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16 February 2011
Before meeting on 23rd March, let's introduce ourselves!
You can tell us who you are, the projects you're working on at the moment, the repositories you use - feel free to add links to these projects, of course. Tell us also what you would like to get out of the Impact Event.
Please see below Tony Coughlan contribution (20 march).
A dozen reflections on the impact of using OERs with the UK voluntary sector.
The aim of the CharityWise project is to create a sustainable long-term relationship between the Open University in the South West and regional voluntary sector network South West Forum in developing vocational OERs for the UK voluntary sector.
As a basis for long-term sustainability, the plan is to cultivate a Community of Practice between end-users, policy makers and academics, in which contributors from each stakeholder group participate in improving, updating & creating new educational resources for the voluntary sector. The successes of Wikipedia and open-source software communities (e.g. Linux, Mozilla, Firefox) in which volunteers develop resources in a public, collaborative manner demonstrate how this can be achieved. Our project is influenced by how open-source communities operate, and shares many of their characteristics.
1. OERs offer a way to integrate education for the UK voluntary sector workforce, which is currently fragmented and confusing. OERs have the particularly quality of being useable across institutional and sector boundaries: independent trainers, charities, colleges and universities can all work with them, and if we do so successfully it may lead to more coherent education for the sector.
2. As an antidote to public sleaze and corruption, OERs and particularly OE Practices are recognisably ethical. This resonates well with the UK coalition government's transparency agenda and offers a contribution to ethical public life.
3. The low cost of OERs is attractive in a time of severe public spending cuts.
4. Policy-makers are exploring where to store knowledge & research resources that have been publically-funded, but are now being closed down by public spending cuts. There is a view that publically-funded resources should remain in the public domain, and an OER repository offers the added attraction of also encouraging the active use and re-use of resources, rather than them just being archived.
Neutral reflections - issues that just need time.
5. The UK voluntary sector is littered with how-to guides, instructions and toolkits, often assembled by committed authors, but now out-of-date or hard-to-find on dormant websites. There is also a back-catalogue of academic resources that is growing quickly as universities shut down unprofitable courses.
6. It is very labour-intensive to assess the value of all these diverse resources and turn the suitable ones into OERs. Initially we are using National Occupational Standards as a basis for indexing & cataloguing OERs. At some stage I expect to find that OERs don't exist for some activities, and some will need to be produced anew.
7. The aim is to support a community of volunteer contributors to use, create and improve the OERs, but we need to clarify how they are rewarded for their efforts. I am hopeful that the reputation-management system Doug Clow has developed for iSpot can help achieve this.
8. A recurring challenge is that while OERs are at least partly established in HE, they are very poorly understood outside, so a lot of time is spent explaining what OERs are and why. The terminology certainly doesn't help! I think we'd all benefit from at least one public project succeeding so that we can point to it and say 'take a look at that to see how it works'. I'm currently pointing to Tessa Africa but it's easy for sceptics to marginalise this example because of the contextual differences between Africa & the UK.
9. Questions about assessment and accreditation are asked frequently. It's possible to point to an impressive array of learning resources at OpenLearn but the tools to bring them together into a programme of study (e.g. OER glue and OER University) are not as well-developed yet.
10. The existing software tools for editing OERs are unfamiliar to the general public and not intuitive to use. We've begun considering what training our volunteer contributors will need and would welcome help with this.
11. Finally, as people begin to understand what OERs are, I encounter suspicion, scepticism and hostility, particularly from those who fear their livelihoods are being threatened by the OER movement. At times I feel isolated as unlikely alliances form to defend the status quo. I'm intending to respond by beginning to make a case for OERs in the UK voluntary sector media.
There's no number 12! This confirms that as a rough-and-ready reflection, I'll inevitably have made mistakes and omissions, which I hope you'll all point out!
Open University in the South West and
Fellow, Support Centre for Open Resources in Education
12:22 on 21 March 2011