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Open Education – 3 priorities


I am continuing to enjoy my Open Education course from the Open University. This week we have been asked to;

Imagine you are advising a funding organisation that wishes to promote activity and research in the area of open education.Set out the three main priorities they should address, explaining each one and providing a justification for your list.

Open Education, The Open University

OER are defined as teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open Educational Resources include: full courses, course materials, modules, learning objects, open textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

Definition provided by Wikipedia

So here are my three priorities

The question of how to assess is obviously going to be difficult when you have tens of thousands of students enrolled on a course. This is before you even get to the issue of the different types of evaluation. Peer assessment is the most commonly used method of appraisal but that brings with it a whole host of advantages and disadvantages. Clearly it is an efficient way of assessing large quantities of works. Peer assessment also means that students (and professors) are learning from other students whilst evaluating against a set of criteria. However, and this is something I have worried about, can you assure quality? When I have completed an assignment and put time and effort into it, I would expect an objective, knowledgeable assessment and a fair mark. Can we rely on each other to do this? This article from the University of Sussex gives an overview of peer assessment and the pros and cons.

I became quite anxious completing peer assessments on my Greek Mythology Coursera course as I mentioned in a previous post about peer assessment. But then in my EDCMOOC it was a completely different experience, whether this was due to the course, assessment type or peers I can’t say. It also depends on the individual, some people are just better at this sort if thing.

Peer assessment created a huge amount of debate on a Twitterchat me and my fellow EDCMOOCers organised, with some strong views on the subject. The type and quality of peer assessment could make or break an OER so needs to be carefully considered.

Regulation and Quality
How do we regulate the OER “industry”? Can we ensure the quality of the resources? Once a resource has been posted it is there for eternity in some format or another. If mistakes are made then they are there for the world to see and subsequently use. Even if the original author corrects an error it’s too late. The resource has been downloaded and then shared again and again. The issue of quality also relates to the concern about Open Education being taken seriously. I have earned certificates and, although this isn’t my main motivation, I would still like them to be taken seriously, I have worked hard for them after all.

Learner support
How do you ensure 40,000+ students are supported? Within that number there will also be a range of learner types. This is manageable in a class of 30, but thousands? Again I refer to personal experience. In my Greek Mythology course I watched the videos, completed the tests and written assignments and that was it. I needed, nor wanted, anything else. In the EDCMOOC it was a two way system of support, mainly between students. I needed a little more support but also felt like I could offer some. Students learn in different ways and I am not sure how OERs can support or embrace this.

A overriding issue is that of consistency and collaboration with the institutes involved with OERs. Is there an “industry standard”. Do/will they work together to try and conserve credibility and create a reputation of excellence for OERs?

Open Education

As part of my Open University Open Education course I had to create an artefact defining open education using some of ideas put forward by Weller and Anderson

Here is my artefact for which I used Prezi.

My main point is that we have now, more or less, achieved education for all (obviously lots of countries still have a way to go and some might argue the UK still has lessons to learn, but that’s another post!) and this is one aspect of “openness”. However, humans and technology are evolving and we are now accessing education differently. It’s not just about being able to access education, it’s how we access and use it.

The MOOCs (massive open on-line courses) I do have highlighted this. We are now called “open scholars”. Wells raises the following point in his article The openness-creativity cycle in education – A Perspective

The combination of digital content and a global, socially oriented distribution network has created the conditions in which new interpretations of open education can develop. Indeed, some commentators have begun to talk of the ‘open scholar’, which is almost synonymous with the ‘digital scholar’ so closely aligned are the new technologies and open approaches.

I completely agree that the new technologies and open approaches are interlinked. Without technology I would not be competing these courses. They have opened a new world of global on-line collaboration which I have never encountered before. The access to resources is another aspect new to me. The fact that people are so willing to share their resources, ideas and experiences is amazing. Throughout the MOOCs I am a scholar but will also “teach” as will the others taking part. We all have something to bring to the course. The lecturers are there and start us off but the scholars are the drivers.

This model of education has the potential to “open” education to all. Whether to those who have already been through the education system or those who have never had the chance. I saw one of the most inspirational TED talks recently. I love the idea that the “teacher asks the question and then stands back and admires the answers”. Sugata Mitra, educational researcher, has a wish; “My wish is that we design the future of learning. We don’t want to be spare parts for a great human computer, do we? So we need to design a future for learning. My wish is to design a future for learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their wonder and their ability to work together”.

And this is how I feel about MOOCs in that they support me to learn by tapping into my sense of wonder and letting me collaborate and share with like minded people. I am open to education and education is open to me.

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