Authored in collaboration with Lucy Blakemore
Our 3-part blog series on Open Education Resources (OER) explores what we can learn from three leading experts who recently shared their experience and research in OER at our March Learning Design meetup. Following David Wiley’s discussion on principles of OER and why these matter, our second speaker was Dr David Porter, Senior Adviser Higher Education at Commonwealth of Learning.
In his presentation, David shared current examples of OER in practice from institutions including Ontario Tech University and the University of British Columbia. These showcase the supporting structures that help open practices grow, and the collegial approaches which support and share emergent practices. Five themes emerged from David’s presentation:
1. The origins of open thinking: access, equity, and sharing knowledge
David initially stressed that the aim of open education is providing accessible education for everyone. Building on the work of David Wiley, David Porter also highlighted assumptions about openness in education, which include:
- Grant freedoms instead of imposing restrictions
- Sharing knowledge is fundamental to teaching
- Collaboration builds communities of practice
- To increase access to higher education by reducing study costs
- To improve student learning by removing barriers to resources
- To empower faculty by giving them more control over their instructional strategies
As one common form of OER, open textbooks have been adopted more widely in the last 20 years for offering many benefits such as affordability, equal access to content, and flexibility, since open textbooks can be customised to a teaching subject. Examples:
- College Physics – developed by a team of instructors, graduate students and staff members, and hosted on the edX Edge platform
- Differential calculus for the life sciences – in 2016, instructors in 16 math courses have adopted open or free textbooks – download open version of Differential calculus for the life sciences open textbook or free PDF and web-based calculus textbooks and problem books
- Four-year degree with zero textbook costs (ZTC) – open textbooks authored by Kwantlen Polytechnic University instructors and faculty from other institutions
2. Supporting structures: a path to growth for open practices
To make open education work in universities we need to build a flexible path to learning by adopting tools that enable open educational practice. As most educational materials are available in the digital format, there is a need for a system that defines affordances and legal access to content. Creative commons has paved the path for universities in a simple, standardised way to grant copyright permissions to scholarly work. This permission allows anyone to freely use, adapt and share the resource – anytime, anywhere.
However, not all Creative Commons licenses qualify a work to be considered as OER. The image below shows that CC licenses with the ND element are not generally considered OER, since they cannot be changed, but only allow for access to share. They are actually considered the ‘least open’ before traditional copyright.
3. Infrastructure, tools and human networks
There are many tools that can be used to generate OER which can be hosted in library systems or faculty shareable assets, such as:
- Pressbooks.com – an open-source content management system designed for creating books which offers individual, faculty and institutional teams a affordable and accessible way to create, customise, host and publish open textbooks
- H5P – an open-source platform to create, share and reuse interactive content, soon to release its H5P OER Hub
- PHET – creates free interactive math and science simulations that can be reused and embedded into teaching subjects
- Hypothes.is – open-source collaborative annotation tool that claims increasing student engagement, expanding reading comprehension, and building critical-thinking and community in classes
- OpenStax – one of the world’s largest nonprofit digital learning platforms and publisher of free, open education resources
4. A collegial approach to exploring and sharing emergent practices
The fourth theme in David’s talk was around creating innovative ideas by harnessing a collegial and collaborative approach to OER development. One successful approach he mentioned was the Open Innovations model, which includes: creating people networks, providing access to technical tools and finding creative ideas that can be harnessed to generate OER.
David shared several examples of academics, researchers and students networks working collaboratively on developing OER such as:
- Open textbooks – professionals and academics at BCcampus working collaboratively to develop open textbooks
- Syllabi – virtual course syllabi to market courses from Canadian Historical Association
- Case studies – BC Campus combine OER case study resources with FOSS electronic health record software to create an experiential learning environment for students
- Question banks – instructors from six post secondary institutions gathered to write questions for use in introductory psychology courses
All these projects had one common aim: to create benefits for their students and their peers. However, technology remains one of the important anchors of this innovation model; therefore, tapping into open source software technologies is important to advance the development of OER projects. David highlighted the role of senior management in supporting OER in higher educational institutions, stressing that such type of top-down support has a significant impact on actioning OER initiatives.
5. Practice drives policy
Even though OER projects have many benefits, there are many serious issues that hinder their uptake. Among the challenges that OER movement continues to face include: lack of professional recognition for academics who are involved in OER development; lack of resources (time and money) to support OER projects; lack of clarity on intellectual property rights for teaching resources that are produced as OER; concerns about the quality of resources; and lack of a comprehensive institutional approach to open education.
In order to improve the uptake of OER projects David has suggested that “In 2021, practice will drive OER policy from within institutions”, calling on academics and practitioners to take serious actions to influence top management to put in place new policies that support OER projects.
Feature image from Pixabay