Tag Archives: OER

BC Librarians Publish Guide to Open Ed Resources

The BCOER Librarian group recently published a guide to open education resources, which includes:

  • Faculty toolkits for open education, access and open textbooks.
  • A vetted list of open education repositories (spaces with open education content) and basic evaluation criteria for faculty assessing open education resources.
  • Resources, including rubrics and promotional material on open education topics

Through collaboration with BCCampus, the BCOER Librarian group supports librarians and faculty in awareness, access and use of open education content. This past year they have been working together on the development of guides, training opportunities and advocacy around open education and open access.

Link: http://bit.ly/1Pjpq2r

Opening the Curriculum: Open Education Resources in U.S. Higher Education

The Babson Survey Research Group recently published the results of a large survey that “examines the attitudes, opinions, and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) among teaching faculty.” The report, which was funded by Pearson and the Hewlett Foundation, found that while faculty are not very aware of open educational resources, they do appreciate the concepts of OER. Additional findings include:

  • More faculty are using OER than report that they were aware of the term OER. Resource adoption decisions are driven by a wide variety of factors, with the efficacy of the material being cited most often.
  • Faculty judge the quality of OER to be roughly equivalent to that of traditional educational resources.
  • The most significant barrier to wider adoption of OER remains a faculty perception of the time and effort required to find and evaluate it.
  • Faculty are the key decision makers for OER adoption. Faculty are almost always involved in an adoption decision and have the primary role.

Link: http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/oer.html

The MOOC Misstep and the Open Education Infrastructure

David Wiley, a chief academic officer of Lumen Learning, adjunct faculty at Brigham Young University, and pioneer in open learning, discusses the impacts that MOOCs have had on the idea of “open” in higher education. “Despite all the hyperbole, it has become clear that MOOCs are nothing more than traditional online courses enhanced by open entry, and not the innovation so many had hoped for.” He suggests that MOOC providers should support open licenses to allow for reuse, revision, and redistribution. Dr. Wiley also poses the question, “If MOOC providers changed from ‘open means open entry’ to ‘open means open licenses’ what would the impact be? In fact, it would drastically expand the access enjoyed by people around the world, as learners everywhere would be free to download, translate, and redistribute the MOOC content. MOOCs could become part of the innovation conversation.” Dr. Wiley also suggests that an open education infrastructure that consists of open credentials, assessments, competencies, and resources would “provide a foundation that will greatly decrease the time, cost, and complexity of the search for more effective models of education.”

Link: http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/3557

Opportunity lost when government content isn’t openly licensed

tl:dr  Publicly funded materials should be openly licensed materials

It is day 2 of the BC open Geography textbook sprint (follow along via blog, Twitter or Flickr). I’m hunkered down with some Geography faculty who are working extremely hard to create a first-year open Geography textbook in 4 days.

The book is very regional, using British Columbia specific case studies, and I’ve been working with our librarian and the faculty to source openly licensed BC specific Geography resources to use in our openly licensed textbook (it will be released with a CC-BY license). The problem is we keep finding useable materials on our own provincial government websites that are protected by copyright and not openly licensed.

Why is this a problem? Well, we can’t use it. We have made a commitment to release anything we create under a Creative Commons license to make it as reusable and shareable as possible.

Now, we could go through the hoops and hurdles and fill out forms and ask the government for permission to use the resources. And we just might get permission to use them for the context of this one book. But anyone who would want to reuse the book down the line would have to go back to the copyright holder (the provincial government), most likely fill out those same forms, wait, and then renegotiate the rights to reuse those resources. It’s not impossible, but a significant barrier to reuse.

Or, we could negotiate to use them in the book with the caveat that anyone down the road would need to remove the copyrighted content, which means that the book is not as complete as it could be. Again, doable, but a barrier for reuse that weakens the book.

We could ask the government to release the content under a Creative Commons license. They may or may not do that. But that will take time and there is no guarantee that it will happen. We need to make a decision about what resources we want to use now. 4 days.

But what bothers me the most is that here we have a project that would benefit the citizens of British Columbia by giving them access to a free learning resource and we cannot use resources that those same citizens have paid for. We have paid to create resources like the charts and graphs in this report, or this historical image from the BC Archives, or this one. And there is this map and this one – resources that would be useful for our Geography textbook. Yet these resources are virtually unusable because they were not released with an open license.

How much more bang for our buck could the taxpayers of BC get if these resources were allowed to be used in other contexts that benefited the citizens of BC?

So, what is the final result? The content is not being used. It is being passed over in favour of openly licensed content. The barriers worked, and that feels like such an unfortunate and unnecessary waste.

The opposite case: Government of Canada

For every frustration I have had with trying to use BC government resources, I have had nothing but success with the federal government. Every resource we have looked at using in the textbook has been openly licensed. We are able to use data, graphs and charts from Stats Canada, and maps from the Atlas of Canada, all openly licensed for reuse. There is a wealth of primary source information that our Geography faculty are using as the basis for the textbook. It has been hugely encouraging to see how much data and information our federal government is releasing and allowing reuse of.

Now obviously, there are important open government initiatives underway in this province, like, uh, well, you know – this little open project that I am working on and DataBC. But I hope that these open initiatives are just the start in British Columbia and that someday in the near future when we are creating more open educational resources that will benefit the citizens of BC, we’ll have the ability to freely use, reuse and redistribute content from our own provincial government.

Image: Day 1 by BCCampus released under a CC-BY-SA 2 license

A Faculty Perspective on Open Textbooks

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, a professor of psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and chair of the Provincial Psychology Articulation Committee, explores reasons why most faculty are not yet adopting open textbooks. These reasons include that open textbook may not be available for many disciplines and courses; some faculty are skeptical of open textbook quality and hold them to a higher standard than traditional textbooks; there is a need for additional learning materials, such as associated test banks; and finally that the choice of textbook is sometimes not an individual’s decision. Jhangiani summarizes the advantages of open resources and highlights that “there is some evidence to suggest that when an open textbook is carefully adapted to suit a particular program, student performance and retention is actually enhanced.” He concludes, “Ultimately, I believe that it is institutional culture that will need to shift. A university’s strategic priorities need to include moving towards open education. From the president’s office down, open education initiatives need to be supported for these to develop and mature. This includes time releases for faculty adapting/adopting open textbooks, institutional recognition of this work, practical and regularly offered professional development workshops, and the consideration of the development of open educational resources in the files of those on the tenure-track.”


Alberta Announces Open Educational Resources Initiative

The Alberta Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education has provided $2 million to launch an Open Educational Resources Initiative. The Initiative is a long-term strategy to help reduce, over time, the costs students face for a post-secondary education. By reviewing and recommending how to integrate open educational resources at post-secondary institutions, this initiative will encourage flexibility and access for Alberta learners. Open education resources include textbooks, modules, multi-media educational materials, and lesson plans. These materials are offered freely and openly without an accompanying need to pay copyright realities or licence fees. The initiative will be guided by a committee of experts including faculty, students, senior academic officers and other experts who deal with open educational resources. It will be will be co-chaired by Jason Dewling, vice-president academic and research from Olds College and Rory McGreal, a professor at Athabasca University.

Link: http://alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=361759413B5A0-D9D0-0BAB-223D46A8642B6F47

OER, teacher proofing and writing blog posts close to lunch means food analogies

Senidal®: Acciones rurales

About 8 years ago, I had the opportunity to teach a face to face course in web development through the continuing studies department at a local community college. The course was developed by the head of the certificate program that the course was part of.  As I started talking to him about the course & the content to cover, he handed me a massive paper textbook that he created and said “here is the course I want you to teach.” Well, never having taught this course before, I was grateful to have the resource. Here was the entire course. All I had to do was deliver the content in the book and all would be good.

As I went through the course the first time, I noticed a number of problems. I made notes of things I wanted to change the next time I taught it, concepts I thought were missing or needed to be enhanced or dropped. I also received a number of constructive comments from the students after the course finished on ways that the course could be improved.

Post-course I went back to the original developer with the changes I had that I thought would make the course better. I asked him for the source file for the textbook (students could only buy a print copy of the textbook at the time) so I could both modify the content & make it available electronically for the students. His answer was an emphatic no. This was his content, he didn’t want it changed and he certainly didn’t want to “give away” the textbook to the students.

The course WAS the textbook, and, for him, the value of the course was the content (ironic since it covered web development which, even at that time, there were no shortage of great free resources available on the web). I taught the course for a couple of years and, despite the insistence on teaching from the book, I found ways to incorporate the things I wanted to do into the course. I could have rebuilt my own book from scratch, but there were really good pieces from his book that I wanted to use. Gradually my enthusiasm for teaching his content his way waned. I wasn’t passionate about teaching someone else’s way with someone else’s content. And I wasn’t making much headway into changing that core book, although he did eventually relent and let me post a PDF version of the book online. Everything I did on my own was peripheral to that book – it still formed the core of the material – and eventually I grew bored & quit.

I didn’t know the term “teacher proofing” at the time. In fact, until this week I had never heard the term (thanks Mary & David). But I now realize that my personal experience was “teacher proofing” in action.

Teacher proofing is a very curriculum centered approach to education where the content IS the course and designed generically enough that (in theory) anyone could teach the course & have the same outcomes. The teacher is interchangeable. Their input is not needed. Anyone can deliver the course.

It’s an old, long-discarded industrial model that considers students as products and teachers as replaceable parts, far more suitable for building cars than educating children. Dr. Richard Curwin

You can see the danger here, for not only students, but for the teacher.

Not only do students suffer from scripted programs, teachers suffer, too. Teachers lose their creativity, their enthusiasm and their love of teaching. They lose their desire to be teachers. Many quit. Dr. Richard Curwin

Not only is this disillusionment possible (as I experienced through my example above), but teacher proofing can also lead to a deskilling of teachers by distancing them from the act of designing curriculum, which means that teachers lose those key skills and become nothing more than the deliverers of content.

When a school decides to adopt OER, on the other hand, this policy requires teachers to identify resources, judge their quality, align them to standards, aggregate them in meaningful collections, and choose or design accompanying activities and assessments. Teachers and staff also become involved in ongoing processes of evaluation and continuous quality improvement. Where “teacher-proof” curriculum assumes few or no skills on the part of the local teacher, adopting OER is the ultimate expression of confidence, empowering teachers to bring all their expertise to bear in the classroom. Tonks, Weston, Wiley & Barbour, 2013

OER’s can help counter teacher proofing because they give educators control over the learning resources. Because they are openly licensed, educators can modify, customize and personalize the content to fit THEIR style to meet THEIR learning needs.

While OER’s may appear the same as copyright materials in that they are often built by others, the difference is that the open license gives educators the legal ability to modify the content. It puts the control of curriculum back into the educators hand and encourages a deeper connection to the material. You become personally invested in something that you create. It then becomes something unique to you, something you become passionate about because of that personal investment you have to the material.

Teacher proofing leads to generic plug and play courses. The McDonaldization of higher education where someone (paid at $8 an hour) delivers a generic meal to you that tastes the same as every other meal. That $8 an hour person doesn’t really care about the meal they are putting down in front of you. They’ve followed the recipe. They know that it will be good enough. Beyond the final steps of heating the food, they have no idea how the food is actually made. Chances are, they really don’t care. They are completely divested of any involvement in the actual quality of the food. They are more concerned about filling orders and pushing bodies through the door. Feed and move on. Feed and move on. For $8 an hour.

The university system has turned into a “cookie-cutter” system. One can expect to find the same courses being taught, the same teaching system being utilized, the same textbooks being used, and the same type of examinations in just about every university. Because of this, a unique college experience is difficult to find. The McDonaldization of Higher Education

Using OER’s and, crucially, developing the digital skills to modify and adapt OER’s to meet specific learning needs, helps fight against this McDonaldization of education. It helps create better learning experiences by empowering educators to connect deeply with their learning resources because they are creating those resources. They are connected to the “food” in the same way that a good chef is, picking and choosing what they think the best ingredients are and then turning that into something delicious and wonderful. And along the way, by using their skills on a regular basis they are improving their skills and becoming better chefs.

But what makes a truly great chef, like a truly great educator, is passion. For me, what I’ve learned  from my own experience that when I am teaching using content I have had a hand in creating and adapting based on what I am seeing happen in my classroom, I become a more passionate educator. I am doing the course the way that I think it should be done to meet the needs of my learners, and not the way that Pearson or McGraw-Hill think it should be done.

Photo: Senidal®: Acciones rurales by Left Hand Rotation used under CC-BY-NC license

Memorandum of Understanding on Open Educational Resources

The Premiers of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan have released a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Open Education Resources (OER), which will see the three provinces collaborate on the development of common OER within their respective advanced education sectors. The MOU defines Open Educational Resources as “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”

Link: http://www.gov.sk.ca/adx/aspx/adxGetMedia.aspx?mediaId=f3d342c4-ab61-44a4-9f96-71ceb7810a5d&PN=Shared

The Future Of Online Education

Forbes recently published an interview with Richard Baraniuk, the founder and director of Connexions, a repository of open educational resources (OER) maintained by Rice University. In 2012, Connexions launched OpenStax College, a repository of peer-reviewed, professional grade open textbooks, which have been adopted by more than 400 institutions. According to Baraniuk, the biggest impacts of OER will be found in learning outcomes as OER becomes integrated with adaptive learning technologies that utilize machine learning algorithms. In Baraniuk’s vision of the future of education, “access to quality content and educational technology would be unfettered, the community would continuously improve and add to the knowledge base, and an ecosystem of products and services would provide an array of options and sustainability for the whole effort.”

Link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/skollworldforum/2014/02/13/the-future-of-online-education/

Open Educational Resources: Definition, Facts, Opportunity, Examples

As part of their “Key Concepts of Online Learning” series, Contact North explores Open Educational Resources (OER) which are “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property licence that permits their free use or re-purposing by others.”  OER may include “full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”

Link: http://www.contactnorth.ca/trends-directions/key-concepts-online-learning/learning-analytics/open-education-resources-oer