Open Education Practices: A User Guide for Organisations/Responses

The Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic, the Manager of the Educational Development Centre, and the Director of the Open Education Resource Foundation were invited to respond to four questions about open education practices. The questions include topics such as the reasons for the slow uptake of OER in educational institutions, measuring the costs of using open education practices, incentives and rewards, and new models of education. Reference is made to Measuring Open Education, and Incentives and Rewards. Their responses are outlined in this chapter.

CEO of Otago PolytechnicEdit

Audio recording of Phil Ker CEO of Otago Polytechnic, reflecting on OER at a web conference for Open Access Week 2010

The uptake of open educationEdit

Why do you think more than 80% of tertiary educators never use social media in their work?

For many institutions this is because OER is simply not understood by the CEO or the senior staff, that is, the decision makers. This means it does not feature in educational planning. For teachers (lecturers) uptake is slow for all of the reasons cited in this book; but also because there is a deep culture of teaching as an individual pursuit, and with that a teacher centric approach to learning dominates, with the 'classroom' teacher the number one actor in the teaching and learning play. For these reasons teachers don’t tend to use other people’s work unless they completely overhaul it, and put their individualistic stamp on it. In this regard, teachers are their own worst enemies! They have too much to do, yet they resist collaboration in resource development, and resist reusing existing learning resources without tinkering with them. This is irrational, of course, but who believes those theories stating that people behave in rational ways? The answer, I believe, is in changing this underlying culture, and that starts with induction training, extends to professional development, and requires institutional focus as a change management strategy.

It has been rightly pointed out that Otago Polytechnic, in spite of a range of 'enablers' for the use of open education practices and social media, has not yet got the traction we would like. We believe we know why: we do not have a clear, strong and focused institutional strategy, one as clearly articulated and strongly implemented as our strategy for experiential learning, for building learner capability and for developing work ready graduates. Nor is it as strong as our strategy for improving educational quality and educational outcomes for learners. We have woken up to this now, and a strategy for the uptake of OER will be developed and implemented. The strategy will be developed collaboratively on a wiki; it will have clear goals and objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). There will be incentives as well as expectations. We will measure progress, and review performance against the strategy. This will work! I am confident, because it is in the nature of the organisational beast – if you plan it, measure it and reward it, it will happen.

Measuring open educationEdit

With reference to Measuring Open Education does the reported cost-benefit analysis motivate investment in staff development in the use of social media?

I am not at all persuaded by the calculations presented in this section. At a conceptual level, the costs, and benefits are, of course, sound; but at the detail level too many assumptions appear to have been made. Open education practices will be demonstratively beneficial when we see an impact on overall institutional finances, for example, less money invested in course development. The benefit will be more obvious when our teachers start to report that their workloads are more manageable. I will back the development of open education because we need our staff to stop reinventing wheels. We need them to collaborate so that the development load is shared, and so new and different ideas are brought into the mix. And we need our teaching to be relevant – use of social media is a must, not an option.

Incentives and rewardsEdit

Based on the recommendations made in Incentives and Rewards - What do you think an institution could feasibly do to encourage the use of social media for open education and research?

All of the suggestions in this section are sound; but if we want to make progress we need that institutional strategy I mentioned earlier. The recognition and reward regime will flow out of that.

Marketing budgetsEdit

What do you think of the idea to use marketing budgets more laterally, such as helping teachers to produce open educational media and publishing it through social media channels?

Here at Otago Polytechnic we have the lowest marketing spend of all tertiary institutions in New Zealand by a 'country mile'. And this is because we have been steadily diverting the marketing budget, including using social media. It is not an either or issue here. We need to invest in helping teachers produce and publish open educational media as well as maintain a marketing presence through a range of other media.

New models of educationEdit

What new models of education strike you as having the least or most potential in the context of your institution?

My views on innovation in education are tempered by the realities of being responsible for a publicly funded institution that has no choice but to charge fees, and to live within the funding which we receive. So, I park ideas of 'free' education when I am wearing my CE hat. What I am interested in are models which:

  • allow learners to try before they buy;
  • improve learner access; and
  • enable learners to learn conveniently (e.g., by integrating formal learning with work).

I do believe that we must break our obsession with the notion that content is at the heart of learning. Content is out there in abundance, but assessing it, making sense of it, and getting value from it is what needs to be focused on. I am keen to develop a model whereby public institutions such as Otago Polytechnic use a range of strategies.

  1. Make content freely available; organised around skills or particular knowledge domains; and connect self directed learners to one another.
  2. Charge a fee for those who want professional help in making sense of the content, or in developing their skills, that is, they need a facilitator or coach. (I know of people who pay $5 000+ a year for their personal 'knowledge' coaches!)
  3. Charge another fee for those who want to have their skills and knowledge assessed.
  4. Charge another fee for those who want a credential.

These are four separate services. They can be offered separately, or in a combination of packages. The advantage of this model is that it clearly says: “It does not matter how or where you do your learning”. An approach like this has enormous potential to benefit not only individuals but also New Zealand Inc. It does need a huge mindset shift, and a change in the policy settings. I am hopeful we will try this as part of our new OER strategy. Watch this space!

Manager of the Educational Development CentreEdit

The uptake of open educationEdit

Why do you think more than 80% of tertiary educators never use social media in their work?

I found the section and references to "teacher disposition" resonated with my experience as a staff developer. More than any other people I have worked with, teachers can be very reluctant to share their classroom - whether that classroom is a physical location or an online one. The ubiquitous experience of an expert (usually old and male!) at the front of a classroom is very pervasive, and is often the picture of education in the heads of both the teacher and the student. The other source of knowledge is an expensive textbook, usually printed in the US or the UK, and often not quite relevant in level, context, culture, or even content. The experience of learning through experience with skilful guidance - in other words, the way we learn most things in our lives - is undervalued. Tertiary educators often begin their teaching careers as practitioners of their profession, and it takes some time and open-ness to let go of that picture of the sage on the stage as the way to teach. My job as a staff developer is to facilitate the development of the confidence to try unfamiliar ways of connecting with learners, including the use of social media. Many of us know less than our "students" about these technologies, and we need to get off our pedestals to enjoy the process of learning from the learners. Staff developers can provide access to models of OER development that can gently raise awareness and capability, but we often come up against the patch-protection which is a feature of the closed classroom mentality. Collaboration, even within an institution, can be quite intimidating; and the culture of competition between institutions is even scarier. Only actually experiencing the benefits of networking, especially the affirmation of shared understanding, can lead to real collaboration. I'm an optimist - it's beginning to happen, with blogs, wikis, collaborative tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter becoming more widely used by educators. It only remains for these efforts to be incorporated into institutional strategies and for educational leaders to realise the potential of more open collaboration.

Measuring open educationEdit

With reference to Measuring Open Education does the reported cost-benefit analysis motivate investment in staff development in the use of social media?

This section makes a brave attempt to quantify the benefits of using OERs. This is very difficult, especially the comparison with traditional marketing techniques, but experience tells me that the benefits in terms of teacher workload and increased networking are potentially very significant. However, there are "marketing" benefits, especially in terms of international credibility, that might be difficult to measure but will certainly add to an educational provider's reputation. When this is understood by the leadership of an institution, investment in staff development for OERs will follow - as is the case at Otago Polytechnic.

Incentives and rewardsEdit

Based on the recommendations made in Incentives and Rewards - What do you think an institution could feasibly do to encourage the use of social media for open education and research?

In my view, the most important action that a tertiary education provider can take is to facilitate increased staff confidence and capability in the possible uses of social media in learning. The first step is to make time available to explore these potentials by allowing learners the opportunity to ‘play’ and engage in supported exploration. This can be done as part of "business as usual" in staff development workshops or courses, and also as part of well-defined course development projects. Another strategy which has proven to be successful is to support "early adopters' to become "champions". The interest and motivation shown by some individuals towards innovation is laudable, but to be valuable disseminators they will need support and increasing confidence, as well as tangible rewards such as teaching awards or scholarships. Travel grants could be used to enhance contacts made through online networking. Such professional development is a valuable investment to both the organisation and the individual's career path.

Marketing budgetsEdit

What do you think of the idea to use marketing budgets being more laterally spent, such as helping teachers producing open educational media and publishing it through social media channels?

Traditional marketing techniques and social media networking are, in my view, complementary and both are necessary. I am particularly interested in the potential for OERs to reach markets that traditional advertising can't. For example, international enrolment by distance has hardly been touched in the area of vocational education. If resources for a particular course are freely available on an open platform such as WikiEducator, they can serve as a "taster" for an enrollable course, or better, as the first layer of a course with tiered engagement possibilities. This is a new model of enrolment being trialled at Otago Polytechnic during 2011 that may well serve as a set of possible choices for learners unsure of future directions, or wishing to enhance their knowledge without necessarily gaining certification. Limited experience to date indicates that a 'toe in the water" may well lead to full enrolment. Another likely outcome of networking via social media is formal connection at the institutional level, with shared services or international memoranda leading to service provision. This usually arises from credibility built over a long period supported by individual contacts.


New models of educationEdit

What new models of education strike you as having the least or most potential in the context of your institution?

It's not so much a matter of new models as an integration of OER into proven models. For example, project-based learning is very valuable for student engagement and real experience, and the important interpersonal relationship here is the teacher as facilitator, designing the learning experience and facilitating the learner's progress. Sooner or later, educational resources are needed - and if these are collaboratively critiqued and developed, freely available in an easily accessible format, and relevant to the project and its context, the full potential of the learning experience will be realised with less cost than by traditional methods. Like most educational institutions, we have experienced and well-qualified staff - but we can all benefit from collegial input, without necessarily losing "ownership" of our teaching style.

Director of the Open Education Resource FoundationEdit

The Open Education Resource Foundation is located at Otago Polytechnic. Responses to the questions have been submitted by authors of the book.

The uptake of open educationEdit

Why do you think more than 80% of tertiary educators never use social media in their work?

Our survey data from the WikiEducator project indicates approximately two-thirds of new users have not created a wiki account prior to joining WikiEducator. This data would suggest that the majority of educators in the formal education sector have not actively engaged in the co-creation of digital teaching materials on the open web.

The formal education sector is traditionally conservative, and in some respects the reflective scepticism of the academy has contributed to its survival. The university as institution is one of a handful of organisations that survived the industrial revolution and I suspect they will be working hard to survive the knowledge revolution.

While the figures may suggest slow uptake of social media in formal work settings, we should not forget how our 'informal' lives will impact on how we work. For example, I'm sure that the vast majority of educators consult Wikipedia, albeit in an unofficial capacity and passive interaction with these forms of social media is a step towards integrating social media in formal education settings and part of the development of capability maturity and digital literacies.

Candidly, I'm less concerned about the absolute rates of social media utilisation in the formal education sector - it's a natural capability maturity progression, as long as it moves in a positive direction. I would suggest that the real chasm we need to cross is cultural, namely the shift from 'sharing to learn' to 'learning to share'.

Measuring open educationEdit

With reference to Measuring Open Education does the reported cost-benefit analysis motivate investment in staff development in the use of social media?

Return on investment models are complex, and not without their complications when applied to public funded education systems. Arguably, the return on investment for an education institution should be measured by the attainment of the learning outcomes by its students, and performance indicators like completion and retention rates. It is a difficult research question to compute return on investment based on the cost of staff development interventions in social media using return on investment rationales, largely because there are too many factors to assume causal relationships. The costing model used has not adequately addressed the costing problem associated with fixed cost allocations among differential product outputs. I'm not convinced that the quantifications of 'brand awareness' or 'quality gains' measured by reuse of existing media resources are necessarily justifiable measures of organisational benefits. Perhaps an activity-based costing model with reference to quantifiable outputs may have been a more useful measure for decision-makers contemplating selective investment in OER approaches in their organisations. Also, OER does not necessarily presume the adoption of social media and the costing model needs to take this into account.

That said, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that it is significantly cheaper for ten organisations to collaborate and share the development costs of an OER course than one institution trying to do this alone. Clearly organisations can save costs and time through selective implementation of OER within organisations. In addition, I think there are considerable benefits for professional development units to utilise OER in the area of professional academic development.

Incentives and rewardsEdit

What do you think an institution could feasibly do to encourage the use of social media for open education and research?

I think the suggestions in the book are good ones. In addition, I think organisations also need to recognise the transformational imperatives associated with the adoption of OER. Successful transformation strategies are those which create 'safe spaces' for staff to learn, experiment, and 'find their feet' in rapidly changing environments. Therefore, when implementing incentive and reward structures for the use of social media for OER and research, we should also make sure that we create safe environments for staff to improve their capability, and herein lies the imperative for relevant professional support interventions - hopefully using OER.

Marketing budgetsEdit

What do you think of the idea to use marketing budgets being more laterally spent, such as helping teachers producing open educational media and publishing it through social media channels?

Teaching, research and learning is the core business of an education institution. Funding models for OER should be funded by core operations because there is a solid and well-founded reason for doing so. I'm not in favour of utilising marketing budgets for supporting core operations as this would be indicative of mission drift for the corporate marketing departments, and would divert the responsibility for improving quality, reducing cost, and widening access from those departments who are responsible for the core business of the institution.

When we look back at the history of these inevitable OER futures, will we wonder why it took so long? In some respects this suggests a leadership opportunity, and leadership comes with the responsibility, namely the responsibility to lead. Those institutions, like Otago Polytechnic, who have taken decisive leadership steps to move forward incrementally with OER adoption will reap the benefits, with the added advantage of gaining tacit organisation knowledge of how to do this through core operations.

Models of open educationEdit

What new models of education strike you as having the least or most potential in the context of your institution?

Thinking globally, in a world where the demand for post-secondary education far exceeds the capacity of existing institutions to respond to these demands, we will need to augment our delivery models and approaches. There is not enough money, or time to build enough post-secondary institutions to meet this demand, especially when considering that the percentage of state-funded income for existing institutions has been decreasing over the past decade. I envisage phenomenal growth in both formal and informal learning materials which are open access on the Internet in the medium term. Many learners will choose to learn on their own because they cannot gain access to the formal system, cannot afford the rising costs of tertiary education, or may prefer self- study alternatives. As long as the market places a token value on a tertiary education credential, there will be increasing opportunities for the formal sector to disaggregate its core services of teaching, assessment and credentialising in serving diverse learner needs. OER makes this possible.

Last modified on 18 December 2012, at 14:23