Liveblog: #oeglobal Keynote: Dirk van Damme

The first keynote of the Open Education Global conference is Dirk van Damme.  Professor van Damme acts as an expert in higher education, policy, quality assurance and accreditation.  His report, Open educational resources: a catalyst for innovation will be published later this year.

The presentation began with the observation that OER retain an incredible potential to change educational systems, but the transformative impact of ‘open’ is greater in science and research than in education.  Arguably, MOOC have stolen the thunder of OER without delivering the kind of systemic change that was predicted.  van Damme remains to be convinced that MOOC are truly open.

OER are partly a technical innovation, but rather can be seen as a force of social and educational innovation made possible by technology.  To unlock the innovative potential of OER it is necessary to align with the needs of educational systems.  When we examine these systems we see that there has been a relentless expansion of educational systems over the last couple of generations.  The impact of eduction on other social outcomes like earnings and status is also increasing; education contributes to a range of social outcomes, and we might even say that education is one of the most important factors of all.  Governments invest an enormous amount of money in education, with expenditure per student increasing in most countries.

The challenges facing education in the present day include:

  • equity of opportunity for education
  • ensuring the quality is maintained/improved/expanded
  • efficient use of limited resources
  • meeting ever growing expectations

We see deepening social problems and inequality which intensify the political and ideological differences in debates around education. Can we continue to assume that the industrial model of education that we have inherited is appropriate for our future?  What kind of jobs do we prepare young people for, and how do we meet the demand for skills?  If we fail to get this right there are burdens in other areas, such as welfare.

Curricula needs to be well aligned to actual need – but what are the core curriculum elements of the future?  They could focus on citizenship, lifelong learning, social learning, etc. But what we often see in practice is a focus on maintaining credentialism, and processes of screening and selection which discourage the kind of learning society that we need. We need to focus on the social and emotional aspects of learning, and tune assessment to support this.   We need approaches that are learned centred with structured design, and profoundly personal approaches which respect difference.

What role could OER play in this vision?  Six possibilities have been identified:

  • Foster new forms of learning
  • Support collaboration between educators
  • Reduce public/private costs
  • Improving quality of resources
  • Improving distribution of resources
  • Removing barriers to learning

The first two are the ones identified as most important in a survey of government staff, though all are relevant.  In general , governments do not need to be convinced of the benefits of OER, but want to see evidence of successful application in facilitating the learning process.

This kind of support could include:

  • A move from passive to active learning
  • Fostering peer-to-peer learning
  • Stimulating problem-based learning
  • Enriching learning resources through collaborative practice
  • Enhancing the social and emotional context of learning

The use of ICT has been identified as a major challenge for professional development. Professional collaboration is also a major challenges, and highly contentious for many teaching professionals, many of whom do not see this as part of their role.

Government support for OER through policy can take several forms:

  • Provision of OER & repositories
  • Support for communities of teaching practice
  • Framework conditions of educational settings (more important in some countries than others)
  • Supporting evidence based research for policy and practice

The talk concluded with some provocations:

  • Being ‘open’ is not a sufficient condition for changing education
  • The systemic impact of OER will ultimately depend on the contribution it makes to improving teaching and learning
  • Content and pedagogy are not distinct but interact
  • OER should be able to exploit and demonstrate its intrinsic superiority over proprietary materials in terms of both quality and capacity for educational innovation

Learning from disruption #oer2015

I’m in Sausalito, California in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge for the Hewlett Grantees meeting this week.  Today is the start of proceedings proper, and I’m going to blog some of the presentations and seminars.  First off is Douglas Gayeton of Lexicon of Sustainability, which attempts to explain basic principles of economy and environment to a wide audience.

As a film-maker and photographer, Douglas has often reflected on the way that pictures omit as much as they include.  How can a picture capture the full story?  One way is to take lots of pictures and then turn these into a composite image.  This image can then be used to explain the overall message, perhaps with textual cues added.  We need to recast information in ways that people can understand.  (Compelling graphics can also be especially memorable.)  At the other end of the scale of transparency. he suggests, we might think about Latin versions of the Bible, which made religion obscure and opaque.

An underling assumption here is that when consumers are better informed they will make better choices.This seems like a fairly big assumption to me. (What about, for example, smokers who are fully aware of the dangers of their habit and yet continue to chuff away?  Motivation is also important.  Perhaps it is better to say that being well informed is a necessary but not sufficient condition of possibility for making good choices?  Alternatively, a paternalistic approach could make ‘good’ decisions on behalf of consumers without any need for the consumer to know what is good for them.)

Chains like Whole Foods now require clear labelling of products with GMO ingredients – Gayeton compares this to Martin Luther‘s insistence that the Bible be translated into native languages.  Consumers are also demanding transparency around the use of antibiotics to increase the weight of livestock.  Labelling around when and where fish were caught is expected to follow, as is information about grain origins.

It is argued that making improved information about food available to consumers is sustaining a national ‘locavore’ movement where localism, greater co-operation and seasonal eating replace the industrialisation of food production.  The ‘New Corner Store’ movement encourages consumers to ask for better options in their local stores.  Project Localize brings the message into schools.  Douglas take comfort from the various grass roots movements and small holdings: personal stories can be effective for communication.

I must admit that how this relates to OER wasn’t that clear to me, and there wasn’t much exploration of the disruptive elements which might be considered transferable.  I suppose that the idea is to change cultures through improved information though I suspect this is actually only half the battle.  There’s definitely a sense in which the message about OER, nuanced as it is, doesn’t always travel that far beyond the open education movement and its advocates.   But is the idea that we emphasize the hard data, analytics and metrics?  There doesn’t appear to be much of this in the materials we have been presented with today.   Should we instead focus on personal stories and narratives (which seem to be the focus here)?  Both?

“Open Learning Network-the evidence of OER impact”

Here are my notes from this morning’s presentation by Patrick McAndrew.  This presentation combined a description of the work being done around OLnet and a look at the technology.

Patrick began by outlining the various indicators for the things being done and how everything is being drawn together… including various research strands, projects, research network building and (twenty seven) research fellowships.  (For more detail, see the interim report at http://oro.open.ac.uk/17513/.)

OLnet aims to search out the evidence for use and reuse of Open Education Resources and to establish a network for information sharing about research in the field. This means gathering evidence and developing methods for how to research and understand ways to learn in a more open world, particularly linked to OER, but also looking at other influences.

The driving research question for OLnet is to locate what is perceived to be the next evolutionary step in the OER movement, i.e: How can we build a robust evidence base to support and enhance the design, evaluation and use of OERs?

This high-level question is refined into three sub-issues:

1. How can we improve the process of OER reuse/design, delivery, evaluation and  data analysis?

2. How can we make the associated design processes and products more easily shared?

3. How can we build a socio-technical infrastructure to serve as a collective evolving intelligence for the community?

Patrick reported that investment and interest in OER is increasing.  OLnet builds on much previous work, including openlearn. OLnet is unusual in having a clearly identified research strand. As a result, there is lots of institutional introspection and thinking about student perspectives.

As the project enters its final stages, we are building tools and working towards OER adoption and successful supporting policies.  We need to design for openness and reuse, recognising that forms of adoption will differ according to context, discipline, institution.

One interesting idea that could have been developed further was that of the OER as attractor.

There have been some advancements made on the policy side of things, such as the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program in the USA and the Bridge to Success (B2S) project. Learning from US experience with open courses to help people into college level study… Scaling not re-invention.

Fellows have come from all around the world and worked on a variety of different aspects of the project.

  • First fellow was Shiela Neill, who went to OCWC Global 2009 in Mexico.
  • Then Yannis Dimitriadis – work on use of patterns to encourage collaboration around OER.
  • Engin Kursun – survey on OCW in Turkey;
  • Pauline Ngimwa – OER Readiness in Africa. Svetlana Knyazeva – UNESCO in Russia, a study of OER in the CIS, and out to other non-English-speaking countries.
  • Jenny Preece – social structures – worked with Elpida – study of social learning in OER.
  • Scott Leslie – brought in mash-up expertise, worked to develop a way to mark OER to enable tracking: a DNA marker.
  • Agnes Sandor – from Xerox, automated analysis of texts to pick out the messages around OER.
  • Jia Yimin – large scale work in China around sharing courses.
  • Chuck Severance – highly technical work to integrate standards exchange in to Moodle. Elsebeth Sorensen – creativity and innovation and how it relates to openness.
  • Cathy Casserly – worked on approach to mapping the field.
  • Four or five joint OLnet/TESSA fellowships, African context, teacher education. Murilo Mendonca, Brazil, work on influence, OER policy contect.
  • Marcelo Maina (Catalunya), Jose Vindel (UNED), Spanish work on changed approaches.
  • Helen Jelfs, Bristol, collection of resources in Cohere around Deeper Learning – talk next week.
  • Here today – Robyn Muldoon (Australia) – assessment and OER – and Susan D’Antoni (Canada) – map to bring together OER work from UNESCO.
  • Coming soon – George Siemens (Canada, MOOCs) and David Wiley – initial thinkers around open content and OER.

(list courtesy of Doug Clow’s blog)

Advocates know what kind of claims they want to be able to make… But they need evidence.  We’ve discovered a lot, but how do we communicate this? Different visualisations are being considered, with flexible and dynamic mapping of collective intelligence.  We need to share information in simple and accessible way, but we also need different ‘lenses’ for different audiences.

The final thoughts were on the story of stone soup, a tale of co-operation, inventiveness and mutual benefit.


Personal reflections to follow…