Bringing up the rear

I’m feeling just a bit guilty that I’m once again late to the party. I had good intentions yesterday but …

In no particular order here are some thoughts from our discussions on Wednesday and Thursday that might have some bearing on our project and writing.

Institutional takeup of OER/OEP

Despite rhetoric and some action over the past decade the reality of OER/OEP here on campus seems thin. The initial foray into the Open CourseWare Consortium (now the Open Education Consortium) was a genuine effort to make 10 existing courses available in open form but was driven largely by the perception that there would be reputational advantage in being the first Australian university in the open courseware space. Getting those courses out of the LMS, cleansed of copyright material owned by other parties, and available online was a significant effort and subsequent maintenance of the courses was patchy. At least I know it was for my course which was one of the ten. The USQ entry on the Open Education Consortium site still offers a link to the USQ OCW site that served those courses but the server is not responding.

Subsequent efforts with OERu and other initiatives have also demonstrated good intentions and some success but without broad effects across the campus. The page about OER at USQ indicates that resources can be made open via the Learning Objects Repository but there is no visible link to open resources and the processes for navigating the system to open up resources is not apparent.

This invites questions about the rhetoric-reality gap. In principle being open is acknowledged as a good thing but in practice it seems not to happen much and to be not easy to accomplish within the institutional processes. It seems likely that is linked to concerns about reputational effects. Open resources and practices will surely influence perceptions of the institution among those who access the open material and possibly more widely if they ‘talk’ about it. Thus the interests of the institution seem to be best served by ensuring that what is made open is carefully managed and quality assured to present the best possible impression. That will require substantial effort to vet material that is opened and provide an incentive to restrict access to anything that might diminish that impression.

That position has logical coherence though there might be other ways of making open easier and at the same time supporting quality in OER and OEP. What is less logical is that it is very little easier to be open within the institutional boundaries than beyond. That internal closure severely limits any benefits that might accrue from reuse of materials across courses and programs or through improving materials by learning from others.

How open is my practice?

In times past USQ made available web server space for staff personal sites and course sites. There were mechanisms for securing course sites from viewers outside the USQ system but I seldom used them because, having borrowed ideas from others on the web, I felt some responsibility to share back. When those spaces were withdrawn, at least in part because of fears about staff serving material copyrighted by others, editing course materials for presentation via the LMS became more awkward than it had been when I could edit a file and FTP it into place. I moved my personal and course sites to my own hosted space because it made my work easier and did not present any inconvenience to students. I continued to leave the course material open to all comers.

Originally I had adopted a USQ template that included a copyright notice. The materials were openly accessible but not open for reuse by others except to the extent that copyright permitted. More recent versions have used an updated template based on the newer USQ style with no explicit copyright message but no other (Creative Commons) marking either, effectively applying the same copyright restrictions by default. I did ask through USQ channels about making the material CC butcould not face the maze of processes needed to make that happen.

Over the past few years I have occasionally opened up my practice by blogging about aspects of the design of the EDP4130 Technology Curriculum and Pedagogy course. Major parts of the assessment have also resulted in students producing and sharing resources for teaching technologies in primary classrooms. In 2012 students engaged in curation of resources shared by others using a variety of tools including Scoop.it!, Pinterest, and Facebook. Their curated collections were open to each other and the wider profession. In 2015 I switched to a project-based activity in which students developed, peer reviewed and shared teaching resources for technologies education. They were challenged to make their resources available to each other and the profession and did so using various websites. In 2016 I compiled lists of the resources for the Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies subjects so that they are (mostly) openly available. However, although I have worked to ensure that students do not misuse materials sourced from elsewhere I have not encouraged them to go the extra step of applying an appropriate CC licence to their work. That’s something for the future.

My practice and resources have ranged along the spectrum proposed by Stagg (2014) but have not typically applied licences that would permit reuse and remix by others. That’s a step I need to consider for my next (and final) round with EDP4130.

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2 thoughts on “Bringing up the rear

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