Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wk 11: Learning Objects vs. Open Education Resources

I was trying to figure out why I needed to learn about a technology that already seems to be dying, when I don't know enough about the new up-coming stuff like Open Education Resources (OERs). Until I hit David Wiley's lecture comparing the two - and then it became perfectly clear. We learn about Learning Objects (LOs) because they show us the mistakes to avoid and the path to take for OERs.

It also made me realize the areas that OER writers/creators should probably pay more attention to - see end of blog.

Mistakes Learning Object creators made that we should avoid:
  • take-over of the engineers - who focused "reuse" on tech. compatibility, not on cultural or contextual or pedagogical reuse.
  • trying to constrain people to use a certain system - code words - repository etc.
  • making people use the same widgets without being able to adapt (i.e. modify and reuse)
  • keep things copyrighted, but try to get permission. But problems of a) so protected that you can't reuse, and b) obtaining permission is expensive.
What is different between LOs and OERs - i.e. why OERs may be the way forward:
  • OPEN, OPEN, OPEN. As David makes clear in his lecture, if you wanted a student to reference a past course that was online, and they didn't have access to the Learning Management System, there was no way of building on that past strength! Translation is difficult without the ability to modify!
  • Look at what people are already using, and build on it - e.g. Google, RSS, Blogs, Tags.
  • Encourage Creative Changes and Localization of Resources.
So it made me think of other areas where OERs still need to improve:
  • isolation - still a big problem - the early part of this course is an example of this.
  • access - there is still a significant infrastructure that only allows some people the freedom to access the Internet. E.g. there are several IT programmes in Mongolia and Tanzania - but both have large areas that suffer from a lack of electricity, or sporadic power-shedding. It's hard to operate a server to access the Internet when the power goes out. One great and reputable education-focused IT NGO in Tanzania - "TanEdu" - was/is suffering that problem as it didn't have the resources to buy a generator to keep its computers running for the students it had sponsored.
  • access - class/income problem. Compare these Stats in Canada - from 2003 (the more recent ones I can't access without paying - sorry!! Stats, compiled by governments, one thing I think should be opened!!):
Nearly 77% of households with someone with a university degree were connected from home. In contrast, only about 12% of households in which the highest level of educational attainment was less than high school were connected from home. (StatsCan 2003)
These structural and infrastructural problems shouldn't be forgotten - and yet they don't seem to be in the OER literature much. I know that higher ed. concentrates without really realizing it on groups that have access and those that have more social capital - but if we really are going to look at OERs and the "right to education" as Tomasevski defines it (in articles #1 and #2 of this class) - then OER scholars really should be addressing these other issues as well.


Elisa - ITALY said...
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Elisa - ITALY said...

The infrastructural problems you raise in the analysis of the perspectives of OERs are a good point. There is an Italian idiomatic phrase, "that is not bread for their teeth", meaning that sometimes what you offer is beyond one's possibilities. You can't offer bread to someone who can't chew... So, let's first solve these problems. In many Italian schools there are computers but many people can't use them effectively. The administration should invest first into the human capital, then into the technological one.

Megan Haggerty said...

Exactly! Thanks for the idiom, Elisa.