OER Literacies?

In my earlier post (Libraries, Institutions, and Open Educational Resources: possible connections?) I mentioned one of the ways libraries might be involved in Open Education would be through extending some of what they already do in connection to information literacy to encompass supporting students in selecting and evaluating OERs. There is an assumption here that for teachers and learners there is a (not yet fully articulated) support skill which is a mixture of something from  pedagogy/course design and something from information literacy.

When we design courses or develop as self-regulated learners we select and use resources based not only on their subject and content but also on how they fit with or could be easily adapted to our environment, context, and learning style. I’m suggesting that there is a skillset here that’s part of the discovery and selection process which supports Open Education in the same way that information literacy supports research. Some of this is probably covered by traditional student support/ or course design courses through services offered by teaching and learning support services but I’m wondering if with OERs the scale of discovery, evaluation and selection begins to require a form of information literacy and be an area in which libraries collaborate with teaching and learning centres in supporting students.

What do I think OER literacy looks like? well as a start I think it looks at some of these questions.

Evaluating the resource

  • Where does the resource come from?
  • Is it coherent?
  • Who produced it?
  • Does it have use appropriate sources?
  • How current is it?
  • What cultural context does it assume?
  • What legal jurisdiction does it assume?
  • Is it specific to any given accreditation process?

What can I do with resource?

  • Are there any licence restrictions?
  • Is the resource format suitable for adaptation?

Resources assumed to use the resource

  • Does it want access to particular digital resources (course readings)?
  • Does it want access to particular software
  • Does it want access to particular tools/ infrastructure?

Type of interaction assumed by the resource

  • Does it assume any particular type of interaction (group work?)
  • Does it assume any form of online interaction/ community?

Some of this information is the sort of question heavyweight elearning metadata standards tried to capture and to universally abstract into metadata. This isn’t the place to comment on those efforts but it is to say that there is a need to ask that type of question of a resource when we go to use it. And perhaps some of that process needs to be part of how users of OERs may need to be supported.

Caveat: Beyond the research I looked into for my earlier post and some work on course design I’ve not yet had an opportunity to explore this idea much or for that matter or do any specific research to see if anyone else has begun to look at this area. If you know of any work – please feel free to comment :-)

It does strike me that some of this is the flip side Open Educational Practice that the OPAL project is looking at. OPAL project http://qualityoer.pbworks.com/FrontPage OEP cloudscape http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloudscape/view/2019

Open Educational Resources, metadata, and self-description

If we share learning materials, do we have a professional responsibility to describe them?

At the CETIS conference Open Educational Resources / Content session in the midst of the discussions about metadata someone, I think John Casey, made an offhand comment about embedded metadata. As valuable as his next statement was, it was the notion of what information is contained within an object that caught my attention.

There is a basic principle of identity and authorship in a world of distributed information that we don’t seem to be talking about – what elements of self-description is it reasonable to assume from an academic sharing their resources? What constitutes good practice for labelling the digital stuff we want to be professionally associated with? Let’s be clear – I’m not talking about academics creating metadata or the debate about whether metadata is embedded or bundled – I’m talking about the equivalent of title pages and referencing (for want of a better way to put it).

Most university courses include modules on how to write an academic paper, including how to put together the parts of a paper. Departments produce templates so that assignments/ term papers, and theses have a standard title page, format, and way of citing things. The front parts of a paper help: manage the process of attribution and avoid accidental plagiarism; promote more careful writing; assert authorship and/or rights over a work; navigate the work; and help manage collections of such papers. A title section typically contains the following information: a title, author(s), date (usuallly of submission or acceptance), and frequently a course and/or institutional affiliation. This provides the reader with enough information to know what something claims to be, and begins to allow them to judge if they should read it.

I’m not suggesting title pages should be standard for everything, or that everything casually shared needs all this information, but in the context of deliberately shared educational resources surely we should regard providing information of this type as a professional responsibility. Whether we see it as an obligation of the ‘guild’, an opportunity to self-publicise, or compliance with institutional branding requirements, this information should be as standard for educational resources as it is for theses and articles. Of course not all learning materials lend themselves to a title page but: text documents and presentations do and web sites allow for home or about pages. Audio and video files can support introductions but the editing process is more complex. Independent images and some other forms of learning material are not as suitable for title ‘pages’ – but i strongly suspect more than half the learning materials shared in through call will be document, presentation, or web site.

I guess I’m suggesting that, for relevant materials the following should be assumable: Title, Author, Date (of some relevant kind), Institution, Course (code or name).

There are good and valid debates about what, if any, metadata academics should be asked to create, but there is a more fundamental question about professional self-description and good practice. Our conversation about what metadata is needed and who should create it should start from the premise that basic bibliographic information should be contained within the resource.

I don’t think anyone is suggesting resources should not have ‘title pages’, I just think we need to be clear, before we start talking about metadata, that it is reasonable to expect this type information be there. It’s just good practice