Open learning literacies

Block 2, Activity 24, Consider Open Learner Literacies

I found this activity quite challenging because I don’t think I have ever really stopped to think about the concept of literacies. The Open University’s Digital and Information Literacy Framework  has five competency areas relevant to open learning but are equally applicable in traditional closed learning environments.

Beetham et al’s 2009 JISC funded study usefully drills down into the concept of literacies and two aspects of their definition stuck a chord. Firstly, that a literacy is a foundational knowledge on which other skills depend, and secondly, that literacies are ‘a socially and culturally situated practice – often highly dependent on the context in which it is carried out’.

Open learning literacies therefore relate directly to the way open educational practises are distinct from other forms of educational endeavours. These practises are based on valuing sharing and openness in education. If you don’t believe that education can only take place through sharing, and that sharing widely is the most effective way to educate the most people, then you might struggle… David Wiley puts it well in this TedxNYDE talk.

To be able to share openly you need to have digital and information literacy skills but in addition to this you have to be able to evaluate, remix and reuse content in order to share, and be the recipient of shared, material.

To be able to share content you need to be online, participating in OER communities, so the ability to engage and create digital identities is important too. Enhanced online communication and networking skills must also be an important aspect of open education literacies.

What other aspects are there to open educational literacies? …. comments please….


Rhizomatic learning

Block 2, Activity 14: Comparing MOOCs

A short post for this activity, which asked students to compare different types of MOOC. I took a look at Rhizomatic Learning devised by Dave Cormier (@davecormier) which I know is about Rhizomatic learning but I am still not sure I could tell you what that is!  I then comparerhizomeed this experience to my recent adventures studying a FutureLearn MOOC Caring for Vulnerable Children.

I’ve been a big fan of FutureLearn MOOCs, I like the design, they work well on tablets, the mix of media is good and the chat/follow facilities seem to work well. They are clearly well resourced and, in the case of ‘Caring for Vulnerable Children’ the content is spot on. My background is working in social care and the information this MOOC gives participants is excellent.

Dave Cormier’s course about Rhizomatic learning caught me by surprise and I really liked it. In some ways it had a homespun feel but that reminded me that OERs don’t have to polished and branded to be of great value. Dave’s videos made me chuckle, his super enthusiastic style got my attention. Connectedness and openness seem key to this MOOC. I remain a bit perplexed about what Rhizomatic Learning is and, despite what Dave says, surely you need some defined content to a course!?! Maybe I got the wrong end of the stick, I am sure the man who coined the term MOOC knows his stuff! In any case this pared back presentation, using Twitter, wordpress and YouTube made me reflect on how creative we can be to create OERs. The corporate MOOCs of FutureLearn and Coursera are only one interpretation of this way of learning.



Little and Large OER

Block 2, Activity 11: The advantages and disadvantages of big and little OER

little and largeThe Openness Creativity Cycle (2012) , written by Martin Weller, suggests that there is a feedback loop for scholars operating in a digital and networked environment. When scholars practise ‘open scholarship’ they produce open educational resources which contribute to an iterative creative process that benefits themselves and others.

Many OERs are developed through large scale institutional projects, such as The Open University’s OpenLearn, and this ‘big OER’ approach has advantages. The cumulative expertise, access to resources, brand impact, global reach and so on.

However there are issues regarding the funding and sustainability of this form of OER. Weller’s ‘little OER’ offers a different way to think about OERs and Open Educational Practises (OEP) more broadly.

If scholars engage in OEPs then public engagement and outputs from university academics takes on a different form to the traditional. The motivation of open scholars to engage in collaborative work with colleagues means a ‘long tale’ (Anderson 2006) of outputs is created almost forever available through the internet. The input/start up costs are low but through the web and social media tools the outputs can be of high quality and accessible to an almost infinite audience.

OEPs in the form of ‘little OERs’ also contribute to the academics’ development of their ideas and research. This can  contribute to more traditional university outputs such as journal articles or books (which of course could be published in an open format too!). An issue must be how to make others aware of the resources created in a web saturated with content. Crucially, within universities, a culture needs to evolve that values academics working in this way to enable the approach to flourish and for the feedback loops to operate.



Share the creativity

Block 2, week 9, Activity 9: Choosing a license

Wanna Work Together? from Creative Commons on Vimeo.

It took me a while to understand the need for creative commons licenses because I just thought if you’re not concerned enough to apply for copyright why would you bother at all? The video here explains how I got that wrong…

Creative commons enables a framework for purposeful sharing, for active delineation about what it is okay to do with someone else’s content and, ultimately it seems to me, promotes sharing in education.

So this activity asked me to select a CC licence, I chose  ‘Attribution-Non Commerical 4.0’ because it seemed to fit with the values of OER. That is the content I generate on this blog can be shared and adapted but attribution must always be given and the content must not be used for commercial purposes. I wouldn’t be happy with my work not being acknowledged and I certainly don’t think others should make money from my work if I am not, but beyond that I am happy for my work to be shared and to benefit others.



OER: direction of travel

Block 2, Activity 7 Exploring OER issuesOER Evidence Report 2013-2014

The OER Reserach Hub published a comprehensive report reviewing the impact of open educational resources in terms of eleven hypotheses being researched by the project.

Here I’ve noted three of the key issues that advocates of OERs have to grapple with if OERs are to be further embraced by students, educators and institutions.

One: the report suggests that ‘knowing where to find resources is one of the biggest challenges to using OER’. I think this is key to whether OERs will continue to have an impact amongst the abundance of content available online. Most people might look at YouTube, TED talks or may be the Khan Academy but beyond that where do you go? Moreover, as someone new to a subject how do you know the resources are applicable to your context . Is using a sociology resource authored in South Africa going to be relevant or helpful to a student in India?

Two: Hypothesis C focused on access: ‘Open Education models lead to more equitable access to education, serving a broader base of learners than traditional education’. The results were mixed, with some students using OERs to replace formal study and others using OERs to supplement and support their study. With some institutions, like The Open University, trying to use technology to increase participation in education from under represented groups further investigation is needed to establish and promote equitable access to OERs.

Three: Hypothesis D focused on student retention: ‘Use of OER is an effective method for improving retention of at-risk students’. Here the capable student was found to use OERs to help them in their formal studies and this may aid retention. However, the student with complex needs may not perceive a benefit to using OERs and their needs may not be met by a free educational resource.

So, OERs may not be accessed by some groups of students and some students needs might not met by using OERs. It is legitimate not to expect OERs to fulfil multiple purposes to multiple audiences but there is an issue of who benefits from educational initiatives.

When a development is low or no cost to the end user then surely it should be available and of benefit to at least, but not exclusively, those people who cannot afford the paid for resource.  This is a conundrum that perhaps means we need think more about what, and who, is an OER. I expect others have thought about this but I’m only a few weeks into my course…..!

How does it look to me?

Block 2, Activity 3 Representing open education

This task asked students to read or view some trigger material about open education and from this create a visual representation of current issues.

I used a resource from OpenLearn to look at how to draw Rich Pictures. I am not gifted with great creative talents but rich pictures allow anyone to draw how they view and reflect upon a particular topic or event.  I then drew my rich picture by hand, took a photo and uploaded it here:

20160321_205720-1 (1)


I went a little bit off task but enjoyed the process!


Always open

Block 2, Activity 1: Set up technology

openThe module races on and we are now starting Block 2 ‘Open Education’. Working at the OU means that I  am aware of lots of work being undertaken by colleagues to further open up education to the benefit of many. I am also aware it is not a straightforward ambition to fulfill and reading Martin Weller’s The Battle for Open has helped me understand some of the tensions over ownership, definition, and measures of success. In terms of direct experience of open education I have benefited form studying some MOOCs via Coursera and FutureLearn. I am also a big fan of OpenLearn which brings together lots of free learning resources, often in the context of a recent OU/BBC TV production. The aspect of OERs that I am not so familiar with is thinking about reversioning and reuse. I have enjoyed the benefit of this when it has been done by others, but I’ve not  reversioned materials myself. I am also new to open badges – although aware of the Mozilla Foundation and the basic ideas behind the concept. So, an interesting few weeks of study ahead and hopefully a deepening of my knowledge of the issues at play in open education