OER benefits for enrolled students

The open education movement has often focused on explaining the benefits of open educational resources (OER) and other open education initiatives to people beyond the reach of formal education — those who cannot afford it, who live too far away from schools, who cannot access formal education for any number of reasons. But in addition, current students benefit from the use of OER. This article by CK-12 Foundation gives good examples of how American schools are making OER work for students, largely through saving money on textbooks.

The Manufacturing¬† Pasts project (video above) was funded by JISC to digitise and mash up into learning materials artefacts from Leicester’s industrial past.¬† I had the privilege of working on the project. Now, a year on since the project ended, I can see that the work we did is benefiting current students in ways we did not expect. For example, I was just helping to teach a digital media session in University of Leicester Museum Studies department. The students are putting together museum displays with sound and video installations augmenting the photos and physical items. When we directed them to MyLeicestershire.org.uk and the Manufacturing Pasts collection, and told them these were all CC-licensed, there was an audible sigh of relief that they did not have to hunt for copyright permissions as they must for other items.

Another way OER and open practice benefits currently-enrolled students is in the way some universities are launching MOOCs designed to help their own students. University of Northampton, for example,¬† has launched and is continuing develop a MOOC teaching academic skills (referencing, how to handle feedback, writing) — with a version for undergrads and a version for postgrads. These MOOCs require only about 2 hours weekly and are offered to students who have been accepted to the university, as well as any student already having begun to study. Academics who were already teaching these things to smaller groups of students have put together the online materials. It’s a bit early to conclude yet how well these MOOCs will help the student. I will check back with Northampton in a few weeks as I continue to gather stories of how open educational practices can and are helping students currently enrolled at the participating institutions. Please comment if you have such a story.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist & SCORE Research Fellow, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

MOOCing for learning or MOOCeting for earning?

At the ALT MOOC SIG gathering in Southampton on 6 November, we were assured by Helena Gillespie, of University of East Anglia, that MOOCing is definitely a verb. I’d like to add a new one to the ever-increasing glossary of the MOOCosphere: MOOCeting. It is perhaps best explained by the image below:

Language of the MOOCosphere

Language of the MOOCosphere, G. Witthaus

It is clear that there have been two strands of MOOCs developing for some time now, and this distinction is often couched in the language of xMOOCs vs cMOOCs. Having previously carried out research into the Open Educational Resources university (OERu), which is dedicated to widening participation in higher education, I have become familiar with the language used to describe and bring into being a means of enabling everyone, everywhere, to get a fully accredited degree from a recognised institution by learning from openly licensed content on the Web. The key concepts that are at the root of the discourse here are: enabling massive numbers of learners with limited financial resources to get an accredited higher education qualification; reusing existing course materials; providing a basic level of support for learners to access the resources and navigate their way through them; disaggregating the provision of content, teaching and assessment for the benefit of the learners; providing assessment and accreditation at cost, and ensuring sustainability of the process.

The emerging discourse about the MOOCeting version of MOOCs, is, as the name implies, informed and dominated by institutional Marketing Departments. The primary question seems to be, “How will this benefit the institution?” Answers are speculative at this stage, but tend to centre on notions around “expanding our global footprint”, and ultimately recruiting fee-paying students by “converting” MOOC students into “real” students. To do this, the strategy is to develop MOOCs with substantial amounts of new, glossy materials, particularly video content. The quality of the content, both in terms of academic quality and high-tech multimedia quality, is seen as critical to the success of the project.

One thing both MOOC strands seem to agree on is that the MOOC explosion is innovative. Ultimately, it may happen that both strands move closer to one another in terms of the other dimensions too, as the apparent side-effect of institutional marketing might bring unexpected but valuable benefits to those institutions that are not explicitly seeking it, and the apparent side-effect of widening participation might actually turn out to be an important factor in the ultimate success of the MOOCs that are aimed at recruiting students with deeper pockets.

I have created a slide presentation containing more of my thoughts on MOOCs and some random factoids from these recent conferences:

Blog post by Gabi Witthaus

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