Digital Content

Open Educational Practice Day 2: Giving content for free

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

Image Credit: FREE COFFEE by clemsonunivlibrary, used under a CC-BY-NC Licence from:

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).

Activity 2

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’?

Image Credit: free coffee by Goeff Maddock, used under a CC-BY-NC Licence from:

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:, 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.

Activity 3

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

48 thoughts on “Open Educational Practice Day 2: Giving content for free

  1. Overview of Day One

    Before we dive into Day Two, I’ll provide an overview from yesterday’s comments as a way of weaving everything together. Firstly – wow. So much good conversation from everyone, and a lot of challenges to tease out. The good thing is that many of the topics you all raised are covered in this course, so stay tuned!

    Jill started us off with her work in locating (already, on Day One) resources that can be used in her work – and ones with a mark of quality, no less. Dan, Katie, and Louise all focused on student access and equity in their responses, and this is a big part of why a lot of practitioners become interested in OER. All Australian universities have a notion of ‘social justice’ in their work; and the Federal Government has become increasingly interested in setting targets for inclusion. OER is one way that we can lower costs, and become more transparent about ‘what happens at uni’.
    Trisha and Louise raised very practical issues for OER – working openly and sharing does sound good, but it is a confronting thing to do. Universities tend to be risk averse organisations, so working openly and sharing ‘work in progress’ isn’t always a good fit culturally (which Alison expanded upon). It’s certainly worth considering how to take ‘small steps’ in this space.
    Tom spoke about online flexibility, Michael about saving time by repurposing the work of others, and Sally brought up the issue of quality – all of which are critical components of openness. I think that you should be able to see aspects of their comments reflected on the OER Tree.

    So, lots of great discussion yesterday, and plenty of space to explore these in more depth today. I’m really looking forward to it.

    **I’ll be at a planning meeting until 3.00pm Qld Time. Emma will be active, and I’ll be straight into the course when I get back.

  2. Hi Everyone,

    Welcome back to day 2 of Open Educational Practice. It’s been great to see the great discussions about the topic yesterday.
    The issue of hanging onto intellectual property and the fear of that being in ‘open spaces’ is one I often encounter amongst academics and I think it is a big driver for why content is not shared. How we move out of this ‘fear zone’ is a bit of a challenge.
    I look forward to seeing the today’s conversations.

  3. Hi all!

    From Activity 2: “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?” I am glad you asked this question! Often, I hear people saying that it is only necessary to teach students how to use Google effectively, and that content knowledge is not needed anymore. While I agree that students need to learn how to search for content using a variety of tools and good judgement, I think that it’s still necessary to learn subject content.

    As for your question, the value that a teacher brings is a personal history of the subject for the duration that they’ve known it. For example, someone who’s been a business owner for 35 years will remember what it was like to deal with customers or bank managers “back in the day”. The business owner can compare those things with current interactions with customers and banks. This kind of memory and experience is valuable when teaching management students.

    A teacher with experience in a given field can also explain the difference between a clean-cut “textbook case” and the reality of a situation with all of its complexities. Examples in a textbook can serve this purpose too, of course, but maybe the impact is greater when the story comes from a teacher you are interacting with.

    I also think that teachers are essential for assessing knowledge and providing rich feedback. I would hope that any time saved on course development and delivery through the reuse of OER would be spent on providing clear and constructive feedback.

    1. Hi Dan, great to hear your thoughts on the role of lecturers in the current ‘post-scarcity’ climate. I agree that the current role and value that lecturers bring to thier courses is not only thier valuable experience in thier field; thier knowledge of the history and context of the field; and thier ability to contextualise information from textbooks/resources/readings into real life scenarios. I think as well by providing this feedback along with imparting vital critical thinking skills to thier students can work hand-in-hand with thier reuse or remix of existing OER. It allows students to make similar judgements on the quality and applicability of any resource they use in thier studies or later in their chosen professions. Does anyone else have a similar/differing view on this? Do any lecturers participating have other examples of how they uniquely contribute to student learning? Can the use of freely sharing and reusing OER assist you in this?

    2. Absolutely agree, Dan! ‘Using Google effectively’ is a term that I hear a bit, and I always challenge people to unpack it because there are a lot of skills inherent in ‘using Google effectively’. As a former librarian, information seeking behaviours are really interesting to me, and they are complex – something that is not always recognised. Having a foundation of discipline knowledge is equally important; it’s the inter-related aspects of the discipline (and the new connections) that make learning so engaging, and it’s the cornerstone of informed citizenry. Simply being digitally- or media-literate (or both) isn’t enough; if you want a participatory society, then a certain amount of knowledge and discussion needs to be present.
      Your examples of feedback, interpretation, and context are spot on (in my humble opinion), and I’d also add network. I know a number of lecturers who invite industry professionals into lectures, or to co-design case studies and assessment, so that there is an authenticity to the learning experience that the textbook doesn’t provide.
      I’m also going to add your point about reinvesting saved time into constructive feedback to my notes; I’ll be reusing this when it comes time for me to redesign our open practice website. 🙂

      1. Hi Dan, Emma, & Adrian – I agree that finding accurate and appropriate information online is not just as simple as “Googling it”. When I taught undergraduate media & communications courses, the students (particularly first year) really struggled to find sources. Often their first assignment included whatever Google brought up first when they searched for the topic, which was often a opinion blog or another sort of resource that wasn’t really acceptable for university work. It took quite a while to get used to looking in the right sorts of places, vetting the information, and considering bias and other factors.

        Following on with what you have been saying, for me the role of the teacher involves curating, collecting, vetting, and scaffolding the resources out there into a coherent learning experience for students. And helping the students develop the skills to do this themselves in the future!

        1. Hi everyone,

          Regarding the time it takes to find resources: I recently offered to help a professor by finding OER on the topic of a course that she was building almost from scratch. I timed myself, and it took me about 6 hours to go through OER repositories, find materials with CC-BY or CC-BY-SA licenses, select materials that looked relevant, read the content to see more closely if it really was relevant, and then send it all off in an organized way to the prof. I had the advantage of knowing where to look, and I knew to stop when the same repositories kept coming up in the searches. I can’t imagine how long it would take someone to go through this process if they didn’t know where to look. On the other hand, I had the disadvantage of not fully knowing the topic, so I had to learn about it before I could start the search process. The prof gave me important key words to start off, but I needed to change them a bit to widen the search net.

          I enjoyed doing this work because it was a chance to increase my experience in instructional design. However, I’m pretty sure most profs would want a quicker process and just their courses developed and done.

          Katie, I’m glad you mentioned scaffolding, because that may be a technique that is underestimated and underused in university. Learners at this level can be seen as an educated adult audience that should be able to learn independently. But sometimes scaffolding and other approaches like meta-cognitive techniques are helpful for learning and skills development.

  4. Hi All

    In response to Janene’s comment above re IP, do you think there is a risk of “backlash” from your profession if you post content openly which others charge for? In my field, there are many practitioners who (rightly or wrongly) protect pedagogical methods with trademarks, for example. I imagine that one would need to be very careful when going down the OEP path to avoid falling foul of IP law?

    In response to the second question in Adrian’s activity, if resources are freely available, perhaps the reputation of the content generator becomes the thing of value? Applying the long tail theory, if you have generated excellent content which has wide uptake, this might increase your standing in your field and result in a few select consultancies, guest lectures/workshops, invitations for research collaborations and the like? Just speculating!


    1. Hi Melissa,

      Adrian might be better to answer your question regarding potential ‘backlash’ from certain professions, as I’ve personally not heard of this occurring, but he has a wider knowledge of the adoption of OER across professions. I can understand the caution you’re feeling regarding sharing content openly due to IP law, as many Open practitioners I’ve worked with also experiencing similar concerns. Many found that by discussing their concerns and questions with the university Copyright Officer, and learning more about Creative Commons licences (which are used to dictate how anyone around the world can utilise the content and attribute the source). We’ll focus on Creative Commons licences in Day Four of the coffee course too, which will give you more information on how they work.

      That would certainly be an interesting area of research, as to whether sharing high quality OER can increase the reputation and career opportunities of academics. I would speculate that it could well be the case for many academics/HE professionals, having that open access to quality work that is easily shareable would allow people to easily see your contributions and use them in practice (with attribution of course) for thier own context. I wonder if there is a connection between the creation, sharing and reuse of OER and the social capital [a social sciences concept] this can create in the higher education community and for the individuals involved? I’ve been looking to see if there is any research or articles surrounding this but haven’t seen anything yet, if anyone knows of any good papers please comment with a link and your take on the idea!

      1. Hi Emma,

        Thanks very much for your responses! I don’t have any research to link to, however, I think Wenger at. al’s (2011) value creation framework could be a way to assess the value that has been created when making resources openly available. Sharing high quality resources would firstly establish and build a social network of learners. This network might create value through generating reputational capital for the content creator (and the institution), and obviously would also build all sorts of value for the users (Wenger’s framework talks about cycles of value creation and I can see how engaging with these resources might easily traverse a range of value creation cycles for learners and creators alike…).


        1. Hi Melissa; reputational capital is definitely worth exploring as you mention above. OER does struggle as there isn’t a traditional business case behind it (although work is being done in this area), and so it’s difficult to place an economic value on it as it defies financial metrics. If you release your work openly, someone values it, and you end up collaborating, what is the value to the university? You can’t place a value in AUD on it (although if you were awarded an external grant due to this, you might be able to in part), but it matters professionally. Building a reputation for quality, and as someone that people want to work with is valuable – there is an ascribed value to your output, and a professional value to the network you develop.

          I’m not that familiar with the music discipline, so I’d be very interested in learning more about potential ‘backlash’ for offering for free what others charge for. Is this something you see as unique to your discipline? This is the first time I’ve encountered this idea, so I’m keen to learn from you.

          1. Hi Adrian,

            In the world of singing voice pedagogy, for example, there are countless numbers of commercialised methods/brands of pedagogy (mostly in the US) which are protected by trademark. Many (not all) of the owners of these methods sell products based on the method. The fact is that the voice functions according to scientific principles, and no-one has a trademark on that, however, I imagine it is the brand and the way the pedagogy is packaged which attracts the protection of IP law (e.g. If you do these exercises in this order, you will achieve result X). I confess to not having a grasp on the legal princinciples involved, however, people can get very cagey about this sort of thing. Because of this, I think in that field, one would have to tread very carefully when choosing which content to make openly available. If it was presented in a certain way, there are any number of people who might come out of the woodwork and claim that you are using their work.


        2. Hi Melissa, thanks for explaining this to me. Whilst I only have a passing knowledge of copyright, I do know that the part the folks you refer to are leveraging is thus: you can’t copyright an idea, but you can copyright the expression of the ideas. I can see that being the case with a course that has a particular sequence/technique/approach to music education. Commercialising this would be relatively straightforward.

          I looked over the OER Commons site for university and graduate level music resources and was surprised that there wasn’t a lot. Quite a bit on learning about Arabic Music, and Music Education for teachers, but not much else. Sites like Jamendo specialise in allowing musicians to store music, and – if they want – to apply a Creative Commons licence to it. I’ve used the site before when sourcing music for presentations.

          This is an area that seems to be a little sparse, perhaps for the very reasons you mention. I suppose in terms of backlash for copyright infringement, if you are planning to create resources and think there are conceptually similar ones, you can always seek advice from the Copyright Officers. This is exactly the sort of question they can support. If you’d like me to support a broader search of open content, I’d be happy to work with you. Just let me know if I can be of assistance.

  5. Working in medicine I know there is a lot of material freely available. I think one of the important roles of the lecturer is to help the student distinguish the wheat from the chaff and help put the information into the local context.
    My question regarding freely available material is the what is the motive of the author to do this as Melissa suggests. Conversely I worry that those with the greatest to offer from an educational point of view do not have the time to make their material freely available.

    1. Hi MIchael,
      I agree regarding your comment on lecturers role in teaching students critical analysis of the quality of the resources and literature that they use in thier learning, and eventual future practice. I think that this skill is becoming more recognised and embedded in the curriculums of many courses (at USQ and I imagine throughout other Australian and international universities) as there can often be issues in the quality of open and closed resources and research that students can access.
      The motives I’ve encountered by academics I’ve met who share thier content seems to vary, from: accessibility (the closed resource is only available for a small amount of students in the course to access), practicability (the resource will be enhanced by opening the content to be used by as many students/academics who need it as possible), equity (this is one of the most common I’ve seen, as students from low SES backgrounds do not have the resources to spend hundred of dollars each semester on traditional textbooks), and open ethos (that knowledge should be free and open to access by all). I’m sure there are many other motives too, if you’ve come across some good examples feel free to share!

      Time can definitely be a concern. In our (Adrian, Prof. Helen Partridge, and I) case study research of the USQ OEP grants we have identified that time can be a barrier to USQ academics who are working towards creating or remixing existing open content. It is an understandable concern given the responsibilities that academics have. This is where collaboration between academics and supportive staff at your university, around Australia, and around the world, can assist in ‘lightening the load’ in regards to the time pressures of academia. Supportive staff could include librarians, learning designers/developers, copyright officers, media designers (audio, graphics, web development, video etc.) and many more. Whilst lack of time can be a barrier, it is also an opportunity to collaborate with others.

    2. ‘Wheat from the chaff’, yes, I like this approach. I like to think of the lecturer’s position as part-curator; looking over all the material, putting together a meaningful collection that tells the course story, and then inviting students to take active roles.
      As for time to make content freely available, I wonder if you could elaborate a little more please? Is it possible to take the stance that you are creating content anyway, so you could (as appropriate) align open authoring with your existing tasks? I’m not sure about your circumstances, so I’m asking out of honest curiosity.

    3. Hi Michael,
      I used to think that way as well but have changed my views in the last few years. As background, I teach Information and Library studies, so am one of those people who teaches others how to access information, how to choose the authoritative sources, how to access material that is not so mainstream, etc.
      It used to be that I published my items in journals that are with large publishing houses with large distribution networks and indexed in popular indexes such as Ebsohost. I basically wrote my content on work’s time, and sent it to a publisher (for free) and it was then ‘out there’ for others to access, and I retained copyright (mostly).
      Now, about half the time, I send my work to reputable Open Access Journals, and basically my work is still out there (for free), usually with the ‘no derivatives’ Creative Commons licence, so it is still ‘out there’ for others to access. Ironically, I am Editor of one of these journals, and one of the first things I was asked to do (as a librarian) was to increase the visibility of the journal so that readers could publish there (for free) and readers could actually have a shot at finding the articles (for free) – so we are now included in several journal databases like ERIC and Ebsohost and other listings such as DOAJ Readers can either access articles via the pay-databases or use free listings or come on to our own site and get the items for free.
      We don’t charge APCs (a cost to the author) or for access (a cost to the reader) and have alternative points of access (pay-databases) that some readers find useful and they get billed for that point of access, but we are still available free if they want to come get it.
      So the author is no less advantaged by publishing Open Access and “giving it away for free” as readers can use the material but with a ‘no derivatives’ option the author still have some control over how it ends up (though not where it ends up). It is one of the many ‘types of open’.
      For things I publish elsewhere, I sometimes put a copy on my Academia page, and people can access things there for free. But honestly, if you want to be noticed, you have to go where the people are, and that is often linking up with the big publishers or big sources such as Google Scholar. It doesn’t stop it from being ‘Open’, it just means you have to understand the market.

  6. Regarding the role of teachers in the age of educational abundance, a thought occurs to me that a large part of teaching any profession is an acculturation process and a learning of certain codes and principles that are held to be essential, sacred and beyond questioning. I am thinking of law, because as an educational developer I have been involved in assisting to develop an online post-graduate law course. It was decided to use the PBL model for this. I find that the legal academics teaching in the course are struggling with this. They do not only have to teach content. They are very concerned that they need to teach the correct protocols, procedures and ways of thinking and reasoning used within the legal profession. A lot of their time is spent in online webinars impressing on participants the correct legal reasoning, terminology and protocols. Students spend immense amount of intense time researching content such as legal sources, precdents, case summaries etc but they are finding all of this work is not anywhere near sufficient. They need to attend the weekly webinars to obtain the secrets of the profession from on high. They also need to pass very traditional types of assessments to demonstrate to the professional bodies that provide registration to legal courses that they have absorbed proper legal principles and reasoning – they have to know how to behave, speak and write like a lawyer and it seems to me that they can only get this through personal contact with the academics that teach this stuff, or, second best, through their talking heads on video.

    So although I love the abundance and networking idea, and student constructed learning as well as student constructed content, for some esteemed and long standing professions it seems there is another dimension to be aware of. Of course community of practice could be the key here, also made possible through technology networks.

    1. Hi Jill,
      Thank you for your interesting example of the importance of the ‘secrets’ of the law profession, in which I imagine there are many unspoken rules of practice that students may be unaware of until lecturers can provide them with this information suited to thier particular context (as this may vary between states and countries). A good snapshot into the realities of the knowledge and learning required to thrive in the law profession, thank you.
      It would be interesting to see if students as co-creators could participate in creating OER, in which final year university students of a certain field could write about thier most significant learnings, in order for first year students to receive this knowledge (in some form of OER- video, open textbook, website, document/slideshow) from thier peers and understand the importance of these concepts. A similar concept to James O’Neill’s student authored textbook discussed above. Could this be a useful resource for law students? I understand that there is no ‘all-size fits all’ approaches for all fields of study.

      1. I think this is a very interesting idea, one that would also fit with the idea of e-portfolio which this course is also attempting to implement but with both students and staff having difficulty in clarifying the purpose and the relationship to the course and assessment. Reflection is definitely meant to be a key process in the learning, and the e-portfolio has tended to emphasise assessment tasks. So reflecting on what were the key learning moments might suit this purpose and also be helpful to others if they had access to it.

      1. Definitely a thing to read! Good timing for us. So glad one of the commentors on that article pointed out that the author works for a big publisher. It seems misleading to say that OERs and open textbooks are not as flexible as traditional textbooks, when it seems obvious that the opposite is actually true! If this was a student paper I was marking I would have written “Cite your source!” next to that one for sure.

        1. Agreed, Katie. The other issue I have is when ‘numerous reports’ are cited, only to discover that they are publisher-funded investigations that appeared in a business magazine. They completely failed to cite any of the authors in this field (David Wiley, John Hilton III, Ethan Senak, to name a few). Overall it was a disappointing piece of work, that sadly could actually influence people who don’t know a lot about open education.

    2. Jill, sacred truths beyond questioning exist even in supposedly innovative disciplines such as computing.

      I found my own assumptions questioned yesterday, when at morning tea a colleague casually mentioned that the students had just about finished building them an AI marking system. Currently students fill in an on-line form to provide comments on peer’s work, then instructors determine the mark. Instead the AI system will read all the student comments and calculate a mark from that. This year the AI system will be run in parallel with the instructor making then, if it works, be used live next year.

      It took me years to come to terms with the idea of students giving each other feedback and not feel diminished by it as a lecturer. I have more of an idea of how an AI systems works that the average person, but still I find the idea of it doing the marking a little confronting.

      Tom W.

  7. 1. Scarcity and abundance in higher education:
    I don’t accept Weller’s notions of scarcity in HE. At least in Australia, the HE sector began by providing vocational credentials and continues to place an emphasis on that. The universities train, and more significantly, test people to enter the professions. It is not, and has never been, about access to scarce information: it is about certification for a job.
    With resources freely available, the educator can focus on curating leaning materials for their students. Lectures were never really that useful and their elimination over the next four years will be largely uncontroversial. Much like the decline of the fax machine, few will mourn the end of lectures. There will still be some lectures, just as we still have fax machines (we just hardly ever use them).
    One role for the educator is as a *course designer*, setting out the objectives of the course, the detailed skills and knowledge the students are to acquire, how these will be assessed, and lastly what resources will be provided to help with the learning.
    An educator then acts as an *instructor*, to help a particular cohort of students use the pre-selected leaning resources and undertake the pre-designed assessment. The same person might both design and deliver a course, but they should resist the temptation to modify the course content and assessment during delivery.
    A recent study by Stein and Hart (2016) points out that students are concerned about the cost of textbooks. However, 82% of students say they spend $500 or less on textbooks per year. So for a student paying $10,000 a year for tuition, books are only 5% on top of that. From a financial point of view using free textbooks would not make much difference to the cost of education. The big savings are to be made “disrupting” other aspects.
    When I enrolled in my last program I was pleasantly surprised to find the textbooks were included in the fees and delivered by courier to my home. To make me really appreciate this, the tuition fees had a notional component for textbook cost (which was about 5% of the total cost). I have the books in pride of place on my bookshelf in a neat row, next to the certificate.

    Stein, S., Hart, S. & Keaney, P. (2016) STUDENT VIEWS ON THE COST OF AND ACCESS TO TEXTBOOKS, University of Otago. Retrieved from:

    1. Hi Tom, I’m especially interested in your comment that ‘ Lectures were never really that useful and their elimination over the next four years will be largely uncontroversial’, and have a couple of questions as I’ve been seeing a lot about ‘the death of the lecture’ over the last few years.
      Why do you think lectures are not useful? Is this just for your discipline, or are you stating that they have no worth in any discipline? Also, you give a very precise ‘four years’ in your diagnosis; I’m not that familiar with recent discussion but is there an accelerated pressure that gives us that timeline?
      Thanks for raising this point, though, a lot of previous OER projects globally have focused on making lecture recordings open, and I have questioned the overall value of this approach.

      1. Hi Adrian,

        Here is why I think lectures are not very useful: in a lot of my undergraduate science courses, instructors would just deliver content straight from one or more books. So their role was in selecting the course text book and delivering the content without using techniques such as discussion facilitation or scaffolding. Sometimes, the instructor would provide a memorable story about a concept which would boost interest in the course and facilitate recall at a later date. That amounts to very little added value. In contrast, there is one professor who taught me electromagnetics using techniques from “Five Easy Lessons: Strategies for Successful Physics Teaching” by Randall Knight. This course was in the second half of my second year, and it was the first time I really started to think like a scientist. It was with this course that I was finally able to solve problems in all fields of science because that’s where I learned the necessary skills. That is not to say that the prof made the course easy – not at all! It’s one of the courses where I worked the hardest. This is one of the few science courses I took where having a professor made a significant difference; in the rest of my courses, it might have been enough to just read the textbooks and have a set of detailed solutions to get through the exercises.

        Science labs are a different story. They absolutely require a teacher to guide students through experimental procedures and to supervise everyone so that they work safely.

  8. 2. Rationale and design for assessment:
    James’ approach of having students prepare content fits with my training and practice. I was trained as a computer professional in the Australian Public Service, by computer professionals. It was very much the case that the students and trainers were working as a team. More recently, training as an educational designer involved preparing material for teaching my fellow students.
    In my own leaning design I have students find materials for their peers, but I have not gone to the extent of having then create formal learning materials. I would want to provide them with this experience as part of a package of teaching skills, not something ad-hoc.
    James’ practice relates to collaboration, in that students work together to learn. Efficiency may also apply, but getting the students to prepare content is unlikely to you reduce the instructors workload. Accessibility may be negatively impacted, unless students have been introduced to accessibility concepts and techniques. Students will tend to produce materials with tiny text in hard to read fonts and videos with no captions.

  9. Hi All,
    For the question: Do aspects of James’ rationale and design for this assessment resonate with your practice? I would say ‘Yes’. In teaching Library and Information Studies in New Zealand, we are in a unique bicultural environment and keenly aware of the need to serve and access resources for indigenous Maori and other peoples. There are very few texts written which have this focus and we struggle to find things that are culturally appropriate. So James’ rationale resonates well with my practice – we do not have external resources to fill the information gap, but our students could go part-way themselves as many are immersed in this topic in their own practices and lives. The students themselves may be part of the resource they need.

    For the second question: 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?
    All of the outer layer at the top of the tree comes into that realm fr,m Jame’s practice. I can see the results, and I can see how what he is doing gets to some of those outer branches. But what will be important for me (I am assuming) is finding clear, suitable things that I can put into my practice that will help get to that outer layer as well. It’s going to have to be something that is achievable for me, and will produce the learning environment, experiences and outcomes the students need – that’s the only way to get to that outer layer of efficiency, sharing, open repositories and learner centered as far as I can see.

    Will have to get my thinking cap on – and come up with innovative ways to make this happen…..

    1. Alison, I find your environment to be a fantastic opportunity. I recall a number of years ago hearing from a lecturer from AUT named Hohepa Spooner. He presented at a conference about an assessment where first year students investigated the history and cultural significance of Maori items and then created an eBook (complete with video interviews, open licenced images, etc). These books were then reviewed by Maori communities and became part of the digital collection at the local museum so they were a community resource. I was blown away by the idea.
      The thing that was most striking (and you allude to this) was that often the students knew people in their own social or family circles who could help, so part of the oral tradition was likewise being preserved. Simply amazing, and this was in first year.

      Your perception of ‘outer layers’ of OER use is really neat. Do you mean that there is a number of other factors, practices, and possibly behaviours that enable ‘deeper’ OER use? Or something different?

      1. Hi Adrian,
        By ‘outer layers’ I mean the things near the top of the tree. Those are all the good results that I would like to see. But getting to those results is not always so easy, as you have to climb there via some of those things in the middle of the tree. For me, I’m not sure which ‘things in the middle’ to pick to climb through to get to those good results at the top. And yes, there may be other ways to get there that aren’t even listed yet – this is a rapidly evolving educational world, and some things haven’t been thought of yet, others are still quite experimental, and things from other fields can be adapted but those connection may not have been made yet.

        Thanks for the example of Hohepa’s student-created eBook. That raises some really interesting possibilities for things that other classes can do! Find the ‘gap’ and students can do something real to demonstrate their learning by filling that gap s a real-world exercise. I like it!

        1. I’ll have to go back and look at this very carefully now, Alison. I had never looked at it as ‘climbing the tree’, but I really like the idea of layers of complexity represented throughout the image – I think if I were to redesign the image I’d look at something like this. It does remind me a little of the chapter in ‘The Hobbit’ where Bilbo is in Mirkwood and climbs up into the canopy to the fresh air and butterflies to gauge their location (and how close they were to their destination).

          1. That’s fascinating! I can ‘only’ see it as a tree. I read from the trunk up and then from the trunk down. I don’t see any other way to get to the outer layer at the top of efficiency, sharing, open textbooks etc without going through the branches below of open licences, OE and collaboration. You can’t start with efficiency (how would you make that?) and build that to create an OER – it has to be the other way around.

  10. Hi all, If resources are freely and openly available for all learners, the main roles for the lecturer in a course/unit (with regard to those OER resources) could be:
    a) curating, contextualising and providing measures for students to evaluate that content
    b) providing the students with incentives for the creative and collaborative reuse of those resources in their assessments.
    c) working in collaboration with the students to create OER for reuse by other external (or internal) student cohorts (this could be a subset of b).

  11. Weller’s notions of scarcity and abundance in higher education is one way of looking at it. Another is selfishness/greed/elitism and altruism/egalitarianism. If resources are freely and openly available for all learners, I see the main role for the lecturer in a course/unit as being the catalyst for learning, the value-added, the enthuser, the explainer and enhancer, and ultimately the assessor and gatekeeper to certification. Learners benefit greatly from discussion – formulating and expressing their ideas requires thorough understanding, and small errors of understanding can only (or more quickly) be put right by someone more knowledgeable (teacher) who is there to listen carefully (the classroom or equivalent) and engage in the discussion.

    1. I like the positioning between elitism and altruism (although many people might not appreciate the terms!) as it strikes to the heart of the reason for education. Ultimately, the university should be about building an actively participatory society who can question prevailing norms for the benefit of their country. Education as only accessible by financial means is a direct contrast to this vision.

  12. Hi,

    I have some reluctance to speak of education in terms of abundance and scarcity. However, I share Weller’s idea that the learning models of higher education institutions are based on the certainty of the limited access to knowledge. The same point of departure applies to Boyer’s study, referred to by Weller, since the difference in the value given to research and teaching in universities has to do with the notion that science is an unattainable sphere, a place where just some “enlightened” have room. That is, scientific production is scarce, so it has a higher value.

    A fundamental proposition of reading is that given the abundance of information, the pedagogical guide is central. Such a change of perspective first requires a touch of humility to come down from the ‘cathedra’ and recognise that students have access to the same information as we do and that the educational practice is reciprocal, that is, we learn together. To do this, does not mean a weakening of the lecturers’ role. On the contrary, instead of being an information provider, the teacher is a guide and a companion in the learning process, and in that effort, his/her knowledge and experience are invaluable.

    I find James Neill’s project interesting and well planned. The students’ interest is central as well as the teacher’s guide to accomplish the course’s goals. The textbook activity promotes collaborative learning; and it builds a pedagogical open educational resource promoting flexibility, equity and innovation.

    1. Hi Adrian,

      I read the article, and it leads me to a major discussion: the cost of higher education. The growing corporatization of universities aggravates social polarisation and curtails the compensatory potential of education regarding social justice. Open resources are an important step in the socialisation of knowledge but more than a matter of buying and selling information I think it would be worthwhile to reflect on access, flexibility and equity. I’m still thinking…

  13. Sorry to be late with this.
    I teach PBLs in medicine and love it. As a student I had to trawl the corridors of the library to collect information. The effort was a deterrent to asking the question. We memorised the text and took the lecturer’s word as the bible. That was the scarcity in information. The easy availability of “facts” now makes rote learning less necessary and as a teacher I can spend my time helping students to analyse those “facts” and develop ways of understanding problems. We constantly use the internet to discover the answers to all sorts of questions. In my experience looking something up on google might give you the bare bones but certainly does nothing to develop a deeper understanding of the issue at hand and can lead to some rather strange conclusions. This style of teaching is so much more interesting than spouting forth the same facts every year.
    I understand this rather debunks the lecturer’s elevated status but surely devising courses and overseeing the growth of the students minds is much more interesting.

    1. Hi Sally, I think you’ve captured this notion of scarcity very well – the effort in accessing information (I have to consult the subject guide for the journal which then tells me the issue and volume, that I then locate on the shelf – provided another student hasn’t left it on a table somewhere – and then photocopy the article….?) and access to ‘experts’ was fraught with barriers. Whilst some people (Sir Terry Pratchett was famous for this) would note ‘the public library’ as their education, the statement speaks about equitable access and the difference between self-directed isolated reading and social knowledge construction.
      I completely agree with your other observation about having an interesting role in teaching; I also think it’s more rewarding too.

  14. Apologies for the lateness – sorry!
    Activity 2
    The notions of scarcity and abundance appear logical when presented the way that Weller presented them. So, it does beg the question about the role of the teacher and what they bring to the context. I see the teacher as becoming more of a facilitator and engager: they facilitate students to engage with content, investigate content, explore ideas and opinions, provide structure to the learning, and they help engage learners to become interested in the content and to develop a habit of independent learning about the content. There is also an aspect of assessing student knowledge to determine if they know sufficient to pass a course (or to be considered knowledgeable in an area).

    Activity 3
    While it doesn’t resonate with my current practice, I am considering how it can resonate in the future. It connects with my ideas of innovation and (what I understand as) open pedagogy. It is really an interesting concept to have students create a textbook chapter as an assessment item and I wonder if this activity is done for every offering of the course, i.e. are there now three textbooks if this has been offered three times? And how is the textbook that was created being used or being planned to be used? I see that it’s still being edited, but it would be interesting to see how it goes.

  15. This content is really interesting, and is making me think a lot about different ways that teaching can evolve. For activity 2, I do generally accept Weller’s ideas about scarcity and abundance, but I think that lecturers still have a hugely important role. Along the lines of previous comments, I think that an important role for the lecturer is to curate and screen available resources – and to teach students how to do this for themselves. Pulling out the most relevant and accurate information, in an unbiased way, takes a lot of time and also experience and knowledge of the topic (and I think that the less of one you have, the more of the other you need!). I also think that in-person delivery of lectures remains incredibly valuable and I would be sad to see this aspect of teaching disappear. At a personal level, I know that I learn far far better from a face-to-face lecture than from online material, or even physical textbooks.
    For activity 3, having students work towards an open-source textbook is a nice idea, that allows students to really contribute to something concrete as well as providing a resource for the community more generally. It wasn’t clear to me how later cohorts of students interacted with the initial ‘textbook’ – whether they created new chapters, started again, or edited existing ones. In many ways though, I think that presenting the idea and practicalities of this type of assessment, as well as student feedback, in an open environment is just as valuable (at least for fellow educators) as the project itself.

  16. Activity 2.
    There’s been a great discussion of the role of lecturer in an environment where content is freely available. This was also brought up in one of the earlier coffee courses on flipped classrooms. I’d like to make a separation between content and skills because content is not the only thing we teach. I would say skills are equally (if not more) important, and these are difficult to learn from a book. I teach a writing course, and I don’t feel at all threatened by any number of free books available to my students. The feedback that they receive from me and their classmates is something that no book can replace. The same applies to any other course and skills that we teach: critical thinking, research design, team work, etc. etc.

  17. If content is so abundant then the role of the lecturer becomes one of curation and facilitation. The points raised about being overwhelmed with the amount of content available definitely apply to myself, and likely to my students. It is the role of the lecturer to give students the skills to curate materials in that field for themselves, as well as providing good examples of material in a coherent collection. It is also the role of the teacher to facilitate practice and application of that learning.

    I really like James’ project on a student authored textbook, I think there’s a lot of potential for projects of a similar type in really specific disciplines, especially ones where there are very few academics actually teaching the material. I like that it formed authentic assessment for anyone thinking of going into academia, and it’s a real project that would really get people involved. It is really impressive what those students have managed to achieve.

  18. As Emma mentioned, contextualising the resources will be one of the main roles of the lecturer as well as curating the hundreds of resources that are available for his/her subject matter. The learning design will still come from the lecturer because the resources should be aligned to what the curriculum or learning objectives are. For example here at the ANU Med School, students may find hundreds of videos demonstrating how to examine lymph nodes. But ANU has “its own way” of doing it or teaching it which aligns to its own curriculum, assessment, standards etc. So the lecturer will have to find the right OER and if needed provide annotations.

    Then there are the stories. Only lecturers, with their knowledge and experience, can weave concepts into stories that are relevant to a particular cohort at a particular time. They are also there to provide feedback – especially formative feedback which are important to every student’s learning journey.

  19. I like that James’ student authored open text book assessment emphasizes collaborative and cooperative writing aspects instead of the competitive aspects. It’s something that I would like to apply in my own teaching practice in the future. I admit that I am not properly equipped to manage such task.

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