Open Training Resources

Some disconnected thoughts about who gives a whatever about OERs, brought on in part by @liamgh’s Why remix an Open Educational Resource? (see also this 2 year old post: So What Exactly Is An OpenLearn Content Remix?). A couple of other bits of context too, to to situate HE in a wider context of educational broadcasting:

Trust partially upholds fair trading complaints against the BBC: “BESA appealed to the Trust regarding three of the BBC’s formal learning offerings on between 1997 and 2009. … the Trust considers it is necessary for the Trust to conduct an assessment of the potential competitive impacts of Bitesize, Learning Zone Broadband and the Learning Portal, covering developments to these offerings since June 2007, and the way in which they deliver against the BBC’s Public Purposes. This will enable the Trust to determine whether the BBC Executive’s failure to conduct its own competitive impact assessment since 2007 had any substantive effect. … No further increases in investment levels for Bitesize, Learning Zone Broadband and the Learning Portal will be considered until the Trust has completed its competitive impact assessment on developments since 2007

Getting nearer day by day: “We launched a BBC College of Journalism intranet site back in January 2007 … aimed at the 7,500 journalists in the BBC … A handful of us put together about 1200 pages of learning – guides, tips, advice – and about 250 bits of video; a blog, podcasts, interactive tests and quizzes and built the tools to deliver them. A lot of late nights and a lot of really satisfying work. Satisfying, too, because we put into effect some really cool ideas about informal learning and were able to find out how early and mid career journalists learn best. … The plan always was to share this content with the people who’d paid for it – UK licence fee payers. And to make it available for BBC journalists to work on at home or in parts of the world where a www connection was more reliable than an intranet link. Which is where we more or less are now.” [my emphasis; see also BBC Training and Development]

And this: Towards Vendor Certification on the Open Web? Google Training Resources

So why my jaded attitude? Because I wonder (again) what it is we actually expect to happen to these OERs (how many OER projects re-use other peoples’ bids to get funding? How many reuse each others ‘what are OERs stuff’? How many OER projects ever demonstrate a remix of their content, or a compelling reuse of it? How many publish their sites as a wiki so other people can correct errors? How many are open to public comments, ffs? How many give a worked example of any of the twenty items on Liam’s list with their content, and how many of them mix in other people’s OER content if they ever do so? How many attempt to publish running stats on how their content is being reused, and how many demonstrate showcase examples of content remix and reuse.

That said, there are signs of some sort of use: ‘Self-learners’ creating university of online; maybe the open courseware is providing a discovery context for learners looking for specific learning aids (or educators looking for specific teaching aids)? That is, while use might be most likely at the disaggregated level, discovery will be mediated through course level aggregations (the wider course context providing the SEO, or discovery metadata, that leads to particular items being discovered? Maybe Google turns up the course, and local navigation helps (expert) users browse to the resource they were hoping to discover?)

Early days yet, I know, but how much of the #ukoer content currently being produced will be remixed with, or reused alongside, content from other parts of that project as part of end-of-project demos? (Of course, if reuse/remix isn’t really what you expect, then fine… and, err, what are you claiming, exactly? Simple consumption? That’s fine, but say it; limit yourself to that…)

Ok, rant part over. Deep breath. Here comes another… as academics, we like to think we do the education thing, not the training thing. But for those of you who do learn new stuff, maybe every day, what do you find most useful to support that presumably self-motivated learning? For my own part, I tend to search for tutorials, and maybe even use How Do I?. That is, I look for training materials. A need or a question frames the search, and then being able to do something, make something, get my head round something enough to be able to make use of it, or teach it on, frames the admittedly utilitarian goal. Maybe that ability to look for those materials is a graduate level information skill, so it’s something we teach, right…? (Err… but that would be training…?!)

So here’s where I’m at – OERs are probably [possibly?] not that useful. But open training materials potentially are. (Or maybe not..?;-) Here are some more: UNESCO Training Platform

And so is open documentation.

They probably all could come under the banner of open information resources, but thy are differently useful, and differently likely to be reused/reusable, remixed/remixable, maintained/maintainable or repurposed/repurposeable. Of them all, I suspect that the opencourseware subset of OERs is the least re* of them all.

That is all…


Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

11 thoughts on “Open Training Resources”

  1. Occasional rants are good for the *soul*, I think, which leads directly to the problem as it seems to me: yes, the original OER agenda may be great, but what effectively happens with OER projects isn’t always about that agenda, is it? That’s fine, of course, but for me the trouble begins when things start to look too much like an evil metaphor from a famous book: He-who-must-not-be-named splitting his soul in many pieces, hiding it wherever he thinks the pieces will be safe, just to lose them gradually and, of course, his life in the end.

    Though I’m quite enthusiastic about OER and ‘open’ stuff, generally, perhaps from the perspective of a bigger (possibly wacky and distorted?) picture, OERs are just as useful as the good old Yellow Pages or some ‘Auntie whoever answers’ column or blog. Yellow Pages play with serendipity, probably like Auntie, who may timely advise you to ‘leave it alone’ when obsession kicks in, perhaps to go and figure out *if* you want to learn anything in the first place: honestly, sometimes that is the question I ask! And why shouldn’t anyone have the right to ask this too? That’s the only reason I still split ‘education’ from ‘training’: ‘training’ should help you to answer a question or solve a problem, ‘education’ should be helping you to ask new questions and see problems differently, so everyone should be entitled to *both*. Simplistic and out-of-fashion, I admit, yet very well-intentioned – just an indication that there may be something to be learnt from understanding how ‘knowledge’, whatever that is, ‘may come to be’.

    This leads to the question that really makes me feel like the child shouting that the Emperor has no clothes: haven’t we all, academics, teachers, educators, professionals, parents and soap fans, been reusing, repurposing and remixing for ever? Open stuff clearly doesn’t lead to understood stuff …

    1. Errm – reality check? Yes, another problem, but *really* unrelated? I’m not sure: aren’t economics and politics somehow related to ideology? That’s the *soul* thing I had in mind, thinking that people don’t always do stuff *only* for the first 2 (naivety? good – perhaps I’ve still got something of a soul left for myself!). Of course, economics is a (very) tangible ingredient in the mix, but I guess the ‘failure’, if any, has been on the split between politics and ideology that didn’t do much to help with engagement: and doesn’t a little engagement work wonders?

      My ‘thing’ with the Emperor’s clothes is that I often feel that Web-enabled stuff is not always bringing anything particularly new to the scene, but actually making old things a bit more obvious. We’ve now got all these systems being constructed to detect and prevent plagiarism amonst our students (Tom & Jerry come to mind, for some reason), for example, but this has always been a problem, hasn’t it? Perhaps it’s just that now it’s easier to do because there are more sources readily available. A fictitious character I invented a while ago said something along the lines of ‘Uniqueness is being subtle about resemblance’. If that makes any sense, perhaps subtlety is what *an education* provides?

      The cat is out of the bag and we can’t put it back in, but we still live by old rules of ownership, ‘identity’, specific types of recognition, validation and tentative measurements of things immesurable – that’s where I see real excitement is, perhaps, in the things that will come when the feet of these old clay idols are broken …

  2. Perhaps it also comes down to your definition of repurpose and remix. Does an OER or OCW lose its educational value if I use it “as is”? Need I repackage/remix it in my own wiki or LMS in order to serve the greater “open” good?

    Isn’t the fact that I am using just a single course of a larger degree, or a unit of a larger class to serve my own training/learning ends a remix/repurposing in and of itself?

    I see OER as the portal for educators to have a teacher-driven, individual classroom-based, just-in-time professional development model rather than a district-led removed-from-the-trenches inservice. THAT is a revolutionary use of higher education teaching and learning materials as far as I am concerned (and the topic of my ISTE proposal – lol).

  3. Thats an insightful post. OER could also be looked in terms of dissection of linguistic understanding of word Open. Juxtaposing it with close will give us one variable that makes the difference. And its the license. Either its licensed doesn’t matter its cc or copyright, its closed. OR its second-rate less inclusive community created dispersed bits of information called OERs. That is exactly what makes OERs absurd. For me, open is what the actually word open means. By any sense of economy, sociology, ethics and freedom, it should be FREE. You could earn from it for people who are willing to pay for that but if it is remotely considered unethical or improper to use a book without paying for it, you don’t have to discuss openness then. Your problem is very definition of education then, not OERs.

  4. Not totally clear what you are arguing for here Tony – that because ‘OER’ have yet to achieve some mythic goal of total remix/reuse we should…what exactly? Not make educational resources freely available? lock them away in LMS forever? I know you are not arguing for that, but it strikes me as not totally productive to go after ‘OER’ as a target if one generally embraces ‘openness’ as both a useful means and also even potentially a valuable end in itself. Is it ‘formal’ OER projects that are the target? OER projects that claim one goal but then quite evidently pursue another?

    There are all sorts of critiques of OER that seem to me to be valid and that I too often make. What I’ve been encouraged by is how far it seems to have come in a short time (when compared with the history of not sharing, remixing and reusing, a history that very much exists despite claims to the contrary, or at least please can we all use the same standards when comparing) and the extent to which the ‘movement’ seems to be able to change in response to feedback and critiques. Maybe not change at the speed of blog posts, but it does feel like lots of the critiques around formats, learner agency and engagement, internationalization, localization, content-centric approaches, etc have been taken to heart, with new models and approaches appearing all the time. Maybe I’m just naive and optimistic. Entirely possible.

    I really value your perspective, you know that, but I’m having a hard time digging the positive feedback out of this particular rant. Cheers, Scott

    1. @scott I guess the point of the rant was that when people talk about remix and reuse (and all the other things that Liam mentioned in his list) in their bids and justifications, and then they don’t give any practical examples of how ‘this is how we think people might re-*” our content when they write their end of project bids, they’re not…. I dunno, engaging with it?

      From my own perspective, I get most embed reuse from content on slideshare and Youtube; and get most ‘atomic’ reuse from CC-licensed images on flickr (which I use in presentations). I regularly reuse javascript/html/css snippets (that is, when I say reuse, I mean steal. I don’t care what the license is…)

      If people wrote bids saying “we want to open our content because we think it’s a Good Thing, and w have no idea how it might be used, I’d be tempted to find them. If they spiouted all sorts of re* crap, I wouldn’t, unless they’d shown elsewhere how they personally were approaching re*, with a few worked examples… I steal re* all sorts of things, and most of all it’s patterns. So show me me how I might re* your OER stuff with some other OER stuff, and then I can pinch that pattern and implement it with content I’ve found elsewhere.

      I’m just twitchy that when #ukoer projects report later this years, that it’ll just be another however many isolated siloes of content, albeit openly licensed. And whilst I can see there may be benefit at an institutional level from just having done it, fought those rights battles and so on, so what? So nothing is really different, because if the only difference is that the content that was posted before is now posted with a CC license, that’s no difference at all, because individuals re* stuff all the time and don’t give a damn about the licensing…

      ;-) Methinks we need to meet up for a beer somewhen..! Is there a conference we can maybe jointly target…?!

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