I very much enjoyed reading Tony Bates draft chapter about Open Pedagogy as it is something I think about regularly in my work. His references to the need for a framework of maintenance and extension of existing Open Education Resources (OER) is something that comes up when looking at supporting people in the Human Services program I instruct in. My colleagues and I endeavour to keep textbook costs low and course materials widely accessible, and are familiar with the inherent challenges that this brings.
Bates (2019) discusses possible ideas for stewardship of OER in section 11.4.3 – which made me think about existing, working models, like those of the origins of the idea of ‘Open-source’ software. Though they didn’t start this way, today these are huge communities of people decentralized and distributed across the globe who contribute to the build, maintenance, development and learning commons around a single thing such as Moodle, GIMP, or Linux. People involved in these massive projects contribute their expertise in this distributed build framework, working singularly and in groups on debugging, building, tutorial creation and product support (among other things). While it may seem counter-intuitive to compare maintaining software with maintaining a set of OER, I believe that there are enough similarities to make the comparison relevant.
Both Open Software and Open Pedagogy have evolved organically within the framework of the Internet, somewhat entwined as the philosophy of ‘Open’ (freely sharing resources in keeping with academic principles of freely sharing information) grew into the movement that it has become today. As Open Pedagogy becomes better understood and more people are reaching for free distribution and dissemination of knowledge, the time is coming to shape the building of Open Pedagogy and with that, looking at existing working models is valuable.
I think that small educational institutional settings (like the one I instruct in) have specific challenges when it comes to the development and use of Open resources. Individual subjects have smaller and smaller numbers of subject matter experts (SMEs) as the subject becomes more specialized, and many traditional SMEs don’t have computer skills or the types of Instructional Design (ID) skills needed to build and maintain a commons of information in any coherent, helpful or distributable way.
Bates talks about consortiums, that “a consortium of teachers or institutions creating common learning materials within a broader program context, that can be shared both within and outside the consortium.” (Bates 2019, Section 11.4.5). I wonder about the ability of smaller institutions to survive and grow in this context. My own institution is small, with small class sizes – the idea of our 8 member Human Services Staff taking on the build and maintenance (even with strong student involvement) of an open knowledge repository and project/portfolio space is not realistic. Even if we were part of a larger, distributed network, this would be a challenge. Looking to central resources such as BCCampus to support us in builds of these kinds of projects is possible, but an additional time commitment for instructors who are already teaching very full course loads.
I’m curious as to whether there are specific subjects for which it is easier to build and maintain OER that are relevant, useful and fully accessible without cost (there are always hidden costs in web hosting, domain names, and web maintenance)? What could be ways for small Colleges to partner with Universities to network in the creation of centralized Open resources for the benefit of our students and instructor edification? I’d love to hear from you as to what might work moving forward. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.