories is barely enough to encompass the complexities underpinning a widespread policy of OEP. Behaviourism, Cognitivism and Constructivism were formulated in a pre-ICT stoneage. Furthermore, these theories could not anticipate a “brave new world” made up of tech-rich environments, of soaring interactions in social networks built around Web 2.0, and of content availability without boundaries.

As for Connectivisim, however ingenious the theory is presented and attractive it may be, its basic claims on technology enabled changes elicit the individual as the main locus of transformations – in brain functions and in behaviour. This understanding falls short of OEP to the extent that what may be fundamentally required are new sets of competences and different ways of enhancing social learning.

Having arrived at this juncture the case that I would like to put forward is that OEP will only take-off in a sustainable course if we invest in people (learning subjects) – in their personal, professional and social skills – to make OER a powerful engine of new learning experiences.

Two philosophical theories dealing with scientific knowledge establish a marked distinction between the received view (RV) and the semantic view (SV). While the former (RV) deals with the passive collection or recollection of existing knowledge, the latter (SV) involves a full-fledged reconstruction of received knowledge and presupposes a constant quest for value-added meaning.

(Slide 3) I have proposed a complete value chain ascending from raw data to information (metadata), from information to knowledge (metainformatiom), from knowledge to learning (metaknowledge) and from learning to meaning-making (metalearning). The effort to bridge the gulf between information access, knowledge gaps, learning inequalities and meaning-making disparities is epitomised in three transitions: simple to complex, science of quantities to science of qualities, product to service (Carneiro 2008).

(Slide 4) The opposition RV-SV leads me to formulate a new semantic-driven syntax for OEP, a sort of fifth learning theory, accruing to and expanding from the previous four theories,  which I would like to call Generativism (as opposed to Adaptivism) (Carneiro, 2010).

Generativism lies in the intersection between innovative learning and learning for innovation and addresses the foundations of a creative society. In this sense, OEP challenge is to generate new knowledge (SV) out of previously codified knowledge (RV). Generativism understood as a constant re-creation of knowledge appeals to the unique human ability to derive new meaning from experience and to build sense out of a shared body of conventional knowledge.

(Slide 5) My proposition that generativism may provide a solid theoretical foundation for OEP leads to a number of crossroads and to a set of related queries:

  • Can generativism inspire a sustainable spiral of knowledge generation, sharing and re-generation, embodied both in  new knowledge objects and new learning subjects?
  • Does generative OEP conceal the potential to unleash the latent productive and creative energies of people in organizations in order that ICT and new media finally fulfill their promise to enable and empower vibrant learning communities of practice?
  • If OEP are regarded as a key ingredient of new  lifelong learner-centred designs how should we define a ‘competent learner of the future’:  one who is endowed with the mastery and use of a whole new range of generative learning competences?
  • Would enhanced  generative skills in self-regulated (self-directed) learning and social (dialogic) learning spark a disruptive change in the pace of OEP uptake and diffusion?
  • How may the OPAL quality guidelines and self-assessment tools for OEP be best shaped to support self-sustained generativism and advanced lifelong learner competences?
  • Could generativism position itself as a central concept for a  renewed Web 3.0  (semantic, learning, smart, user-customised, evolutionary and ontology-rich in nature), one that would leverage OEP  and allow the intelligent use of open resources to become a truly transformative and creative learning experience?
  • Should neotenia emerge as a major field of OEP research in order to allow for increased generativity in quality adult-adult (teacher-learner, HE and AE) interactions?
  • …?

 (Slide 6) One  final word of caution: Whatever line of pursuit we follow, may we bear in mind one  essential quest for our joint deliberations - that we find generative ways of becoming more finely and deeply human.

In final words, that we may learn to cultivate wisdom as our first and foremost goal.

Roberto Carneiro

Portuguese Catholic University

roberto carneiro
00:18 on 7 June 2010 (Edited 09:08 on 7 July 2010)

Embedded Content

Gráinne Conole - youtube video

Gráinne Conole - youtube video

added by Gráinne Conole

Ulf on open educatonal practices (2 minutes) --> Video put out for improvement (not only stylewise- but rather contentwise), make your comments!

Ulf on open educatonal practices (2 minutes) --> Video put out for improvement (not only stylewise- but rather contentwise), make your comments!

added by Ulf Ehlers

Open Educational Practices and Generativism

Open Educational Practices and Generativism

added by roberto carneiro



added by roberto carneiro


Rebecca Galley
10:54am 26 May 2010

I have added a video from the Opal Kick off meeting as a link (right). I found it useful in helping me understand the thinking behind the shift between terms.

Ulf Ehlers
3:07pm 26 May 2010

In my view this is a key issue to get OER off the ground and really included into the educational reality. If we do not work on open practices and make educational  professionals aware OER will always remain a undervalued issue.

Nick Moe-Pryce
12:50pm 27 May 2010

The issue for teachers is one of time. To find, adapt, prepare and teach with OERs and deal with student assessment and feedback leaves little capacity for sharing experiences and practices. Policy shifts in institutions are required to give teachers capacity to share experience and resources more widely. As this leads to an improvement in perceptions of quality of an institution, you would think it might be in the institution's interest?

Gráinne Conole
12:56pm 27 May 2010

I totally agree Nick - time is a real real issue and to get systemic change we need appropriate policies in place at both institutional and national level.From the case studies a number of other barriers were evident, such as:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Concerns about whether the technologies would work or not
  • Lack of the necessary digiital literacies skills
  • Not wanting to deconstruct someone else's 'good' OER
  • The good old tension between teaching and research

I'll add a link to the cloud about barriers and enablers and the OEP report which discusses this in more detail.

Robert Schuwer
5:08am 28 May 2010

The time issue is mentioned a lot. Also here in the Netherlands this is mentioned. But I do not think this is the most important barrier. When a teacher is looking for alternative learning materials to replace some or the whole of the (commercial) learning materials (mostly a textbook), the alternative for OER is constructing your own learning materials from scratch. This also takes a lot of time and does also involve looking for sources to use, albeit more of level 1 and 2 (so without any didactics, like pictures or animations). Is there any data known about the time differences between those two approaches?

Maybe we can learn from the field of computer programming, where reuse of computer programs/procedures/objects faces the same problem: does the source code you find to reuse give you exactly the functionality you are looking for? One of the solutions there is commenting on the code and formulating the pre- and post conditions of each piece of code.

Paul Mundin
1:33pm 28 May 2010

Robert draws an interesting parallel for me with computing because having moved from twenty years in IT to working in an educational environment I see some familiar problems crossing-over between sectors especially in relation to the take-up of OERs. The first problem is the 'not invented here' syndrome which shows itself as the refusal by an organisation to accept that external products are better than anything they can produce themselves, and as a consequence the let's 're-invent the wheel' approach to product development.

It seems to me that for the OER consumer this leaves them with the problem of selecting which of many OERs to use, and from which organisation. Perhaps the main barrier is to overcome the organisational mind-set?

Ulf Ehlers
9:09pm 28 May 2010 (Edited 9:11pm 28 May 2010)

I think that the not invented here syndrom is a very hard barrier to use OERs for teachers. Just coming back fro Africa and had lots of discussions about the issues of hierachies in the teaching-learning scenario. If teachers are no longer the content bearers - what is their authority then? The conference discussed these issues with some interesting cases which showed that in the classroom often there is still this knwoledge transfer idea, as the sole purpose for meeting.


By the way - I have found a video presnetation in which we tried to explain what open educational practices is from our point of view. it is just 2 minutes, so have a loo and let us know if you agree or would modify it. if you make good suggestions I prmise to do it again - then modified... ;-)


Rebecca Galley
8:34am 30 May 2010 (Edited 8:37am 30 May 2010)

Hi Ulf, thanks for the video embed very useful.

Paul, you make a really good point and I think this is an issue for the HE sector particularly (FE & schools can't afford to be proud - and tend to be hugely risk averse anyway).  Linked to this I think for both educators and institutions is the idea that if we don't do that (develop materials, activities, learning programmes) then what do we do?

Gráinne Conole
8:58am 30 May 2010

I agree of course time isn't the only issue, there is a complex mix of pedagogical, technical, cultural and organisational barriers at play here. Interesting the parallels you draw Paul to the IT industry. Of course education has a very distinctive culture ;-) I think teachers pride themselves on being creative and fairly independent. What's interesting to me is that alot of the rhetoric behind the OER movement relates back to trying to replicate the Open Source movement in an educational context. Likewise the Open Access movement (in terms of opening up research practice) is trying to do similar things. But in reality so far it hasnt worked.... yet. Of course the vision with OPAL is the articulating OEP will help make this shift.

Ulf Ehlers
8:05am 31 May 2010

Thanks for the contributions and aspects above. Let me put another point as food for thought. A radical one. I think the OER movement has learnt alot form the Open Access and the Open Source Movenemt - beeing a step child of both. But now, I would advocate, it is time to get on with it and move from infancy into adult status.

I think that there was a lot to lear from Open Source and OA in terms of open policies and supporting frameworks. Now, I think, that OER needs to face it: it is - again! - about education. The 'opening' of the resource owner is in HE equaling a professor who is reading a lecture from another professor's book. This is problemtaic because it makes a charicature of the lecture process - could not anybody read another ones book... ?? We do not need professors then. Something else is on stake with open educational practices - obviously!

In the light of open educational resources, educational professional need to be those who deliver educational scenarioes which are challenging and stimulating. It is not about reading out a lecture. It is about working on material together, collaboration and critiquing, reflecting and  producing, amending and sharing materials. Maybe researching and finding open questions.

This is the real shift and move which we are facing and which we in the OPAL project describe as open educational practices. Educational professionals are then no longer content bearers but have to be educational artists.

Does it make sense?



Jutta Jerlich
5:35am 1 June 2010

Connected to the above comment about the function of professors and educators in general, I have a question for this discussion:
Do - and if so, where do -  learning outcomes and assessment become relevant?

What does this mean in the context of OER?
No more grading?

Is this meeting the standards?
What are the standards of your institutions?

I am currently engaged in the EU project Virqual - Virtual Mobility and the European Qualification Framework and we do research in the topics learning outcomes and assessment. Your comments and contributions would be highly interesting to me.

What do you think?


Ulf Ehlers
6:16am 1 June 2010 (Edited 6:45am 1 June 2010)

Dear Jutta, that is a really thoughtful question. I would rephrase it: under the conditions of open educational practices - what are open educational grading practices... ?

In the int. Journal on Quality assurance I have written extensively about that. Bottomline is: The grading practices have to move from assessment of learer to assessment for learning. Assessment becomes part of the learning process. It is no longer an external controll only but it shifts orientation a bit more towards the learners themselves. Learners learn to use tools for self-assessment, peer-review, peer-critiquing  and reflection. These tools are not used by them alone but by them in combination with other learners, to mutually validate their learning outcomes. In addition teachers come in at certain times and provide another opportunity (and if you want: urge!) for validation. Assessment takes place, but it is a mutual validation process involing consultation and discussion rather than a "learner, please deliver your assignemtn sheet" assessment. It is also about vaidation of what is happening during the learning process and not a grading process taking place only after the learning process in a summative manner.

Does it make more sense?

Gráinne Conole
6:37am 1 June 2010

Thanks for the link Rolf, Rebecca mentioned there was a facebook page and I was only this weekend looking to see if I could find it!

Sui Fai John Mak
2:05pm 2 June 2010

My third response

Thanks Gráinne Conole for this very interesting topic


Dominic Newbould
9:02am 4 June 2010

This post may be slightly off-topic - forgive me if it is.

My interest in this debate is linked to the value proposition of OERs and associated practices in low-income countries and also newly-industrialising countries and emerging economies. These are the territories where capacity building is the priority and where, at first, cost-effectiveness is often (understandably) more important than learning outcomes. Informal learning is admirable, but people want qualifications and awards, certification in the traditional sense.

I have found so much cultural resistance to eLearning or ODL in general, not just in places like Malaysia, where I was last week, but even in the UK among traditionalists and dinosaurs.

An OU colleague (Charles) has commented today on some eLearning material I sent him for evaluation, in relation to SE Asia:

"Totally on-line teaching in Asia has never quite worked and e-learning as a support tool, additional self-study tool or homework task tool has often proved more effective. The need to “see the teacher” is very strong, despite the love of technology. There is also a fear of “teacher disempowerment” through technology, so training for teachers in remote areas often helps get over that. Internet based solutions also often have to be complemented by DVD or local server solutions in remoter areas – so if these can be loaded that way their appeal and flexibility would be greater..."

This is out-of-context, but my feeling is that Charles is pretty accurate in his comments and I wonder how others feel.

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