What is driving interest in OER and OEP
Following on from Josie Fraser’s plenary at OEPS Forum 4 in March the remainder of the forum was spent in workshop sessions. One of the aims of the OEPS forums has been to provide a space where the educational technology, learning and teaching and widening participation communities can come together and share ideas and experiences. Although not the largest of the four forums, Forum 4 had arguably the widest mix of participants from these three communities and the range of responses to the workshop questions reflects the differing perspectives of the three groups.
Workshop A involved small groups thinking about the challenges of developing a strategic approach to bringing OER and OEP into the educational mainstream in Scotland. When the OEPS team designed the workshop we had in mind that, while there are excellent examples of OER and OEP in Scotland, interest in Open Education remains confined to a relatively small minority of staff working in further and higher education. What we hoped to do was engage all those attending the forum with thinking about what such a strategy would look like.
We used the following questions to frame the discussion:
- What factors have driven, or are driving, an interest in OER or OEP in your institution or organisation?
- Are you aware of examples of how OER/OEP initiatives have started to reach wider layers of staff/students?
- What are the characteristics of your example and why do you think it has worked – we are interested in whether others could emulate?
- Where you had difficulties (starting or progressing) what were the barriers?
- Looking at the Open Scotland Declaration – in your context which of the themes do you think might be most attractive to take up as an initial practical step in engaging with OER and OEP?
- How engaged are senior policy makers in your institution/organisation? What are the key arguments or actions that might encourage greater engagement?
- Are there possibilities for cross sector collaboration? If so what – ideas to take forward?
The workshop engaged six groups for an hour. The notes captured during this time reflected the intensity and range of debate. Although our first thought was to bring these ideas together in one post we soon realised that there is simply too much. So to do justice to the discussion this is the first of a short series in which we summarise the responses to each question individually. This post focuses on question one, which asked participants to think about the factors that are driving interest in OER and OEP.
We addressed the factors driving institutional interest in OER and OEP against the backdrop of the Open Scotland declaration. However, from the perspective of higher education institutions some participants felt interest in MOOCs since 2012 had been the most significant stimulus. There were references to ‘not wanting to be left out’ and to the way in which MOOCs provide platforms to project institutional profile. Participants noted that while MOOCs are not normally openly licensed and therefore don’t meet the criteria for OER, nevertheless engagement with developing digital courses in a MOOC environment has spilled over into interest in using online material to engage with external audiences, and in the skills that academics require to create engaging online courses. The discussion suggested that these developments interact in interesting ways with much greater use of blended learning for campus based students and with moves towards open source and requirements for open research. Blended learning leads to some lecturers thinking of creative ways to develop resources. The use of YouTube and Vimeo to share material is increasing although ‘staff doing this are not necessarily aware of licensing issues’. One participant suggested that there’s a view that ‘if you’re putting things online you might as well have them in the open’. Openness in the research sphere often means that ‘open’ is mandatory but there is also the beginning of a trend to envisage OER as a vehicle for the public dissemination or research outputs. Running through the discussion of this question was an awareness of tensions in the development of open education in FE and HE. It was noted that institutional and individual views don’t always align.
Workshop participants working for organisations outside the formal education sectors contributed additional perspectives. Awareness of OER is patchy, but when people and organisations are aware of the wealth of free, openly licensed resources available it provokes new thinking about how participation can be extended through use of OER and what kinds of practice (OEP) is required to help this happen. This strand of discussion overlapped with a view from the formal sector that ‘open’ fits with mission and values around widening participation. New and user-friendlier technology makes a fit between mission and means for widening participation increasingly possible.
Discussion on drivers also focused on students and the skills and expectations they bring with them. Participants from the formal and informal sectors reflected on the extent to which students (clients, members etc) live in a digital world and the ways in which this exerts pressure for change.
Much of the discussion of drivers for developing OER and OEP was intercut with observations about challenges, barriers and tensions. For the sake of brevity we’ve omitted these here. However, they will be addressed in the next post in this series, which will centre on the second workshop question.
If you’ve written on the factors driving adoption of OER and OEP and would like to share or if you have a response to this post do post in the comments or get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pete Cannell for the OEPS team