“Open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes”- UNESCO
“Open Education Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials freely available for everyone to use, whether you are a teacher or a learner. This includes full courses, modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world.” –OER commons
The free sharing of teaching and learning materials that is now possible because of advances in digital technology also has a number of challenges. I am looking at these challenges through the lens of medical education.
1) Accessibility of Open Learning Resources
Hatakka described a number of barriers for the reuse of OER in developing countries including finding suitable material and having difficulty accessing material because of lack of technical resources (computers, bandwidth, internet access) (1) The multitude of resources in many different places can make it difficult to know where to look for resources in developed countries as well. Increasingly there are repositories of OER for a particular discipline. For example in medicine, one could go to Med Ed portal or to African Health OER to look for teaching materials. The lack of technical resources is more challenging as it relates to resources and poverty. Technology however continues to advance and mobile phone technology may offer additional options for accessing information.
2) Adaptation of Open Learning Resources
Learning resources often need to be adapted because of language, cultural or situational context, difficulty level or context. Questions that arise include:
Can the learning resource be adapted? This question includes whether the creator given permission for adaptation through a mechanism such as Creative Commons licensing. Creative Commons is used in Med Ed Portal to allow for free adaptation of resources while acknowledging the original creator. This question also refers to whether the technology and the expertise are available to modify a resource. For example it may be difficult to modify a video while it would be easy to modify a Power Point presentation.
What is the learning value adapting a learning resource? Learning resources are often adapted by teachers to better meet the needs of their students. Adapting a resource may also be a learning experience for the teacher or the student. As Leinonen et al described in the Wikiversity paper, focusing on building a wiki, adapting and changing content is itself a learning experience. Students learn when they create or modify learning resources.
3) Effectiveness of Open Learning Resources
Much still needs to be learned about what makes a learning resource effective. McGill et al (page 28) provided a nice mindmap from the National Symposium of Learning Resources Repositories to begin to think about measuring effectiveness beyond “number of downloads”. These include measures such as satisfaction, quality, benchmarking, cultural change as well downloads, referencing and stories. As with many things that are worth evaluating, it won’t be easy.References:
1) Albright, P. (2005) UNESCO (IIEP): Final forum report. 2008-09-01 http://learn.creativecommons.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/oerforumfinalreport.pdf
2) Hatakka, M. (2009), ‘Build it and they will come? – Inhibiting factors for reuse of open content in developing countries’, in EJISDC - The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, Vol. 37, n. 5, pp. 1-16 http://www.ejisdc.org/ojs2/index.php/ejisdc/article/view/545/279
3) Leinonen, T., Vadén, T. and Suoranta, J. (2009) 'Learning in and with an open wiki project: Wikiversity’s potential in global capacity building' First Monday, Volume 14, Number 2 - 2 February 2009 http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2252/2093
4) McGill, L, Currier, S, Duncan, C and Douglas, P (2008) Good Intentions: Improving the Evidence Base in Support of Sharing Learning Materials. http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/265/