Individual Strand synthesis – Isobel Falconer and Karen Smith
Table of Contents
The primary focus of the programme has been on release of materials, rather than on use. Hence evidence of demand and use is lacking, and is seen as a major gap in understanding. How OE students create self-directed learning goals, how OE students persist in the process of self-directed study and achieve their learning outcomes, models of pedagogy for OE and building and sustaining communities of learners within OE are all areas that need substantial further research. Some incidental evidence has emerged, however, in the course of the projects. Projects have been collating evidence of the demand for OERs from different stakeholders, including CPD users, casual/informal learners, enrolled and potentially enrolled students, teaching staff. They have been tracking downloads and views using stats from third party hosts (iTunes U, YouTube, etc), and with Google analytics a particularly popular method.
OERs released through the programme have included a wide variety of types: Online, video and podcast lectures or mini lectures, audio files, worksheets, Open source software; reading lists, learning outcomes and objectives; course outlines; questions/answers, self-study assignments, guidance, RLOs, simulations, with video clips being particularly popular.
Discoverability is a theme that underlies a number of discussions about end users. Approaches adopted by the projects include using web2.0 methods to “push” users towards materials, search engine optimisation and metadata, syndication to place materials near user communities, and grouping related materials into sets.
There is a reasonable amount of evidence that academics like disaggregated materials, that separate tasks and resources, so that they can pick up on separate assets and incorporate them into new learning materials or activities. Such assets need to be small enough to be used without editing. For learners, there is evidence that situating the assets in a coherent whole aids discovery. However the openSpace project found that independent informal learners did not want to be strongly guided through materials, and implemented a more flexible navigation structure that enabled easy movement back and forth. This runs contrary to a generally held assumption that learners as end-users will prefer resources in which their learning path is carefully guided, and/or the learning outcomes are clear.
Many OERs are aimed at multiple user groups. At the same time, a number of projects have noted the importance of placing materials near the intended user communities. Syndication of materials through RSS has generally been the chosen solution to this problem, allowing subject and skills communities to harvest a selection of OER material and present it in within or near their preferred systems.
The pedagogic approaches evidenced in the materials range from the didactic (often as videos or podcasts), through social constructivist, to a situative or community of practice approach. These different approaches entail different usage patterns, different forms of pedagogic guidance, and different technical decisions. The most immediately striking difference may be in their different relationship to their user communities: producers of didactic or constructivist OERs may encourage user feedback, review, ratings, and use web2.0 to raise awareness; while doing these, producers of social constructivist of situative materials are even more concerned with enabling the learner to contribute to the materials, generally through web2.0 technologies which become integral to a dynamic, changing resource.
A number of projects in the individual strand have been working directly with learners either as producers, users, or repurposers of OERs. In some cases this has been part of a deliberate community of practice approach to teaching, and in others as part of user testing or feedback. They have noted a flattening of the traditional teacher-learner hierarchy, to a more equal community of peers. They have also noted that many independent learners want to dip in, just to resources that are of immediate relevance to them, rather than to follow a set path through a unit of study. Projects see this as a more learner-centric approach, that has implications for the way they structure their OERs.
User testing by the openSpace project has shown the importance, in providing pedagogic information, of using terms that are familiar to the general public (eg. not “pedagogy”) and of consistency in describing the context of a lesson’s materials (eg. don’t interchange terms like “session” and “unit”).
Provision of feedback and assessment for users of OERs has not generally been addressed. The openSpace project, however, has explicitly built peer assessment and critique into its dynamic materials, providing guidelines for users. More research in this area is needed.
Learner repurposing is an integral part of the pedagogic approach of some projects. Such projects have generally provided brief guidance for learners on rights clearance and licensing, and on the technical skills needed. Other aspects of OER release, such as metadata and accessibility, are less well covered, though ease of managing these has figured in projects’ decisions about what software to use to enable learner contributions.
In one individual project, ChemistryFM, pedagogic approach has been a driver for production of OERs, rather than vice versa. The individual projects have found students very ready to contribute materials, as part of their course, for pay, or entirely voluntarily.
Detailed questions and evidence
Can we see a pattern in relation to level of granularity and use, re-use, re-purposing?
The EVOLUTION project articulates the argument for enabling disaggregation:
all component parts have been released as open educational resources users can now personalise or customise the materials to their particular subject area or context… in order that OERs may be re-used or re-purposed designers and developers need to ensure that resources created can be used and re-used with different tasks and in different contexts. Within a classroom environment the maximum re-use of OERs will occur where the teaching resource is kept separate from the task and the teacher provides the context. Therefore resources in OERs designed to be re-used should be kept separate from tasks within any e-learning activity to maximise their potential re-use.(EVOLUTION final report)
Despite the advantages of small grained, high value assets, there is a need to maintain coherence. MMTV have pointed to the difficulty of locating many distinct resources, and for this reason have created video sets. EVOLUTION, although ensuring that rights have been cleared on all digital assets so that their materials can be disaggregated, present them as mini-lectures. openSpace present their materials as coherent units of study, but ensure that navigation through the materials is sufficiently flexible to suit independent learners.
How far are use patterns influenced by: the subject discipline and/or topic area; type of resources made available?
BROME has pointed out that introductory or generalist level materials benefit from a wider number of potential users. ChemistryFM noted that videos relating to theoretical concepts received the highest number of views, but were less highly rated than those showing how to perform calculations.
ChemistryFM poster analysing usage
How is pedagogy manifested in open content, if at all?
OER may be intrinsically more learner centred than traditional resources: eg.
A password is a barrier to entry and OER can provide a click and learn scenario experience. Open content release can thus facilitate delivery towards meeting the demands of twenty-first century learners, by providing learning object based content that is “just enough, just in time, and just for me.” (BROME final report)
Pedagogy is evident when making the role of students as producers of OER very visible within the OER: eg.
Significantly, a novel approach was taken in the FED project [upon which ChemistryFM built] by using students as teachers in the video clips. It is known that successful learning can take place through student peer interaction in formal and informal settings and that encouraging students to be producers, rather than simply consumers, is core to our institution’s teaching and learning strategy. The project took advantage of the communication skills used between students in informal learning within the video clips. It is also widely accepted in teaching that animation can be a powerful tool for visualising difficult ideas and so they incorporated animations into the clips.(Chemistry FM final report)
In what ways, if at all, do learning and teaching practices (need to) change when OERs are widely available?
Open education students may exhibit different behaviours, because they are more self-directed, than institution-based students, and this has implications for the way OER are structured: eg.
Alpha Testing also noted that there was an underlying assumption that OE students would go from one unit of study to the next as opposed to ‘sampling content’, navigating back and forth through the content. This raised an issue with the navigation structure which was addressed. This stressed the point that while this structure works very well with campus based students and distance learners with access to tutors, it didn’t translate particularly well to the OE user experience.(openSpace final report)
With a community model, collaboration and peer review may provide feedback and assessment for students (though not accreditation – yet), eg.
Each taster session and each session within the full screenwriting unit has its own forum where students can post their work and critique their peers. Learning goals and aims accompany each session. And information about how the course is structured is provided. This is to enable students to measure their own achievement and provide a basis for peer feedback…. Peer review, in the form of peer to peer critiquing within the online communities, supersedes traditional academic assessment within openSpace. (openSpace final report)
openSpace critiquing guidelines
Further research is needed in this area:
Specifically, it is our hope that others within the community will join us researching aspects of open education that have begun to be discussed within the community: How OE students create self-directed learning goals, how OE students persist in the process of self-directed study and achieve their learning outcomes, models of pedagogy for OE and building and sustaining communities of learners within OE. We also hope there will be continued discussions around how units of study with OE can be officially recognised, either through academic credits, certificate or some other means. (openSpace final report)
OER can support a move to better research-teaching linkage by involving students as producers of OER: eg.
Having formally evaluated the response to the videos and found that students favoured the use of student-produced multimedia teaching and learning resources, the ChemistryFM project has similarly funded two graduate students to produce resources for the entire course, including five tie-in radio programmes, which have been broadcast on air and online. From a broader perspective, the Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD) is driving a university-wide research-engaged teaching and learning agenda, in which students are encouraged and supported to collaborate with teachers in real research projects, becoming active student producers of their own learning… Communicating with and to such students, through collaboration rather than direction, is more aligned with ‘context-based’ teaching, which more often is found in schools and colleges. (ChemistryFM final report)
The software has been developed over a number of years, with major contributions from final year project students…the original development of the software was undertaken on the understanding that it could be made available as open-source and open-learning resources. (Java Breadboard final report)
How can student-created content be made openly available for sharing, peer review and collaboration?
Choice of software is important for functionality, accessibility and usability, eg. openSpace’s choice of Kaltura:
The technology behind Kaltura enables content publishers to:
- Collect and Ingest Content
- Publish Content
- Syndication and Sharing
- Manage Content and Apps
(openSpace final report)
Summary of pedagogic materials released
openSpace: lectures; study notes, assignments, suggested reading, mandatory reading, research; forums; learning goals and aims; course structure information; study skills guidance; discussion forums
Brome: Study skills guidance
ChemistryFM: powerpoints and audio; video; course handbook
Evolution: study skills (coming)
Java Breadboard: lab sheets; exercises; worked examples; tutor-support materials; user guides; discussion forums
Summary of approaches to ensuring coherence at the same time as user flexibility
openSpace: chunking and tabbed headings
ChemistryFM: navigation by mindmap
MMTV: video sets
Evolution: packaged reusable learning objects