Within the cascade project, we are keen on finding ways in which we can draw on insights developed in the context of previous/on-going JISC projects, not only within the Open Educational Resources programme. Through our programme manager, we started looking at possible synergies between the OER2 cascade project and the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery (JISC CDD) programme – after all, curriculum-related issues featured quite strongly already in the project bid. While we are still a bit unsure how exactly we can incorporate the findings from the larger curriculum programme into our own cascade framework, this blog post is the beginning of the “thinking-aloud process” (or more appropriately, “writing-aloud”).
The Curriculum Design and Delivery programme comprises 27 projects across two strands: Institutional approaches to curriculum design and Transforming curriculum delivery through technology. Within the first strand, 12 projects are broadly focusing on developing flexible and responsive curricula which address institutional challenges and are enabled by the use of technology. the second strand explores through the work of 15 projects how the appropriate integration of technology can help institutions respond to changing learner and employer needs to deliver a more engaging and flexible learning experience. The projects involve both further and higher education institutions and illustrate use of different media, tools and technologies in different areas of curriculum delivery. While Open Educational Resources are not a primary focus of the Curriculum programme (though they do feature within the list of institutional challenges relevant to the projects), there are nevertheless a number of significant paralells both with the C-SAP pilot OER project and the phase 2 cascade project.
To start with, flexibility is a key term for the JISC CDD programme and for all institutions dealing with curriculum innovation. At the same time, flexibility is at the heart of Open Educational Resources – after all, an OER-based curriculum would allow for flexible modes of participation on the part of students (and thus meet the criteria for one of the three different approaches towards curriculum flexibility within the JISC CDD programme, that is, flexibility in terms of design). Furthermore, embedding OERs within the curriculum could aid the process of creating a bespoke curriculum which meets the needs of a particular user end group (as well as employer-related needs), on top of that, using OERs could potentially save time and ensure a rapid response to the needs of the target group. Finally, OERs are ideally suited to allow for inter-disciplinary, inter-collegial curriculum; multiple modes of participation as well as learner-defined curriculum/pathways, all of which are mentioned as priorities within the curriculum programme.
OERs also have an important role to play when it comes to managing yet another challenge that the curriculum projects are addressing, namely the issue of dealing with larger student numbers in further and higher education. After all, the use of OERs could free up some of staff time, allowing them to provide access to resources they would not be able to create and/or access otherwise. OERs can also be used as a way of building a range of student support resources, enabling students to access a range of learning materials encompassing the same content (so as to provide for more learning styles). Student engagement is another issue which is high on the agenda of both the OER and the curriculum programmes – as noted earlier in this blog, it is one of the key issues we are hoping to explore within the project; at the same time, a number of projects within the JISC CDD programme (such as Technology-Supported Processes for Agile and Responsive Curricula (T-SPARC) and Co-Educate) are focusing on encouraging a greater involvement of stakeholders in curriculum processes.
Finally, the OER cascade project draws on lessons learnt and tools developed in the pilot phase – accordingly, we introduced our cascade partners to the toolkit developed to aid the C-SAP pilot project partners with repurposing their teaching materials into OERs. That toolkit (available for download here) allowed for creating a snapshot of the curriculum, that is, mapping an individual’s teaching practice and putting together pedagogical descriptions to aid reuse. Similarly, a number of projects within the JISC CDD programme have developed tools to allow for capturing the ‘lived experience’ of curriculum design as well as representing the curriculum in a way that can be reused to meet the needs of various stakeholders (see for instance Compendium LD from OULDI and Rich Pictures of the Curriculum Design process from UG-Flex). Overall, we hope that as the cascade project progresses, there will be a lot of mutual exchange of ideas on both sides and would like to invite others to share their views on where else to search for possible synergies with the OER programme.