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OER effectiveness cycle

Research Leads

James Greeno, Renee Fisher (Carnegie Mellon University)

What is it?

We are developing a collection of case studies of OER travel and effectiveness that will contribute both to the knowledge base for designing and adapting open educational resources and to fundamental understanding in the learning sciences.

Research Questions

  1. What combination of factors promotes adoption of OERs into new contexts in a way that improves teaching and learning?
  2. Can we provide a framework for evaluating and improving the effectiveness of OER as it travels through various contexts?
  3. Can we develop effective best practices to aid developers who wish to evaluate their OERs and build in features to promote its transferability to new contexts?
  4. Can we develop best practices to aid potential adopters evaluate and integrate OER into their teaching?

Progress to date

During the summer of 2010 two OERs were selected on which to focus the study.  These OERs are both well established and respected within their fields.  Both OERs were currently travelling to new contexts and support at least a loose network of use where feedback from adopting instructors comes back to the development teams.

  1. The InterAct curriculum is a compilation of web development educational resources created by a variety of industry experts from around the globe and offered open and free online.  During this study, a subset of these authors published a book, intended to support and provide organization for the online materials.
  2. The OLI Statistics course is a full course developed for individual students and instructors.  It is offered online.  In this study, it is used in a blended mode, where the instructor incorporates the materials within their traditional course.

In the fall of 2010, the developers and adopters of the InterAct curriculum were interviewed during their use of the OERs.  The data includes observations of an instructor preparing to use an OER in his teaching as well as interviews with both instructors about their teaching and selection and use of OERs.  Both of these cases are largely positive, so the findings of these case studies are conjectures about aspects of the OERs that the researchers hypothesize to be contributing to successful use of these resources.

The researchers are interviewing a second round of faculty who are adopting one of the two OERs under study during the previous round.  This round of interviews encompasses four faculty from a variety of contexts within American formal higher education settings.  The faculty using the OLI statistics course are planning to use the OER for the first time while the faculty using the InterAct curriculum has experienced incorporating the OER during at least one previous term.

During the first round of interviews the researchers observed the OERs were useful in two different ways.  In one case the OER provided instructional activities with content that fitted well with the programme that an instructor had established.  In the other case, activities of interacting with web resources were the skills targeted by instruction.  The researchers plan to have enough data to begin constructing and testing a framework for evaluation as they continue the study of OER travel.