One Big Happy Family of OPEN – How to Get Faculty to Embrace Open Educational Resources

6555466069_3246e8b54e_zGetting faculty to embrace open education resources takes more than directing them to a good search platform. In this post I suggest a two-pronged strategy to help faculty embrace ‘openness’.

I joined a Micro MOOC this week, LOER12 [Learning Open Education Resources] and discovered that the scope of open education resources (OER) is far beyond what I imagined; the number of dedicated educators and researchers working worldwide to expand, promote, and collaborate to advance the OER movement is extensive. One such group Evidence Hub for Open Education aims to promote and build a community of educators globally that work on Open Education initiatives that collaborate and build a collective memory. One project currently underway is OER mapping of institutional initiatives, an effort to track OER projects worldwide, a starting point for coordinating research efforts. The research in ‘open is a worthy one. Educators working on this project are eager to move open education forward, enhance the impact it has on teaching and learning, and determine its effectiveness.

And there is progress with OER, as evidenced by institutions implementing OER initiatives, such as University of Michigan with its Open.Michigan, an initiative that encourages faculty and students to share their educational resources and research with the global learning community. In the government sector, numerous states in the U.S. see OER resources as an opportunity to lower costs in the cash strapped education system. In California, legislation was signed last month that will provide college students text books at no cost, by way of openly licensed digital textbooks in three higher education systems.

What does it mean to Educators?
But, what do open educational resources mean to educators and institutions who have yet to implement OER initiatives? Should we as educators, be involved in adopting OER, even make a concerted effort to do so? What about higher education institutions? Without hesitation, I say yes and yes. Open education resources are more than digital text books, they have the potential to provide quality, diverse, media-rich courses, content and/or research materials that have the potential to transform education. It’s helpful to view OER not as stand-alone components, but as part of a bigger picture. OER overlaps with MOOCs, with competency based learning with learning analytics and other initiatives emerging in higher education. All are part of the ‘open’ movement.

800px-Global_Open_Educational_Resources_Logo.svg‘Open’ as a  Movement
The open movement is influencing all aspects of education. MOOCs are examples of open learning, defined as an approach that seeks to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning. And then there is open source, software applications open for use and improvement, for example the learning platform Moodle. There’s open data and even open access which gives unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles. It’s one big happy family of open, that when working together, functions as a collaborative system. Open is changing how we educate, how learners learn and how instructors teach.

So back to the question, how can we encourage faculty, and educators to embrace open as a movement, including OER? I suggest a two-pronged approach.  First, for educators the concept of open needs to presented from a professional development standpoint— promoting OER ‘training’ as personal development that becomes part of the educator’s personal learning network. This is not all my idea, but advice from Stephen Downes, co-founder of the concept of the MOOC. In a post I published recently Why Tech Training for Faculty is a Waste of Time, I suggested that when training faculty in using the LMS platform Moodle, the focus should not be exclusive to the technical aspects, but include the why, and address pedagogical training. Stephen Downes commented suggesting that training of faculty be approached from a development perspective.

I think it [training in LMS] should be tied to learning. When I teach people about technology, my focus is on how they can use it for their own professional development. The application of that learning to the classroom will follow. (OlDaily, Downes, 2012)

Personal Learning Network
If an educator [or learner] views and uses open education materials as a means to enrich  their own personal learning, or to develop a skill set, or in the case of an instructor enhance his or her teaching, motivation is triggered. The educator then wants to learn how to use the resources, is motivated to search for content that meets his or her course needs. Furthermore, the educator will invest the time needed to find the resources, as he or she is vested and interested in learning. In a report released recently Growing the Curriculum: Open Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education (Allen & Seaman, 2012), several  barriers to adoption of OER were mentioned by faculty including, [lack of] time to learn and use OER (59%), and difficulty in searching. Though there is validity to these issues, in the bigger picture it is about the mindset of the individual and the institution.

Institutional Culture
The second critical part to increasing the adoption rate of open is consideration of the culture within the institution. The survey mentioned above listed ‘lack of support for non-local curriculum’ as another barrier. This speaks to the culture that the faculty works within, which must have the conditions necessary to support the adoption and implementation of OER. If the culture is open to change, conducive to experimenting and learning, to creating and sharing, the chances of success with the concept of open are increased. Though this is not to say that individuals cannot be champions of openness. It is possible, that champions can influence others, though alone they cannot change the entire culture of an institution without support from leadership.

Closing Thoughts
Times of change can create feelings of excitement, maybe even fear yet the rewards can be great. Adopting a culture of ‘openness’ requires a new mindset for teaching and learning. Incorporating OER as discussed here requires a different approach, one that supports educators in creating their own personal development, where each can determine how OER can be used to fit his or her own teaching and learning needs. Educators can become highly motivated through this kind of professional development, and combined with a supportive institutional culture, one that creates conditions for  learning in the open, a win-win situation ensues for students, instructors, the institution and the Community of Open Learning.

Photo Credits: Open, by opensourceway, Flickr, and Open Education Resources, by Jonathasmello, licensed under Creative Commons

4 thoughts on “One Big Happy Family of OPEN – How to Get Faculty to Embrace Open Educational Resources

  1. Pingback: Wikipedia as a Scholarly Resource « Archaeology, Museums & Outreach

  2. Reblogged this on Classroom Aid and commented:
    If an educator [or learner] views and uses open education materials as a means to enrich their own personal learning, or to develop a skill set, or in the case of an instructor enhance his or her teaching, motivation is triggered. The educator then wants to learn how to use the resources, is motivated to search for content that meets his or her course needs. Furthermore, the educator will invest the time needed to find the resources, as he or she is vested and interested in learning.

  3. Very interesting post. When I started reading I had a sense of being overwhelmed – perhaps it’s because it is the end of the semester and I have been reading graduate student course projects all day :) As I checked out the Open.Michigan link my first reaction was here is a bunch more stuff. My reaction was to a certain sense of frustration of trying to find that magic bullet that was going to convince my Luddite colleagues that open source materials, online peer reviewed journals, Wikipedia, MOOCs, and even just online clases were not evil incarnate, but a taste of educational reality for the future.

    Then I got to the paragraph heading “Personal Learning Network” in your post and it started making a good bit more sense. The word motivation hit me hard. I thought of how in 1994 while finishing my PhD writing at UIUC I taught a course back in home town titled “Anthropology and the Internet” in a department of eight faculty of whom only three had email accounts. Based solely on pressure from students, within two years the department had a computer lab set-up. I recollect one faculty member that year who was still typing his manuscripts on an IBM Selectric, refusing the computer the University offered him. When he realized he could get the daily Mexican newspapers where he did his research online, he became a convert overnight to the wonders of the digital age. In my Museum Practices seminar this semester, a graduate student revealed, with a certain amount of trepidation that he had used Wikipedia to create 60 mini-bios of Civil Rights leaders for a project he was working on at the National Civil Rights Museum here in Memphis. During his presentation the class discussed his source, noting most of their professors would not consider Wikipedia a legitimate “scholarly” source. But in discussion, the student revealed there was no way he could have collected all of the information in the time he could devote to the project had he started with a traditional library research on each individual. Again, a fantastic learning experience.

    The lesson I have learned is to simply keep plodding forward. At some point, everyone will have their own epiphany, or go the way 8-track tapes.

    • Hi Robert, You hit-the-nail-on-head (as saying goes), not until an individual sees how he or she will benefit from something ‘ new’ whether it is a new mobile phone, tablet or online database, will the new take hold. I love the story about your colleague with the Mexican newspapers! That is a telling example of an educator adopting something for his own personal learning network – with great success.

      Yes — one step-at-a-time. I agree it is overwhelming, the volume of data available, the resources, the projects… and on and on. I too hope that others have an epiphany. It is at times tiring to be the ‘champion’ of things new. But each of us that tries to make a difference, even in a small way, day to day, is moving forward. Press on! Thanks for commenting and sharing Robert, I am sure we are not the only ones that feel overwhelmed at times by what is out there.

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