Sunday, September 23, 2007

Week 4 - Comparison of 3 Overviews of OER

Over the last few weeks, we have been reading four overviews on Open Education Resources (OER), from the OECD, OCLOS and the Hewlett Foundation (titles at bottom), for David Wiley’s Course. First, it is notable that these are three influential and large organizations. The very fact that they would have each undertaken an overview of OER, outlining its growth, shows how important they feel it is on the educational, economic, and region/global front.

The overviews have several features in common. First, their definitions of OER, as Antonio describes, are reasonably similar. It appears to have something to do with the expanding the common good, and cover aspects of content, software tools, and copyright laws. My fellow classmate, Mela, has drawn out some of the other common ideas that seem to be found in the three documents, which I agree with. In her/his words, namely:

  • interoperable;
  • accessible;
  • re-usable;
  • free;
  • digital;
  • shared;
  • easy to be changed and translated;
  • the way to supply them is the open source sw;
  • the privileged media is the new technology;
  • the preferred way to share them is Creative Common License (By NC SA).
  • create contents repository open and free.

The three documents also similarly bring up the enablers/drivers and inhibitors/challenges to OER. However, they tend to limit their discussion to the realm of Higher Education, most likely because this is the area where the most financial resources seem to have been concentrated on developing OER to date. Karen notes the lack of focus on regular schooling, and textbooks in particular, the later of which I had mentioned in my previous blog. To this, they also lack OER’s potential for education in the realm of informal learning, popular education, adult literacy, potential for emanicaptory learning, or learning how to become a critical thinker and become involved in particular social movements. These latter, I think, has great potential, especially in the area of international development, governance and democracy. I can only imagine what will happen when social movements and NGOs start engaging in OER to systematically further knowledge about select issues (be it Darfur or water or the right to education).

There are several notable different emphases and biases in the documents. In fact, I would argue that these different emphases are the result of the hidden biases of the organizations. The OECD document tends to focus on the economic arguments. I found that the writers were almost surprised by the fact that people would be “giving knowledge for free”, and dealt with the potential economic benefits and the shortcomings of this. In contrast, OCLOS tended to focus on a discussion of learning styles, and OER’s potential to shift from a teacher-centered to learner-centered pedagogy. Karen describes this as a constructivist bias, and I think I agree with her. The Hewlett Foundation document profiles the successes and variety of the OER projects they have helped fund. It is an important document in that it highlights the fact that the initiatives don’t all connect and build into a greater entity – at the moment they tend to be more one-offs. As they describe, what is needed are a few high quality first year undergraduate courses, not every university to have its own, where people are unsure of who/where to trust for quality. The Hewlett Foundation report is also the only one to mention and draw out the importance of OER in Developing countries. I would like to see more work in this area.

The Hewlett Foundation report spoke most clearly to me out of the three. I think this is because it mostly dwelt more on highlighting concrete programmes, which forced me to briefly explore these programs online. Of the three documents, it was the one that actually needed to be read on the screen, so that I could flip frequently to the internet. By doing so, I gained a much greater and clearer perspective of what OER was. I know that the other two documents mentioned other projects, but their style of writing did not necessitate me to actually look at their references. In this manner, the Hewlett Document itself is much more in line with the new learning style that OER calls for, as compared to the other two documents which replicate a typical report. I also appreciated their International Development focus, as it is my area of study.

These readings have provoked numerous questions and areas for further investigation. In order of importance:

1. I feel very ignorant of copyright, and the inhibitions of it. I read a news article the other day of two cases (one Canadian, one America) where people’s pictures were used without permission by advertisers, b/c they were supposedly in the public domain! What are the ramifications of copyright, the lack of copyright, privacy, etc.?

2. Why are OER being developed? It is not free. As the Hewlett article points out, it cost MIT about $25000 to put each of its courses online. Although I can see the benefit for the common good, I still am skeptical about this being the reason behind its take-off. I just don’t think Universities are that altruistic, even if I wish they were. The overviews dealt with this subject, but not enough for me to truly grasp the rationale behind!

3. Why don’t we have OER K-12 textbooks, as both Karen and I have mentioned? This could be significantly more beneficial to the common good than university courses online!!

4. What are OER’s effects on democratization? Improving governance? These are key issues in many developing countries, particularly for USAID. How/Can OER contribute?

5. How sustainable, truly, is this?

6. David, in light of what I have learnt about OER learning processes, I wrote this last week - a tinkering suggestion for designing your OER courses - I think it is worth repeating, as I'm fairly certain you'll read this week's blog, but not sure about last week's:

Following on OLCOS's process of value chains I think it would be much smarter to require two posts - even if they are each a little shorter. The first would be one's own reflections on the reading (due on Sunday eve?). The second would incorporate others' views of the reading, - it would be my other reflections on the reading in light of this, or perhaps a change to my original post. It would be due a few days later, given that I and many of my peers seem to post nearer the Sunday deadline. This would allow me to articulate my own thoughts clearly, but would also force me to revisit/rethink them in light of others' comments - an excellent learning value chain. Because this would not all be done on Sunday night before midnight, I actually would have a chance to read my peers' work before posting mine.

Week 2-4 questions answered within:

What are the aims of the authors of each report? Do you see a bias toward or against any ideas, organizations, or approaches in any of the reports? Which report spoke the most clearly to you, and why do you think it did? Based on where the field is now, and these initial ideas about where it might go, what part of the open education movement is most interesting to you? Why? What do these overviews of the field have in common? What do they emphasize differently?

Three Overviews of OER:

Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources (OECD, 147 pages)

Open Educational Practices and Resources: OLCOS Roadmap 2012 (OLCOS, 149 pages)

A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities (Atkins, Brown, and Hammond, 80 pages) Hewlett Foundation

1 comment:

houshuang said...

Hi Megan,

I agree with your idea for having two smaller assignments. I'd also wish David participated a little bit more - although I know he has been very busy with the conference at USU. The first week was great, but after that it feels a little bit like a ship adrift at sea - just some tiny comments and encouragements would go a long way. It's interesting, I am not sure why it matters to me whether the instructor reads my comments, since I know that probably around 30 highly intelligent and engaged co-students do... But somehow it matters.

If you have time, we should meet up some day by the way.