explorations in the ed tech world

same sounds-different meanings

The OER project









originally uploaded by semaphoria

Today is the day that I’m launching a personal project that I’ve been brewing for a while.  My interest in what is happening in the OER world right now has extended to a desire to try and understand what the self-directed student experience would actually be in attempting to use OERs to learn a topic area that would normally be measured as a degree level course.  

I’m having a bit of deja vu right now, since for my MA thesis in 2001, I spent 2 months documenting and journaling my attempt to use only freely available internet resources and tools to learn Spanish, using a free 56k internet connection (remember those?).  At the time, there were a lot of Spanish grammar exercises for the beginner, grammar resources, some really interesting Latin American webzines, and I was even able to catch the odd telenovela from Venezuela from some television streaming sites.  I was able to stream CNN en Espanol all day long (which I don’t think they let you do anymore), so I had a steady news stream in Spanish as background noise.  I attempted a few chat rooms to interact with some ‘real’ Spanish speakers, and spent some time sending emails to a Spanish friend.  I felt I had a lot more fun learning a language this way than sitting in a language class (which I’ve done a lot of in the past), but I’m by nature pretty self-directed so it wasn’t a big leap.  However, I also learned that I spent a lot of time looking for the appropriate resources and cobbling together some sort of course.  I clocked all of my time spent in ‘learning’ mode, and at the end of approximately 40 hours, I signed up for the DELE ( the TOEFL equivalent in Spanish) and found that I had progressed from beginner to low intermediate level, which is line with what would have been expected from a typical Spanish language course at UBC.  

Fast forward to 2008, where I’ve had a nagging desire to get on top of basic quantitative research methods and the statistics that go along with those, but no desire or time to sign up for a class.  Therefore, I’m launching myself into this project, which consists of using OERs to learn undergraduate level statistics appropriate to quantitative research methods in education.  I’d love to be able to find the perfect course package waiting for me through a search at the OpenCoursewareFinder, but I suspect I’ll be doing some patchwork between OER Commons, the OpenCourseWareFinder, and ItunesU.  I’ll be on a high speed connection this time, but I won’t be purchasing any textbooks or software in order to keep costs down and accessibility high. Since I’m interested in language and translation issues around OERs, I also plan on searching for courseware in all of the 3 languages I can actually read (English, French, and Spanish). I’ll document it on this blog somehow, and follow the same methodology as I did in 2001.  

Obviously, I hope to be successful in learning statistics (and not for the purpose of obtaining credits or credentials), but I really hope to learn more about OERs, searching OERs, and engaging with them as student in some meaningful way.  Specifically, what advantage will the OER initiatives provide that Google couldn’t provide in my 2001 experiment?  Will it speed up the assembly of course materials into some meaningful learning package? Will it provide me with a more structured learning plan?  Will I be seeking networks of experts to help me out in the absence of an instructor?  Will I know when I’ve been successful?  Will I wish I just went out and bought Statistics for Dummies?


  1. I’ll be curious to see where you end up. I’ve been helping one of our instructors set up a course web page for an intro statistics course and went out looking for OER resources she might be interested in. You might want to check out the Carnegie Mellon Open Learning site at http://www.cmu.edu/oli/courses/csr/?__utma=1.3573794993452525600.1226896079.1226896079.1226896079.1&__utmb=|utmccn=(organic)|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=Carnegie%20Mellon’s%20Open%20Learning%20Initiative&__utmv=-&__utmk=212972180 cuz they seemed to have a fairly sophisticated stats learning tool
    Looking forward to watching your progress.

  2. Since you are in BC, is it crude of me to plug http://freelearning.ca/ as a way you can search across all of these OER sources and more at one time? Would love to hear if it works for you and if not, what problems you found. Cheers, Scott Leslie

  3. This is great, Scott. This will make the task easier, so thanks.

  4. Sylvia, thanks for pointing me to this. It is interesting not only for its content, but for the “obtain credit from your home institution” model that it also provides.

    I’m going to start a separate blog for the OER project. Stay tuned.

  5. I was going to plug Scott’s Free Learning site as well. Keep in mind that the Google Co-Op search engine beneath it can have a set of whatever sources you wish, so you could refine your domains…

    It is an interesting coincidence – that DSpace Social Layer initiative that you helped me with (thanks again for the point to VUE) is intended to enhance the process of students interacting with statistics OER resources. We may be in touch for more of your thoughts soon.

  6. Thanks Brian. I’m a lazy search engine user, so there’s lots layers of searching that I rarely explore. It’s nice when somebody can prompt me in the right direction.

    On the subject of VUE, you might be interested in a chapter by David Kahle in the new Opening Up Education book, where he talks about the design approach and rationale for that tool.

  7. Hey, you are doing well with your spanish,
    thanks for sharing your technique on “virtual language immersion”
    I find that to be an interesting subject, with todays wealth of information it is possible to learn new languages while inventing new tecjniques,
    keep on going.

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