OER

OER for Online Learning: Contemporary Online Instruction Simplified

OER for Online Learning: Contemporary Online Instruction Simplified

This is a guest blog post by Michael Menchaca, grant recipient and project lead developing OER for the LTEC 612 graduate courses at UHM.

Online learning has virtually exploded over the last decade. Within the next few years, nearly every college student and most K-12 students will have experienced some form of online education. As is typical with any type of learning, student experiences in online environments range from exceptional to atrocious. Thus, it is incumbent upon those with both practical and theoretic experience to share their expertise to promote only the best practices for virtual learning.

To that end, there are many books on distance education, including some very good ones. However, there are fewer textbooks that take an Open approach that can be easily adapted and distributed as needed. Thanks to generous funding from the UHM Outreach College, this project will help to fill that gap with easily accessible and a simplified approach to teaching online. In addition to providing a broad overview of distance learning characteristics, theory, and resources, this project will provide specific strategies for delivering instruction in five major areas:

  • Hybrid delivery strategies where there is some face-to-face
  • Asynchronous delivery strategies
  • Synchronous delivery strategies
  • Organizing and assessing content, and
  • Appropriate mixing of categories

Each chapter will build essential skills incrementally leading to providing expertise to design and implement complex online learning environments. The text is designed to encourage others to connect the information provided to their own interests and areas of control.

Because of the reliance on Open Educational Resources technology, the delivery system also becomes a model for what is learned. Each chapter will also contain case studies about real world solutions in distance course design and implementation.

Project Lead

Dr. Michael Menchaca

Dr. Michael Menchaca

Michael Menchaca from the Department of Learning Design and Technology in the College of Education. Dr. Menchaca has over 15 years of online learning and teaching experience. He has helped design, implement and deliver online learning programs at several institutions, including Pepperdine, Sacramento State, and the University of Hawaii. He has authored papers and conducted research in online learning for over 10 years.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER
An Open Textbook for “Mathematics for Elementary Teachers” courses

An Open Textbook for “Mathematics for Elementary Teachers” courses

This is a guest blog post by Michelle Manes, grant recipient and project lead developing OER for the MATH 112 & 112 undergraduate courses at UHM.

Students planning to major in elementary education at UH Manoa are required to take a one-year sequence of mathematics content courses: Math 111 and 112 (“Mathematics for Elementary Teachers I and II”). The goal of these courses is to help students begin to develop what education researchers call “profound understanding of fundamental mathematics.” That means that they understand not just the mechanics of standard K–5 mathematics topics (place value, the four standard arithmetic operations, fractions, decimals, geometry) but also know how the ideas connect to each other, and why things work the way they do. They can create examples and diagnose student errors. They can explore unfamiliar problems and convince themselves of their own solutions.

Another major goal is that we develop in students a growth mindset and a positive disposition towards mathematics. We hope that students who complete these courses believe that everyone (including themselves and their future students) can learn mathematics, that learning mathematics is worth doing, and that mathematics can be joyful and fun.


Sample content from the Math 111 OER textbook


Standard textbooks for these courses vary dramatically in quality. After extensive searching, UH Manoa faculty found all of them wanting in terms of the needs of our students. Furthermore, the books from mainstream publishers often cost $200 or more. Several years ago, Professor Manes collaborated with several graduate students in the department to create eBooks for these two courses, which have since been used by all faculty teaching the courses. These books are available for free to our students (either iBook or PDF format).

The current project is inspired by three recent developments:

  • The UH system move from the FS (symbolic reasoning) to the FQ (quantitative reasoning) foundations requirement means that we need to revisit and update the Math 112 class to meet the FQ benchmarks.
  • We have received inquiries from faculty at other institutions about using our materials with their students. We therefore plan to provide these materials in a format that is more easily modified by others.
  • We wish to make the updated text available under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license. This will require careful editing of pictures and some of the text so that we avoid issues of copyright infringement. Complete drafts of eight chapters already exist in iBook and PDF format, but these do not make it easy for other faculty to take, alter, and use the materials for their own purposes. We plan to move the materials to Pressbooks.

The outcome of the project will be a Mathematics for Elementary Teachers textbook, free to all of our students, meeting the UH quantitative reasoning foundations requirement, and available for faculty at other institutions to adapt and use for their students as well.

Project Leads

Michelle Manes

Dr. Michelle Manes

Michelle Manes is an Associate Professor in the Departement of Mathematics. Before earning her Ph.D. in Mathematics, she spent over 10 years working in K–12 mathematics education, including curriculum development and teacher professional development. She also worked as a 3rd – 5th grade mathematics specialist at a private school in the Boston area. She has been recognized for outstanding teaching by both the University of Hawaii (with the 2017 Board of Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching) and the Mathematical Association of American (with the 2015 MAA Golden Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics). She is the co-founder of the Math Teachers’ Circle of Hawaii and an Ambassador for the Global Math Project.

Tristan Holmes

Dr. Tristan Holmes

Tristan Holmes is an Instructor in the Department of Mathematics. He earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics in 2015 for his work in the area of the study of partially ordered sets. Since then he has taught Mathematics for Elementary Teachers I every semester, in addition to other courses. While a graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa he was a fellow in the Department of Mathematics K-12 project SUPER-M.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER
Getting the Message: OER for Communicology

Getting the Message: OER for Communicology

This is a guest blog post by Jessica Gasiorek, grant recipient and project lead developing OER for the COMG 371 undergraduate course at UHM.

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For most of us, communicating is like breathing. We do it frequently and easily (with occasional exceptions), without worrying about how it works. Despite feeling simple, however, communication is actually a quite complex—and in some ways, amazing—phenomenon: using a combination of sounds and body movements, we are able to change another person’s thoughts, and to take a wide range of otherwise invisible things going on in our own minds, and share those things with others.

COMG 371: Message Processing is a course designed to help students better understand the fundamentals of human communication.  The course addresses two related questions: How does human communication work? And, what happens— biologically, cognitively, and socially—when we communicate? COMG 371 is a required course for both majors and minors in Communicology, and the topics covered in it are often challenging for students.  In this course, students are asked to objectively and scientifically examine behaviors and experiences in their everyday lives (e.g., speaking, listening, making inferences about what others are thinking) that are so routine that they often go unnoticed.

The goal of this OER project is to develop the first sections of a flexible, online, dedicated text for this course. Currently, there is no textbook for the class because there is no single book that addresses all course content, and asking students to purchase several costly academic books (to use only part of each) is not reasonable. However, this means that students currently lack a comprehensive, written resource for this course. This project aims to fill that gap by creating an upper-level undergraduate introduction and explanation of the social and cognitive processes involved in human communication.

Message in a bottle

Given the project’s relatively short timeline, the text being developed over summer 2017 will focus on content covered in the first unit (i.e., approximately six weeks) of the course.  Specifically, this includes:

  • Introducing what “message processing” is and why it is important to study;
  • Introducing fundamental concepts to communication including interactivity, media, messages, and codes;
  • Providing a summary of common definitions of communication (used in contemporary texts in the discipline) and;
  • Introducing a “message processing” definition of communication which focuses on communication as a process of creating understanding;
  • Introducing the two extant theoretical approaches to modeling human communication, the code model and the inferential model.

This covers foundational concepts and theories required for success in the rest of the course. It also represents the area of course content for which there are the fewest other suitable resources (e.g., other OER content, academic articles or book chapters) available for students. We hope that having dedicated materials for this course should significantly improve students’ experience in COMG 371, and their learning (i.e., comprehension and retention) of course material.

Project Lead

Jessica Gasiorek profile image

Dr. Jessica Gasiorek

Jessica Gasiorek is an assistant professor in the Department of Communicology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Her research addresses message processing, social cognition, and issues related to communication and aging. Her published work includes both empirical articles and book chapters on communication accommodation theory, communication and aging, and communication in multilingual medical contexts. She can be reached at gasiorek@hawaii.edu

Posted by Billy Meinke in Grant Projects, OER, UH Manoa
An Open Physics Database for Students Learning with OER

An Open Physics Database for Students Learning with OER

Two main components are crucial for one's success as a physics student: access to proper studying resources, and developing problem solving skills. Beginning in 2015, the UH Mānoa Department of Physics and Astronomy has used the OpenStax College Physics OER textbook for their introductory physics courses, which is freely available online under a Creative Commons license. This eliminates the cost of purchasing a text book, and allows access to course materials for everyone; a print textbook also available to those who wish to purchase it.

About the Database

Particularly in physics, solving problems by working through to the solution is a key process of learning. We are building a physics database (pdb) of practice and assessment problems to pair with the Openstax College Physics textbook. The pdb will be open source, with the goal of providing a quality and free resource to students and faculty that others can extend or build on. Ideally, the problems in pdb will be randomized and mutable so that they are unique in methods of solution and time. This will help foster critical thinking, and reasoning in physics.
One of the main aspects of physics that is truly exciting is how mathematics is used to accurately describe the reality around us. It was Newton who first described gravity with a thought experiment. He considered firing a cannon from a very tall building, and eventually if fired with enough force, the cannon ball was sent into orbit around the Earth. Indeed, it is this falling motion in gravity that holds the planets and our solar system together. The planets are literally falling around one another! Problems in pdb will be algebraic and complementary to the content structure of the OpenStax College Physics text. Students will learn Newton's laws of motion, kinematics, work and energy relations, uniform circular motion, linear momentum and collisions, statics and torque, rotational motion and angular momentum.

Concepts in Physics

To give an example of the knowledge areas the pdb will focus on, here is a classic example of conservation of angular momentum. The concept is demonstrated by an ice skater who controls their speed by extending or pulling in their arms. When the skater pulls in his or her arms, their moment of inertia is decreased.

Thus, in order for angular momentum L to be conserved, if a skater changes shape by extending or lowering their arms, their rotational speed must decrease or increase, respectively.

ΔL = 0

The two videos below demonstrate this phenomenon. Conservation of angular momentum is applied to solving many physics problems. Examples include those involving orbiting planets, gravitation, motion of atoms and subatomic particles.

Chris, a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii Manoa, demonstrates conservation of angular momentum.

Mechanical engineering junior at the University of Hawaii Manoa, Ana, demonstrates conservation of angular momentum.

Our goal is to create the physics database of problems to serve as a free resource for students and teachers that are using the Openstax College Physics book. OER can greatly offset costs for students, and we hope to provide a quality problem solving component to match.

Project Leads of the Physics Database of Problems

Dr. Mark Slovak

Mark H. Slovak is an observational astronomer in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, specializing in cataclysmic variables. Involved with STEM/OER initiatives for several decades, he has been recognized for his outstanding undergraduate teaching in both physics and astronomy. An early adopter of OER e-texts for physics (and astronomy), he is currently engaged in efforts to provide additional ancillary OER materials, including a non-proprietary database of physics problems and exercises. He can be reached at mslovak_at-hawaii-dot-edu

Christina Nelson

Christina graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a B.S. in Physics and a minor in computer science in the Spring of 2017. Motivated by a deep passion to learn and discover what nature is telling us through physics, she plans to continue her academic career in graduate school at McGill University, Montreal. Her main interests are experimental particle physics, the fundamental constituents of matter and their interaction, the very early Universe after the Big Bang; quantum mechanics, how matter on the smallest scale relates to matter on the largest, the role of a conscious observer; and computer science applications to physics analysis such as Monte Carlo simulations, machine learning, and algorithm optimization.

For more about this project, see their project page: College Physics

Posted by Christina Nelson in OER, Open Textbooks, Student, UH Manoa
2017 UHM OER project awards! And a new look at oer.hawaii.edu

2017 UHM OER project awards! And a new look at oer.hawaii.edu

We’re excited to announce the 2017 UHM OER project awards!

Each project will receive funding up to $5,000 to create an OER textbook or course, or develop instructional tools to support existing OER adoptions on campus. The selected projects come from a broad group of colleges and departments at UHM, representing diverse interests and applications for OER at the Mānoa campus. Several of the courses moving to OER are offered at other campuses throughout the UH System, providing a unique opportunity to collectively improve learning content.

The projects will develop their OER this beginning this month, with plans to share the outputs to the UH System OER Repository by the end of fall semester. These materials will be shared with a Creative Commons (CC) license for faculty and instructors throughout the UH System to reuse in whole or in part. All supporting software for the OER projects will licensed as free software and shared via Github as applicable.

A list of the projects (in no order):

  • College Physics
  • Contemporary Online Instruction Simplified
  • Human Nutrition*
  • Math 111 + 112
  • Musubi: A New Approach to Japanese Language and Culture
  • Message Processing: The Science of Creating Understanding
  • Practical Meteorology
  • Principles of Microeconomics
  • Siblaw Taraw: Tales of Enchantment from Barlig
  • The Animator’s Companion – Essentials
  • The Open Constitution

We’ve started a page on this site for each project, with more details about what’s being built:

http://go.hawaii.edu/shj

Be sure to subscribe to the UH OER blog to keep up with the progress!

A link to the original call for proposals can be found here.

*The Human Nutrition OER project began as a pilot in December 2016)

By the way

You may also notice some changes in the style and construction of oer.hawaii.edu, including a new landing page. We’re working to make our resources as usable as possible, so please get in touch if you notice anything our of the ordinary. Mahalo!

Posted by Billy Meinke in Grant Projects, OER, UH Manoa
An OER Production Workflow for Faculty

An OER Production Workflow for Faculty

One of my goals when coming on board to lead the Outreach College OER initiative was to put tools in the hands of faculty. The faculty we work with at UH come from all walks of life and bring unique experiences to the table when looking at adopting OER textbooks. Comfort levels and savvy with edtech tools will vary, but that shouldn’t keep anyone from understanding the workflow that collaborators use when creating OER.

Back in January I wrote about OER workflows that visually represented the steps in the production workflow, but none seemed to be a perfect fit. Using these OER-specific workflows alongside tradition online course and journal production workflows led me to what we have here.

This diagram is my attempt to provide a visual for understanding the major steps in the production of OER.

A draft of this workflow was sent out via mailing lists and social media channels with a request for feedback on its design. More than a dozen folks left comments on the Google Doc, and I’ve done my best to incorporate the feedback that adds overall value to the workflow.

There were some enquiries about our mention of an OER specialist and a librarian that would be part of the process supporting OER adoptions. In the UH system, we are identifying two representatives from each campus as points of contact, so that we can more easily share successes and support our colleagues at all campuses. Ideally, this would mean that each campus would have an instructional designer and a librarian, both familiar with OER. These two-person teams would support OER adoptions and creations at their campus and be able to signal if they needed additional support from other UH campuses. Having a common roadmap like this for our OER projects will mean that we can lend a hand in specific ways to help each other along.

Now while I can’t guarantee that everyone who works with us on OER will leave with a deep understanding of instructional theory or design, I do hope that shedding light on the process will encourage more faculty to open up their own processes and practices. Teaching is an art, and this workflow doesn’t include pedagogical questions or structures like I know it could. But there will be other versions of this down the line, and as we use this workflow with more and more faculty, we hope to see extensions of the tool elsewhere.

Shaka icon

A big Mahalo to everyone who chimed in with feedback!

And if you found the workflow useful to you, drop us a line at oer@hawaii.edu and let us know.

PS The workflow will print nicely onto 11″x17″ paper for handouts

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Open Textbooks
OpenOregon and the $100 Textbook Explained

OpenOregon and the $100 Textbook Explained

Using student cost ($) savings as a primary metric for gauging success in an OER important is common, as it should be. But a word-of-mouth average is only as good as its supporting information and statistics. How did we get this figure?

Amy Hofer at OpenOregon went through the trouble of summarizing the supporting evidence for the widely-used $100 per textbook figure.

She writes:

It would be very handy to have an agreed-upon dollar amount that we could all use when calculating savings that result from OER adoptions. Many institutions rely on an estimate of $100 per student, per course. This post explains why that is a fair estimate.

Amy goes on to describe the different methods various folks have used to calculate student cost savings, being sure to mention that the most useful calculation will depend on which data is actually available. Having a reasonable median figure to refer to when discussing realistic cost savings is key, so this roundup of supporting evidence is greatly appreciated.

Open Oregon logo

Thanks to Amy Hofer and @OpenOregon.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Student, Zero Textbook Cost
Reblog: Pragmatism vs. Idealism and the Identity Crisis of OER Advocacy

Reblog: Pragmatism vs. Idealism and the Identity Crisis of OER Advocacy

This is a reblogged essay by Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani of Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, BC.

The original post can be found on his blog (shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license):  http://thatpsychprof.com/pragmatism-vs-idealism-and-the-identity-crisis-of-oer-advocacy/

I have shared his post here because I feel it is one of the most concise descriptions of paradoxes being revealed in the OER movement. As the movement matures, it’s important to examine the tensions that would delay our progress working towards free, open, and equitable educational resources and practices for everyone.

Enjoy.


In a couple of weeks I will be in Cape Town, presenting at the 2017 OE Global Conference. This long-ish blog post is a preview of some of the ideas I will discuss during my talk (which shares the title of this blog post). I welcome your comments as I continue to refine my ideas.

The open education movement has made and continues to make great strides, with the creation, adaptation, and adoption of OER slowly but surely becoming mainstream practice. However, as the adolescent OE movement enters a growth spurt that may see its use as primary courseware triple within five years, some noticeable paradoxes have emerged that hint at an identity crisis within the OE movement and, in particular, within OER advocacy.

Free vs. Freedom

Open education advocates customarily define OER as “beyond free,” based on the permissions to reuse, revise, remix, retain, and redistribute these resources. However, in practice, OER advocacy often centres on the unaffordability of commercial textbooks and the cost savings associated with the adoption of open textbooks (i.e. merely “free”). On the one hand, this appears appropriate, even pragmatic, given the significance of the burden of student loan debt in North America and the impact of escalating textbook costs on students’ educational choices and outcomes. Moreover, textbooks are a familiar entity to academics, and, unlike with tuition fees and costs of living, faculty control adoption decisions and consequently the cost of required course materials. At the same time, this narrow focus on cost savings is immediately less relevant in countries where faculty are less reliant on expensive textbooks. In fact, it may not even be pragmatic in North America, as recent research shows that the cost of resources is the least-considered factor for U.S. faculty when assigning required course materials. Moreover, although a cost-savings framing appeals most directly to student groups, as pointed out it is faculty who control adoption decisions. Finally, framing OER in terms of zero cost (one among many implications of open licensing) may unintentionally constrain the use of the permissions that come along with OER and disengage faculty from the opportunity to move away from bending their courses onto the structure of a textbook. Indeed, faculty who reuse, redistribute, and retain OER (themselves a minority) continue to greatly outnumber those who revise and remix OER, a pattern that may be perpetuated through the best of intentions of OER advocates. As Weller and his colleagues put it:

if cost savings were the only goal, then OERs are not the only answer. Materials could be made free, or subsidized, which are not openly licensed. The intention behind the OER approach is that it has other benefits also, in that educators adapt their material, and it is also an efficient way to achieve the goal of cost savings, because others will adapt the material with the intention of improving its quality, relevance or currency. (pp. 84-85)

Evolution vs. Revolution

OER advocates often highlight the advantages of the internet and digital technologies, especially as they enable the marginal cost of reproduction and distribution of educational resources to approach zero. However, the OER movement itself continues to grapple with questions from a pre-digital past, such as the responsibility of updated editions of open textbooks and the development of ancillary materials such as question banks. Although OER funders may (rightly) consider these matters stumbling blocks which, if not addressed, would inhibit uptake, employing the language of the commercial textbook industry runs the risk of dragging along a traditional mindset based on the top-down delivery of static and (falsely) scarce information. This begs a broader question: If open educational practices are a game changer, why are OER advocates playing by the rules of the commercial textbook industry?

Framing OER as free, digital versions of expensive print textbooks also risks playing directly into the hands of commercial textbook publishers who are in the midst of a pivot away from a business model based on selling “new editions” of print textbooks every three years to one based on leasing 180-day access to digital content delivery platforms. As post-secondary administrators begin to more seriously consider the social and fiscal consequences of high textbook costs, it will be tempting for them to capitulate to aggressive sales pitches from publishing coalitions that exchange faculty choice and student agency for slightly discounted digital textbooks. In order to avoid the most effective arguments of OER advocates being further co-opted by commercial publishers (e.g., see this product brochure from Pearson Education for their digital platform that cites data on the impact of OER adoption on student outcomes) and especially to realize the full potential of OER, the goal posts must be placed further than simply cheaper textbooks. As Robin DeRosa, an open educator who clearly favours revolution over evolution, puts it, “Fundamentally, I don’t want to be part of a movement that is focused on replacing static, over-priced textbooks with static, free textbooks.”

Resources vs. Practices

The tensions between cost savings and textbooks on the one hand and the affordances of open licenses and digital technologies on the other are manifested by contrasting emphases on OER vs. open educational practices (OEP). The latter is a broader, superordinate category that encompasses the adoption of OER and even open course design and development, but which places pedagogy (and therefore students) at its core. OEP most often manifests in the form of course assignments in which students update or adapt OER (e.g., with local examples or statistics), create OER (e.g., instructional videos or even test questions), or otherwise perform scaffolded public scholarship (e.g., writing op-ed pieces or annotating readings on the open web). Crucially, adopting OEP requires more of a shift of mindset than does adopting OER, more critical reflection about the roles of the instructor and the student when education continues to be based on content consumption rather than critical digital literacy despite information (and misinformation) being abundant. As David Wiley writes in his blog (albeit with the byline “pragmatism over zeal”), “when faculty ask themselves ‘what else can I do because of these permissions?’, we’ve come within striking distance of realizing the full power of open.”

Happily, advocating for OEP avoids the problem of inadvertently striking a judgmental tone when describing non-OER users (who may have excellent reasons supporting their choice) because discussions about innovation are not driven by guilt or avoidance. Rather, OEP articulates a vision of education that is aspirational and driven by an approach motivation. Within this broader vision, significant cost savings to students are the least significant benefit of OER.

Idealism vs. Pragmatism

The psychologist Erik Erikson articulated an eight-stage theory of psychosocial development that centered on an adolescent crisis between identity and role confusion (1956). During this stage, which persists through the college years, the adolescent begins to struggle with questions about who they really are and what they hope to achieve.

Although Erikson developed his theory to better understand lifespan development within individuals and not social movements, it is difficult to ignore the parallels between the tensions of an adolescent OE movement and the adolescent identity crisis that he described. Specifically, I believe that the frictions described above between “merely free” and “beyond free,” resources and practices, and evolution and revolution are each symptomatic of a psychosocial crisis within the OE movement that pits pragmatism against idealism.

Although OER advocates may understand and even experience both impulses, their goals and strategies often reflect one or the other. For example, whereas idealists push for for radical change that questions the status quo, pragmatists seek to build incrementally on the status quo. Whereas idealists work through collaborative networks such as faculty learning communities, pragmatists work to create grant programs for individual faculty to create, adapt, or adopt OER.And whereas idealists emphasize student-centered, personalized solutions that foreground process and agency, pragmatists emphasize instructor-centered turnkey solutions that foreground content and efficiency.

Outlined like this, it is easy to recognize the merits of both strategies. Indeed, idealists would do well to recognize that open textbook adoption tangiblybenefits students in material and educational terms that are not insignificant. On the other hand, pragmatists might recognize that the idealistic approach is appealing to those for whom the construct of a traditional textbook is a dinosaur best served by a meteor strike (and can therefore can be pragmatic).

An Integrative Solution to the Crisis

Given that Erikson believed that the individual could not be understood in terms that were separate from his or her social context (1959), I believe the key to resolving this crisis lies with an integrated approach that is sensitive to the diversity across and within the audiences whom we seek to serve.

As I have written elsewhere:

For faculty who enjoy experimenting and innovating, open textbook adoption does feel like a meagre position to advocate. These are instructors who care deeply about authentic and open pedagogy, who may take full advantage of the permissions to revise and remix, and who understand that adopting OEP is really just about good pedagogy and in that sense is not at all radical.

On the other hand,

there are faculty who currently adopt high-priced, static textbooks but care enough about their students to feel guilty about this decision (principled agents in a principal-agent dilemma). In at least some of these cases, the ensuing guilt leads them to bend the course to map onto the textbook, which, while not an example of great pedagogy, could be construed as an empathic response that ameliorates both their guilt and their students’ resentment. This is . . . where the social justice case for open textbooks may resonate particularly well.

According to Weller and his colleagues, there are three categories of OER users:

1) The OER active are

engaged with issues around open education, are aware of open licenses, and are often advocates for OERs . . . An example of this type of user might be the community college teacher who adopts an openly licensed textbook, adapts it and contributes to open textbooks. (pp. 80-81)

2) OER as facilitator

may have some awareness of OER, or open licenses, but they have a pragmatic approach toward them. OERs are of secondary interest to their primary task, which is usually teaching . . . Their interest is in innovation in their own area, and therefore OERs are only of interest to the extent that they facilitate innovation or efficiency in this. An example would be a teacher who uses Khan Academy, TED talks and some OER in their teaching. (p. 82)

3) Finally, OER consumers

will use OER amongst a mix of other media and often not differentiate between them. Awareness of licences is low and not a priority. OERs are a “nice to have” option but not essential, and users are often largely consuming rather than creating and sharing. An example might be students studying at university who use iTunes U materials to supplement their taught material. For this type of user, the main features of OERs are their free use, reliability and quality. (p. 85)

This taxonomy serves as a useful guide to OER advocates seeking to diversify or tailor their outreach strategy. For instance, OER consumers may be most interested in open textbooks and related ancillary resources that can be deployed with little or no effort. For this group, unfettered access for their students is highly desirable, with cost savings a nice bonus. On the other hand, the OER active group will be more sensitive to the impact of cost savings while also keen to learn more about the permissions to revise and remix OER. Finally, those in the OER as facilitator group will be excited by the potential to involve students in the creation or adaptation of OER via renewable assignments. Of course, this is far from an exhaustive list of strategic possibilities and only aims to illustrate the mechanics of an integrative approach.

Despite its merits, it would be naïve to believe that adopting an integrative approach would eradicate all tension within the OE movement. Idealists may continue to insist on the application of CC licenses that meet the definition of “free cultural works.” Pragmatists, on the other hand, will acknowledge that OER creators may have reasonable grounds for including a Noncommercial (NC) or even a NoDerivatives (ND) clause, even though an Attribution-only license (CC-BY) facilitates the maximum impact of OER. Pragmatists may also want to first ensure basic access for all whereas idealists may think it arrogant to insist that students first need access to required resources before partnering in pedagogical innovation. But while these tensions will not disappear, I believe it essential that we recognize both drives and have a deliberate, nuanced conversation about how best to harness both idealism and pragmatism in service of the goals of the OE movement.

So What’s Next?

In Erikson’s lifespan theory, the stages that follow adolescence pit intimacy against isolation (young adulthood), generativity against stagnation (middle adulthood), and, finally, integrity against despair (later adulthood). If these at all suggest a trajectory for the OE movement beyond its current adolescence, its advocates should aim for the next phase to involve a lot more collaboration among faculty and students, both across institutions and cohorts. This shift will require tools that support radically transparent collaboration (e.g., see the Rebus Community for Open Textbook Creation) but especially a break from traditional (opaque, territorial, top-down) approaches to curriculum design and development. As the proverb says, “if you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Greater collaboration and a true democratization of the process of OER development will in turn engender a move away from philanthropic, government, and other unsustainable funding models in favour of a grassroots-based, community-driven, self-sustaining approach that resembles a bazaar in its connectivity and generativity far more than it does a cathedral.

Achieving this, while neither easy nor assured, is a necessary step for the OE movement on its path to becoming more critical, more self-aware, and more inclusive of a diversity of voices. In other words, a movement characterized by integrity, not despair.


You can follow Rajiv on Twitter at https://twitter.com/thatpsychprof and see his blog at http://thatpsychprof.com/.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Open Education
OpenEdTools Symposium: Translating msgs for normals

OpenEdTools Symposium: Translating msgs for normals

At the end of last week, I had the pleasure of spending two days in meetings with directors, consultants, and designers at an open education tools symposium. A more detailed transcript can be found by searching Twitter for the hashtag #OpenEdTools, or by reviewing the documentation authored by staff at Hypothes.is and other attendees. A big thanks to The Hewlett Foundation, the Moore Foundation, and Hypothes.is for organizing the event, whose primarily goal was to sync up the larger edtech-supported OER efforts.

Context

Before jumping into the meat of this write up, it’s important to consider some context around my own involvement in the event.

1) I am not the producer of any OER tools. Yes, I’ve authored a fair bit of OER content, and have strung together multiple OER tools to serve my own purposes, but I had a different stake in this than many of the other attendees. I was there as a “power user” of sorts, and fully intended to exploit what I learned at the meeting to serve my newly-focused audience: teachers and learners in higher education.

And 2) I’m very fortunate to have this narrowed audience to serve, as opposed to the OER providers and organizations at the meetings. When I was with Creative Commons (CC), strategies often became blurry and it was easy to default to a position of “let’s serve everyone.” It would not be a stretch to think most of the other attendees were dealing with mission statements and strategies that are becoming blurred as well, and so I considered myself fortunate to have clear goals and a more well-defined audience to serve.

Also worth mentioning is that there was representation from several “big” OER providers/initiatives at the meetings, including Lumen Learning, OER Commons, OpenStax, NROC, and the K12 OER Collaborative. A full list of attendees can be found here.

You also may notice the title of this post is a little odd. What are “normals,” you ask? In short, “normals” was a term used throughout the meetings to refer to the many folks that open education tools are meant to serve. “Normals” are less often makers of tools themselves, more often the creators of OER content, and thus rely on existing technology to work with OER. On some level, I actually believe we are all “normals” and that distilling the conversations from the meetings will serve us all. Without “normals” there would be no reason for us to be creating tools for open education, anyway.

And now the fun stuff: Takeaways.

Field Notebook and a pencil

Image by Helloquence on unsplash.com / CC0

1) Accessibility and Inclusive Design remains an afterthought

Jutta Trevinarus and Jess Mitchell from the Inclusive Design Research Center (IDRC) in Toronto were on hand, ensuring that the conversations considered the needs of all learners. IDRC has created many resources over the years, such as FLOE, a tool that makes it simple to enlarge, highlight, and otherwise manipulate Web-based content to be easier for all individuals to consume. Still, I found it hard to look past the fact that tools for inclusivity like those put out by IDRC have not been implemented across the board. As I mentioned above, many of the tool and platform providers at the meetings have broad, expansive audiences that may or may not have inclusive design atop their own list of needs. But still, I was surprised to learn that accessibility features of open education tools are not consistently implemented. Folks at the meeting were sympathetic to the messages brought forth by Jutta and Jess but there (unfortunately) were more fundamental infrastructure and interoperability issues that took precedence these two days.

2) Underneath it all, HTML still rules

A topic that emerge at the meeting that I appreciated more than most was that of interoperability between platforms. How can the OER providers align their underlying technology to make passing content between them easier? What can be done for content re-users that prefer to move OER out of a platform and into their own learning management system? How can the ingestion process for getting content into platforms be made easier? What’s causing the friction?

At the core, the big OER projects all use content schemas that are similar, yet different enough than to allow easy migration of content. As a case in point, OER content released by OpenStax is being actively migrated into Pressbooks format, where it can be more easily adapted and localized. From my understanding, the migration of this content was done with permissions granted by the open license, but that it involves extensive hands-on checks that cannot be automated. Would a common schema between the major providers help ease the pain of migration? In a breakout session devoted to this topic, it eventually surfaced that content in the major platforms is primarily held in HTML, with an XML-based version (or wrapper) that relies upon the individual platform.

Without getting too lost in the technical jargon, let’s imagine for a minute that you find an wonderful piece of OER at OER Commons. But your institution provides professional development and support for use of Lumen Learning’s Pressbooks variant called Candela. You take a copy of the content exported from OER Commons and attempt to load it into Candela. Does it know what it’s looking at, or does it need lots of help and massaging to simply look similar to what it did in OER Commons? Because there is no common schema for describing OER content that may pass between platforms, these types of migrations always require intervention, and this intervention can be above the technical knowledge level of “normals”. I’ll admit that there was no simple solution found for this issue, but Kathi Fletcher from OpenStax expressed an interest in convening the major OER content providers to scope and prototype what such as schema could look like. It was highly encouraging to see this interest in making OER content interoperable across systems, because right now it is not.

3) Version control ain’t much of a thing, yet

Of all the topics discussed at the meetings, version control was at the top of my own list. Always in search of incentives I can offer faculty who are considering adopting or creating OER is that they will become part of the OER ecosystem, and that they will benefit from the collective adaptations, updates, and potential improvements of content they share into the system. For example, I’ve considered the idea of the University of Hawaii system having a core set of OER textbooks that are course-specific. At the beginning of the semester, faculty can take a fresh copy of the textbook and over the course of the semester make tweaks that improve the applicability, accuracy, and overall fit of the content for their teaching style and their learners. At the end of the term, there might be several copies of the textbook, each of which has it’s own unique set of changes that might be worthy of being rolled into the “master” copy of the textbook, providing an improved starting point for all teachers going forward.

But there’s no toolchain or mechanism in place to allow this.

The closest thing I found at the meetings was a parent-child marking system in OER Commons, basically allowing users to see if content they are viewing is a “child” (derivative) of another piece of OER. In a healthy OER platform, you’ll see lots of copying and forking of content, each copy a little (or a lot) different from it’s parent. After speaking with Lisa Petrides during a breakout session focused on version control, it seems that OER Commons can probably provide some of the version control functionality described earlier. But what about content that passes between system, or has been exported and lived outside any OER platform for some time. How do we easily signal that our OER has changes that can benefit others who are using similar content?

OER Commons version history

During the discussion, Mike Caulfield did mention work done with the Federated Wiki project several years ago, where metadata on a piece of OER content describes changes made since the copy was made, and allows users to “roll back” changes to earlier versions. But this metadata isn’t listened for or understood by any other OER platform, and so this functionality is lost the moment the content escapes into the ether. An undesirable yet function solution was brought up: Leave a code snippet hidden in OER content that can track content wherever it goes. But since we (everyone) is being tracked more than they’d prefer, this idea sank quickly. Another idea that surfaced was to indicate the parent OER content using HTML “rel” tags, but this is a hack and the “rel” tag was never intended to support the kind of functionality discussed at the meetings. I do think it’s worth paying attention to this topic, as the OER schema conversation ended up blending with the version control topic. I hope a working group is formed to carry this interoperability work forward.

4) OER assessments and outcomes alignment is not easy

Though there were many specific issues and topics about OER brought up at the meeting, none surprised me as much as the discussion around assessment banks. Assessment banks are essentially repositories where formative and summative assessment items (multiple choice questions, prompts, etc) are stored. During the breakout session specific to the topic, it became clear that there is no useful specification governing how OER providers store and share assessment items. Sure, you can use specifications like QTI and LTI to format assessment items for fitment in a content delivery platform, but each provider uses their own methods for storing and managing them.

A few themes emerged in this specific breakout session:

  1. Assessment banks are essential to the adoption of OER, since many faculty will be resistant to adopting OER if it’s not paired with an assessment system that can automate grading. Proprietary content producers have stepped up to offer a homework and testing solution that works in tandem with their content, and faculty who have grown to appreciate these systems will be less likely to drop the proprietary content or textbook if an OER tool to replace it is not available.
  2. Alignment with standards, competencies, and outcomes is tricky. In many cases, embedded assessments (often called formative assessments) rely on the context created by the content they live inside. When an OER is revised, it’s difficult to maintain the relevance and applicability of assessments when the content itself has changed. OER providers like Lumen Learning and NROC have aligned OER content to outcomes, but this has been done in a way that can (too) easily break when the content is removed from their system or revised without also revising the outcomes and assessment items. If there were a centralized clearing house for open assessments, the assessment banks of individual OER providers could be merged and shared between systems. There are many detailed that would need to be hashed out, but there was support for the idea. We’ll see.
  3. The question of how learners are tested also bubbled up. In an age where long-used assessment banks from faculty and proprietary publishers can be found with a Google search, should we be using these types of assessment anyway? Shouldn’t learners be offered varied opportunities to demonstrate their newly-acquired skills, knowledge, and attitudes? Yes, but the kind of assessments we’d prefer to give learners do not scale well, and cannot be as easily automated as multiple choice tests. This is an example of how concessions have been made to allow technology to serve more learners, even at the expense of authenticity in assessment.
Hand holding a compass

Image by Heidi Sandstrom on unsplash.com / CC0

There surely are other important points raised and ideas hashed out at the #OpenEdTools meetings, but the above are the items that stuck with me. As we head deeper into the Spring semester, I will continue to work with faculty who want to adopt or create OER, and will attempt to share our successes and struggles with the folks who dictate the direction OER platforms move in. It goes without saying that at the end of the day, I care most about the end-users (or “normals”) of open education tools. But providing important feedback with OER platforms and being involved as they recalibrate their compasses and rewrite their roadmaps is extremely important if we want OER to strengthen its hold. The University of Hawaii system has a commitment to provide students with the best education possible, and OER needs to be central to this mission.

If you have thoughts about any of the above, feel free to leave a comment on this blog post or tweet using the #OpenEdTools hashtag to become part of the conversation.

Posted by Billy Meinke in Conference, OER
1 Year Ago: UHM ASUH Passes Resolution Supporting OER

1 Year Ago: UHM ASUH Passes Resolution Supporting OER

At the end of 2015, two senators of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) submitted a resolution supporting the adoption of OER. As something that sort of flew under the radar for some, I believe it is important to note this milestone and recognize the two undergraduate students who put the resolution forward.

Eugene Lao, Senator of the College of Arts and Sciences

Maggie Hinshaw, ASUH Treasurer

Senate Resolution 14-16: In Support of Incorporating Open Educational Resources into General Education Curricula passed the ASUH senate vote unanimously in December of 2015.

The resolution states that ASUH:

  • Recognizes the rising cost of educational resources as a barrier to college affordability and student success.

  • Recommends that the UHM further utilizes open educational resources and other zero-cost materials for general education courses.

  • Understands that the extensive implementation of OER will help reduce the cost of education, expand the use of internet and digital technologies in education, and transform teaching and learning by fostering academic innovation through increased curriculum options.

As we build our bottom-up OER efforts, having complementary support from the student body will help us carry maintain momentum into the coming years.

Props to Eugene Lao, Senator of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Maggie Hinshaw, current ASUH Treasurer for introducing this important resolution.

You can read the full text of the resolution here.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Student
Discovering OER Production Workflows

Discovering OER Production Workflows

We’re building steam to carry our OER efforts into 2017 by getting into the nitty gritty of the production cycle, how open learning content is actually adopted and modified for use. Textbook production workflows are a useful place to start when you’re seeking a model of OER production that will work for your community. But there are some nuances about developing OER, such as designing for reuse and leveraging outside volunteer efforts that may place greater demands on a project and change the processes for creating content. This post will review some interesting examples of OER production workflows and how their ideas may support the UH system as we move into the production cycle for our first open textbooks.

Messy desk space

Image by Jeff Sheldon / CC0

Considerations for OER

The production cycle for an OER course often varies from that of an OER textbook, largely because textbooks don’t always have pedagogical or delivery dependencies that could require more of the project (beware of scope creep!). An OER textbook is a knowledge base for the course, and may or may not include activities or assessments, but is “alive” for continuous improvement as a foundation for a course or workshop. Developing an assignment or assessment bank, for example, means including another OER product that may need its own workflow or extension/inclusion in the primary workflow for a textbook alone. Properly scoping the OER project is essential, regardless of how developed the workflow might be.

OERu’s Workflow

I have a lot of appreciation for the OERu’s mention of Raymond’s  release early, release often approach to developing OER. Content improves as more eyes are put on it, and it’s important to realize how many other individuals might be working on an OER similar to yours. What could you learn from them? What could they do for you?  This relates to BC Campus idea of having OER projects live in Open Creations mode, where they publish after each piece of remaining production work, and advertise tasks still to be done. I’m not sure how many takers they’ve had, but the point is that there’s an invitation for collaboration. Their OPEN sign is lit up.

OERu points out the modularity of their approach, breaking the OER production cycle into 5 parts:

  • Select
  • Design
  • Develop
  • Deliver
  • Revise

There are expectations of following a series of milestones in each step or phase in the cycle, finishing with a delivery and feedback loop. In theory, the course feedback would inform anyone who wished to improve or update the course for themselves or for the existing course.

OERu Workflow

OERu OER workflow / Wikieducator.org / CC BY-SA

It reminds me of the ADDIE model for instructional content development, which is still a popular method despite being used to support behaviorist instructional strategies. In OERu’s cycle, OER receive peer review during their initial development, and then as part of each delivery of the course. This model can likely be used as a starting point for a unique OER production workflow, as it has useful descriptions of each step without other distracting details.

CORRE

This framework was part of a 2011 presentation by Gabi Witthaus, (University of Leicester), Julian Prior (University
of Bath), Sam O’Neill (University of Derby), Alejandro
Armellini (University of Leicester) that explained the process for the University of Leicester’s (and others in their network) of OER production and development. The CORRE model is “a framework for transforming teaching materials into OER” which assumes that those who implement the model will have a substantial amount of known materials available to support the building of an OER. They emphasize four phases:

  • Content
  • Openness
  • Reuse & Repurpose
  • Evidence

CORRE framework for OER development

This framework gets into the specifics of OER production such as screening and clearing rights of OER, and preparing the OER for release in multiple formats. Colors indicate the specific collaborator/roles charged with delivering or helping complete part of a phase. Further on in the slide deck (linked in the image above) there is mention of a modified CORRE model by the University of Bath. Just like each person’s ideal version of the same OER – the way they would deliver it –  is different, I expect that institutions will have their own ideal version of a common production workflow . This one may be less off-the-shelf ready for application than OERu’s, depending on the staff and expertise available.

Additional Conceptual Frameworks

As part of the very-comprehensive OER Workshop self-learning wiki course, David Porter mentioned these two models. The first emphasizes the license on the OER as the key indicator of how others can share and/or modify the resource. The legal rights associated with OER are what give it wings, but not all CC licenses work the same way and can be edited or remixed with other OER.

OER workflow / Wikieducator.org / CC BY-SA 3.0

Another cycle mentioned on the wiki is one that assumes you are working with a pool of relevant OER, for which the rights have been cleared. The COMPOSE phase of this cycle encapsulates steps (again) similar to ADDIE, but as a loop and with the front end Analysis step rolled into the FIND step. An expectation here is that the desired knowledge or information has been clearly identified as the “something” a teacher or learner wants.

OER Development Cycle / Wikieducator.org / CC BY-SA 3.0

David did this work ahead of the successful BC Campus Open Textbook Project, so we can assume these above two models are along the path towards productive work with OER. They may be most useful when describing OER production in a zoomed out way, but do well to cover the basics when it comes to explaining how OER are created and reused.

Technical Diagram*

An output of the JISC #UKOER program, Lisa Rogers (Heriot-Watt University) shared a technical diagram for OER production, with useful indicators of decision points and transitions beginning with an OER content audit. Their detailed diagram includes five phases through which an OER being developed might move:

  • Creation
  • Quality Control
  • Technical
  • IPR Negotiation
  • Cataloguing

OER Workflow Diagram by Lisa Rogers – Heriot-Watt University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.5 UK: Scotland License

Provided there is the legal expertise available, this diagram would support the important rights-clearing steps associated with releasing and combining OER. What’s missing is the detail of the Technical Work step, which probably deserves a diagram of its own.

*Note: This diagram resource recently (today) disappeared from the Heriot-Watt University website, but an important Snapshot was saved by the Wayback Machine. Huzzah!

What’s actually going to support us?

My search for workflows was inspired by Rebus’ Hugh McGuire and his post on the forum inviting others to build on his draft project description. Signaling for others to contribute to a project is a nice gesture, but less useful unless discrete parts of the development process are identified. Thus, it makes sense to have a workflow to use for planning and mapping out milestones, not only for those formally involved with the project but also those volunteering from the outer community. Others need to know how they can pitch in.

Finding a workflow that works in our OER circle will involve answering some questions about the resources we have, end points we’d like to reach, and how each institution in the UH system can share steps in the production cycle. I’m hopeful for constructive dialog that will help refine workflows that work for us, and have already sent out a call for participation with our first open textbook creation project.

Happy holidays, everyone!

See you in the New Year.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER, Open Textbooks

Technical Openness of OER and Pressbooks

Something we take for granted when it comes to Open Educational Resources (OER) is that there is a simple solution to the legal restraints on content. Creative Commons licenses are the gold standard for releasing content, making it clear that you would like others to build upon and share your work.

But the legal openness of content is only one side, and the technical openness of content is easily overlooked. Just because you have the legal rights to edit and revise or adapt an OER does not mean that it is easy to do so. Borrowing from Wiley’s Open Definition page that explains both legal and technical openness, this post will explain some of the reasoning behind our decision to use Pressbooks as the platform of choice for working with OER at UH.

Tools for craft making

Wiley offers the ALMS framework for assessing the technical openness of open content:

  • Access to editing tools
  • Level of expertise required
  • Meaningfully editable
  • Self-sourced

In a nutshell, the above criteria can be asked as a series of questions when trying to understand how easily you can edit OER. Does the file format the OER is shared in require expensive software to work with? Must you be an expert using specific tools to make changes to the OER? Are we talking about a PDF here, or an HTML page? These are all things to consider as they can present barriers to anything beyond an off-the-shelf adoption in which the adopting party makes no changes to the work. For educational uses, this rarely works well.

Enter Pressbooks.

Pressbooks is a variation of the popular WordPress content management system (CMS) that supports more than 60 million of websites, a huge chunk of the Web. Pressbooks is different than the WordPress you may have encountered in the past, in that it has been set up with controls and features designed to make the publishing process easier.

To be sure, lots of different content creation software and suites can be used to make OER. Tools ranging from MS Word to Google Sites can all create and house content, but a limiting factor of a many of these is that they require that same software to edit OER created in them. What if I want to re-use OER someone made in a piece of software I don’t have? This is often the case, and can drag a project to a halt.

Reason #1: No lock-in

Pressbooks export options

One of the most powerful features of Pressbooks is that it exports to a variety of formats that can be read and edited elsewhere. It should come as no surprise that editing a Pressbook inside Pressbooks is easiest, but a Pressbook can be exported to ePub, PDF, MOBi, and a range of XML flavors among other options. This means that content created in Pressbooks will be readable by almost any device, and is likely available in a format that you will be able to edit with free software. Content in, content out, so to speak.

Reason 2: Editor and reader all in one

Pressbooks editing screen

With Pressbooks, the editor and the viewer are all in the same location. Just like any other website, a Pressbook can be edited on the fly by an author or contributor. As I’ve been telling faculty lately, “if you can edit a webpage, you can edit a Pressbook.” This is what firmly places control over the content in the hands of instructional faculty, something traditional textbook publishers simply do not offer. For example, if you were reading one of BC Campus’ textbooks produced in Pressbooks, it takes very few steps to grab an export of their content and import it into your own Pressbooks instance. This is what we’re going to be offering to faculty within the UH system that first complete training in OER, copyright, and using Pressbooks. The power to create and adapt OER will be in the hands of everyone who wants it.

Reason 3: A community of makers

Pressbooks codebase on Github

One sign of a successful software project is that there is a community of end-users and developers who actively work to make the software better. Pressbooks only has one part-time developer working on the codebase, which on the surface may seem worrisome. But if you look deeper and realize that there are 23 developers who have committed code to the core codebase, and dozens more who are working on their own version of the software, you see that it’s a much bigger project. Pressbooks supports the BC Campus Open Textbook project, OPEN SUNY, and Lumen Learning’s flagship OER platforms. It’s the community of folks working on the codebase, and working with OER inside of Pressbooks that makes it a solid choice for us to begin our own OER initiative with.

This post hopefully provides some of the reasoning behind our planned use of Pressbooks at UH. I’m currently working with faculty inside a development instance of Pressbooks to give it a ride around the block and learn what aspects of working with OER inside Pressbooks will need support and training. If you’re interested in tinkering around with Pressbooks yourself, get in touch with us at oer @ hawaii.edu.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER

Say it like you mean it: Describing revision and remixing of OER

In my new role as the OER Technologist for the UH Manoa campus, I’m charged with helping faculty adopt OER resources, primarily “open textbooks”. Without getting into the details of it, faculty at higher ed institutions in the U.S. find comfort and confidence in OER resources that are packaged as a textbook. Although we are trying to move away from using the term textbook to describe OER, it’s still a term that helps us have more productive conversations with faculty who are new to (or are skeptical about) OER. I’ll keep using it for now.

A building in Montreal that has been built upon

A building in Montreal that has been built upon / Image from Imgur (no creator shown)

But just as we use the term textbook to have productive conversations about adopting OER, I’ve been brainstorming ways to describe the adaptation, revision, and remixing ultimately necessary to cement the adoptions. The open license on an OER permits reuse and repurposing, without which faculty could not make the book their own; they can’t take the steps needed to mould the OER content into materials that will work with their teaching style and with their students. So what language should we be using?

It’s important to mention here that a great deal of OER reuse and revisions happen in the dark, in places where we don’t see what changes have actually been made to the OER. Could these changes benefit others who are re-using the same OER? Maybe. Or would the original creators of the OER want to see how their work is being remixed? Probably. Heck, they might even want to roll some of those changes back into the MASTER version of the OER. I wrote about a need for better version control (git) for content back in March, if you’re interested.

Part of my interest in sussing out useful language to describe reuse and remixing comes from my upcoming work with faculty on their OER adoptions, specifically scoping the editing/revision work they wish to do with the OER. Will this be an off-the-shelf adoption, or one that includes sweeping changes to the structure and content of the OER? Probably not the former. So let’s begin.

Revision and remixing

Here are some terms to begin with:

  • Revising: Altering the textual content or media in an OER
  • Adding: Including new (previously unlicensed) textual content or media in an OER
  • Remixing: Combining two or more existing OER

On the surface, the act of revising an OER seems like a lighter-duty task thanremixing, but as the amount of content to be revised grows (ie a 1300-page textbook), even revision can take a great deal of work. Revising OER includes activities such as editing the tone or voice of the content, removing or reordering sections, and moving topics between chapters or modules. When we revise OER, we’re primarily talking about changing individual pieces of existing OER content, not adding new content.

Once the existing OER has been squeezed and stretched to the limits of its usefulness, we add content. This comes in the form of including more local examples that explain concepts, adding links to supporting research or media content, and including activities that can extend the content – such as curation or constructive activities that benefit the world’s knowledge (such as improving a Wikipedia article or contributing a choral explanation to the content). Whether we are adding new instructional content to the OER, or including new activities that encourage students to produce knowledge, the addition of content is the step important to any OER adoption.

The third of three terms, I expect many OER adopters to be interested inremixing multiple OER into one (or a cohesive set of them) that works for them. Now, we can safely assume that most new OER included in the remix will require some sort of revision (and possibly addition of new content) before its ready to be incorporated into the whole. If the base OER (the content we begin with) needed some work before prime time, the other OER we include will probably need some reworking as well. Exceptions to this exist of course, as it’s not reasonable to expect we can (or need to) edit or modify every openly licensed video, simulation, or research article we remix into our OER. But when we remix multiple OER, a certain amount of revision should be expected to help it “fit” into the base content.

Say it like you mean it

What this leads me to believe is that the more clearly we can describe the work needed to adopt OER, the fewer surprises and bumps in the road we’ll encounter. Instructional faculty have been reusing full-copyrighted instructional and research content without permission for decades, moreso since the mid-90’s when the Web made it dead simple to copy and share. And if they did revise or remix that content, it was done behind closed doors and in most cases never saw the light of day, for fear of legal issues, or simply because there was no reason to document it.

Now that we have explicit rights to reuse and repurpose content, we should be actively working to use language that describes OER activities. OER adoptions can include a great deal of work, and better tracking and describing of the work that goes into an OER adoption would go along way to support others who are considering working with OER.

Just as the Mozilla Science Lab has been working on badges that show who, what, and how folks have contributed to a published research paper, I’d to give credit to those who adapt OER and open the doors for all sorts of neat things to happen. Once we can better describe all the steps and work needed for successful adoptions, we can begin to look at giving credit to those who do the work. Now that sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

*This writing was originally published on billymeinke.com and reposted here under the CC BY license.

Posted by Billy Meinke in OER

The UH Bookstores learn about OER

On October 21 managers from nine UH Bookstores arrived at Kapi‘olani Community College for a statewide meeting. The first item on their agenda was a four hour workshop on OER and the Textbook Cost: $0 program now in effect at Leeward Community College, UH Manoa Outreach College, Honolulu Community College, and Kapi‘olani Community College. As they had requested, Junie Hayashi (LCC), Billy Meinke (Manoa), and I (Kapi‘olani) provided a shortened version of Kapi‘olani’s 4-day OER workshop. We talked about the OER movement, Creative Commons, copyright, and how to find and use open educational resources available on the web.  They also learned that they could order OER textbooks from Open Stax and provide on-demand printing for OER as a service to our students.  Feedback was both enthusiastic and full of questions and insights as they face a changing world of educational resources.

Posted by Sunny Pai in OER