An introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER)
An introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER)

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An introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER)

3 Exploring OER

Many educational institutions worldwide are offering OER. This is a way to widen access to educational material to a variety of audiences with diverse interests. Note, too, that the Commonwealth of Learning declaration stressed its goal that OER should ‘enter the educational mainstream’.

In this activity we would like you to visit some OER websites. You will notice that the sites vary in format, in what they offer and in how they expect the user to engage with their materials.

Activity 2

Timing: About two hours
  • Please visit the following initiatives and reflect upon their differences in purpose, content design and the tools available for the learner. You might wish to make brief notes, or draw up a table, comparing the features of each site that interests you.
    • MIT Open Courseware [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

      MIT was the first institution to offer OER. It presented the first pilot website in 2002 with 50 courses, and by early 2015 was offering extracts from more than 2000 courses with free lecture notes, tests and videos. It’s an interesting site to look around, including under the ‘About’ tab.

    • Open Learning Initiative (OLI, Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

      The ‘Learn with OLI’ tab is a good place to start, to see the range of courses that is offered. ‘Studying Effectively’ (at the time of writing, it’s at the bottom of the home page) will give you an idea of the learning strategy that OLI proposes, including ‘learn by doing’. This captioned video from The Open Learning Initiative begins by arguing that higher education faces a major challenge:

      ‘We’re asking faculty and institutions to teach many, many, many more students. And we’re giving them 50 minutes to try and address the needs of that much larger group with a much greater diversity. And then we wonder why pass rates, failure rates are so high. It’s an undoable task without better tools and better support.’

Download this video clip.Video player: Exploring OER
Skip transcript: Exploring OER

Transcript: Exploring OER

Candace Thille
Higher education is confronted with a pretty significant challenge. We're asking faculty and institutions to teach many, many, many more students. And we're giving them 50 minutes to try and address the needs of that much larger group with a much greater diversity. And then we wonder why pass rates, failure rates are so high. It's an undoable task without better tools and better support.
The Open Learning Initiative is an open educational resources project that brings together the learning science researchers who are studying what do we know about how people learn. The software engineers who are looking at what are the affordances of the technology, the human computer interaction experts who look at the interface between humans and computers, and the domain experts, the faculty who teach statistics, chemistry, philosophy. This is not just about online courseware. It's really revolutionising how we think about learning, and how we think about teaching.
We make learning environments, and learning environments include what a student might do with the computer.
Speaker 1
Worrying is discouraging.
Speaker 2
Worrying is discouraging.
Candace Thille
But it also includes what a student does in the classroom with their peers.
Natalie Baker Shirer
‘Con-summit’. Now, if you said ‘con-summit’, it would be a northern English dialect. I definitely know that when they are studying, using the tool, they know the sounds much better.
Speaker 2
Demur. Oh, demur.
Wilfried Sieg
You are providing an environment in which students can prepare for meetings by themselves and be intelligently tutored.
Speaker 3
Plus, this will give them an idea of like –
Candace Thille
One of the most powerful features of web-based learning environments is we can collect this data about students and use that to drive very powerful feedback loops. Now, the first feedback loop is to the student. So as they're working through the environment, they're getting immediate feedback just in time to refine their performance.
The second feedback loop is to the instructor. We created the instructor learning dashboard. The idea behind the learning dashboard is to be able to give the instructors a really quick view of where’s my class.
So the instructor has a much better sense of where their class is getting it, and where they’re struggling it. So they can spend that very precious class time in a much more informed position.
Wilfried Sieg
You can see where they have difficulties, and you can focus on those particular areas instead of just giving a lecture. To look at one particular set theoretic problem.
Candace Thille
The third feedback loop is to the course design team.
Speaker 4
Long term we really need these little introductory animated films.
Candace Thille
Every semester, we have hundreds of students using these environments. And while the instructor’s going to get just that feedback on what’s working and not working for just their class, the design team gets that feedback across all classes. So we can use that information to say, where do we need to focus our attention on improving the course.
Speaker 5
I’d like your permission to record this session with our camera –
Candace Thille
The fourth feedback loop is to the science of learning. How did we figure out how to design effective learning environments to support students and give them feedback? That's based on a huge body of work that’s been going on for years in the area of learning science research.
As students are working through the course, the science of learning can introduce experimental conditions into the learning environment that will help them refine and develop new theories of human learning.
I think for a lot of people it makes sense that you could teach math, or science, or even formal logic with a computer. So how do you teach something where there isn’t an answer, for example, speech?
Candace Thille
The way that we use the computer may be very different from one course to the next, but it’s the design process that’s key.
Speaker 6
Actor’s picture.
Natalie Baker Shirer:
They could hear. They could be tested. They could give feedback. They were given feedback. Everything worked.
Speaker 7
Tumult and thunder.
Natalie Baker Shirer
Candace Thille
We thought, let’s try and take the same methodology and see if we can create learning environments that will support the community college faculty and the students.
Wilfried Sieg
The problem in such relatively formal classes is always that some students have an appropriate background. Others don’t. And in this way, students depending on their background can prepare themselves appropriately at their own pace. The course is being offered successfully not only at research universities, but also at institutions that have a quite different student population. That is students who are involved already and working, have families, and it works very successfully there too.
Candace Thille
What difference does it make? How is that really any better than what we’re currently doing? We’ve done a number of evaluation studies to answer exactly that question, and the results have showed that the students, even though they took the class for half the time, with half the number of contacts hours during that time, did as well or better than the students in the traditional instruction.
Wilfried Sieg
We are teaching more and more rigorously than we used to. With students who have already some form of mathematical background, I go through this full term course in one month. Without OLI, I could not ever try to achieve this.
Candace Thille
For the last 100 to 200 years, we’ve been using the same methods to try and develop and disseminate knowledge. Now, both with the development of the learning sciences and the development of the affordances of the technology and the web, we are revolutionising higher education.
End transcript: Exploring OER
Exploring OER
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    • OpenLearn (The Open University, UK)

      There’s plenty of material to choose from here. You might like to pick an area you know about already, and decide what you think about the material you find. Or choose an area you know little or nothing about…

    • iTunes U (International) and The Open University on iTunesU

      At iTunes U numerous universities make their content available, in the form of lectures, videos, films and other resources. You can download the content in different formats, such as PDF or MP3. The Open University joined iTunes U in 2008 and currently provides content from over 130 of its modules.


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