OERu as Game Changer

The Open Education Resource University: a game changer?

One development that could inject new life into the dual-mode model is the Open Education Resource (OER) University that is being explored by a group of public universities from several countries. Open Educational Resources may prove to be the most disruptive element of the impact of eLearning in higher education. How might they help to widen access, cut costs and give dual-mode provision new relevance?

Some institutions are already encouraging the use of OER to avoid each teacher having to re-invent the wheel for each course. For example, once academics at the Asia eUniversity have developed course curricula they do not create any original learning materials, but simply adapt good quality OER from the web to their needs. Similarly, Athabasca University will only approve development of a course once those proposing it have done a thorough search for relevant open material that can be re-purposed.

Some would go much further. In February 2011 New Zealand’s Open Education Resource Foundation convened a meeting to operationalize the concept of the Open Educational Resource University. The idea is that students find their own content as OER; get tutoring from a global network of volunteers; are assessed, for a fee, by a participating institution; and earn a credible credential. The concept has echoes of the University of London External System that innovated radically 150 years ago by declaring that all that mattered was performance in examinations, not how students acquired their knowledge.

Excerpted from Sir John Daniel of the Commonwealth of Learning’s article  in Open Learning, the journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning: special Issue on dual mode universities (Volume 27 2012, Issue 1 2012)

The instructor role in a FLIPPED class

I blogged about this a while back – how the instructor role can be reinvented, rather than threatened by effective application of technology and process.
I was, obviously, more focused on an online or hybrid class environment, but I believe the same applies to instructors who embrace, rather than run from, elements that allow them to focus on the “what’s really cool about teaching (and learning)…. insert discipline here
Ian Stewart’s post today references instructors who value class time so highly that they would not dream of doing drill and kill or lecturing to a passive audience.
He writes: “By focusing that valuable face-to-face classroom time on exercises that put the lessons learned during lectures into actual practice (doing the homework at school), instructors are supporting the part of the learning process (the “doing”) that students really retain. That is, since students learn the most by implementing theories they’ve learned into real-life work, it makes sense to use as much of your 50-minute in-person session on that as possible.”

My recent work at SNHU has been focused on what we’ve called transitional text that is going to help provide students with the guidance and hopefully some of the impetus to get them from OER resource #1 to #2 and #27, then back to take a self-check quiz or post an assignment. Interesting (flow-inducing) resources and the students’ own intrinsic motivation may get some of them down that path to success, but the main? challenge for online can, and indeed should, be how to convey that passion that a true scholar in the field has developed – how to ignite the fire, illustrate the end point, and viscerally engage the drowsing? student…

Stewart, in what is looking like a pact among Scottish-sounding ed-theorists, references Andrew Miller, who writes that a “flipped” classroom still requires instructors to demonstrate the value of their content, whether online or offline. “Just because I record something, or use a recorded material, does not mean that my students will want to watch, nor see the relevance in watching it,” he writes. ” … If the flipped classroom is truly to become innovative, then it must be paired with transparent and/or embedded reason[s] to know the content.”

Both these posts confirm for me that there is a great opportunity in “unbundling” the instructor role – allowing technology and online (peer-to-peer) communities to deal with some of the things that they can take off an instructor’s plate, allowing her/him the chance to get back to inspiring, motivating and Captain-my-captain-ing.

Stewart’s post here: In ‘Flipped’ Classroom, the Emphasis must be on support, not video”

The Primary Challenge for the OER Movement

David Wiley recently posted an article on the challenge of assessment in the OER world. http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2042
It certainly does seem to be a challenge – we (SNHU Innovation team) spent time with ETS at their Higher Ed Advisory Council last week in San Diego where we had some great break-out discussions around standardized testing. It was a great session; they have some VERY smart employees in Princeton (special mentions for Ross, Patrick, Kate and David) and they convened a very interesting group of academics.

The current assessment choice for those of us working in the OER space seems to be:

  • on one hand, multiple choice / self-checks – with no concrete feedback from humans (many OER courses have these included)
  • on the other –  blog / journal reviews which are time-consuming (hence questionable given scaling aspirations),  subjective, organization-specific, open to inflation, bias and inconsistent leveling.

I appreciated the Vision Project’s* working group March 2011 report on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment which I think frames the issue very clearly (the bold is my highlight)

If colleges and universities … are to devise a system for assessing the learning outcomes of their undergraduates in a way that allows for comparability, transparency, and accountability, we must agree on some of the qualities of an undergraduate education that we all expect our students to possess. At the same time, those qualities we agree on must allow us to preserve the unique missions of individual colleges, appropriate measures of privacy around assessment work, and an ability to actually improve teaching and learning with the results that we find.
Research and literature on sound assessment practice is clear that no single instrument or approach to assessing learning can meet all of the challenges and notes that the most effective systemic models of assessment offer multiple measures of student learning in a triangulation approach. The most effective systemic models of assessment offer multiple measures of student learning in a “triangulation” approach that includes indirect assessments such as surveys, direct assessments like tests, and embedded assessments such as classroom assignments.

This notion of triangulation seems viable – mixing in institutional (mission-related) emphases, with quick turnaround self-checks. The missing (third) element is the industry-standard independent test. In some disciplines – Project Management (PMI), IT (Microsoft), HR (PHR, SPHR) there are clear standards that can be applied. There is certainly a window of opportunity for someone like ETS to take a lead on this, if they can develop the adaptability of development and pricing that we, and other college partners, would likely need. I hope that as colleges free up Instructional Design time that they would typically have been spending making *another* version of PSYCH101 content (which is freely available and wonderful at Saylor.org), they spend more time on developing key benchmarks for assessment that can become more widely disseminated.
Assessment is indeed the golden bullet for this work. Ideally it’s fun too.

* The Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment (WGSLOA) was established by Richard Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education, in late fall 2009 in anticipation of the Vision Project, a bold effort to set a public agenda for higher education and commit public campuses and the Department/Board of Higher Education to producing nationally leading educational results at a time when the need for well-educated citizens and a well- prepared workforce is critical for the future of the Commonwealth.

The Open Content Licensing for Educators (#OCL4Ed)

…workshop starts on Monday 23 January 2012.  +800 participants from +80 countries.

There are a number of elements of the #OCL4Ed which could potentially inform our work for the design, development and delivery of OERu courses:

#OCL4Ed course materials are based entirely on OERs
The pedagogy is scalable and can cater for large student cohorts
The learning is free
The development plan for the #OCL4Ed materials was collaboratively executed in WikiEducator commencing with a review of existing OERs leading to a concept course outline.  The drafting of the course materials was supported by open design and editorial discussions in the wiki using the corresponding talk pages in the wiki. (see for example these discussions relating to the introduction page of the Creative Commons unit.)
The WikiEducator pages can easily be integrated into a local learning management system. The #OCL4Ed workshop uses  a wiki course schedule as well as a more structured learning sequence hosted in the LMS.
The development and delivery of the #OCL4Ed course has incorporated elements of  “Academic Volunteers”. The #OCL4Ed 2012.01 course has four volunteer facilitators. Two of the facilitators are “graduates” of the pilot offering of the #OCL4Ed workshop presented in Feb / March 2011.  (An example of what might be possible for AVI.)
It would be possible to incorporate more formal assessment options of the #OCL4Ed workshop materials within a formal postgraduate elective in OER – -for example an OER course within a Masters Degree  in Educational Technology.

OERu planners and developers from our anchor partner courses are invited to join as active participants or observers. Questions for us to consider include:

What can we learn from the #OCL4Ed development experience to inform the design and development of OERu prototype courses?
Can we adapt and modify this approach for capacity development of the staff of OERu anchor partners and future academic volunteers?

http://wikieducator.org/Open_content_licensing_for_educators/Home

New (Disrupted) Faculty Roles

Rather than the Sage on the Stage or Guide on the Side, you’re going to see a growing embrace of the Sage on the Side model. The need for an instructor with high-quality, in-depth domain knowledge (The Sage) will never go away. But, in an age of ubiquitous information, he just doesn’t get a stage anymore. However, an age of ubiquitous information also means a lot of that information is going to be crap. An education Sherpa is needed to help students develop information literacy so they can sort the good from the bad.

The above quote comes from a Campus Technology (December 2011) report entitled What’s Hot, What’s Not 2012 http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2011/12/29/2012-Whats-Hot-Whats-Not.aspx?Page=1

As we at the Innovation Lab are looking at alternative models for T+L, we are enthused by initial conversations with Open Study and LOVE Philipp Schmidt and the guys at P2PU. That seems to make us threatening to some of our traditional faculty colleagues who see us as part of the conspiracy to replace them with robots, peer-to-peer non-experts or, to put it another way, to “SurowiekiTM” them out of existence.
We are hoping to work with Open Study on a research project as to how implementation of an alternative means of student support affects a classroom (online or face to face) community and the T+L experience.
Here’s what I think, or hope, or hope I think… It sort of builds on the above CT quote:

  • 80% of questions asked in an online class environment do not require a PhD to answer (that’s a near quote from Carol Twigg – hybrid teaching guru)
  • 80% of questions asked in a class were asked last year (Wayne Mackintosh – OERu guru)

Funny that they both landed on 80% – as the percentage of background, less-than-challenging questions that (perhaps) technology, or someone other than a Full Professor can help with.
Now if I were a FT professor, I could take this one of two ways – and I understand both perspectives:

  1. OH NO – My job is being taken away, how dare “they” how can computers and T.As or mentors replace me with my experience, passion and qualifications OR
  2. GREAT – now I don’t have to answer all those mind-numbingly dull, repetitive questions that I didn’t spend 5,6,7 years getting my PhD for – the ONLY time I will have to step up is when a question merits my expertise!

When answering only the 20%’s (the subject-matter-specific, *interesting* questions)– the faculty member who gets it can now oversee 5 x as many classes and will feel challenged and stretched in her/his discipline rather than in the basics that a computer, or a good generalist T.A / mentor could easily address. If this is built correctly, we enhance and honor the expertise of the expert and free them up to stay at their cutting edge of knowledge, rather than dealing with the “I uploaded the doc to Blackboard but it failed” / “I lost my password” / “my textbook hasn’t arrived yet”… etc.  That an FAQ (per: Wayne) or a “mentor” (per: Carol) covers for them.

One obvious flaw in this argument that could push faculty back to a fear and distrust would be if there weren’t 5 classes for them to oversee – and their load got cut. To that I would say that if we do embrace these new (disruptive) models then we have a shot at engaging the extra millions who need the education but can’t get access due to outdated models and non-scalable costs. No evolution / disaggregation of roles and I feel that traditional faculty roles will be threatened.  Better efficiencies, everyone playing to real strengths and I think we’ll get there.

“Sage on the side” / “Sherpa” – great terms – I wish I’d said that –  although as the saying goes:  Talent borrows, genius steals – so likely I will

Why free online resources will destroy universities

Nothing super new, but a succinct review of why “we” really must keep moving to look into new, disruptive models by Adrian Hon in today’s Telegraph (UK)

“We have a romantic ideal of universities being places of higher education where students absorb knowledge, skills and critical thinking – an ideal modelled over centuries on universities like Oxford and Heidelberg. Since they used a multi-year, highly structured residential course of lectures, tutorials, and exams to produce smart graduates, we now believe that this same model ought to work for the majority of the adult population.

We’re wrong. The simple fact is that university lectures never worked that well in the first place – it’s just that for centuries, we didn’t have any better option for transmitting information. In fact, the success of top universities, both now and historically, is in spite of lectures, not because of it.” …

 

NOTE – one of the funniest comments and perhaps the reason there will always be a role for the traditional college format is posted by pewkatchoo:
“Please, no, no, no. University is a break for the hard pressed parents as much as it is about educating our young. After 18-19 years of putting up with the growing pains (particularly the post 16s) of our truculent offspring, paying the cost of getting rid of them for 3-4 years is a positive relief.