Bits and Pieces Around OERs…

Some bits and pieces of the jigsaw that may or may not relate to a bid I’m trying to write… it’s a core dump of base/basic principles and assumptions that I may or may not believe, to see whether or not any of them actually make sense…

– from a tweet a few weeks ago: OERs as “openly licensed resources that educators can reuse in teaching, or that learners can independently discover and learn from”

– an untested suspicion that OERs (whatever they are) are often produced under the tacit assumption that if they are to be reused, they will be selected by an educator and reused in a formal educational setting, or will be discovered (in some magical way) within an OER repository and reused by a student in a formal educational setting.

– a utilitarian view that open educational resources are just resources. That if you can find them, are willing make use of them, and can actually make use of them at least in part how you want to (which may include repurposing them, editing them, etc etc), they are to all intents “open” to you; and that they are educational if they help someone learn something or how to do something (e.g. so that if someone comes to a resource not knowing something, or not knowing how to do something, and after engaging with the resource they do know the something, or how to do it, without having to refer back to the resource, then they’ve learned something about the something…)

– a belief that a resource that can be open and educational (as described above) might also be trivial: a flashcard containing a picture of a dog and the word dog next to it, for example.

– a belief that an OER is only useable or reusable if it fits into someone else’s educational process (someone wanting to know how to do a thing, finds a resource, and ends up learning something about the thing; or a teacher trying to help someone else learn something.)

– an observation that academics often make a distinction between a “proper” academic education, and training (so you know how to design a car from first principles, but have no idea how to actually bend pieces of metal to make one, or even how to drive one;-) (Hmmm: try this: academic education helps you to make distinctions, ask questions, and find alternative ways of doing the same thing; it provides you with (cognitive) tools for abstracting out elements of a problem and solving that problem. Training maybe just shows you a single way of addressing a particular problem in a practical way?)

– a recollection of thoughts from when I last spent some time thinking about the “uncourse” model I used to draft materials for the OU Digital Worlds course: that courses typically have a single linear narrative that is determined prior to the start of the course; that the uncourse had a linear narrative only in the sense that it documented a set of topic explorations by means of a series of blog posts that were posted in serial/linear time as and when I wrote them that documented my (learning) journey through the topic; but that by the use of link structure, multiple other (linear) narratives could be woven through the network of resources that my linear sequence of posts left behind, or linked to themselves; that “self-containment” is often viewed as plus in the production of OERs, so they operate as standalone resources; but that by embedding resources in a network of other resources you potentially make them discoverable through those connected resources, and also provide context derived from those connected resources and the way they are connected; that one model for uncourse blog posts was a template that included: a question, a set of linked resources, and an example answer to the question or reflection on the linked to resources. That the resource might contain both “academic” and “training” components, that could help someone solve a practical problem (the training element) yet also referred to abstractions and reflections contextually relevant to the training element (the academic component). That as such, the resource: a) was appropriate for someone discovering the resource via a “how do I?” search query (the training bit); b) that the resource contained a contextualised example (the training bit) that could be reused by another educator or picked up on by a user who originally arrived looking for an answer to a how-do-I question; c) that the resource contained a contextualisation container (the academic bit) that could be reused by another educator with their own training component; that the uncourse produced resources that were primarily part of the web and could freely be discovered on a post-by-post basis via web search engines by users searching for appropriate terms. That the uncourse resources were not made discoverable (hah!) by virtue of being placed in siloed OER repositories, but were gifted into the web via a public website (a hosted blog) that made no claims about having academic authority or provenance.

Maybe related: @ambrouk’s Connecting people through open content and @kavubob’s Public funding, OER, and Academics – a brief reflection and An OER manifesto in twenty minutes

PS This post was written whilst trying to write a JISC OER3 bid, struggling to find the words and phrasing required to clarify the jumble of thoughts relating to what I (think I’m) bidding, for, and already suspecting that I’ve left it too late to get the signatures/sign-offs and accounting stuff done in time (needless to say, folk are on holiday, and OU deadline is a week before the JISC submission deadline)… Plus the fact the bid still isn’t written and the bits that are pretty weak:-( Sigh… I guess that makes this post a displacement activity, albeit one I thought might help with the bid (it hasn’t:-(. Needs must though – as we’re moving from being publicly funded to being funded by paying customers, I suspect the “public service because I’m publicly funded” argument I use to stave off the guilt and try to justify my activities (to myself at least) won’t work past October 2012, if even until then:-( Marketisation of HE is really going to mess things up, methinks:-(


  1. Daniel Livingstone

    This is one of the places I output my OER: which also embeds some material I posted on scribd, eg:
    This last has had over 6,000 hits and resulted in over 1,000 downloads of the C++ files linked to.
    I *think* that this is a better result than burying the material in openjorum would have given. And I didn’t even have to fill in pages of metadata. Win Win.

    • Tony Hirst

      @daniel I think there’s a lot to be said for embedding/releasing content in the sort of real world context/space folk with questions to ask/needs to fulfil might practically expect to find stuff… Blogs are also the sort of thing that can offer colections/curated content, and as such can develop a loyalty amongst folk who value that sort of resource, as well as (perhaps) being the sort of thing that folk might link to, which aids contextualisation as well as SEO;-)

    • Tony Hirst

      @daniel ;-) I really should have tried to write all sort of ed tech academic papers around that, justifying it, gaining REF credit points, justifying it in a citable way that would mean other folk could have built on in in an “academically credible” way… but I didn’t… and I should really commit some form or ritual suicide to express my own self-worthlessness for not having done the academically right and proper thing at the time… SIgh.. still.. d’you think the blog approach was an appropriate way of getting your resources used? WordPress stats suggest my blogged uncourse resources are still attracting traffic;-)

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