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Peronal Experience of Open Resources

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Edited by Marion Stanton, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2018, 13:03

I have studied a few free, interactive courses in my field of AAC through various OER platforms. They have all followed a rather similar format of units of written information followed by video examples and then culminating in automated assessment. It would be great to see something a little more inventive, creative, innovative and interactive out there. The communication aids that our clients use all (as an alternative to speaking) have a kind of artificial intelligence in them that predicts what the user is going to say by the context of what they are sharing. This helps them to be able to communicate at a more rapid rate. The challenge is to create technology they can use that will keep them up with the speaking population. I would love to see an element of a course that has this feature built into the activities. 

My organisation had a DfE grant in 2011 to create an on-line resource to explain AAC. It needs an update and I would love to incorporate some OER elements into it rather than just use it as an information resource.

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Edited by Marion Stanton, Tuesday, 13 Feb 2018, 11:33

I run two companies. One is not-for-profit, ten years old, and offers services to students with severe disabilities who attend mainstream schools.  The other is a brand new, for profit, company that has developed from the innovations of the first.

We had found that students who rely on communication aids (who have no speech) and also have physical disabilities are very disadvantaged in an education system that is not able (or willing) to adapt so that they have equal access to the curriculum. We found ways of adapting the software that the students use for communication so that the whole curriculum becomes available in an easily accessible way. We have also developed a new role within Schools that ensures that the adaptation is done efficiently and reduces physical effort so that the student can concentrate on content rather than physical access. We have even written the first, comprehensive phonics programme to be accessed via communication software.

We stay at the cutting edge by constantly updating our knowledge of what is new in the field. This year, our profit making venture involves selling resources we have made to support the literacy and curriculum access needs of our students. Support for our innovations is evidenced by our growth from one to four practitioners (fifth soon to be appointed), positive client feedback and the appointment of two software developers to keep the technology progressing.

We need to work on policies and statements of our vision. Maybe this blog is a start!

One area of frustration is that our long-standing (and regularly updated) training course is no longer university accredited since the senior lecturer who promoted us retired. It is very difficult to find an academic institution that will work with small organisations with innovative training opportunities to offer. We are glad, however, to have the national remit for the ‘AAC City and Guilds’ which is a qualification  that can be taken by students who rely on communication aids.

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Are OER both open and Innovative?

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Edited by Marion Stanton, Saturday, 10 Feb 2018, 18:36

Having read McAndew and Farrow (2013) and taken a look at the OpenLearn course in OER


I conclude that the most important challenge OER (open Educational Resources) initiatives face is in the maintenance of the integrity of course content.

OER is innovative as it is a new(ish) initiative in education offering learners the opportunity to engage with each other across large geographical areas by taking advantages of the communication and cooperative opportunities afforded by the internet. Informal learning is integral to OER but can also lead on to and give the learner encouragement to engage in more formal pathways.

OpenLearn consists of well-structured, short courses that give an introduction to materials that, in many cases, can be studied in more depth and with the option of accreditation through registration onto a full course. NcAndrew and Farrow found that there was a large scale uptake of open study leading to learners benefiting from engagement with each other as well as accessing a wider world of follow on study opportunities and bridging gaps in formal provision.

It is essential that the learning opportunities afforded in OER courses are as thoroughly researched and as regularly updated as courses that have been through the university validation process. One way that OpenLearn seems to have achieved this is through the development of courses that are based on the content of validated courses. Courses that are developed in an inverse way pose more of a challenge on account of the financial implications of developing materials from scratch.

I believe that integrity of content is far more of an issue than procedural problems associated with, for example, the use of technology and copyright. These concerns can be addressed through formulas that others have developed but the quality of content is essential for drawing learners in and leaving them with an experience of having made significant learning gains.


McAndrew, P. and Farrow, R. (2013) ‘Open education research: from the practical to the theoretical’ in McGreal, R., Kinuthia, W. and Marshall, S. (eds) Open Educational Resources: Innovation, Research and Practice, Vancouver, Commonwealth of Learning and Athabasca University, pp. 65–78 [Online]. Available at oro.open.ac.uk/ 37756/ 1/ OER-IRP-mcandrew-farrow.pdf (Last accessed 10th February 2018)

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