OERs workshop at ALT-C

David Kernohan, Heather Price from JISC and my colleague Sheila MacNeill and I organised a workshop on OERs in HE-trends and scenarios at ALT-C last week. The aim of the workshop was to explore how the rapid development of the Open Educational Resources movement globally can be used as a strategic approach to stimulate innovation in higher education. We developed 4 scenarios in order to stimulate the discussion, namely:
Scenario1: the status quo model in which OERs reach the mainstream; high quality teaching and learning resources are available free of charge, however, the focus is on content rather than changing teaching and learning processes and practice in institutions.
Scenario2: the add-on “credits” model in which institutions are encouraged to explore new ways of assessment and accreditation so that self-learners can gain a university degree through use of OERs.
Scenario 3: the emerging partnership model in which institutions share teaching and learning resources and costs, nationally and internationally, through developing cooperative–university partnerships.
Scenario 4: the radical change model in which a global university appears to serve the different needs of the learners through open access to course materials, learner support and assessment.
More than 20 delegates attended the workshop. Following a brief introduction about the scenarios the audience were invited to discuss issues and concerns surrounding OERs as well as share thoughts and ideas on how those scenarios could be realised. Several themes emerged from the session:
1. Teacher’s roles and perspectives: Although in the presentation, we had a focus on learners (formal and informal) and institutions rather than teachers roles, it was agreed that teachers themselves play a key role in all those scenarios as Open Educational resources. It is important that teachers should not only be involved in content producing and sharing but also engage with open educational resources to transform teaching and learning practice in institutions.
2. National policy on OERs, especially in the school sector: This recognised a need for national policy on developing and using OERs as a whole rather than only within the HE sector. Schools in particular should be encouraged to participate in the OER movement too.
3. Community of practice and network: Some delegates argued that in order to sustain OER practice, it is important that institutions and academics be encouraged to adopt a community of practice approach to create and maintain content and use existing networks to disseminate and share resources.
4. Change mindsets of senior management, academics: It has been found that on the one hand there is resistance to openness and the culture of sharing among some academics and senior management in institutions; while on the other hand, increasingly more institutions and academics are committed to making teaching and learning resources freely available. There is a need to help more academics and senior managers to change their mindsets and bring about an open and shared culture within institutions and among academics.
5. Institutional radical changes: Similar to many other educational initiatives, Open Educational Resources will not be able to bring about radical changes in the education system. However, there is no doubt that OERs will eventually challenge the way of current teaching and learning in Higher Education.
We hope this workshop was just the beginning of such conversations around OERs in the UK HE sector. We would be very happy for anyone interested in looking into the future of OERs in institutions to use those scenarios as a tool to facilitate their discussion in this area and to continue developing those and their own additional scenarios of OER in HE. The presentation of the session is available here on slideshare and we also made a video for the workshop which can be accessed here on YouTube.

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