Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Reusing eLearning material (OER) from other sources or not, asks UNESCO. Three reasons why I hesitate

Unesco is inviting us to jointly discuss OER, so if you are interested, let yourself be heard!

Let me first tell you how this started to become important (again). Last week I was one of the co-organizers and facilitators for an international eLearning workshop for the Linqed Network. The spirit of the workshop was amazing and we managed to grow collaboratively towards a better application of eLearning principles. However some issues got a heated debate going. One issue that was raised, was the issue of re-usability of learning materials, quality assurance across learning materials build in different institutes, and OER in general. For many of the participants were for using/building OER, but some remarks were made.

This is one of the key issues at UNESCO as well, so they are calling us all to chip in and discuss OER. Unesco is launching a new path forward for OER. If you are interested, you can now join Unesco's discussion forums and put in your insights, recommendations... concerning OER. These are the scheduled dates and topics:

The scheduled dates and broad themes for the online discussion forums are:

23 – 29 September 2010 Taking OER beyond the OER Community: Policy and Capacity

20 - 26 October 2010 What works, what does not and under what conditions?

10 - 16 November 2010 Copyright and the development and re-use of OER

Where do I stand? For me, OER are subject to three crucial criteria in order to make them interesting for other users:

Why would anyone search the already available OER to find learning material/content they can use?
It is worthwhile searching OER material in general, but once a person starts perusing through them, those resources must be really good for anyone wanting to reuse them or keep searching/reading through them. If the resources are not fully up to scratch or if the material is outdated, they risk to scare off the people searching through them. Their needs to be a success rate of finding relevant material for the one going through them. So I guess, much of its success relies on quality assurance of the material.

Zone of proximal recognition
Secondly, maybe in recognizing or wanting to use information there is also something like a 'zone of proximal development', but then in recognizing, or the willingness to recognize some information as important. I know for myself that certain eLearning thinkers appeal to me more then others, simply because their way of thinking/their world view is closer to mine. This might affect what I am looking for content wise. So in fact I censor the content I pick up based on my socio-cultural and political beliefs.

Improved (= tailored) search engines
And third, but not least: filtering what is useful to that particular person that is looking for OER can be a challenge. If the semantic Web takes off, the chance of me finding something useful based on my previous searches and keywords will increase, hence resulting in more success rates of hitting the information useful to me. So the quality of search engines also affects my willingness to go through them.

OER can help in content poor situations
On the other hand, if you are in a setting that simply does not have access to any content, or only scarcely, you will jump in the air for any OER that have solid content and can be used without extra HR or software needed.

Have any opinions on this matter? Join the discussion forum from UNESCO here.