By Adrian Stagg and Emma Power, USQ
Today we’ll investigate the rationale for sharing content freely and openly, and look at some examples that could spark ideas for your own practice.
Open Educational Resources: Giving Content For Free
When I explain the concept of openness to practitioners, the most common response is ‘why would I give my content away?’’
It’s a reasonable response, and comes from a range of experiences. For some people, their content represents a significant investment of time and effort, whilst others sometimes aren’t confident that their material is ‘worth sharing’ with the broader community. Some practitioners have been concerned about whether they’ll be able to reuse their own content after releasing it openly and freely.
Part of practitioners’ motivations for freely and openly licencing content is philosophical, although OER* have been cited as a catalyst for change in learning and teaching practices; or better enabling existing practice. (*Note that the accepted plural of OER is OER, not OERs.)
In yesterday’s post, we noted the expectation that information accessible via the internet is plentiful and – in many cases – easy to access. Words like ‘digital literacy’ and ‘digital fluency’ have become part of the higher education vernacular, recognising that all citizens need skills to locate, interpret, analyse, and (re)use information online.
Professor Martin Weller (Open University UK) proposes a ‘pedagogy of abundance’ that is predicated on the notion that universities have traditionally been successful due to models of scarcity. Access to ‘subject matter experts’ and to information was scarce, therefore, a university education was made valuable as it provided access. As models of scarcity become increasingly irrelevant, Professor Weller asserts that the discussions about learning design change.
I’d like you to take some time to read ‘A pedagogy of abundance’. If you would like to focus just on the main points, start with the section ‘Education and abundance’ (pp. 5-7).
Do you accept Weller’s notions of scarcity and abundance in higher education? If resources are freely and openly available for all learners, what do you see as the main role for the lecturer in a course/unit?
Post your responses in the discussion forum below.
Who is ‘giving content for free’?
If you return to the JISC OER InfoKit that we used yesterday, you’ll note there are a huge number of repositories, and institutions freely and openly sharing their content online. The number of repositories, whilst indicative of the traction of OER, is also quite daunting to the newcomer, with time spent to locate and evaluate OER consistently reported as a barrier to use.
For this course, I’ll focus on only a couple of initiatives and sites for you to explore (although you might already have favourites – let me know about them in the discussion).
If you are interested in Open Textbooks, the BC Campus Open Textbook Toolkit provides not only Author Guides, and short video interviews with educators using open texts, but also access to a library of 173 texts across eight disciplines.
If you’d prefer to look at Open Educational Resources more broadly, the OER Commons provides access to hundreds of thousands of resources, and even offers an authoring tool to build modules for learning in higher education.
In both instances, the content is provided in a range of languages, and formats, from universities globally. Australian content is not generally well-represented, but there are plenty of opportunities to repurpose existing content for our local context.
Whilst Australia has no educational policy that explicitly supports OER, there are certainly many practitioners and institutions working in this space. Of particular interest is Assistant Professor James Neill’s (University of Canberra) project which supported students to author an open textbook as assessment in his course. The following video introduces the project and how it applies to teaching practice.
Video credit: Leigh Blackall (2010). Student authored open textbook, retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d86CICLwmMc, used under a CC-BY_NC Licence.
Let’s close the day with James Neill’s OER Wikiversity page (that includes some text and video content) for this project as a catalyst for discussion.
Do aspects of James’ rationale and design for this assessment resonate with your practice? Go back to your answer from yesterday where you identified sections of interest from the ‘OEP Tree’. Do you find that James’ practice embodies, or links to, any of those sections?
If the idea of student generated open content interests you, read David Wiley’s post ‘The best OER Revise/Remix ever?’’
You’ll hear from Emma and I in the discussion; I’m particularly looking forward to your thoughts on the university in a ‘post-scarcity’ climate.
The text of this work is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. All images and videos retain their respective licences.
Links to Resources
- Neill, J. (2014). Activities, assignments and assessment/student generated textbook, Wikiversity, retrieved from: https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Activities,_assignments_and_assessment/Student-generated-textbook
- Open Content Blog: Interating towards openess
- BC Campus (2017). BC Campus OpenEd OpenTextbook Project, retrieved from: https://open.bccampus.ca/open-textbook-101/open-textbooks-toolkit/
- BC Campus (2017). Find open texts, retrieved from: https://open.bccampus.ca/find-open-textbooks/
- OER Commons
- Weller, M. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance, Spanish journal of pedagogy, pp. 223-236, retrieved from: http://oro.open.ac.uk/28774/2/BB62B2.pdf