Exploring OER issues – H817 Week 8 Activity 7

OERResourcesGraduationAs part of week 8 we have been asked to read JISC report on OER or the OER Research Hub evidence report and consider three priorities for OER research under the heading “Exploring OER issues”.This activity expands THIS previous one, from last week, where we were asked to provide three areas for further research. The three I mentioned were:

  1. Quality
  2. Search / Indexing
  3. Multiplatform development.

Having read through reports, I would now consider the following areas to be important:

  1. Search / Indexing
  2. Quality
  3. Improving educator digital literacy.

1 – Search

This was born out of me finding it difficult to search for OER resources (and I am still struggling). Clearly, I am not alone:

The OER Research hub report states in its summary of key findings:

  • Knowing where to find resources is one of the biggest challenges to using OER
  • General knowledge of well-established OER repositories is low



Search in the world of OER is a very mixed bag:

Individual OER producers, such as OpenLearn, provide their own search engines:

Exploring her resources - Search on OpenLearn

Online repositories, such as OER Commons, have their own engines:

Exploring OER issues

Sites such as Learning Registry look to tag resources with effective metadata:

Learning registry work flow

Learning Registry work flow

None of these particularly work well. This is partly due to the lack of power of the search engines, along with a lack of appropriate tagging or use of metadata. This area is being developed by projects such as the Learning Resources Metadata initiative. Another potential area making search easier is to use the nascent technology of cognitive computing. This technology would be able to provide quicker and more accurate searches for professionals engaged in OER. I think this area is a significant impediment for the success and growth of the OER movement. Another potential issue I see, is that those hubs with better search could possibly get a greater share of use and cause smaller repositories to dwindle. This would be a great shame.

2 – Quality

“OER per se does not excite learners. Good content does – free or paid, legal or pirated. Siyavula’s stuff works because it is GOOD. Being CC makes it legal to download, not fun to use. There are 100’s of free/CC Geogebra resources. 98% are useless to me.” This anonymous quote in the Research Hub report sums up the importance of quality. It is not about OER for OERs sake, but the capability to find, remix and use live with students the content of materials developed in OER,  to provide a better quality of education, that is precisely what this movement is about. Quality exists in many areas of a resource depending on the type of resource that includes tangible resources:

  • Teacher / Tutor briefing notes
  • Hand outs for students
  • Exercise briefs for students
  • Exercise review notes
  • Course visuals
  • Experiential materials / Simulation materials

As well as intangible resources such as a pedagogically sound design for learning.

In a similar fashion to poor search, poor resource quality has a significant negative impact. Wading through poor quality resources is a drain in time and energy and could potentially put educators off using OER resources in the future. Even worse, it could block educators from developing their own OER resources for others to use.

The major challenge I see is to define quality, as quality is very much user defined, ask what I consider a quality resource may not be perceived the same way by my peers. Quality assessment is very subjective.

The OER Handbook (an excellent resource), suggests the ultimate test is “Do learners actually learn the intended knowledge, skills, or attitudes from the OER? It is not uncommon for the composer to feel a strong sense of ownership and pride having built an OER, and to proceed to use it with great enthusiasm. This has been known on occasion to blind the educator to its ineffectiveness. Therefore, be sensitive to the efficacy of the OER. Observe your learners and get their feedback. Continually adapt the resources and be prepared to dispense with an OER if it is not working for your learners”

Work has been and is being done in this area. One of the best resources I have found so far is THIS outline of the ACHIEVE rubric, which can be used to assess quality. It seems, from my brief research to be a common way of assessing resources. THIS page provides a good overview. This short video provides an overview:

Overall it is clear that quality assessment of OER materials is under way. Before starting this activity, I was not aware that such assessment protocols as ACHIEVE were present. Assessments such as ACHIEVE need tone promoted and designers of materials should look to ensure they are creating quality resources.

3 – Improving educator digital literacy

This third areas was not born not out of one specific area of their of the reports, but rather the realisation that if OER is to develop a broader set of educators need to be engaged in using, remixing and creating resources. Taking digital resources from a repository and developing them for ones own direct needs requires a certain level of competence and comfortableness with the tools to use and remix the resources. My gut feeling born through interactions with peers in the Open University and in the world of Learning and Development, is that many educators are not au-fait with OER, never mind the tools required to create and remix resources.

There are many MOOCs and resources available to help those keen to develop their skills and these are helpful for those who are keen to support and use OERs. Beyond this though, educational institutions and courses for educators should also consider embedding OERs as key curriculum. It would be great if all newly qualified teachers were taught the basics of “openness” and how to create, use and improve OERs prior to graduating.

I would love to get feedback from you on this article:

  • Do you agree with my ideas?
  • What do you see are the priorities?
  • What resources around these topics do you think are worth sharing?

Thanks for reading, Andi

[Image Source: FreeIImages.com Sara Haj-Hassan]

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