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OER: views, perceptions and uses from participants at the Blended Design Workshop at Brunel University

I spent Monday, 9th November, at the Blended Design Workshop at Brunel University*.  The workshop introduced over 25 participants to a new methodology - learning design in a blended learning context - for learning design, which aims to provide support and guidance to lecturers in making decisions about creating blended learning modules and activities, including engagement with using and developing OER. Cloudworks, the social networking site for exchanging ideas around teaching, learning and scholarship in education, was one of the mediating artefacts for facilitating discussions and the exchange of designs, alongside with Compendium LD, a tool for mapping and visualising designs.

Advising on, and sharing insights about, OERs

I was invited to be the 'OER advisor'. Quite an honour! A pre-workshop activity was set up inviting participants to 'share an OER'. The results were intringuing, and even more the range of perceptions about the nature and/or definition of OERs, ideas on sharing and networked learning. An OER Stall on Cloudworks was set up for the day, not only to invite questions about OER repositories, concerns and share insights about OER types, users and uses, but also to enquire perceptions about the the culture of openess, sharing and collaboration in the context of teaching and learning.

The activity, outlined above, was rather ambitious; We began by discussing ideas about what an OER is, and went straight to the second question, before looking at ways to search and test relevant resources in Repositories such as OER Commons and browse through the sections and subject repositories recommended the very useful OER handbook by Wikieducator. 

It was interesting that many of the participants have used open resources in the past, but the most common perception was about what 'is out there', 'what is free to access', be it journal paper, encyclopedia entry, video, image, tool; as the dialogue progressed, so did the ideas about what is free (as 'no money charged') or modifiable ('by anyone'), what is 'educational',  scholarly, and fun, and what is open for inviting reflexive dialogues around sharing, research, teaching and learning practices.

I felt that many participants started thinking a bit differently about OERs, from simply being fixed and static content  to something that also involves colloboration and sharing of experiences and contents around particular interests, disciplines, learning and teaching activities. This would certainly entail a change of philosophy or educational culture and would require more support in both raising awareness around OERs and training of lecturers, tutors,students, academics in general, as well formal and informal learners.

'Many tips with quite a few icebergs under the surface'?

Many proponents in the OER movement are talking about 'hitting brick walls' or reaching vacuums. The point then is to move beyond 'preaching to the converted'; My feeling from the discussion with the participants was that as much as people are discovering new and exciting field for experimentation and learning in the world of OERs, the learning curve is still steep. As I participant mentioned:

I have learnt that there are many tips with quite a few icebergs under the surface. Great to know where the icebegs are though a bit scary how large they might turn out to be!

There's still a lot of familiriarising , convincing and trainning to address difference sets of e-literacies, confidence, time resources, and the culture of sharing in a public space. Raising awareness about the nature, potential and affordances of OERs, is one thing; Cultivating a culture of sharing, is another. Perhaps these are issues that our Olnet OER Workshops will also address.

For a more comprehensive overview on on Blended Design OER Stall, see Cloudworks discussions here.

* The Blended Design Workshop formed part of a JISC funded project on Curriculum Design led by the Open University, and on which Brunel University is one the partners. The other partners are the Universities of Reading, London South Bank and Cambridge.