We are very pleased to release our final Synthesis & Evaluation Report for phase 3 of the UKOER Programme.
It has been hard work collating the excellent work of the phase 3 projects. Their work with so many diverse stakeholders has made it very challenging to synthesise key lessons – these included private bodies (including commercial publishers), public bodies such as Skills Councils, Charities, Schools and many partners in the education sector.
The report is initially presented on our Synthesis wiki as a series of linked pages. We are also working on an e-pub version so that you can annotate and personalise the content (coming soon).
Due to the nature of the work it is very detailed and comprehensive and links back to project evidence where appropriate. For those who don’t have time to read it we would recommend that you look at the Summary of key lessons page.
Synthesis activities for the first two phases of the HE Academy/JISC UKOER Programme have included cultural and institutional issues across a number of sectors. The Evaluation and Synthesis team’s final report on phase 2 synthesises evidence and outputs under five main headings:
- Practice change
- Development and Release Issues
- Cultural Considerations
- Institutional Issues
- Impacts and Benefits
and includes recommendations to the funders and to the stakeholders represented in the various strands of the programme. Further, detailed findings from each component strand of the programme addressed how different communities and cultures are progressing towards openness in their educational practice and in their management and use of educational resources:
- Release – projects undertaking release of new or repurposed OERs in key subject areas
- Open Materials for Accredited Courses (OMAC) – projects releasing materials linked to the national professional standards for staff who teach in higher education
- Cascade – projects cascading and embedding their own good practice in OER release to other contexts
- Collections – projects using a range of technologies to collate existing OER in thematic collections
On practice change, evidence is accumulating that teachers do share content informally, but do not necessarily consider IPR, or share resources openly. Thus they are engaging in some of the practices associated with OER, but they do not necessarily recognise OER terminology, and in asking about use/reuse of OER we may be asking the wrong questions. This finding has implications for development and release, where cascade strand projects noted that choice of search engine affected which resources were found and used, while collections projects found that their users expected searches to be “google-like” in their ease of use, personalisation, and production of relevant results. Users expressed frustration with the search functionality of many OER repositories. They were also disappointed in the scarcity of relevant OERs, a finding echoed by the release strand PORSCHE project. Most of the collections projects decided to include “grey” or “non” OERs to get round this problem – while clearly labelling them so that their non-licensed status was clear.
Thus a key question that is emerging as important to OER practice is what difference does it make to practices of development/use/reuse and sharing, that the resources are “open”?
Experience during this phase confirmed that OER practice cannot be divorced from other open practices.
In some disciplines, sharing practice through a range of open technologies has emerged as important as sharing resources, and is having an impact on the way subjects are being studied and taught. Considerations of OER use cannot be divorced from these wider changes to disciplinary knowledge practices. Social science subjects, for example, are being changed in radical ways by the availability of public social and research data online as well as the rise of new social/digital practices.
Findings from this phase confirm those from the phase 1 institutional strand, that there are different cultures of openness at different educational institutions. This is not as simple as a single dimension from closed to open: rather there are many different ways in which institutions can support open educational practices.
For all stakeholders, then, a key question is, why engage in open practices? But equally, what is it about a practice that makes it open?
Our final report on phase 2 offers no simple answers, but lots of evidence to support you in exploring these issues.
We use the framework as an iterative tool to support both evaluation activities of projects and synthesis activities of our team. It highlights core areas of inquiry and identifies evaluation questions that projects intend to address. We started with a working pilot phase framework in 2009 which has since been through several iterations. The latest version of the framework was created at the end of phase 2 in November 2011 and links to evidence from projects. We are currently revising this framework to reflect phase 3 activities and questions (coming soon!).
We have listed phase 3 projects and their evaluation questions and themes/areas on a new wiki page and the wordle is made from the terms in the third column of this page – themes/links. UKOER projects may find this wiki page useful to identify other projects to make links with. The funding call for the THEMES projects did identify 4 themes which has obviously shaped some of the focii.
A: Extend OER through collaborations beyond HE
B: Explore OER publishing models
C: Addressing sector challenges
D: Enhancing the student experience
It’s early days for phase 3 but what strikes me so far is that the issue of student created OERs has emerged as a more prominent focus this year. Identified by a few projects in the pilot phase as an area of interest, raising issues around ownership, digital litercaies, and licencing, it failed to attract alot of interest during phase 2 with only a few projects including student content as part of their OERs. I am pleased to see this re-emerge (under the banner of Enhancing the student experience) because I think this area needs investigating more.
Cross -sector partnerships continue to be a major theme and this phase will see several projects taking up the challenge of working with publishers – indeed new OER publishing models are being considered and hopefully developed during this phase. 3rd sector agencies as partners have also emerged with several projects working with charities and the voluntary sector – another area to watch with interest. Some projects plan to work with industry, NHS, skills councils and SMEs, continuing some interesting work that was carried out during phase two with these groups. Projects will continue to work across educational sectors and schools also feature as partners in some projects. We have been working on a briefing paper which highlights issues emerging during phase 2 around open practice across sectors. We expect this phase of activities to inform and expand on this work.
Digital literacies featured strongly during phase 2 and continues to be a focus area for many projects, as do research skills and academic practice, with the OMAC strand particularly focussing on this area. The OMAC (open materials for accredited courses) strand aims to build on the outcomes of phase 2 and focuses on the release of materials linked to the new UK Professional Standards Framework (UK PSF) for staff who teach in higher education.
A key focus of phase 2 was changing teaching practice and we noted a move of emphasis from OERs to open edcuational practices. This is a continued area of focus for projects this year and is likely to raise some interesting debate and discussion.We are currently preparing a briefing paper on open educational practice – so watch this space…
One of the challenges for UKOER project timescales is that they often underestimate the time taken to release the OERs and have little time to find out how they are used by different stakeholders. We may find that projects are able to report more about this (particularly academic use of OER) as some projects are intending to re-use existing OERs. Several projects have included a remit to investigate student use of OERs – another area which should be of significant interest to the community.
So, in summary, I think we are in for a really interesting time during phase three and I’m looking forward to working with the projects as they attempt to answer their evaluation questions. Not least I always look forward to those unanticipated findings that come from taking a few risks and being experimental…
If you have not had the chance to read the findings from phase 2 (we have been a bit tardy in reporting this here – but hope to do a series of blogs focussing on different aspects of this soon) then do check out our Phase 2 Synthesis report. It’s a meaty read but you can dip in and out of the different sections…
Well the cattle have been rounded up, the settlers have lit their home fires, and the preacher and the gadabout are safely departed to bother someone else. Apart from the comedy value of our session on open country (blogged by David Kernohan at http://followersoftheapocalyp.se/oer-the-cowboy-gospel-altc2011), what were the serious messages from the debate at Alt-C?
David argued that ‘My contention was that OER was a symptom of a wider systemic issue, which takes in publishing, the idea of the public intellectual, online life, online practice and information as a right.’
David White (in the cowboy hat) offered the insight that the open use/reuse of online content is now so deeply embedded that on the demand side there is little need for the term ‘open’ – though arguably the term ‘educational’ might be more distinctive of the kinds of content being developed by the OER programme in the UK.
Amber as the ‘lady sheriff’ described how open standards (the ‘law’) can facilitate relations in open country but also emphasised that institutions have to continue to deliver learning at a time when existing models of higher education funding are under threat. We should beware snakeoil salesmen bearing the promise that open content can fill the void when teachers are dismissed.
Finally, my own slides (http://www.slideshare.net/hbeetham/open-country-hb) explore some issues emerging from final reports, which no doubt will be expanded on as we dig deeper. It has been exciting to see so many projects not only producing and sharing more resources under the UK OER banner, but reflecting deeply and productively on the wider issues of open education.
Photo: Josie Fraser
We had the first ‘Second Tuesday’ session in Elluminate last week where our team shared with projects the way we would be supporting evaluation activities and mechanisms to synthesise programme outcomes. We had some useful conversations around the questions that projects were hoping to ask and ultimately answer…
Projects were shown where to find outputs from Phase one activities (such as our wiki) or the (OER infokit) and asked to identify something that they thought might be useful. I found the session useful and hope the projects did. Below are the slides I used which may prove helpful to refer back to.
The synthesis and evaluation team developed a wiki to support pilot projects and also used it to collate our synthesis outputs and deliver the lessons learned by the programme. We have recently revised the wiki so pages now have new links. Whilst the old wiki pages are still available these will not be updated.
There are some useful resources available through the wiki so go and have a look around. Below are links to specific sections. We welcome your feedback.
UK OER Pilot Programme Pages
Including some guidance documents on evaluating project activities and evaluating OERs themselves.
Presentations made by the team in their roles as synthesis and evaluation support