On the third Generalday of eLearning Africa 2010 we had an opportunity to share our experience on the OER UCT project. Our session was titled How OERs and Open Tools Support Teacher Education and also featured Bjoern Hasslerfrom the Centre for Commonwealth Education at the University of Cambridge,Godfrey Mwewa from the Institute for Distance Education at the University of Zambia, Elizabeth King from the Pennsylvania State University, and Griff Richards from Athabasca University in Canada.
In our session I shared the origins and journey of our project towards institutionalising support for OER at the University of Cape Town. You can view the presentation here.
Bjoern and Godfrey spoke about their project which is using Open Educational Resources to renew teaching in primary schools in Zambia. The project has also helped get the schools online allowing teachers to access resources and explore new pedagogies. A number of the teachers impacted by the project gave their impressions of working with the online materials. While they noted that it was new and different at first, it gave them a new perspective on their role as teacher. The new materials and technologies were also a big hit for the students.
Elizabeth King spoke about her experiences helping academics share materials in the Department of Geography at her university. Elizabeth raised some important issues about OER initiatives. Specifically, is there really value in having a wealth of resources online with no one to help transfer that knowledge? I believe that ensuring the resources are available as OER can help to increase access to knowledge as well as provide an opportunity for teachers to rethink and share their teaching methods, as illustrated in the previous presentation.
Finally Griff Richards presented his experience using open educational materials for an academic program in the Caribbean. The first thing that Griff noted was that the possibility to share increases exponentially when you know the person you are sharing with. With that he had everyone in the room shake hands with the person next to them which really got everyone comfortable. Griff likened the selection of OER to shopping for clothes. If you want a high quality, perfect fitting suit – you go to a tailor and have one made. If you want a normal run of the mill suit you go to the mall. And if you want just any old suit you might go to a thrift shop. While this is true, I think we are beginning to see increasingly high quality resources emerge as more institutions make OER part of the usual business on campus.
One of the points raised after Griff’s talk was that if we were to swop suits we might not feel as comfortable as if we were wearing our own suits. This is true but in only takes a week or so to break in a new suit! Also mentioned was that we are more likely to give away the suit we don’t like rather than the one we do like. This perception that learning materials can be ‘owned’ is a real obstacle to sharing OER. I believe that there are benefits in engaging in open teaching which surpass the feeling of ownership over teaching materials.