This post is first in a series of updates on recent project progress for our academic partners, following a recent JISC OER programme meeting on 19 January as well as a project meeting on 20 January. The project meeting helped us clarify our focus for the months ahead and re-state our priority areas, which include student engagement, development of a cascade framework schematic and OER release by partners.
Our first forays into the area of student engagement were quite tentative and mostly theoretical, as evidenced by this blog post from September. At this point in time, thanks to our partners’ hard work and excellent contributions to the project, we can come back with a more substantive account of concrete plans to get students involved in using and evaluating OERs.
To start with, our University Centre at Blackburn College partners have been looking at different models of introducing students to OERs. It seems there are two competing models – a controlled diet of “hand-picked OERs” versus letting the students loose in the OER-land. Our colleagues suggested that first-year students might benefit more if they are exposed to OERs through carefully selected resources on a particular theme (let’s say, research methods or basic issues in criminology) as at that point they might lack skills allowing them to evaluate the quality and usefulness of OERs for their own learning. At the same time, final year students might be ready for a much more relaxed approach and trusted to rely on their critical thinking and research skills. These assumptions will be addressed through an informal survey where students will have a chance to evaluate the resources offered by their lecturers as part of the module; our partners also plan to conduct individual interviews with four students to learn more about student attitudes to OERs and ask some further questions – where does assessment come in, especially when it comes to formal vs. informal use of OERs? This way, we will continue on the work we started within the C-SAP pilot project where one of our case studies of repurposing teaching resources in social sciences included short interviews with the students.
Our Welsh colleagues from Bangor and Cardiff have equally exciting plans for student engagement, which revolve around the use of a repurposed SPSS OpenLearn module (this is currently work in progress, the end result will be a resource in Welsh as part of the MA in Language Policy and Planning). Students will use the resource to help them design and analyse their own questionnaires, these will then be posted on an online course forum and critiqued by fellow course participants. At the end of the course, these comments will be collated and published, with students’ permission, as an OER to accompany the SPSS resource.
Another interesting issue which came up in our discussions was the relationship of OERs to the set book, as apparently some students were not so happy to discover that they paid for the book but were then offered equivalent online resources for free! At the same time, this topic ties in with a bigger discussion on open textbooks and their place within the OER movement – watch this space as this is something we will be addressing more in detail in the near future.