Week 7: Rory McGreal, OER for learning

This week’s topic is Open Educational Resources (OER) and the Future of Learning and focuses on the role of OER in the transformation of learning, both informal and formal.. A key Question for the discussions will be: What is the role of OER in supporting not only informal learning but also change in educational systems? week7

Why this topic?

With the growing popularity of tablets, cellular phones, ebook readers and other mobile devices, the opportunities for increasing access to learning content is becoming universal on the World Wide Web. However, there are publisher supported groups that are actively working to limit the Internet “creative commons” and build walled gardens, not only by the enclosure of proprietary content, but also by actively opposing the growing movement for OER.

It is my view that because of restrictive licensing and digital rights management (DRM) it is becoming all but impossible for educators to use proprietary content when they go fully digital. For example, with DRM, many learning content (and learning application) providers cripple the devices such as ebooks so that many simple tasks are not possible. These may included highlighting, copying/pasting and/or annotating, not to mention format shifting or even moving content from one device to another. Visually impaired learners are prevented from using text to speech readers because of DRM. The DRM is also used to block printing and even the use of the content in different regions, while inserting “kill dates” into the software. This DRM is supported by even more restrictive licensing agreements that prevent any forms of sharing.

For this reason (and many others) I believe that our educational institutions MUST begin the process of implementing OER universally in order to bypass and evade the restrictive environment that publishers wish to place on us. With OER learners and instructors are free to do whatever they want with the material with no undue restrictions.

Also, I am the Canadian UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning (COL) Chair in OER and as such I am charged with promoting the use of OER institutionally, nationally and internationally. On this I am working with the UNESCO OER Chair from the Open University of the Netherlands, Dr Fred Mulder.

The issue

Is this an accurate view of the present state of copyright in your environment?
If so, how can we support the use of OER within our institutions?
If not, let’s put the difference on the table!

Many institutions in Canada are beginning to recognize the need to support OER as a counter weight to the publishers’ control. Recent proposals by the copyright collectives and the new Copyright bill have brought this to the fore. Other countries are experiencing similar “pushes” by publishers and their agents in government.
Laurence Lessig suggests that a law that is good for Britney Spears is NOT good for education.

How will this week of the MOOC work?

For those new to OER, I advise reading this very short introduction put out by UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning: A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER)

I shall start off the week with a discussion on the draft UNESCO/COL OER Guidelines. A final published edition will be announced in Paris on November 1st. These guidelines have been developed jointly by UNESCO and COL

The structure of this week will be as follows:

1. A very short video introduction to me is available here. This should give you a general idea of who I am and where I’m coming from on the OER issue.
2. I shall be available for a webinar on Tuesday, October 25 at 12 noon Mountain Time. Check the world clock for your time.
3. Posts on this web site (look for #Change 11 in the title of the post, in the RSS feed). Please use the comment box for discussion or questions about the postings.
4. Follow-up activities using the UNESCO/COL Chair blog for asynchronous discussion.
5. A webinar with Dr Wayne Macintosh and myself on the OER Chair and OER university concepts and other OER issues on Friday, October 27 at noon Mountain Time. Scroll down to the last Open Access Week event at this website. This session will take place in Adobe Connect as it is part of Athabasca University's Open Access Week activities.
6. A wrap-up posting on Sunday, 30 October, at UNESCO/COL Chair blog.

Live Events

As listed above, there will be two live sessions this week:

1. Tuesday, October 25 at 12 noon Mountain Time. Check the world clock for your time. This session will be held here in Collaborate (formerly, Elluminate)

2. A webinar with Dr Wayne Macintosh and myself (Rory McGreal) on the OER Chair and OER university concepts and other OER issues on Friday, October 27 at noon Mountain Time. Scroll down to the last Open Access Week event at this website. This session will take place in Adobe Connect as it is part of Athabasca University's Open Access Week activities. The link to Adobe Connect can be found on this page



Week 7: Rory McGreal, OER for learning Article by Rory McGreal Oct 24, 2011
This week’s topic is Open Educational Resources (OER) and the Future of Learning and focuses on the role of OER in the transformation of learning, both informal and formal.. A key Question for the discussions will be: What is the role of OER in supporting not only informal learning but also change in educational systems? #week07

Along with the short introduction and guidelines linked to above. These article may provoke discussion:

A brief description of the MIT beginnings of the OCW movement:
Abelson, H. (2008). The creation of OpenCourseWare at MIT. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 17(2), 164-174. Retrieved from http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/37585/ocw-creation-preprint.pdf

A paper supporting the importance of OER:
Caswell, T., Henson, S., Jensen, M., & Wiley, D. (2008). Open educational resources: enabling universal education. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 9(1). 1-11. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/469/1001

The seminal UNESCO document introducing the term OER
D'Antoni, S. (2007). Open Educational Resources: The way forward: Deliberations of an international community of interest. Retrieved from http://www.icde.org/Open+Educational+Resources+-+The+Way+Forward.9UFRzI16.ips

The ORIGINAL copyright law!:
House of Commons. (1709). An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Author's or Purchasers of Such Copies. Anne 8/19.Retrieved from http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_8_8s2.html

Introducing the OER university concept:
Mackintosh, W., McGreal, R., & Taylor, J. (2011). Open Education Resources (OER) for assessment and credit for students project: Towards a logic model and plan for action. Available from http://hdl.handle.net/2149/3039

A short harangue by this week’s discussion leader:
McGreal, R. (2009, October 21). Stop paying twice for education material: Online resources, open content make proprietary textbooks obsolete. Edmonton Journal. Retrieved from http://auspace.athabascau.ca:8080/dspace/bitstream/2149/2324/1/rory_ed_journal-1.pdf

Recording: Rory McGreal
Rory McGreal, , Oct 25, 2011. The recording for This week's session with Rory McGreal is now available - it's a good talk/presentation on alternative university models, driven primarily by rethinking the assessment and accreditation models. Elluminate Recording, Audio Recording. See more recordings on the Recordings page. #week07


Re: Week 7: Rory McGreal

SUMMARY of OER Week #week07

To summarize the week's discussion I would particularly agree with those who feel the problem of introducing OER into learning is complex and thus involves difficulties in formalizing any process. On the other hand complex problems can often have simple solutions. It is a truism that the bulk of the global learning population has limited access (if any) to the Internet and thus to OER. However, one can also say with some certainty that the bulk of the world's population has even less access to a formal traditional education and to libraries and bookstores. So, in relation to what we have, the limited access that has been increasing in the past decade to digital resources can be considered to be a significant development by even the most pessimistic measure.
In fact there has been an exponential increase in access not only in developed countries, but also in developing countries.

And, yes quality assurance has always been "a weapon of the establishment". In fact, "quality" never raised its ugly head before elearning started to threaten the education establishment. The traditional university cannot show any research that demonstrates that it is in any sense superior to elearning. Nor, can they show that proprietary content is overall superior to OER. This is a red herring. Be not afraid.

Sometimes (one could argue "most times") change does not come by announcing an intention and then following through. The idea that we have to "empower learners" or for that matter the concept that we "have to" do anything in particular is not defensible. In education and learning, terms like "have to" and "must and "need" are used far too often and are almost invariably wrong. So empowering learners may be one way of bringing about change, but it is NOT the only way. Helping traditional universities "extend their reach" may be a better way of supporting change than anyone realizes. In many revolutionary changes, the critical point often comes unbeknownst to the original proponents. For example, the American revolution started with tax complaints. At the time few (other than Sam Adams) understood that these simple tax demands would cause a cataclysmic change. (One wonders where the present Wall Street occupations will take us.)

Those who have problems in systems that encourage teaching to the test, have a point. There is much to criticize of this approach. However all the other approaches have their problems. It more an opinion rather than a fact that one is better than the other. The fact is that many learners have learnt, and continue to learn, through teaching to the test. It is one way, possibly worse than some other ways, that people can learn. To date, there is little evidence that teaching in other ways is superior - at least when it is measured. And, if the learning achievement is not measured, then one can say what one wants, which is always possible when there is no evidence either way. Teaching to the test is one way. Let those who support other ways try their way. (Note that the OERu proposal does not envision any "teaching" - it is for self study with the possible help of mentors.)There is lots of room for different methodologies, but don't criticize one attempt without posing a real alternative. There are too many bandstand critics in education.

Pronouncements on where change will come from are not helpful. I don't care if mass education of the now 7 billion people on Earth comes from the private sector or the governments, or though distributed informal learning OR (more likely) all of the above. The OERu is a real step forward in supporting a realistic alternative that could prove a catalyst to revolutionary change that could bring about mass, worldwide education. Of course I am open to other initiatives (NOTE: NOT other ideas without action. We have too many "idea men" in education and not enough initiators. ) There are always dozens of reasons not to do anything.

So, to conclude thanks to everyone for participating in this session. OER will not be the answer, but I believe they will form part of the answer to the provision of mass education. We need to move the agenda forward.
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Re: Week 7: Rory McGreal

Ah, you were using Google. That is actually my point. I didn't find anything using OER search sites. With Google it is easy. [Comment] [Permalink] []

Re: Week 7: Rory McGreal

Sure. I typed in "French articles" in Google and it came up on the first page (along with proprietary content links also). I had to sift through a little.
All the best.
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Re: Week 7: Rory McGreal

"We are in the beginning stages of OER. It can only get better." Rory, I agree. Finding and reusing educational resources has been the main topic of my research. I know what potential lies in this area.
It was a humbling lesson for my when I made the switch from research to teaching (French language, a topic unrelated to my research), and to see what is "really out there", available, not only within a limited research project. And, yes, absolutely, it is much better than years ago.

BTW, do you mind sharing where and how you searched for the resource you found?
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Re: Week 7: Rory McGreal

The draft UNESCO/COL OER Guidelines for Higher Education are available. The final report will become available on November 1st.
These guidelines outline key issues and suggestions for integrating OER into higher education. Their purpose is to encourage decision-makers in governments and institutions to invest in the production, adaptation, and use of OER, while bringing them into the mainstream of higher education, to improve the quality of curricula and teaching and to reduce costs.
Given the potential of OER to improve higher education systems, UNESCO and COL have developed these guidelines to support governments, teaching staff, higher education institutions/providers, and quality assurance/accreditation and recognition bodies. For those who are interested in learning more about the concept of OER and how it is being applied in higher education institutions around the world, a companion document – The UNESCO-COL Guide to OER – provide more detailed information about all aspects of OER. [Comment] [Permalink] []

Re: Week 7: Rory McGreal

I understand your pain. But if you thought that it is bad now, you should have tried it 8 years ago. We did a study back then on three subject areas searching for online resources. The Business course prof could only find material that you pay for from publisher and ended up choosing a text with online components. The Nursing prof found quite a few modules but only enough for about 1/4 of her course. On the other hand the English Comp prof found more than enough material for her entire course.
Now we have literally millions more OER but we are still not there. There are still huge gaps as you have discovered. However there is at least one Fr. definite article site with OER:
It took me less that one minute to find it.

We are in the beginning stages of OER. It can only get better.
Rory [Comment] [Permalink] []

Re: Week 7: Rory McGreal

I completely agree that OER can play an important role for education. However, one major problem I encounter every time I try to use OER is finding the ones I need.
The brochure you refer to ("A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources") is an excellent illustration of that problem. Out of the five sites it refers to for finding resources (page 18), two actually work: the first link to GLOBE redirects to the "GeoNetwork opensource catalogue" (and never finishes loading for me), the third one (DiscoverEd) is discontinued and the fourth one points to a general search engine (Creative Commons Search). The brochure is from 2011.
I find that there is still a huge gap between what OER can be and what they are. Especially for search, from my experience Google and specialized Web sites are still the best choice.
Some months ago I blogged about this: 'But to be honest, for my [French] course, I did not find many helpful resource in repositories (actually I don't remember finding a single one). I searched through a lot of repositories, but for this task [finding resources illustrating a particular grammar aspect], none of them was helpful. Most often, the search functions are too general. Try it for yourself: go to your favorite repository and try to find a resource for absolute beginners in French that trains "articles". In contrast, very helpful were link lists, like "le point du fle". There, I can search very quickly for activities training the target language concept.'
http://bloggingullrich.blogspot.com/2011/07/learning-object-repositories.html [Comment] [Permalink] []

Re: Week 7: Rory McGreal

Daniel & Norbert,
Thanks for your info on the African context. Actually we have similar problems in Canada with students not being able to afford the price of textbooks. The concept of OER is also strange to our academics who are only now beginning to understand the importance and significance of OER. The country is bringing in new very restrictive copyright legislation along with massive increases in charges by the copyright collectives that are helping to make our educational systems unsustainable. OER are part of the solution to break the monopoly of the big publishers and bring down the price of education for students.
All the best.
Rory [Comment] [Permalink] []

Re: Week 7: Rory McGreal

Open Educational Resources is quite near to many scholars in students in Kenya. All this relates to connectivity and teachers not being aware of this wonderful resources. So where do students get their learning materials? The oxidized notes from the teachers/ lectures is not enough. The students usually source for one textbook that has been recommended, usually from the University or college library and photocopy them en mass and some smart photo copy shops keep copies of the popular books and they are sure of reaping enormous profits.

If teachers move to OER sources students will get to be familiar with resources that are updated and current. Despite the presence of amazon, books still reach africa by ship and they are usually out dated before they reach the reader.

It is common for donors to donate classical textbooks no problem, but they could consider connecting these poor with OER. I have been part of a team that produces manuals for para medics- how nice would it have been if those materials were produced under OER terms. [Comment] [Permalink] []

Re: Week 7: Rory McGreal

I am just making my first comment, it has been hectic to make any contribution earlier than now. It is becoming quiet obvious that OER is the future to learning. However, for us here in Nigeria the concept is still strange amongst academics, especially when they think the course notes they prepare is a source of income in terms of printed handouts. However, this is being challenged by the availability of OERs. Students now have access to course materials that are sometimes richer than the ones prepared by their lecturers. A few are now understanding that an open content the best option and that way they are contributing to body of knowledge. [Comment] [Permalink] []

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