Sep 24, 2007

OpenED: OLCOS Roadmap 2012

Open Educational Resources, past & future (2/3)
Three interesting papers about open educational resources are discussed this week in the course "Introduction to Open Education", given by David Wiley. These papers, although partly overlapping, show some interesting facts about OER, motivation, production, copyright, and all other related issues, as well as some compelling ideas and arguments about the future learning landscape in which OER have to prove themselves sustainable and useful. Since my thesis focuses on this future, trying to figure out how a sustainable OER environment will look like for Delft University of Technology, and possibly other technical universities, especially the reports that show a glimpse on the future addressed my interests most. Both the OLCOS report as the Atkins, Brown, and Hammond report had a strong focus on the future, where the OECD report mainly introduced OER, described different OER models, showed interesting projects, and included more facts about OER-related aspects. This post will discuss a report commissioned by the OECD, named "Giving Knowledge for Free, the Emergence of Open Educational Resources".


  • Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources (OECD, 2007)
  • Open Educational Practices and Resources: OLCOS Roadmap 2012 (OLCOS, 2007)
  • A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities (Atkins, Brown, and Hammond, 2007)
What do these overviews of the field have in common? What do they emphasize differently? What are the aims of the authors of each report? Do you see a bias toward or against any ideas, organizations, or approaches in any of the reports? Which report spoke the most clearly to you, and why do you think it did? Based on where the field is now, and these initial ideas about where it might go, what part of the open education movement is most interesting to you? Why?

OLCOS report
OLCOS Roadmap 2012The report that appealed to me most was the OLCOS roadmap 2012. Where the OECD report gave a nice overview of current issues with OER, and focused more on the educational resources themselves, and the insitutions and persons involved in creating and using them, the OLCOS report really focused on learning. The goals of the report are as follows:
  • The OLCOS Roadmap has been produced to provide educational decision makers – politicians, directors of institutions, managers of educational networks, teacher organisations and other stakeholders – with orientation and recommendations to help them make informed decisions with respect to Open Educational Resources (OER);
  • A tool for understanding the relevance of OER and identifying required actions;
  • The Roadmap provides an overview of current and likely future developments in OER through presenting and assessing drivers/enablers and inhibitors for open educational practices and resources.The objective is to identify possible achievements in a time-horizon set for 2012, and to specify how the related challenges could be addressed (recommendations);
  • Furthermore,the OLCOS Roadmap may help in de defining and prioritising some key areas on which activities should be focused (e.g. some major inhibitors), and in conceiving mechanisms.
As I mentioned before, it appealed to me because it is critical and has a clear and realistic view of the future. The focus is on learning: it discusses OER from a perspective of how people learn, and what skills are necessary in a knowledge society, and what the implications are for education. Barriers for this future are clearly identified, but also the opportunities are described in detail. It has a similar view on OER as Atkins, Brown and Hammond (2007), who stress the importance to shift from a culture of sharing towards a culture of learning. It is obvious that OER alone will not be enough, will not be sustainable, but that institutions should embrace the wider open movement, and create environments where open educational resources will flourish. Educational repositories without tools to interact with other users, and to re-use, discuss, and add content will not be sustainable. Literature and research findings about the sustainability of online communities should be used to make communities of interest/practice around OER. MITOCW is a great resource, but their top-down configuration is old-fashioned, and adheres to educational practices that will soon be outdated. The only reason that this specific project will stay sustainable, is that MIT is a rich institution, with numerous sponsors that are willing to maintain the quality and production of their OER. Other institutions may not be very wise in copying this model, because, even thoughOLCOS mentions the trickiness of business models around OER, my opinion is that there are numerous opportunities for OER.

It is interesting that OLCOS mentions the skills needed in a information rich society. The opportunities to educate people differently have increased likewise. Learning should occur according to a competency - focused, collaborative paradigm of learning and knowledge acquisition. Providing OER as "canned products" is not sufficient, because the learning will not happen collaboratively. The emphasis should be on the learner, who should be able to discuss, make, and add resources within a learning community. In that way, the learner is behaving both collaboratively and competency-focused. His or her active participation will both increase personal learning as providing the learning community with an engaged learner (and possibly contributor). Learning communities and communities of practice,complemente with OER, also increase possibilities for lifelong learners.

Canned products, industrial, teacher centered, professional bureaucracy...
In the OLCOS report a strong argument is made that OER will not so much add value in learning environments that are centered around the teacher:
"In such a model teachers may download Web-accessible open teaching material to prepare classes, and students may use some content to prepare material for lessons, but this will remain a one-way channel of content provision, in which physical textbook or course content is replaced by digital material. Teachers and students will remain consumers of prefabricated content, not themselves becoming creative and collaborative, and they will not “pay back” with their own content. Hence, there will be no proliferation of value added content, i.e. content that contains results derived from learning processes such as enriched material, use cases, novel methods put into practice, lessons learned, etc. that other teachers and students may want to re-use and develop further."
This is exactly my critique on the educational system: IT DOES NOT TRIGGER THE STUDENT TO BE ACTIVE, SEARCHING, BEING INNOVATIVE. Next week I will post an evaluation on a wiki I implemented in a course as a student assistant, and you will be able to read that the students in class were, contrary to our expectations, very reluctant in using this "new" technology. I do not blame them, they are raised to be passive consumers of content, and now they need to make their own learning experience.

Value chains for open educational content
The OLCOS report therefore suggests an approach they call Open educational content value chains.
"Collaborative learning practices are most likely to allow for such value chains to emerge and progress, because the learning community will:
  • use some existing digital content or courseware as a starting point;
  • consult other available content from e-learning repositories or other relevant sources of information;
  • document their own study process and results, such as use cases, experiences, lessons learned, guidelines, etc. (note: documentation also includesmetadata);
  • make this enriched content available again to other learners, e.g. via repository and/or syndication services, and
  • thereby share the results for re-use, and enrichment, by other learners."
Similar to this, is the proposition of Stephen Carson, who describes a blog-like manner of referencing OER, and in that way creating an educational blogosphere. That model does not depend on a number of highly flexible resources, but on a large number of resources that do not necessarily need to be flexible and serve, if adequate and of high quality, as reference teaching material for educators. This model is in between the rip-mix-burn model (flexible materials adapting to one’s own needs), and the wiki model (striving for consensus, collaborative editing)

Educators might have a problem with this approach, because of inexperience, pride, or other issues. The report mentions also that there exists little experience in grading or assessing students according this new approach. It reminds me of one of my favorite books. Somewhere in the phenomenal classic "Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", Robert Pirsig describes his experience of non-assessing (and later peer-assessing) students in his collaborative quest for defining quality. He questions the term quality, tracing it back until Plato, and explains how the two camps of ratio, science, and objective science versus the more artistic, subjective, rhetoric camp of imagination came into being. His book is a beautiful (true) story about a boy and his father, and a philosophical attempt to merge the two. It's been a while I read this book, but it possibly was that little piece of work that got me interested in education. It was a very interesting view on education, that probably had quite some influence on myself.

The Roadmap Briefs describe (both short as long-term) drivers and inhibitors in the areas described in the report. They can be used as starting points for discussing OER initiatives strategically. They concern the following levels:
  • Policies, institutional frameworks and business models
  • Open Access and Content repositories
  • Laboratories of open educational practices and resources
The "not too visionary outlook" in the report mentions new roles of students and teachers, technologies that will enable the easier creation and licensing of resources, the larger role for popular Web 2.0 technologies aswikis and weblogs, and new standard OER processes implemented within universities. The last chapter is filled with interesting and valuable recommendations for
  • educational policy makers and funding bodies;
  • boards, directors and supervisors of educational institutions;
  • teachers;
  • students;
  • educational repositories; and
  • developers and implementers of e-learning tools and environments.
It is an extremely insightful and valuable report when you are involved in OER matters. I will certainly use it.

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