OERs now firmly embedded in our minds

Reading my colleagues’ recent posts, both here and on project sites such as SPIDER and OSTRICH, it struck me just how embedded open educational resources (OERs) have become in the department.

Whenever we outline possible projects and bids, or undertake any other work, openness is now a central part of what we do. In fact, ‘Will it be OER-able?’ is always the first question asked. (The provenance of this term is almost certainly Gabi, once an OTTER and now an OSTRICH.)

I was fortunate enough to start in Beyond Distance as a learning technologist on OTTER, so I learned much of what I know about OERs in the first four months of that project. And it was the members of the OTTER team – Gabi, Sahm, Tania, Ale, Gilly – that were largely responsible for inculcating this notion of openness.  

Anecdotally, evidence is emerging that OERs are being used by students, especially those from overseas, to assess HEIs as potential places for postgraduate studies. And Dave White’s work at Oxford should throw more light on the use and reuse of OERs.

But probably what’s so impressive about the notion of openness is that it now permeates all levels of education. Our sector is HE, so this is where we tend to focus our attention. But shared notes, guides and lesson plans for schoolteachers have been available for some time.

And Adult Education is no different. For example, on 15 February I will be part of a panel called OERs in Action at a day-long seminar put on by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), who have done excellent work in the field of adult digital literacy. They’re also our neighbours here in Leicester.

As Dave White and others point out, OERs have until now been driven by supply: plenty of HEIs are producing them with little evidence of their use. But I am confident this missing evidence will emerge over the coming years.

Simon Kear

Keeper of the Media Zoo

Found: spirit of transformation

People who have heard me speak at conferences and the like know that I’m always banging on about truly believing that, as educators and technologists, our era – NOW – is one of the most wondrous and exciting that has ever occurred in the history of the 1000 years (at least) of formal education.

We have access to online resources for learning and teaching that those who came before us could never have imagined. We have greater numbers and more motivated scholars sitting at our feet (computers) than, say, 50 years ago anyone would have been thought possible. We are in freely available networks of professionals and support that offer us peer and expert engagement.

In other places and times, people have fought and died for nothing less.

And we constantly cross bridges from impossible to possible.

Yep, of course it costs – money, time, resources, our ongoing commitment and much of our lives…, and hence the choice of title this year’s (2009) Association of Learning Technologies conference, last week in Manchester: In Dreams Begins Responsibility.

I was co-chair of the conference, with Prof Tom Boyle, and had the time of my life. For me, everyone presenting, exhibiting, taking part, twittering, conversing – whatever – caught the spirit and the point of the title.

Each person I heard speak (in many different roles and contexts) knew that indication of value for learning is needed for substantial achievement to follow – especially associated with new technology – and that evidence can take many usable forms. And from that comes the clarity to make context- sensitive choices leading to real sustainable change for the better.

For me seeing true conferencing, amazing open knowledge exchange happen in front of me over several days convinces me that we are indeed at a watershed, a tipping point towards educational transformation, that will not be hijacked by the ups and downs of funding, league tables, political nuances and the rest that the 2nd decade of the 21st century has yet to chuck at all of us in Higher and Further Ed.

If you weren’t there last week – it’s not too late! Take your dream, and take responsibility! And ALT-C happens every year and there are many opportunities to engage with others to achieve this complex transformation on and off line. You can access some of the excellent speeches at http://elluminate.alt.ac.uk/.

If not us now, then who and when?

Gilly Salmon

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