Inspired by recent conversations we had about the technical aspects of the cascade project with John Robertson from CETIS, the cascade team for a one-off development workshop on the 6th May to discuss with our partners any technical issues and challenges that are emerging in the context of the project. Among other things, we explored the functionality of pbwiki platform (which currently functions as a closed workspace for project partners but will be opened up in September) as well as Web2.0 tools such as VoiceThread or prezi we are relying upon to capture the process of releasing OERs.
While the aim of the workshop was to focus on the technical aspects of the project, we spent some time simply talking to each other about approaches to OER release and creation. I believe that this rather low-tech approach is probably one of the best ways to use the limited face-to-face time we have with our academic project partners. Importantly, this approach is also at the core of C-SAP cascade framework which encourages reflection and a critical approach towards the processes of sharing and releasing resources. In one way or another, we have been constantly striving to create opportunities for the partners to simply talk about and describe the teaching materials that they are opening up, whether in the form of reflexive tasks, visualisations of the cascade framework or simply partner meetings. In doing that, we are continually building on the approaches developed in the context of the C-SAP pilot project where we created a toolkit to help explore processes around the release and sharing of modular teaching content and with the aid of that toolkit, collated case studies of opening up teaching resources in social sciences (and if you want to hear more about what has happened with the toolkit since the pilot project come and find us at the OER2011 conference and listen to Richard Pountney’s paper on Mapping the curriculum through shared representations of intentions to teach).
Overall, our focus on providing space for reflection on the process of opening up teaching resources is directly related to the emphasis on exploring issues around tacit practice – the “story” of what is being taught, the institutional and pedagogical context in which the teaching process takes place etc. Ideally, we would like our partners’ stories about their teaching materials to evolve into stories of reusing those resources by academics and students. The stories that were shared at the development workshop pointed to the high relevance of the institutional background to OER release/reuse, especially in terms of finding the space and encouragement to be creative when it comes to processes of curriculum design and development. At least for our partners, their institutional location (whether at a post-92 university or a HE in FE institution) could be seen as a vital element of their description of resources released in the context of the cascade project, and probably just as relevant as other elements of resource description and tagging. The discussion we had at the workshop ultimately brought us to what still remains an unanswered question related to the generalizability (or not) and transferability of the cascade framework we are developing in the context of the project. That is, what elements in the stories of OER creation/release are unique to a given project partner and what should form part of the cascade? Or could we get away with having a very loose approach to what is an essential part of the cascade framework and instead make the story-telling the central element of that framework? Within our team, we’ll certainly keep thinking, talking and writing about those issues.