July 31, 2014

OER and social inclusion: review of special edition of ‘Distance Education’

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© www.pace.gb.com

Distance Education, the journal of the Australian Open and Distance Learning Association (ODLAA), has just published a special edition on OER and social inclusion. It is edited by Grainne Conole, of the University of Leicester.

Content

I’ll start with quotes from the editorial:

we need to move beyond the creation of OER repositories to consideration of how they can be used effectively….The hypothesis is that making OER freely available will lead to their being used more by learners and teachers….However, despite the rhetoric about new social and participatory media generally and OER specifically, the reality is that their uptake and reuse in formal educational contexts has been disappointing….The focus [in the articles] on the relationship between OER and social inclusion/exclusion is particularly valuable, given the underpinning philosophy associated with the OER movement in terms of widening participation and the assumption that education is a right that should be freely accessible to all.”

There follows eight articles and three ‘reflections’. There are four articles each from the UK and Australia, and one each from Germany, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

Andy Lane (UKOU) gives a good if brief overview of the main history, concepts and differences between OERs, open learning, and open education before reviewing the findings of a study dealing with best practices for widening participation in higher education study through the use of OERs in six European open and distance learning organizations. Main conclusions:

  • even among six open and distance universities (ODUs), there was wide variation in how OERs are being developed or used
  • they are not yet able to measure how OER are truly widening either formal or informal engagement in HE study
  • many people who are not ODU students value being able to freely access and learn from ODU OER designed for self-study, compared with open recorded lessons or slide presentations from conventional teaching
  • OER are fine for confident and experienced learners, but this is less true of those targeted for schemes aimed at widening participation, who will need additional support mechanisms.

Bossu, Bull and Brown (USQ and Massey University) explore some of the policies and initiatives that might play significant roles in enabling the use and development of OER in Australia. Main findings:

  • OER are not part of the Australian government’s or universities’ strategies to increase social inclusion
  • Australian universities have been slow to embrace this revolution mainly because of fierce competition between Australian universities for market share of tuition-paying students and a lack of a convincing business model for OER (‘there’s no money in OER’)
  • most OER initiatives have been confined to small/isolated projects in Australian universities
  • those students who most need access to higher education often lack technology access, so OER are unavailable to them
  • few university preparatory courses available as OER, and none recognized for admission

Nikoi and Armellini (Aberystwyth and Leicester Universities), based on interviews with 90 students, academics and senior managers, found that for OER to have an impact on higher education in terms of learner benefit and social inclusion, OER need a mix of four factors:

  • purpose: what an OER initiative will help achieve
  • process: what resources, systems, quality control mechanisms are needed
  • product: types of OERs, licensing arrangements, target audiences
  • policy: governance and assessment of future implications

Finally, they conclude that institutions can do far more to promote universal access to high quality resources and social inclusion.

Willems and Bossu (Monash and U of New England) argue that while equity reasons often underpin the provision of OER, challenges continue to be experienced by those most disadvantaged  in accessing OER. Challenges include:

  • language of instruction
  • contextualization/localization
  • technology access

Richter and McPherson (U of Duisburg-Essen and U of Leeds) also explore questions such as

  • whether Western policymakers can avoid the repetition of some of the failures of the past in terms of foreign aid;
  • how educators/content providers can foster a worldwide knowledge society
  • if OER can realistically overcome the educational gap and foster educational justice.

They answer these questions positively and suggest six, mainly technical, recommendations to support OER in foreign contexts.

Eileen Scanlon (UKOU) provides and discusses two examples of inquiry and observation tools for science as OER for developing a better understanding of science for the general public.

Hockings, Brett and Terentjevs (U of Wolverhampton) describe an OER project that aims to teach academics how to teach inclusively, i.e. for social diversity. They suggest three models for embedding the principles of inclusive learning and teaching through the use of OER

Hodgkinson-Williams and Paskevicius (U of Cape Town) report on an empirical study of how University of Cape Town post-graduate students have assisted in the process of reworking academic teaching materials as OER, and what they had to go through to make the OER socially inclusive, within a conceptual framework of activity theory.

In the three, short ‘reflection’ articles, Terry Harding (Christian Education Ministries) complains that non-government distance education programs for school children are discriminated against by the Commonwealth (Federal) government of Australia. Liam Phelan (University of Newcastle, NSW) asks whether OER will change the nature of how we look at and particularly assess and accredit ‘autodidactic’ learning. Don Olcott Jr., writing from Abu Dhabi, examines four issues: blending OER into the day-to-day management of teaching and learning in institutions; the relationship between formal and non-formal approaches to OER; developing sustainable business models for OER; mobilizing awareness and use of OER.

Comment

I have mixed feelings about this edition. Little evidence was produced in these articles that OER does anything to foster social inclusion – indeed there is evidence here to the contrary. Also little or no evidence was available in these articles about success of OER in terms of learning or even in most articles the extent of its adoption – just too hard to measure, apparently.

For those who believe in the value and importance of OER, this is more than discouraging. Maybe Australia and Europe are behind on this, and if authors were from North America, they may have been more enthusiastic and less questioning. On the other hand, maybe some cold water is needed to cool down the hype around OER.

However, I did learn a lot from these articles, although the law of diminishing returns seemed to apply towards the end (or maybe I was just getting tired). The main points:

  • The articles did take in general a critically reflective approach and in one or two cases provided empirically based analyses of actual use (or non-use) of OER.
  • They brought home to me that the real challenge is the integration of OER in a wider learning environment, particularly in formal education, but also it appears in informal education as well. There needs to be some broader learning context or environment for OER to be useful.
  • There were some constructive ideas about how to make OER work.
  • And I did come away with my view reinforced that OER alone are not going to increase social inclusion or widen access to higher education, although they may still be a useful component of a broader strategy.

But it all looks like hard work to make them effective. Now on the other hand MOOCs……

 

Où sont les spécialistes francophones des OERs/REO?

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Veuillez pardonner que j’écrisse le pauvre français – l’anglais suivit.

UNESCO et le Commonwealth of Learning organisent un Forum Politique Africain au sujet des ressources éducatives ouvertes (OER/REO) à Pretoria, Afrique du Sud, du 21 -22 fevrier, avant du Congress Mondial des OER/REO en juin à Paris.

UNESCO et le Commonwealth of Learning cherchent les spécialistes francophones des OER/REO (les ressources éducatives ouvertes) et les délégués de gouvernement.

On veut trouver beaucoup des spécialistes francophones des OER/REO et des délégués de gouvernement, qui ont dévélopés les avant-projets ou ont réalisés les politiques, ou ont demonstrés les grands engagements au milieu des REO.

Avec l’assistance de la fondation Hewlett (les Etats-Unies),il est possible que le Commonwealth of Learning puisse trouver les fonds de soutenir les participantes francophones qui veulent assister au Forum.

On peut trouver les détails plus amples d’Abel Caine, Programme Specialist for Open Educational Resources at UNESCO.

Search for Francophone African OER Experts and Government representatives 

UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning are organizing an Africa OER Policy Forum in Pretoria, South Africa from 21 -22 February in the lead up to the World OER Congress.

Help is sought in identifying a good number of Francophone OER experts/ practitioners as well as Francophone government representatives that have developed drafts or actually enacted policies, or have shown great commitment to enacting OER policies.

Through the generous support of the Hewlett Foundation (USA), the Commonwealth of Learning may be able to provide funding for selected Francophone experts/ government representatives to attend the Forum.

For further information, please contact Abel Caine, Programme Specialist for Open Educational Resources at UNESCO.

EURODL journal: special issue on creativity and OERS

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© Vadim Kotelnikov, 2011

The European Journal of Open and Distance Learning has a special edition on creativity and open educational resources

In their thoughtful editorial/introductory chapter, the editors, Elsebeth Sorensen, Graînne Conole and Asger Harlung, state:

researchers and practitioners… are still struggling to… mobilise … the latent potential of the new educational paradigm in order to enhance and make processes of learning through technology genuine, joyful, meaningful, social and engaging….Today, the pedagogical and psychological sciences are pointing to the need to address that different learners have different learning styles, while at the same time digital media have made it possible to learn or access the same content in a multitude of different ways. Furthermore creativity has been highlighted by a number of eminent researchers in the field as a key digital literacy skill that is needed by today’s and future learners and teachers….Open Educational Resources (OER) may offer enormous potential in supporting the development of creativity, as they can be used and reused by teachers and learners in a range of contexts…In this special issue we are interested in exploring in more depth the nature of creativity and how this might be understood and used to better harness the potential of OER.

Contents

Cinzia FerrantiExploring OER: Internet Information Literacy, Problem Solving and Analogical Thinking

Helen Keegan, Frances BellYouTube as a Repository: The Creative Practice of Students as Producers of Open Educational Resources

Maria Pérez-Mateo, Marcelo F. Maina, Montse Guitert, Marc RomeroLearner Generated Content: Quality Criteria in online Collaborative Learning

Niels Henrik Helms, Simon B. HeilesenFraming Creativity. User-driven Innovation in Changing Contexts

Paolo Tosato, Gianluigi Bodi: Collaborative Environments to Foster Creativity, Reuse and Sharing of OER

Patrick McAndrewInspiring Creativity in Organisations, Teachers and Learners through Open Educational Resources

Rita Kop, Fiona Carroll: Cloud Computing and Creativity: Learning on a Massive Open Online Course

Thomas Richter: Adaptability as a Special Demand on Open Educational Resources: The Cultural Context of e-Learning

Comment

This journal edition is packed with interesting ideas about how to use OERs to foster creativity in learners. We need to know much more about what practices work best and for what purpose in the field of OERs and this journal provides an invaluable guide to such practices.

 

Innovative e-learning in the Vancouver area

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I worry about the often negative tone of many of my posts. It was therefore a great pleasure to attend the joint Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) and Vancouver Community College (VCC) ‘Online showcase’ at JIBC in New Westminster, just south-east of the City of Vancouver, and see demonstrations of some great uses of e-learning for education and training.

The showcase provided an opportunity for local universities and colleges to demonstrate what they are doing regarding online learning. There were presentations from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, British Columbia Institute of Technology, University of British Columbia, JIBC, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and VCC. I wasn’t able to see all the presentations, so my apologies to those presenters that I missed.

JIBC: Emergency management

JIBC is a unique education and training institution, Canada’s leading public safety educator. It provides training for police, paramedics, prison staff, probation officers, and so forth. It is partly funded by a grant from the BC provincial government and student tuition fees, but most of its revenues comes from training contracts with its main clients. The JIBC offers a range of applied and academic programs that span the spectrum of safety – from prevention to response and recovery. The JIBC’s main campus is located in New Westminster, but regional campuses allow students to study closer to home. It has a long history of using technology for the content and delivery of its programs.

The JIBC’s Emergency Management Division offers over 50 courses in this area, covering topics such as Incident Command, Emergency Operations Centre, Exercise Design and more. The Winter Olympics in Vancouver provided a challenge in terms of emergency response preparation, involving over 20 municipalities, several local police forces and the RCMP, fire and ambulance services, the Canadian (and US) military, and a host of other agencies, depending on the nature of the eventual emergency.

Jerome Rodriguez and Rosamaria Fong gave a demonstration of the materials created not only for the formal courses in emergency management offered by JIBC, but also made publicly available over the Internet and through mobile technology, such as iPhones and iPads. These resources enable all services involved in emergency response to have common and shared information about procedures, contacts and terminology. Indeed, you can see these materials by logging in to My Emergency Management Resources. The mobile learning component was assisted by a grant of $130,000 for the Inukshuk Fund, but a condition was that the material must be open access.

The Emergency Division has created open access resources such as downloadable forms that need to be completed in emergency situations, short 2-3 minutes videos of the various functional units in an Incident Command System, interactive walk throughs of a virtual emergency scene (clicking on ‘bubbles’ around the scene describes the functions of each of the units represented by bubbles), and some short video news reels of accidents or incidents to be used in training exercises. Some of these materials can be repurposed – for instance, the fire in the virtual walk through below could be moved to a high rise building and the ‘bubbles’ reconfigured.

A virtual walk through of an emergency scene © JIBC, 2010

The Division also offers WCDM 2010 – an “Immersive Simulation Technology” Workshop. Although delivered in a classroom, the immersive simulations make use of technologies such as mock video newscasts, Blackberry messages, and plotting first responder movements into GIS-enabled smart-phones using Google Earth. None of these reseources replaces the formal training provided by the JIBC, but these are low-cost, open access materials that are now available for use by training organizations across North America.

JIBC: Corrections

The Corrections and Social Justice Division trains professionals who work with adult and youth offenders in institutional and community settings, to manage the risk they pose to the public. It also trains individuals who work with families going through separation and divorce.

Rob Chong emphasised in his presentation the importance of context in designing programs. Part of the mandate of his division is to train 500 probation officers and 1500 prison guards scattered across the province. To do this, the division uses a mix of online and face-to-face learning.

There are three elements to the courses: self-study, with learners interacting with Blackboard, JIBC’s LMS; guided learning, with learners interacting with an instructor; and cohort learning, with learners interacting with other learners. Learners generally access their materials in the workplace, in prisons and local probation offices.

One example he gave was of personal safety awareness training for probation officers. Short video clips are used of simulated/acted situations, and in a self-study mode, learners are asked for how they would respond to the situation. These posts are collected then the learners meet with their managers in local offices to discuss the scenarios. As well as Blackboard and video clips, 360 degree interactive images are used, so the whole context can be seen (for instance, the design of the reception area in a probation office to highlight security). Also used are Webinars via Adobe Connect, for instance for training in interview skills. The aim is to ensure that the design and delivery of the teaching matches the context in which the learning will take place.

UBC: Using social media in a formal course

ETEC 522: UBC

One of the courses in UBC’s fully online Master in Educational Technology is ETEC 522, Ventures in Learning Technology, taught by David Vogt and David Porter. To enable students to understand the success of entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial ventures involving learning technologies, the course provides an online immersion in global learning technologies products, services and initiatives in public and commercial domains. ETEC 522 is delivered from a venture and market analysis perspective, with a particular focus on emerging markets and real-world ventures. Jeff Miller, the instructional designer for the course, gave a presentation on ‘Creating coherence with social media.’

Quite apart from the subject matter, there are a number of innovative elements in this course. First, even though UBC is the home of WebCT, this course does not use a learning management system, but WordPress and MediaWiki, because the students as much as the instructors are creating content. Second, student’s ‘final’ work is public. Their final assignment is a multimedia ‘pitch’ for an e-learning product, service or business. These ‘pitches’ may take the form of slide or video presentations. Some of the videos can be found on YouTube. (Jeff made the interesting comment that ‘universities should be like kindergartens: students’ work should be posted on the wall.’). The ‘open’ part of the course can be seen here.

One of the challenges Jeff mentioned is drawing the line between open and closed aspects of the teaching. Although the ‘scholarship’ is public, non-registered viewers can ‘see but not touch’. The interaction between instructors and students is private; the finished work is made public. Another challenge  is archiving students’ work in a secure way while enabling it to be used by new students in the current  version of the course. For instance, the course makes use of students’ work in earlier versions of the course. (I will be writing a review of a new book on ‘Content management in E-Learning’, which looks in detail at the question of content management in e-learning.)

It is clear that moving away from a learning management system offers lots of opportunities for student engagement and student generated content, but there are also challenges in ensuring coherence and the management of their workload. This course is truly dynamic, changing each year, and continually pushing the frontiers of e-learning.

UBC: Designing online courses in science for non-science students

All UBC Arts students must take at least six credits in science as part of the Bachelor of Arts. This results in large classes for a limited number of online science courses. Most popular are the courses in Earth and Ocean Sciences, some with over 200 students per course section. Each course will have a senior instructor, usually a tenured faculty member, supported by up to four teaching assistants (usually graduate students).

The design challenge is to create science courses for students with little or poor numeracy and quantitative skills for large online classes. Chris Crowley, Josefina Rosado and Sunah Cho from UBC’s Office of Learning Technology described how they used Flash 3D images and animations within Web CT Vista to help students understand the scientific principles that explain coastal upwelling in oceans.

The senior instructor role was identified as facilitator, stimulator, monitor, subject specialist, and evaluator.

Despite the value of using interactive graphics and simulations to improve understanding, I had many questions, both about the policy (good intention but can you really train someone in science in two one semester courses?) and the design. For instance can you teach science without an understanding of and experience in experimental design?

Emily Carr University of Art and Design: Science 202

Jane Slemon offers an interesting online version of a course also offered on campus called: Heart, Mind Health: Learning from the Human Body. This course offers comprehensive understanding of the shape and function of the organs of the human body and invites creative consideration to the metaphors relative to the body that abound in culture, language and design. She showed some of the outstanding student work inspired by their understanding of human biology, reflected in metaphors of asthma, dyslexia, autism, HIV, and other areas of human suffering.

Vancouver Community College

Karen Belfer presented on VCC’s online automotive collision repair course for unqualified apprentices in the work force. (Fewer than 50% complete full-time apprenticeship training in BC, resulting in large numbers of unqualified tradespeople in the BC workforce.)  VCC used to offer this program over seven weeks on campus, requiring 30 hours a week of class attendance. This caused many problems for both apprentices (who often lost wages and unemployment insurance and would have to travel to Vancouver) and employers, who had to manage without staff during this period. The course, which is 80% theory and 20% practice/hands-on), was redesigned for study over 16 weeks online (mainly while learners were at work) and the last two weeks full-time on campus in Vancouver. Here they are tested in their practical skills, and assessed on their knowledge.

Although VCC used its Moodle LMS for this course, it found apprentices are not prepared for large amounts of reading, so efforts were made to the use industry standard online content with a high graphics, video and audio content, and to reduce the amount of text through the use of audio, video clips, graphics and cartoons, with a good deal of online interaction with materials, such as moving online objects. This hybrid course has proved to be very successful, bot with employers and learners.

Some reflections on the showcase

1. I find such ‘show and tell’ sessions extremely valuable. They reflect what people are actually doing now, and you need to see what has been created and how the program works to fully evaluate it. Such sessions are also extremely valuable for showing faculty and instructors what is possible using learning technologies. Unfortunately, there were not many instructors present during this showcase, most being instructional designers.

2. The session also emphasised the value of having learning material publicly available. Open resources provide a good indication of the quality of the course or program. I think all institutions now offering hybrid or fully online courses should have ‘sample’ resources of each course on their course web sites, so potential students can be better informed about the courses they are having to make decisions about. Also, the open educational resources in both the Emergency Response and ETEC 522 courses are very different from the very didactic and lengthy OER’s offered by MIT, Carnegie Mellon and the Open University, or from meta-tagged learning objects, and hence, in my humble view, are very much more re-usable.

3. In almost all the cases, the course designers were ‘stretching’ the functions of an LMS, or, in one case, going outside it altogether. Flash animations and short video clips were evident in several of the cases. Video now is cheap and easy to make, and adds considerable value to courses, particularly where process or procedures need to be demonstrated or where authenticity is required for training purposes. LMSs are still useful for helping students and instructors to organize learning, but they need increasingly to accommodate more multimedia functions. The main limitation of LMSs is that they require time-consuming adaptations or additions and specialist multimedia staff if students are to freely create and organize their multimedia learning. However, going without an LMS and relying entirely on web 2.0 tools presents challenges in enabling both students and instructors to manage their work within a formal course structure.

4. These cases showed a mix of approaches to the design of courses, and emphasised in particular the importance of designing for the context of learning. The diversity of learners’ needs, and the wide range of technologies now available, challenges the idea of ‘standardized’ course design, such as the traditional ‘ADDIE’ model of course design. The most innovative of the cases (Emergency Response training and ETEC 522) both used very dynamic, almost ‘on-the-fly’ course design, taking advantage of learning opportunities, new technologies and changing contexts as they arose. Interestingly, though, these courses still used project management and instructional designers.

5. The only thing missing for me in these cases was some formal evaluation of their success, partly because they were often work in progress. It could be argued that building in evaluation from the start would slow down innovation, but if the ‘system’ is to change, it will be really important to have good data and information about the success or otherwise of such projects.

I would like to end by congratulating Tannis Morgan (JIBC) and Karen Belfer for organizing this showcase. It’s made me much more optimistic about the future of e-learning heading into a new year. I believe that BC Campus has recorded the showcase, and if so, I will let you know how to access this when it is ready.

For other excellent posts (well, theirs are excellent) on this showcase see Tannis Morgan’s:

Showcase Wrapup – Extended LMS

Showcase Wrapup-Instructional Design

and Leva Lee’s Online Course Showcase

Conference in Paris on open educational resources

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Photo of Geraniums in a Paris apartment

Geraniums in a Paris apartment ©Tony Bates, 2010

Invitation to attend:

UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning extend an open invitation to attend a Policy Forum on Open Educational Resources (OERs) next month in Paris within the framework of the UNESCO-COL initiative, “Taking OER beyond the OER community: Policy and Capacity”.

OER Policy Forum
Wednesday, 1 December 2010, 9:30 to 18:00
Room XII, UNESCO Headquarters
7, Place de Fontenoy, 75007 Paris, France

The UNESCO/COL OER Policy Forum will examine the results of the “Taking OER beyond the OER community” initiative and strategise next steps. Decision makers in governments, institutions and funding bodies will contribute to a strategy to move forward OERs and the open content movement more widely in order to promote quality education.

For further information, please see: www.col.org/OERPolicy.