Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The transition to Open Education Resources (OERs): A teacher's perspective

The transition to Open Education Resources (OERs): A teacher's perspectiveSince the Ancient Greeks, society has relied on the use of textbooks to educate and inform. While the likes of Socrates were accustomed to reciting knowledge and stories aloud, the introduction of compulsory education led to the standardisation of academic textbooks and worksheets. Up until recently, the reign of printed resources has gone relatively unchallenged but with the advances in digital technology, we’re starting to see a rapid change.

In the last few months it would have been difficult to miss a story that is surging through education forums and dominating the headlines in higher education. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are threatening to revolutionise the way students study a higher-education qualification, with most offering free access to content and material. While the change is more focused in the USA, UK universities and information technology specialists are beginning to show increasing interest in the concept, with many considering contributing both financially and in terms of intellectual property.

This could see many students turn away from campus-based learning to save on the inflated tuition fees and rising living costs. However, although distance learning is becoming a definite reality in HE, educationalists are beginning to look at the principles of MOOCs as a model of learning that could potentially be applied to the wider education sector.

Developing dynamic content: a teacher’s perspective

As a teacher of 15 years I’ve compiled a small mountain of bound files and lever arch folders of curriculum texts and worksheets. Many of these are still current and I’ll often refer back to them, pulling out certain sections and tweaking them for each class.

Our school has always focused on digital, e-learning technologies with considerable investment being driven towards broadening access and availability. However, up until the start of February there was a compromise that each teacher would make. Believe it or not, I’m a tech enthusiast and a big proponent of using mobile technology to innovate teaching and learning. So while I’m familiar with integrating iOS and Android devices, I’m often forced to print out supporting documents or relate an online GCSE resource to a particular section within their textbook.

Open Educational Resource (OER)
This was up until our school secured a new cloud storage OER (Open Education Resource) application. This allows teachers to connect, share, collaborate and develop content online. Gone are the days of saving to ‘My Documents’ folder only to find that I’d saved a file to a temporary location or forgotten to email it to myself the night before and not been able to access the files in school.

Since introducing a school-wide OER, it’s difficult to think why it took us this long to introduce a system like this, not only because of the huge cost savings made by reducing the level of printing but in terms of the teaching and learning opportunities it also offers. For me, aside from the costs, aside from the improved organisation, even aside from the ability to share material instantly, introducing an OER has supported the development of dynamic content; a way of collaborating with colleagues, with students and developing resources that are fit for the purposes of my lesson plans and specific to each class set.

Some schools, however, are yet to implement an OER, the reason for this is often due to a common misconception. The reality is that while OERs offer a number of benefits for some, the idea that textbooks will be replaced leads them to worry about the need to use complex systems and develop e-learning resources and e-books to support their teaching. I was worried about this, too, but the truth is that this isn’t the case. Yes, educators may want to upload documents or scan in worksheets or press cuttings but transitioning away from textbooks does not mean a teacher has to create their own e-book. While cloud-based resources can be self-produced there are also other avenues for creating banks of quality-assured, curriculum-mapped resources − you just need to make sure you get a resource that’s right for you and your learners’ needs.

Read similar article: Will flipped learning replace traditional lesson techniques