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The 3 key issues in OER and how they are being addressed

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Edited by Amanda Harrington-Vail, Thursday, 24 Apr 2014, 14:30

OER topics

There is an “increased specialism in HE institutions” (Farrow, 2013) which I consider as both a pro and a con for OER. Exclusive modules may not appeal to many students so although they are open and available they might not be sought after as a learning source. However they might influence and inspire further investigation by appealing to tutors and/or researchers, in this way they can still motivate learning. A way to address this is to recognise that OER benefits from crowd learning (McAndrew, 2013) so although e.g. an OpenLearn topic is not being used by a student in the way the module was designed for, it can be utilized as a source of knowledge e.g. referencing an assignment, stimulating debate in social networks or forums and by encouraging new explorations. Therefore OER topics can be used in a variety of ways by students and researchers, either by completing the module or dipping in and out of significant aspects to develop individual depth and breadth of understanding in specific matters. Because OER is open it cannot necessarily predict the type of topics that will interest others, specialist topics are just as important as general topics.


Retaining students’ interest

Students are recognised as being busy and should “not be expected” to participate in optional activities, there needs to be “flexibility” and “goals” to motivate students to continue their learning (McAndrew, 2013). Some universities are “developing institution-wide accountability for the recruitment, admission, retention and success of students” (Sharples et al. 2013) although without training and support some staff could unwittingly alienate students further. Students in the OU who withdraw from their studies often opt to continue receiving e.g. tutors group emails and access to the module website. Where they or other students do not attend exams their result in tutors exam grading lists are shown as a fail even though they did not even take the exam. This reflects in tutors overall pass/fail rates; however I don’t know how it affects institutional funding. On the plus side these students may continue to access supportive group emails from their tutor and to read the module website materials, which can inspire them to continue studying either that module or another one at a future date. Therefore OU registered modules, like OpenLearn materials, might be considered as motivational ‘OER’ because “over 30%” (Weller, 2014) of OER’s are used in this way. OU students can use Assessment Banking to return to a previous module or defer within a certain time period to return to studies the following year or change modules.  “…Research commissioned at the Open University, suggest that the vast majority who withdraw (94 per cent) still aspire to earn credit for the course/award upon which they embarked” (Tresman, 2002). This, I acknowledge is now an old statistic so I wonder how the rise in student fees have contributed to this discussion i.e. perhaps students now have increased expectations. The issues may seem to have changed in maintaining students’ keenness in continuing their studies although I consider they remain as: financial; institutional reputation; international competitiveness regarding data on different countries learning statistics. The latter can presumably be counted as website hits.


Limited incentive

Students often prefer a certificate of achievement rather than a badge e.g. from a MOOC for participation, the former would likely be taken more seriously for instance on their CV. This can link to my above points on OER topics - perhaps they don’t appeal or because the student finds the module too time-consuming or material is over or beneath their current understanding on the subject. OER creators have limited incentive too because of the effort in producing the materials; they may not be paid for time and resources taken in this process. However, similarly to blogs OER resources are being recognised as published materials – without the necessary time and costs taken by publishing houses. Therefore OER’s for those who create them are ways to market their work, it can lead to employment or writing a book – as it did for Weller (2011). Institutions funding OER materials may be concerned about giving away tasters of their modules for free e.g. OpenLearn. As shown above OER’s are often studied prior to registering for the full module, which are an institutional incentive. Businesses could enrol employers on a MOOC as work-based learning which would be part of their CPD.


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Farrow, R. (2013). Openness in Education: Technology, Pedagogy, Critique. Presentation on 10 June 2013 accessed from the OER Hub. [online]. Available at http://www.slideshare.net/robertfarrow/20130607-lcct-paper?from_search=1 (last accessed 27 March 2014).

McAndrew, P. (2013). Agile Research for Open Education Researchers. Presentation on 13 June 2013 accessed from the OER Hub. [online]. Available at http://www.slideshare.net/openpad/agile-research-for-open-education-reso (last accessed 27 March 2014).

Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T. and Gaved, M. (2013) Innovating Pedagogy 2013: Open University Innovation Report No. 2, Milton Keynes, The Open University; also available online at http://www.open.ac.uk/personalpages/mike.sharples/Reports/Innovating_Pedagogy_report_2013.pdf (last accessed 27 March, 2014).

Tresman, S. (2002). Towards a Strategy for Improved Student Retention in Programmes of Open, Distance Education: A Case Study From the Open University UK. [online]. Available at http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewArticle/75/145 (last accessed 27 March 2014).

Weller, M. (2014) The Battle for Open. Webinar on 13 March 2014 at 16:00 accessed from the OER Hub. [online]. Available at http://www.slideshare.net/mweller/the-battle-for-open (last accessed 27 March 2014).

Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice. Bloomsbury London/New York.

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