Week 4: Synthesis in process


It will take me some time (and a few more readings of the 3 papers presented) to get a decent grasp on the key issues facing the OER movement. This is my first attempt at pulling together some of the threads – at least those that have some resonance for me. I hope this is reasonably coherent.

What I’ve learned so far:

  • how much I don’t know about the Open Education movement and some of the specific projects involved (Rice’s Connexions, COL’s WikiEducator, NSF TeraGrid project) – I am looking forward to learning more.
  • the “tectonic shift” underway in education requires bold steps (de-institutionalisation, democratisation, etc) – massive issues requiring many (small and large scale) social and technological “enablers”.
  • mobile phone use is triple that of internet use in developing countries – implications for resource development…

The OECD’s publication: Giving Knowledge for Free was the first one I read. Yes, I did think it ironic that the publication would be copyrighted – thanks, Kurt, for pointing this out! The focus of this document seemed to me to be aimed at the institutional level. The stated goal of the authors is to seek to understand the trend toward open sharing of intellectual property. They highlight “the risk of doing nothing in a rapidly changing environment” as a central motivator for many institutions to participate in open education initiatives. The tone of the document was quite different from the others – emphasis on the economic imperative (makes sense given the sponsor) – kind of a “stay on top of the trends, understand the issues and retain some control”. The discussion seemed to weigh fairly heavily on the technical issues, finally calling for institutions to have an IT strategy to deal with the “opportunities and threats” posed by OER.

The OLCOS Roadmap 2012 document is concerned about the outcome of the open education movement – in other words – what are the major shifts that need to take place in the educational infrastructure to make it possible for people to use open educational resources, get credentials and end up with an education that has value for them in the end? The authors of this report point out that this calls for an emphasis on changing current educational practices from “teacher-centered knowledge transfer” (p.12) to learner centered, open practices that are informed by a competency based framework. This is the reading that I felt most charged up and inspired by because it encourages bold steps for educational reform that open educational resources form a part of rather than simply applying OERs to an educational model that is unchanging, top down and somewhat protectionistic (if that’s a word) as seemed to come through in the OECD reading-at least to me.

The Hewlett Review of the OER Movementfocuses much more broadly on the “culture of contribution” recognizing the diverse sets of interest at play. They talk about the current conditions being ripe for an open, participatory, learning infrastructure that has the potential to benefit people around the world from early childhood through old age. I appreciate the attention given by the authors of this report to the issue of the digital divide – pointing out that much of the world does not have reliable access to the internet – yet a growing number of the population have access to hand-held devices such as digital phones. I was surprised to know that (in much of the developing world) mobile phone use is quadruple that of internet use. I will be thinking about this and need to learn more about what this means for design and accessibility.

What do these reports have in common? I think, to some extent, the recognition that the bottom line question is what’s in it for me? There seems to be some agreement (at east in part) on the following:

  • for educators: appropriate mechanisms for reward and recognition must be determined.
  • for learners: attention must be paid to the outcomes: ensuring that open education resources are useful, contributed to by learners and that the result of an “open education” is of value (so that open learners are not marginalized).
  • for institutions: sustained infrastructural support for grassroots projects – recognition as innovators.

It seems obvious that (in reference to open education resources) the train has already left the station. People are creating and sharing resources, educators and learners are using them, institutions are either taking the lead or scrambling to keep up. However, as both the Hewlett report and the OLCOS Roadmap point out – this is just one piece of “open, participatory learning.” The next, perhaps bolder, step is to catalyze some energy around transforming educational systems to lay down the track necessary to bring learning and teaching into a new culture of learning.


One thought on “Week 4: Synthesis in process

  1. Hi Cindy,

    a great post, it makes me scared to note down the ideas I had about the three reports. Just kidding, I will probably take another approach to the reports. Your post sums it up very well, and has a nice, well formulated ending.

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