Towards free-range Education within and beyond Academic Development

feedback is very welcome, suggestions too ;o)

feedback is very welcome, suggestions too ;o)

My accepted abstract for the ECEL2011

What can Academic Development (AD) and other professional areas and disciplines learn from free-range farming? Open Educational Resources (OER), Open Educational Practice (OEP) are mushrooming and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) have also started appearing on the horizon. The idea of moving away from battery-type Academic Development Activities and silo modules and programmes towards free-range approaches in line with OEP are explored within this paper based on a recent small-scale, fully-online naturalistic experiment. This brought together academics and other professionals who support learning, from different disciplines and professional areas who are studying towards a Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) in Teaching and Learning in HE/Academic Practice during a facilitated open Problem-Based Learning (PBL) task around assessment and feedback using freely available social media. The experiment aimed to explore if online PBL can be used and how within PgCert provisions and provide opportunities to connect, communicate and collaborate in a community of practice beyond institutional walls.

Participants’ experiences in this free-range AD activity were captured through the use of phenomenogaphy as the main methodology and data collection and analysis tool and rich qualitative and quantitative data was collected from individual remote interviews, a series of questionnaires and reflective accounts.

Findings indicate that open or free-range online PBL has the potential to enable learners and educators to break out of virtual silos, enable and widen meaningful collaborative learning within AD in multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional groups something participants in this study commented extremely positively about. This evidences that free-range AD, conducted fully online, blended or face-to-face is the way forward to share available resources and establish more organic and healthy learning communities beyond module, programme and institutional level. Recommendations are made to Academic Developers and other tutors on how to bring learners from different programmes, institutions and countries together online using social media and create the conditions and the environment for a meaningful, rich and fruitful exchange and enable collaborative formal and informal learning or free-range learning.

Up for scrutiny now by you.

I am in the process of composing the paper now. The basic structure is there. Also thinking about the presentation and I definitely will use the hen videos I have used in a previous post.

Watched recently one of David Wiley’s video on Open Education. Really really useful!

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returning, thinking, planning and acting

the sun shines for all of us

the sun shines for all of us

Recently, I spent a week at the Open University completing a short-term SCORE fellowship to explore Open Educational Resources (OER) and had the opportunity to immerse myself into the world and reality of OER. If you are reading this and are interested to join the next cohort, apply. This programme will help you also to connect with like-minded people and explore how you could start using and developing OER, on your own and with others.

I meet individuals from different disciplines and professional areas around the UK and it was a rich and enlightening experience. We discussed OER from different angles, in the macro, meso and micro world; globally, nationally, locally and individually. The presentations were all thought provoking and they definitely made me think more critically about what we mean by OER, why they are so important, where we can find some, how we can make our own. It opened my eyes and my mind even further and encouraged me to think and to act!!!

I am wondering if we sometimes confuse open access, open licensed, open format and open software or even free versions of digital products. The quiz brought this thought into existance ( I was actually thinking that the quiz could be replaced by a PBL activity and I would be very happy to help setting it up). Prof. Andy Lane, the Director of OpenLearn, emphasised that OER give us the freedom to do things and this is indeed a great opportunity. He talked about the freedom to

  • re-use
  • re-work
  • re-mix
  • re-distribute

But, and there is a but, there are 6 variations of Creative Common Licences, which means that we won’t be able to do all of the above for all OER. We need to be careful and mindful when choosing existing OER and also think when creating our own or collaborative OER under which CC licence we will make them available to the wider community how much of our stuff we want to ‘give away’ and to what extend we allow others to adapt or work.

Even just using OER is a big bonus for bridging formal and informal learning and enable lifelong learning too. Informal learning through OER might increase the appetite for learning and lead to formal learning. Also, individuals in formal education might access OER as study and/or class tools. There are a few problems or issues or questions (however you would be happy to call the current situation). Some of them all linked with where OER are stored (different repositories, check JORUM out!) and how they can be found (currently there is no OER search engine but Google is keen on the idea). Also, there is an issue  linked to quality. I, as a tutor I find it really useful to have access to a large number of OER which might not be the final product and might need adaptation before I can use them with my own students. However, students are also searching  on their own for OER to complement their studies. What if the quality is poor and they can’t recognise this and fill their head with in-accuracies etc. How can we prevent this from happening? Or does it not matter? I would be very interested in your views.

I understand that OER, is not just conent or resources it is also or mainly(?) about Open Educational Practice and I feel that this is really important. I think it is about time to move away from silo-education so that we can share resources and expertise freely and openly and all grow. We have the technology today to break through institutional walls and open-up learning beyond boundaries of any kind.

During the week, we had the opportunity to experiment (or play) with Labspace. This Moodle Sandbox has the potential to bring tutors and learners from everywhere together and be used as a platform for open facilitated programmes but also for self-study. That we all have the opportunity to use, re-use and adapt existing modules and use the communication and collaboration tools available within Labspace is excellent. I started creating a unit on peer observations but soon discovered that I didn’t put enough planning into this and stopped. Instead I put some energy into creating a Learning Object using Exe. This was also a bit problematic, unfortunately. I couldn’t do basic things such as adding videos and saving my project. There were probably compatibility issues, which was a shame. However from presentations made by others, I felt that it might be better to use Xerte for my little peer observation project. But maybe I could start with the Xerte Online Toolkit which is a simplified version of Xerte and also includes a template, which will be handy. The OER DIY day was overall useful. It highlighted the difficulties and challenges tutors are phasing and how technology can get in the way and be frustrating too. It all  needs time, patience and probably a portion of stuborness as well or determination… to phrase it more positively ;o). I need to do some extra prep and experiment further using these tools. I have used a number of authoring tools (my selection at diigo) before and I am familiar with basic html coding. So that wasn’t the problem. The plan is to develop a learning object on peer observations to be used for our next PGCAP cohort starting in Sep11. There are some OER resources in Jorum available which I could use and adapt and I have already starting looking into this.

What next? Well, there are a number of things I plan to do in the near future

  1. Complete the OER on peer observation and make it available at Jorum by September 11 the latest
  2. Create a series of videoclips for the core module introducing the weekly theme, this needs to be done from September 11 onwards in collaboration with Neil
  3. Explore opportunities within my role to engage others in the use and creation of OER – speak with our Learning Technologists and PGCAP participants. Re-think assessment: Is there an opportunity for OER?
  4. Open Educational Practice and Open Educational Resources needs to be added as themes for the core module ready for cohort 3 starting in Sep 11.
  5. Continue shaping the open access module in Flexible, Blended and Online Learning and prepare for implementation. The first draft is ready and I am also in discussion with a University in Sweden to collaborate on this.
  6. Revitalise a big OER PBL idea, put a project plan together beyond the rationale that exists already and start looking for funding opportunities. Passionate partners within and beyond the UK have been identified. A Skype meeting will be organised in May to discuss what needs to happen now.

The short-term fellowship provided a good opportunity to focus and explore OER and think about the potential for my practice and my role. Now time has come to act.