Where is OER now and where is it going?

Open Education Conference  |  By Dr. Connie Blomgren

Where is OER now and where is it going?

openEd1From October 11-13, I  was in Anaheim attending and presenting at the OpenEd 2017 conference. I  met old friends and new. I collected business cards and learned from those I met in sessions or as I took a coffee break. Old connections and past experiences  were renewed in unexpected ways – as well as making new connections and possibilities. This process of change and revisiting the old are part of being open…and of being part of the Open Educational Resources (OER) world and its larger affiliation with the open movement.

OpenEd 17 – Sharing, Gratitude, and Hope

Highlights of the conference included the venue itself –  the beautiful open design of the Hyatt – with its atrium spanning 10 stories and enclosed with north light passing through panels of glass. Inside and out palm trees reminded us how the natural world can always be part of teaching and learning – that we are alive and daily growing albeit in small ways.

OpenEd2The opening keynote by Ryan Merkely – a fellow Canadian – amid this primarily American audience reinforced that OER ties to Creative Commons and that there will be a CC certificate offered in April 2018. He summarized how CC is working on 3  aspects – teaching,  partnering and  movement-building – as forming their current and near future focus. This concept of the significance of the commons was  a theme further explored by the Friday morning keynote by David Bollier who encouraged us to reframe what OER means beyond the increasing drive to commodify content and to recognize that *open* is not the same as a commons. He asked – who IS taking care of open resources?  And encouraged us to be  mindful that a faux commons is possible i.e. we need to think of the Commons in more abstract terms.

With over 700 delegates this conference has grown substantially since its first offering with 40 attendees. The following highlights reflect only the various presentations, round table discussions and insights gained from the afternoon *unconference* that I attended. It is a sampling of the breadth of topics and flavours offered this year.

In the Open Your Eyes to Open Education: 1 Day PD Offerings Introducing K-12 Educators to OER given by  Cassidy Hall (Doceo Center University of Idaho), I learned about the model of professional learning that K-12 teachers access regarding OER development. Like the state of Utah, Idaho looks to K-12 OER as a solution for quality resources developed by teachers. Reviewing K-12 OER Materials (ed.reports.org)  gave an overview of the purpose behind Ed Reports which arose when American educational  publishers stated that their resources were Common Core aligned but there was no vetting available to examine such claims. The website is  purposefully designed to make people dig into an analysis and as more instructional materials are being tagged as OER, both by publishers and educators, Ed Reports continues to use a practitioner based peer review process to ascertain the merits of a curricular resource.  The review process for OER materials is as rigourous as for non-OER and involves several peers in making a determination.

Cody Taylor from the Oklahoma Library highlighted how  CC licensing is a permission to revise, remix or redistribute but that permission does not equate to ability. The example of a pdf demonstrates that the file format is not easily changed. Cody suggested that when making OER, from the very beginning one needs to design for remixing by using the ALMS framework. Consider the following: A = Access to editing tools – Are these expensive?; L = Level of expertise required i.e. Does the remix require a high technical expertise; M = Meaningfully editable i.e. Are the anticipated changes possible? And S = is the format preferred for consuming the open content the same format preferred for remixing e.g. Html is a good example of same format. He suggested the use of Markdown – a simple coding language that allows a document to be converted into several file formats (e.g. html, epub) so that the OER is easily changed by by future users. The  Markdown conversion tool at is available here  OU  (Https://tools.libraries.ou.edu/markdown).

Cable Green ( Creative Commons) discussed UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals and its relationship to OER through his  SDG4 + OER: Working Together to Mainstream Open Education. He encouraged educators to join the CC chapters based in various countries (e.g.CC – Canada) as well as the CC global network. The free membership allows people to participate in the List serve, a Slack channel, a live virtual monthly meeting and an opportunity to contribute to an  open google document to collect ideas from educators within that country.

BC Campus shared three successful OER partnerships that demonstrate that OER in Canada is moving beyond the push of OER textbooks for higher education. Amanda Coolridge & Kurtis Wright presented  Student Driven OER, 3D Modeling and Virtual Reality Tours – the next wave of OER Creation and Adaptation in BC. The 3D models of trade school tools made with Unity open source 3D software highlight a creative step of a broader OER understanding along with the virtual reality collaborative project that recreated Stanley Park. Yes – this is where the world of OER is going!

For librarians and K-12 teachers, curation of materials, whether OER or not is a constant concern. Curation – Simple Curation: Using Online Tools to Collect, Organize & Share suggested some great digital tools including Pinterest, Trello, Airtable, Zapier and If This Then That. Stephanie Slaton, an Instructional Media Specialist at Pima Community College highlighted how librarians or teachers who collect, curate and identify various instructional materials – whether OER or not – might find these digital tools useful.

This conference summary is only a partial snapshot of some of the information I collected. OpenEd originated within higher education but this year, K-12 had numerous sessions offered and attendees. The understanding of OER is moving beyond the misnomer of “free” textbooks. Concepts of Open Pedagogy, open data and the philosophy of openness infused the ongoing discussions over lunch and into Twitter and continues on. For these reasons and many more, I would like to thank the organizers of the conference and their commitment to enabling the growth of OER for all – for this conference lived up to its theme of sharing, gratitude and hope.

Virtual K-12 OER Professional Development

OpenEd3And it is in this spirit of being open that I am excited to announce that on January 25, 2018 there will be an opportunity to virtually participate in a satellite offering supported in part with the international OpenCon17. The Centre for Distance Education’s partners for this virtual one day event include the  insights from Frank McCallum at the Alberta Distance Learning Centre and Randy LaBonte from the CanELearn network. Both our small planning committee and comments from the Anaheim conference resounded with an agreement that offerings for K-12 OER need to move beyond an occasional offering within a conference.

Because this is a virtual and inaugural event there will be no cost to attend. We are setting up a registration process so we can anticipate participant needs and encourage pre-conference activities. The program will include invited speakers who have experience and knowledge regarding OER for K-12. We aim to respect the busy work day of practicing K-12 teachers and hope you will be able to join us for one, some or all of the presentations. Our aim is to have flexibility and variety for registrants – and if you are only learning about OER or have been an active advocate, we hope that there will be something for everyone. We will record the event so if you are not able to attend, an archived version will be available. Once our details are finalized we will share out the registration process here on the BOLT blog along with the schedule of speakers and events. So let others know and save the date!


About the Contributor

Dr. Connie Blomgren is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Distance Education, Athabasca University. She initiated the Multi-author BOLT blog as a method for K-12 practitioners to  share their knowledge of teaching and learning with technology. She produced The Multiply K-12 OER podcasts and videos to support educator knowledge for OER and is pursuing research into the use of OER by K-12 educators.

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