Last year I successfully bid for a small learning development grant from ALDinHE (Association for Learning Development in Higher Education) to support international students making videos about their experiences at the university. This was the same time as I was completing a HEA/JISC funded project under the OER Programme to look at transition for international students. Preparation for Academic Practice with OER for International Students- University of Lincoln Both projects fitted well with Getting Started; the university’s programme of transition support for new students which gives them access to Blackboard prior to enrolment. My interest in transition is preparation for studying in higher education. Research into the first-year experience of higher education in the UK (Yorke and Longden, 2008) gives lack of preparation as a key reason for withdrawal and the history of Getting Started, which began in 2005, can be found here http://gettingstarted.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/what-is-getting-started/history/
Students were given cameras and asked to talk about their own experiences as if they were giving advice to new students thinking about coming to Lincoln. The seven films were put together in their final form by Ray Wilson, CERD’s Media Intern. All of them are around one minute in length and are presented below.
It can be time consuming to search through the mass of content labelled as OER. Where quality resources exist, they are most likely to be professionally produced and supported, for example through the OU’s Open Learn. This raises the issue of the extent to which academic and professional service staff can be expected to be content creators.
Absence of appropriate subject level OER this led to opposing approaches – some felt it was an opportunity to release content as OER while others felt this might detract from interest in taking the course. ‘Open Educational Resources: An Introduction for Managers and Policymakers’ from the Higher Education Academy includes the VC at Lincoln saying “The most compelling argument for the release of OER is the Marketing opportunities that it provides. The more you release, the more people know about you.” The OU use this approach in Open Learn; offering ‘tasters’ from full courses which have to be paid for, yet as this activity shows, this approach to OER is not universally accepted and OER as undermining the market base should be taken seriously.
Experience with MOOC was mixed. Most found useful content either for work or interest – but expressed concerns about design and delivery. The media hyped ‘threat’ to the future of higher education was not generally supported by observations. MOOC can be useful for training purposes and introducing subjects like maths where there are a higher amount of ‘fixed’ answers but their application to ‘flexible’ subjects like philosophy and the humanities requires different approaches. There is still much development work to be done to show how MOOC can offer viable ‘free’ alternatives to the university experience and certification of learning. However, this is not to say they should be ignored.
The open education movement takes familiarity with online environments for granted. As society moves ever closer to ‘digital by default’ policy and practice, the voice of the digitally marginalised is becoming invisible. When the majority of platforms in the public sphere are digital, those without the means of participation are effectively silenced. Web designers and developers are building increasingly inaccessible learning environments depending on a MEE Model of computer access which assumes all users have a Mouse for navigation, Eyes to see the screen and Ears listen to content. This does not reflect the diversity of ways in which people operate online but as a result of the MEE Model, provision of content (especially multimedia) in alternative formats and with appropriate user controls is not always evident. The OU resources generally follow accessibility guidelines, although broken links to essential transcripts are evident. Outside the OU, a major problem with repository content is the lack of evidence of inclusive practice or minimum quality standards. In many cases, ‘exclusion’ is not deliberate but results from the current low profile of digitally accessible practices.
The recent media MOOC hype has not only overshadowed OER but in some cases MOOC platforms are blurring the boundaries between them. There are tensions around the quality and quantity of OER and at the present time, MOOCs are producing more questions than answers in particular around issues of quality, inclusion, accreditation and cost. Opening up access to online education aligns with the philosophy and practice of early internet pioneers such as Tim Berners Lee (http://www.w3.org/1998/02/Potential.html) but with freedom comes responsibility and the higher education sector has a valuable role to play in shaping the future of open practices.
If you missed the presentation today, or want to see again how lecturer Bob bought together text, images, audio and video to create his online teaching resources, The Kitten Site is here https://sites.google.com/site/intro2kittens/
The presentation below was created to introduce students to the availability of free open educational resources and courses. It refers to the OU’s Open Learn, MIT and Coursera. As I was recording the audio, Open Culture published a list of new courses, or MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), for 2013 at http://www.openculture.com/free_certificate_courses. If this were not enough to choose from, Open Culture link to a further 550 courses here http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourse.
I’ve been looking at Coursera’s Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (see http://thealphabetdances.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2012/11/20/150) and recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about the history of US poetry from the 19th century onwards. There are a thousand alternatives including E-learning and Digital Cultures from the University of Edinburgh which starts in January 2013 and will explore how digital cultures and learning cultures connect, and what this means for e-learning theory and practice. Learning has never been so flexible or such fun!
The presentation below is best viewed with speakers or headphones.
Embedding OER Practice is HEA/JISC funded project with a dual nature; one part has been engaging with the philosophy and practice of OER and the other looking for ways to embed OER practice as a whole institution strategy http://oer.lincoln.ac.uk At Lincoln we’ve been looking at making units of learning freely available under a Creative Commons licence, while elsewhere in the world the principles of open academic practice have extended into full courses (OU, MIT, Stanford) and free online learning platforms (P2P , OERu)
The move from individual learning activities to modules and courses is an inevitable transition and, as with all educational content development work, it’s valuable apply theory to practice and have the experience of being a student. These past two week I’ve been taking part in Designing for Collaborative Learning, an online course for members of the JISC community. The course has come out of the P2.0PLE project (Peer-2.0-Peer Learning Enhancement), led by the Beyond Distance Research Alliance, University of Leicester and was free, although the small print says the University of Leicester reserves the right to charge a fee of £100 to any individual who registers and fails to take part. Run through Course Sites (www.coursesites.com) which is Blackboard’s contribution to open education, students are given evidence of participation (no HE credits) and the course materials (including all e-tivities) are open educational resources, released under a Creative Commons BY (attribution) licence. A blog about the experience of being a p/t online student will follow shortly.
The HEA have confirmed approval of the project proposal ‘Preparation for Academic Practice for International Students’. Under Phase 3 of the UKOER Programme, proposals were invited which set out to devise and implement institutional policy to promote previously created OER to an international audience and show how OER might support international engagement. The project outcome will be a case study on ‘the identification of relevant resources to use for promotion (internationally)’. The HEA will concurrently look to fostering relationships with the British Council in order to collectively showcase the outputs of the twenty HEI’s selected for funding. At Lincoln, this project will build on the existing Embedding OER Practice http://oer.lincoln.ac.uk as well as Getting Started, the university’s program for transition support.
There is increasing evidence that support for transition for students new to higher education actively supports retention and Getting Started has been informed by existing research and literature in this area*. Preparation for Academic Practice for International Students will focus on the provision of support prior to the start of a course or module utilising a ‘bottom-up’ approach to institutional change. This recognises adoption of new pedagogical practice is most effective when led by staff directly involved in teaching and learning who are offered support to undertake their own investigation into new ways of working. A survey is being sent to international students asking them to comment on how they feel their own learning experiences may have benefited from a range of academic study resources and can be made available to anyone who would like to participate. Please contact Sue Watling for further information.
Action on Access (2003) Student Success in Higher Education. Bradford: Action on Access.Cook, A., Rushton, B. S. and Macintosh, K. A., eds (2006) Student Transition and Retention (STAR). Northern Ireland:University of Ulster.Harvey, L., Drew, S. With Smith, M. (2006) The first year experience: a literature review for the Higher Education Academy.York: HE Academy.Lefever, R. and Currant, B. (2010) How can technology be used to improve the learner experience at points of transition?University of Bradford.
National Audit Office (NAO) (2007) Staying the Course: the retention of students in higher education. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. London: The Stationary Office.
Quinn, J., Thomas, L., Slack, K., Casey, L., Thexton, W. and Noble, J. (2005) From Life Crisis to Lifelong Learning, rethinking working class ‘drop-out’ from higher education. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Reese, M. (2010) Bridging the gap: supporting student transitions into higher education, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 34 (2), 259-251.
Warren, D. (2008) Thinking and Writing History: an integrated approach to learning development, in Crosling, G., Thomas, L. and Heagney, M. (eds) Improving student retention in higher education: the role of teaching and learning. London: Routledge.
Yorke, M. and Longden, B. (2008) The first year experience of Higher Education in the UK: final report.York, Higher Education Academy.
Digital ways of working are changing the way we communicate and manage information. The implications for higher education include more virtual management of teaching, learning and research, greater online collaboration and more steps towards openness. The open education movement with its emphasis on using, reusing and repurposing is an inevitable consequence of the internet and one we have to accept. As VC of the OU Martin Bean said in his excellent opening keynote, the internet is here to stay, students have increasing expectations of openness and sharing, and OER is an ustoppable force.
At Lincoln we are embedding OER practice and investigating the use of OER to support generic aspects of the student experience; transition, reflection, graduate attributes and eportfolios. We are developing a postgraduate online course called Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age which will be offered as part of the university’s Teacher Education Programme. This will be based on content released as OER, include activities which encourage staff to search for OER in their own discipline and consider releasing some of their own content as OER. All this within the context of the shift from classrooms to virtual environments.
The Creative Commons website http://creativecommons.org has information about the six different OER/Creative Commons licences and a tool for deciding which to choose. OER don’t have to be all singing all dancing multimedia. They are about learning experiences. One single learning activity, designed as a package with alternative formats and information about the level it is designed for and how it has been used, can be more powerful than any amount of expensively produced high end content.
The Embedding OER Practice blog is at http://OER.lincoln.ac.uk and our Twitter hashtag is #openlincoln. On 21st June we held a conference called Sharing Practice: Open Approaches to Teaching and Learning This is the language we are using to take the project forward. OER don’t exist in isolation. They are part of the bigger picture which is about sharing practice and about open approaches to the way in which we manage pedagogy in a digital age.
As well as offering experience with finding, evaluating, using, repurposing and replacing open educational resources, the project is an ideal opportunity for addressing the wider issues around supporting the digital literacies of staff and students.The term digital literacies is popular at the moment. The JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme is currently funding a number of projects across the sector, all aimed at promoting digital literacies strategies and approaches. This is a necessary step forward. For too long those with technical competence have made assumptions about those without. The result is a widening digital divide, exacerbated by a determinist view of technology having transformative potential, not only for access to learning environments which cross barriers of time and distance, but to cut costs and increase efficiency. All this underpins investment in the digital teaching and learning platforms promoted across the sector as a means for institutions to achieve key strategic aims (HEFCE 2005, 2009*). The missing element from these grand schemes has always been the human one; how best to scaffold support for the necessary changes in attitudes, behaviours and practice. Promoting digital literacies is an ideal way to address these issues full on.
OER was highlighted in the conference keynotes but there is clearly resistance to the principle of open access as well as support. Here, the digital divide widens; on the one side are the pioneers of Web 2.0 technologies advocating the openness of educational opportunities; free access to papers, journals and resources, while on the other side traditional scholars value their freedom of academic choice to remain cloistered in ivory towers.
Terry Anderson (Keynote 2) quoted his experience at Abuthasca where academics have successfully resisted the call for compulsory depositing their work in the institutional repository. Instead the university has had to compromise, making it a recommendation rather than a rule.
Projects like CamFed the computer training charity ( see ‘where the water meets the sky’ blog post here) demonstrate the value of free access to the Google family in changing lives but the divisions caused by the affordability of education in Africa are every bit as great as those in the west. Here the traditional perception of higher education as an esoteric knowledge requiring [financial] initiation into its mysteries is well embedded. It will take more than the emergence of the possibility offered by Web 2.0 tools if the institution of academia is to be challenged. History shows us that the most successful downfalls come from within; the Trojan horse in this case is probably still under construction but will most likely originate from student demand. Challenging the gatekeepers of knowledge – and their licence locking mechanisms – will need lateral thinking; not releasing the knowledge already imprisoned but rethinking the way that new knowledge is constructed and distributed in the first place.