Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Open Ed: Learning with media, not from

I have recently finished reading the OLCOS road map. One important point in the OLCOS report is that models and guidelines for proper use of Open Educational Resources need to be provided if OER initiatives are to grow based on user input. This, I believe, is where instructional design fits into the big picture of open educational resources. Instructional designers can provide guidelines and models on the effective use of open educational resources for learning. The OLCOS report also states that too often, producers of open educational resources look at consumers as merely users of the content. They do not see them as collaborators on the usefulness and effectiveness of resources, or as colleagues who re-share resources that they have remixed. Consumers of resources should also re-share resources when they have used or remixed them. Clearly to do all these things, the users and re-sharers of resources will need support.

The OLCOS report also makes the point that open educational resources will be better used in situations that foster learner-centered approaches to instruction rather than teacher-centered ones. This represents a change in practice for most educational institutions. There are different ways to use media in education. Students can learn from media in a passive role. Verbs that fit this approach are watching, viewing and reading. Students can also learn with media in an active role. Verbs that fit this approach are watching, viewing, reading and then downloading, collecting, changing, and sharing. I certainly believe more in the latter. Giving students the opportunity to learn with media will better prepare them for the knowledge economy.

My favorite quote from the report is from David Weinberger, he talks about the virtues of collaborative software such as wikipedia, “We hope they’re learning that they can’t be passive recipients of knowledge. But they’re also learning that authority doesn’t come only through chains of credentials; that we can get on the same page about what we know; that knowing involves being willing to back away from your beliefs at times; that knowledge is a social product, or at least heavily socially contextualized; that the willingness to admit fallibility is a greater indicator of truth than speaking in a confident tone of voice; that knowledge lives in conversation, not in the heads of experts; that certain people who do not need to be named are just impossible.” (Weinberger 2006)

Open educational resources serve as a way to promote lifelong learning and help others build on knowledge that is already there instead of “reinventing the wheel.” I like this point of view with regard to open education because there is more knowledge in our day than there ever has been. We have the opportunity to learn from it only if it is accessible to us. If it is not accessible, does it really exist? This is going back to the old saying that if a tree falls in the middle forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? So much of what people do in academics is not widely spread at all. Professors make a break through discovery and then publish the results in a magazine. The published article is read by a few of the professors colleagues who actually subscribe to the high priced magazine. The publisher retains rights to the article so that it cannot be shared further. No change happens from the published breakthrough beyond the professor and a few of his colleagues.


  1. Just a quick note to tell you I shared many of the same feelings after reading the article. I thought you did a great job hitting on many important points about OpenEd. I felt this article was a departure from OpenEd as a static product to a more dynamic learning process where, as you note, learners are seen "as collaborators on the usefulness and effectiveness of resources, or as colleagues who re-share the resources that they have remixed." Good stuff!

  2. Thank you Jennifer, you give a very good point. I feel that the future of instructional design is not necessarily about providing open access to educational resources (anyone with computer skills can make something available on the web, and those who know something of metadata etc. can appropriately licence and categorize the content). The future of instructional design will be to help the people on the receiving end appropriately use the resources in a way that teaches effectively. In order for people to use these resources effectively, they will definitely need to become collaborators and colleagues.

  3. Do you think the support that users need to mix and remix OERs be emboddied in tools? Or are we looking at humans always supporting each other directly? Obviously the answer is somewhere in the middle. But where?