Late to the OER Party…

View from the House of Henry Briscoe Thomas, Baltimore. ca. 1841 (via MetMuseum.org)

(In my research for this blog post on  OER I stumbled on the MET Museum’s excellent Open Access Initiative of artworks in the public domain. There’s probably a really compelling open access metaphor I could make about the image above but I’ll leave that for another time…)

If there wasn’t a reason to join the global OER movement before, there may be no better time than this year, 2021, a year all about inclusion and equity, to embrace open educational resources. And yet, 20 years since MIT first launched its OpenCourseWare initiative, the movement is far from mainstream (Weller, 2020). In his chapter, Martin Weller argues that regardless of a lack of awareness among educators about open educational resources, there is still promise, especially for the areas of student recruitment, student costs and pedagogic content (Weller, 2020).

New to the concept of OER myself, I see that an increase in contributions to them by journalist educators could benefit the industry as a whole and potentially help mitigate its ongoing problem with under representation of women and equity deserving groups (Golick & Daniels, 2019). Feeding into the issue of under representation, journalism departments across Canada, including where I work, have been dealing with low enrollments in recent years (Roberts, 2018). Before the pandemic, cuts to newsroom staff across the country (Wong, 2013), and less students attracted to the profession, recruiting students in general has been a worsening problem. While increasing the availability (and awareness) of OER in our industry won’t immediately solve the issue, it could help to increase affordability of studying journalism overall and potentially boost enrollments by members of underrepresented groups too.

Currently, there are some really excellent open source tools and resources for trained journalists, like projects by the Knight Journalism Lab, but more are needed for beginners. This isn’t about creating more citizen journalists — it’s about increasing more OER for teaching the basics and ultimately bring in journalism graduates from marginalized groups to be part of our industry. Finally, better awareness of OER is needed among journalism educators and help from the industry to lead the charge.

Memories of the Pandemic Pivot and E-learning

On a related note, after years of low enrollments, our department (like many others) experienced a small boost in enrollment during the pandemic.  When COVID hit, we experienced first-hand how more flexible opportunities is an attractive option for students – also highlighted by Weller on his chapter on e-learning. In the chapter, he discusses the emergence and adoption of e-learning in the late 90s and early 2000s (Weller, 2020). While offering flexible and online options for students makes sense in non-pandemic times, it seemed remiss that the chapter did not mention initial growing pains institutions dealt with (aside from the costs) during the transition to online.

Just as so many others found, my colleagues and I quickly learned how challenging it is to transition to teaching online overnight and train students on Zoom (and I can’t imagine what universities in Global South countries were up against). Even in a well-resourced place like Vancouver, the levels of access to quality internet varied for our students. For many, being able to access video editing, design tools and support caused no end of frustration. Being able to help students sort out how to use technology, not only computers, but DSLR cameras for example, was another challenge that instructors faced. There was also a steep learning curve when it came to establishing new parameters around how students would report, what stories could look like and editing copy, etc. These are just a few examples we had in a crisis situation. Reading the e-learning chapter, I wondered about what other hiccups Weller and his colleagues faced when they launched that first online class?

References

Briscoe Thomas, H. (1847). View from the House of Henry Briscoe Thomas [Image]. MetMuseum.org https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/13016?

Golick, J. , & Daniels, A. (2019, May). On screen report. Women in View. http://womeninview.ca/wp-content/uploads/WIVOS19-Full-Report.pdf

Roberts, S. (2018). Journalism schools struggle to adapt to the times. University Affairs. Retrieved September 12, 2021, from https://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/journalism-programs-struggle-to-adapt-to-changing-times/

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. AU Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01

Wong, J. (2013). Canadian Media Guild data shows 10,000 job losses in past five years. J-Source. Retrieved September 12, 2021 from https://j-source.ca/canadian-media-guild-data-shows-10000-job-losses-in-past-five-years/

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