OER Open & Innovative? Potential OL tools - Activity 5

Discuss MacAndrew & Farrow paper

Open Educational Resources (OER): the idea that top quality educational resources could be offered for the price of accessing the Internet. This activity is based around the paper that we were presented to read by McAndrew & Farrow (2013). I am not sure what we’re supposed to make of this paper as I cannot fathom what the purpose of the paper should be. Is it trying to state the hurdles that an organisation has to go through in order to offer or utilise OERs? If so why is the paper sub-titled “From the Practical to the Theoretical”. Seems like it should be the other way around (from the theoretical to the practical).

Six stages were identified 

  1. Legal: release of copyright through Creative Commons
  2. Practical: provide access to content
  3. Technical: develop an environment for open access
  4. Pedagogic: understand the designs that work
  5. Economic: devise a model for sustainable operation
  6. Transformative: change ways of working and learning

The main thrust of this paper seemed to be that one needed to look at the copyright issues firstly before anything else can occur. However I definitely see this as a classic case of the ‘cart before the horse’. Having said that, I understand why an organisation like Open University, would have to prioritise the list this way but this does not seem to be the way that potential OER could actually be proposed, implemented and then utilised in reality. I think it would make much more sense to re-order the items as:

  1. Pedagogic: understand the designs that work
  2. Transformative: change ways of working and learning
  3. Economic: devise a model for sustainable operation
  4. Technical: develop an environment for open access
  5. Legal: release of copyright through Creative Commons
  6. Practical: provide access to content

Essentially, first decide what works, and figure if it’s relevant. Then figure out if it makes economic sense to offer it on a large scale and then the rest follows through (technical;legal;practical).

I cannot but help feel a bit cynical when I read this paper because it seems as if this is really playing ‘catch up’ with the ‘big boys (or girls)’ of OER, such as MIT & Carniegie Mellon. I think one of the things to consider is what is the drive for a major tertiary institution to offer course work for ‘free’ if it seems that part of the income that allows the university to operate, comes from student fees.

I believe that the authors are probably alluding to a rationale when they say [wrt the OpenLearn initiative started at Open University], "However, it also has a basis in a straightforward financial position that the additional costs, once processes can be embedded in existing practice, can be justified by the financial return through increased economic activity.”  Translation: we can earn more money by giving ‘tasters and teasers’. The one area that in an educational niche that remains (for the most part) with held is the assessment of the learning that is offered. In other words the OER is offered for ‘free’ on the understanding that it’s just for personal learning and if you want to have your learning acknowledged, then one would need to be formally assessed.

This is discussed by MacAndrew & Farrow but there is no real resolution from their paper other than suggesting that some OER providers (such as MIT again) are considering awarding certificates for some courses completed).

I didn’t feel that the paper contributed much - probably my ignorance in reading it.

Evaluate other OLnet resources

Open Learning Network Evidence Hub, is an Open University initiative to build a  tool that allows researchers to look up and contribute anything about OERs. Strictly this is a bit of ‘navel gazing’ as it’s kind of ‘OER about, by, and for OER’. What I mean is that the whole purpose of this site, which has been suggested is an OER, is to study OER.

Having said that, it seems quite competenent if you first go through the introduction video (‘about’) to give you an idea of what it can do, or what it’s purpose is.

Organisers or visual representations ('knowledge cartography' or ‘infographic’ at a pinch) of mainly textual information, tend to be highly idiosyncratic because the way one can read or interpret the information has to be learned. If one wants to understand this, then consider when middle school children first try to understand how to interpet a bar chart. Even worse, undergraduate students trying to understand a frequency diagram – in fact I can remember my own struggles – the only reason I feel comfortable about frequency diagrams now, is because I battled with it every day for the majority of my postgraduate studies.

Evidence Hub appears to be another way of looking at reviewing large amounts of research information or issues, or commentary about OERs.

On a GUI note, I’m just not a fan of relatively high level programming languages (such as Javascript) such as used by the OLnet Evidence Hub, or the sister application Compendium. I don’t know quite why but it all looks like a ‘proof of concept’ kind of application (the sort that I’ve churned out occasionally) even though I’m sure that the actual database underneath it all is very competent and complex. 

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.  -Will Durant