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Tag: OERs

Reflections on #OER17 – From Beyond Content to Open Pedagogy

By @choconancy Nancy White

In 2012 I attended the Open Ed conference in Vancouver , provocatively titled Beyond Content.  This was the same conference where Gardner Campbell captured our hearts with his infamous quote “this is not what I meant at all” , mirroring a sentiment that open was being co-opted by corporate interests and heading down a slippery slope of open-washing and dubious learner benefit.  But what also struck me about this particular Open Ed conference was that  the sessions weren’t really about Beyond Content in the way I had anticipated…the session archive shows that we were still very much talking about OERs, open courseware, and beginning to explore open textbooks. In other words, content was still how we framed open at this point in time.

Flash forward 5 years and I’m still buzzing from #OER17, a well timed conference framed around the Politics of Open. This particular event, with tightly and masterfully curated keynotes and sessions, was able to demonstrate without a doubt that we are beyond content.  The keynotes and sessions I attended fearlessly tackled a range of topics around open that I’m not even sure I heard the word OER once over the course of the two days.  There are already so many great summaries written up and collected over here, but it was the first time I felt that we were truly moving our conversations beyond content.

I, along with my colleagues who travelled from Mexico presented on an evaluation of a faculty development program – lovingly known as the Agora – designed around open pedagogy and it was fortuitous to catch a blog post by David Wiley and subsequent tweet storm prior to our last day, last session time slot.  David’s post outlines a number of good provocations about How is Open Pedagogy Different? but ultimately niggled me in a way I found difficult to articulate.  The crux of the argument was that the open pedagogy needs to be defined by the 5Rs, because if not, how was open pedagogy different from just plain old pedagogy.

Let me begin by saying that my own institution has benefitted greatly from OERs.   We participate in developing and reusing open textbooks and are three years into developing a Zed Cred/Zee Degree, we have adapted two CC BY courses provided to us from Athabasca University, and we have without a doubt been able to innovate because others have been willing to share their open content.  And we have to acknowledge that the 5Rs – which in my reading are framed around content but is something that is contested in in the tweet storm – provide good clarification for what open is in the context of OERs.

But I had to ponder whether OERs and the 5Rs have anything to do with open pedagogy.   In other words:

  • Is content essential to open?
  • Can you have open pedagogy without OERs?
  • Is content what defines pedagogy?

And if we do assume that OERs are essential to open pedagogy, can we ever really move Beyond Content?

Back to our open pedagogy presentation.  The Agora design process was focussed on what an open design would actually be a means to which can be summarized as:

  1. Open as a means to facilitate a faculty culture of collaboration across the university and across disciplines
  2. Open as a means to connect with a broader, global community
  3. Open as means to challenge and expand existing understandings of student centre learning
  4. Open as means to challenge ways of doing, in this case,  the options and possibilities of digital technology and mobile learning
  5. Open as a means to make the lives of faculty easier in their pursuit of better teaching and learning
  6. Open as a means to create a sustainable approach to faculty development

Ultimately we did create content that fits quite nicely with the 5Rs, but the goal of our open pedagogy design process was not to create OERs as a means towards or even as an essential component of open pedagogy. The Agora was alternatively all of the ‘isms –  behaviourism, connectivism, constructivism, constructionism – but the ism doesn’t really matter.  Importantly, the open pedagogy design was at times technology-enabled and at times it didn’t use technology or the internet at all.  OERs didn’t allow us to practice a different pedagogy, rather the open pedagogy of the Agora was a bricolage of activities and practices that at times resulted in OERs and at times didn’t.

If OERS and open content is a way for us to open the door a little bit more, then great. But it’s not the only way to open, and is not even a requirement in my view.  And if I took anything away from #OER17, it’s that there are so many directions to explore, critique, challenge when we talk about open.





Competencies and OER considerations

In December I was given an opportunity to work on a project that involves developing a checklist of instructor competencies for e-learning.  This kind of project has the appearance of being simple, since checklists are purposefully simple after all.  But delving into the world of instructors, competencies, and e-learning is an onion with many layers, and one that engages a bit of an internal struggle.  The administrator-by-day part of me welcomes this project since it will have an immediate, tangible benefit to the people I work with and have a mandate to support.  If done well, it will help with planning, managing, and evaluating some of our activities.  It can communicate expectations that are the responsibility of both instructors and the institution to fill.

The academic part of me bristles at the idea of online instructors being distilled into a list of competencies that will somehow speak to the diversity of learning contexts, student needs, teaching and  learning approaches, and technologies that inform e-learning.  I’d like this checklist to somehow be flexible to the above, but still be usable. This is the challenge I’m currently faced with and have yet to resolve.

Nonetheless, the research phase of this project lead me to a few gems, which I’ll continue to share.  My favourite by far is E-Learning Methodologies:  A guide for designing and developing e-learning courses produced by the FAO in Rome. It’s a huge pdf, but anybody starting out in the field would be well served by reading this visually pleasing, informative, and well designed document.  In fact, if a pdf could be a MOOC, this would be it. The document description reads:

The purpose of this guide is to provide detailed guidance on designing and developing an e-learning course for trainers and instructional designers who are new to e-learning design. It also provides basic concepts and information on the processes and resources involved in e-learning development, which might be of interest to capacity-development managers. The information in this guide is based on consolidated instructional design models and learning theories and incorporates FAO’s experience in delivering e-learning courses in development contexts…

What I particularly liked about this guide was the attention paid to OERs, which  should now be a standard chapter in any guide on e-learning design.  In fact, in my research it was only 1 of 2 documents that considered locating, reusing, or creating OERs as a skill or competency for instructors or e-learning developers.  This is an obvious gap in both institutional expectations and expectations of the field in general.

Box.net as a media repository



This post is basically  a thinly-veiled, massive plug for Box.net.  You can read all about what it’s supposed to do on their website, but I’ve been using it here at Canadian Polytechnic as a media repository for one of the programs I work with.

Consider the problem (one not so unique):  you work within a large unit that produces fantastic media for the institution on a daily basis.  This media gets used by instructors and students via different channels–online courses using a CMS, websites, powerpoints, even paper manuals.  The media is then dispersed through all these channels and sits in various locations–personal hard drives, servers, DVDs, CMS repositories.  There is no central index to the media, therefore no way of locating a: what has been created and b: where it is sitting.  Basically, imagine all the contents of your institutional library distributed across the cubicles  of your institution’s 5 campuses, without knowing what is sitting at which cubicle.

Let’s say you need a series of images of boats. Given the size of your institution, you know that somebody must have some boat pictures that were created for XYZ program, since they talk about boats.  You can go and find somebody in the program to see if you can “borrow” them.  Alternatively,  you have no idea that XYZ program even talks about boats, so you ask somebody at the institution to a: create some boat images or b:  purchase some for you.  Perhaps your saavy librarian could even see if there are any open access images of boats that could be used.  But searching the open repositories is pretty time consuming, and not always fruitful, so that might not turn up anything.

Your institution might be in discussion about setting up a searchable repository for institutionally created media.  But this might take a while for various reasons, and in the meantime XYZ program has decided that they want to a:  locate all the media sitting in the CMS courses and have it in one place, b: make it searchable and shareable with other programs in the Faculty/School/Institute and other institutions.  But it has to be super easy to:  

1. get any kind of media into the repository (from docs to movies, with a drag and drop interface)

2. tag it

3. share it (simple link so borrowers don’t to have to set up accounts or login)

4. search it

5. control permissions (different media and programs require different levels of permissions)


Box does a lot more than all that, but this is what we’ve found useful.  I like to think of it as a very small step towards an OER strategy at our institute–when the tools make it easier to share, then sharing might actually happen.

Why haven’t I tried this yet?

Found this review of Calameo buried in my bookmarks, and am wondering why I haven’t used it yet?  Has anybody used Calameo as a tool for creating OERs?  Or even as a type of online course manual?