OPEN EDUCATION RESOURCES
Wow, my head is spinning after diving into the Open Education Resources: A User Guide for Organisations, this morning, it is indeed a bottomless pit of opportunity!
There is so much capacity-building potential in this model, and as I read through the transcripts of the interviews of some OP staff a few phrases jumped out at me:
“the purpose of OER is access to resources without having to reinvent the wheel, and the realisation that just providing access doesn’t necessarily mean grant the qualification – it provides access to learning… the greatest reason we can have is Ako – to teach is to learn… in teaching someone else you learn alot about yourself” (Khyla Russell)
“…the concept of intellectual property: it’s crazy and restrictive… if you share your intellectual property you haven’t lost anything…” (William Lucas) and
“It’s not just giving, it’s receiving as well” (Terry Marler).
I think the reason these phrases were resonant for me was that I have felt a sense of unease about OER since first hearing about it at a presentation at OP earlier this year. My unease has arisen from a few different sources: I absolutely believe in the concept of freely available material (but see as many barriers as enablers to the people who may really wish to be educated – ie those in developing countries who have neither the infrastructure nor the equipment, nor the literacy skills to partake), and I love the idea that others can pick up and run with your resources and adapt them to context/language/culture as necessary (with only a tinge of ‘but that’s mine!’) – where the learning about oneself and one’s own reactions can be instructive!
I think my main concern has been about its application to my own context; midwifery. As a degree programme, and with legal requirements about suitability to practice etc, not to mention the intense media scrutiny that midwifery education is constantly under, I have worried about this notion of ‘free-for-all’ in relation to health professional education. The idea that ‘anyone can get a midwifery degree’ has been problematic for me, as I believe it takes a set of very particular personal attributes to succeed in this programme. I feel reassured however about the ways in which OER might be applied to midwifery, that will not diminish but rather strengthen what we already have on offer. For example, I can see that an OER resource that examines those issues of what it takes to be a midwife, interviews with current and past students, pregnant women who have been supported by student midwives, and midwifery staff, might be a logical first place to begin. This resource could be posted so that prospective students of midwifery can make a realistic assessment of whether midwifery might be for them, and what supports they will need to have in place etc if they choose to undertake the degree.
I can see that there might be several course components that could be made Open Access, and indeed already there are some resources available to students that have come from open sources, which are valuable parts of their learning. So my knee-jerk reaction has been tempered, and I have learnt a bit about myself along the way!
Strategies that could be used would include reusable wiki resources, eBook and open textbook tools for covering content, and video of skills, communication exercises etc. OER philosophy is important to teaching and learning because it will enable students to benefit from accessing the best resources, made by experts in their respective fields, as components of larger courses specific to their needs. The Creative Commons Attribution Copyright License enables staff and students to share their resources, with an option to maintain ‘ownership’ as long as the resource is correctly attributed. The benefits of OER are that anyone can use, share, edit and adapt the resource to meet their own / their learners’ needs, and so resource developers must we willing to ‘let go’ to some degree, and look forward to ‘their’ work being enhanced and developed in ways they may wish they had thought of, or indeed that they may be shocked by!