Reaching out with OER: the
Public-Facing Open Scholar
and the benevolent academy
Dr Leigh-Anne Perryman, Research Associat...
The problem
Photo Credit:
Extranoise,http://www.flickr.com/pho
tos/10508943@N00/154211994/ CC-
From supply-push to demand-pull
Photo credit: Jamie McCaffrey, http://www.flickr.com/photos/15609463@N03/7728672184/. CC BY
The solution
?
The background
James Gillray, Scientific Researches! New Discoveries in Pneumaticks! or an Experimental Lecture on the Pow...
Photo credit: Paul Clarke, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brian_Cox.jpg CC-BY
Photo credit: Portable Antiquities S...
The Digital Scholar
A digital scholar reaches out
The Public-Facing Open Scholar
Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/12142935@N08/7402012502/">Patrick Gense...
The Public-Facing Open Scholar
Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/12142935@N08/7402012502/">Patrick Gense...
The Public-Facing Open Scholar
Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/12142935@N08/7402012502/">Patrick Gense...
The Public-Facing Open Scholar
Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/12142935@N08/7402012502/">Patrick Gense...
The pilot
Findings
• Creative capability stage reached
• Frequent posts requesting help
(emotionally draining?)
• Interpersonal/coun...
Implications
• Being a public-facing open scholar is likely
to require long-term involvement +
substantial time commitment...
Summary
Public-facing open scholars have the
potential to:
• Extend the beneficial impact of existing
OER
• Prompt institu...
Real-world challenges and
the Benevolent Academy
Photo Credit: Cheesyfeet, http://www.flickr.com/photos/25986000@N00/84732...
Reaching out with OER: The Public-Facing Open Scholar and the Benevolent Academy'. OER13 Presentation
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Reaching out with OER: The Public-Facing Open Scholar and the Benevolent Academy'. OER13 Presentation

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'Reaching out with OER: The Public-Facing Open Scholar and the Benevolent Academy'. Presentation given at OER13 conference in Nottingham.

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  • In 2008, when the open educational resources movement was just starting to gain momentum, Kevin Guthrie and colleagues’ Ithaka Report was unambiguous in asserting that ‘understanding user needs is paramount but often neglected’ in the OER movement. By 2011 Taylor Walsh observed that little had changed in her book Unlocking the Gates. It was around this time that Tony Coughlan and I began a strand of research exploring the ways in which open educational resources might be used within the voluntary sector. It had become increasingly clear to us that, with a few exceptions, the open educational resources movement was pretty narrowly focused on the use of resources in higher education, with Higher Education (HE) institutions offering open content on a top-down, supplier-led basis, rather than in response to the needs of a broader range of potential end-users. Large numbers of people were thereby excluded from the benefits offered by open educational resources.
  • Seely-Brown and Adler offer a useful distinction between supply-push modes of learning, whereby ‘an inventory of knowledge’ is built up in students’ heads through the actions of educators who identify what they think the students need to learn and demand-pull modes of learning, which ‘shift the focus to enabling participation’ and are responsive to learners’ needs and interests. The fairly recent shift of emphasis from OER production to Open Educational Practices (OEP) goes some way to moving from a supply-push to a demand-pull mode of learning but doesn’t necessarily broaden the focus to beyond higher education.Having spent some time working with voluntary sector trainers to establish their needs for open educational resources we began thinking more broadly and conceptualising a vision of a new type of open academic acting as a link between the academy and the rest of society, listening to the resource needs of potential OER users and working to meet and disseminate information about those needs.
  • Having spent some time working with voluntary sector trainers to establish their needs for open educational resources we began thinking more broadly and conceptualising a vision of a new type of open academic acting as a link between the academy and the rest of society, listening to the resource needs of potential OER users and working to meet and disseminate information about those needs.This new role of public-facing open scholar was informed by the work of over two centuries of public academics.
  • An early inspiration for the public facing open scholar was the 19th century celebrity chemist Humphry Davy, whose wildly popular lectures at the Royal Institution of London captivated his audiences, contributing to the public education of science. A commentator attending one lecture reported: “The whole had the character of a noonday opera house. There stood Davy, every Saturday morning, as the mighty magician of nature—as one, to whom the hidden properties of the earth were developed by some Egerian priestess in her secret recess”. (Dibdin, Reminiscences of a Literary Life, 1836, p. 226)”
  • Over 200 years later the public academic is very much alive and well, using television to disseminate knowledge to millions of viewers. Particle physicist Professor Brian Cox, famous for captivating millions of TV viewers in his exploration of the wonders of the Universe, the Solar System, and life itself, has been responsible for what commentators call ‘the Cox effect’ – his alleged impact ranging from a 500% increase in the sales of telescopes from Amazon to a huge increase in the number of A level students taking science and maths subjects. In 2012 Anatomist and paleopathologist Professor Alice Roberts was recognised for her contributions as a public academic in TV shows such as Coast. When she took up a new post as the University of Birmingham&apos;s first Professor of Public Engagement in Science.
  • As many of you know, the open education movement has its very own public academic, Professor Martin Weller from the Open University. With just once piece of video footage available in our presentation, Martin beat Brian Cox and Alice Roberts in the race to appear, albeit virtually, at OER13. Martin, you’ve written a book on a new type of scholarship located within the digital world. Could you briefly explain what it means to be a digital scholar?PLAY VIDEOOne such digital scholar is Tony Coughlan.
  • In 2012 I’ve began collating free resources for the children’s voluntary sector and disseminating them through Facebook and this has attracted a receptive audience. Here’s the header for the Facebook page, which is named CYP-Media (CYP being children and young people). However, this is a limited activity in that it treats the audience as consumers rather than partners in a subject community.I was aware of a number of very active online voluntary sector communities and started to discuss with Leigh-Anne whether these types of community might offer the opportunity for a more collaborative approach to informal learning. We began analysing existing online communities as described in our paper and it was then that we started to conceptualise the public-facing open scholar role.From 50 communities we shortlisted 4 for detailed evaluation. Each of these was found to include learning infrastructure elements, for example provision for web chats with ‘experts’, together with evidence of receptiveness to academic collaboration. Our findings indicated that there was considerable scope for the role of public-facing open scholar.
  • 1. Some academics may have a pre-existing relationship with or interest in a particular charity established through personal experiences, regular donations or voluntary work. Indeed, it is likely that community participants will be particularly welcoming to academics who can empathise with the issues they are raising. Alternatively, an academic may choose to work with a voluntary sector community that is closely related to their subject specialism. It is important to check for any rules regarding participation in a particular community as these may restrict certain types of scholarly activity. Not all online communities will be sufficiently well-developed to become ‘self-educating’ - i.e. receptive as a group to academics’ interventions in in sourcing OER and giving their time in other ways. It is therefore suggested that shortlisted communities should be evaluated against Galley’s Community Indicators Framework.
  • Galley et al (2010) suggest that fully developed communities share four indicators - ‘identity’, ‘participation’, ‘cohesion’ and ‘creative capability’ - which develop in sequence and can therefore be used to evaluate a community’s strength. Where all four indicators are present and the creative capability stage has been reached, it is likely that the community would be receptive to the intervention of a public-facing open scholar.
  • 2. Operating on a demand-pull basis will require a public-facing open scholar to be attentive and responsive to the diverse, ever-changing needs of their chosen community. An academic may find their usefulness to a particular community, and the level of intervention required, ebbs and flows.
  • 3 &amp; 4: Having found OER that will meet a community’s needs academics should participate in any discussion about the resources and share information about where OER can be found and what resources might be available, as the basis for empowering community participants to self-source resources.
  • 5. Finally, academics should disseminate information about their chosen community’s unmet needs within their own institution and elsewhere. In particular, they might lobby for further OER to be released to meet these needs. Social media such as Twitter and blogs might be a useful platform for disseminating such information.
  • Having firmed up the steps involved in being a public-facing open scholar Tony then piloted the role in a further voluntary sector community in order to assess its viability in practice. Over to you Tony…The pilot study involved my performing the public-facing open scholar role in a child welfare community which uses an open online forum for peer-support and knowledge-sharing. The public can read all posts and consequently there are strict rules on confidentiality, with all names and any identifiable content being anonymised. This is a contentious policy and many members suggest they would prefer to have closed forums where they can discuss more freely. Every post on the forum is read by a moderator.  The forum name is not being publicised here in respect for the community’s privacy.  The forum began in 2003 and has over 25,000 registered members, of whom about 1,600 actively and regularly use the website. The forum does not publish usage statistics but some members’ histories show they have been active participants for 9-10 years, contributing up to 10,000 posts. An initially evident core group of members have between 1000-8000 posts each. Typically, about 200-300 posts are made each day. Popular topics can be viewed 500-1000 times and receive 20-50 replies.  While there is no learning infrastructure, the forum has dedicated areas for &apos;Suggested Resources&apos; and &apos;Research and Media Requests&apos;.   To date, the pilot study has involved:Evaluating the community against Galley’s community indicators framework;Making an introductory post explaining my connections with the community focus and my role managing university childhood &amp; youth courses;Contributing my knowledge and experience in 26 posts between 7 September 2012 and 31 December 2012, 20 of which were in response to posts by other people and six of which were self-initiated.  Five of the posts have been about free/open e-resources, six about topical items in the media, and the remainder have been diverse responses to other issues.  The posts have generally been well-received.
  • The pilot study has shown that the public-facing open scholar role is viable and has resulted in a better understanding of how a community might be selected and about what performing the role might involve.  To date, some important findings have emerged:The community features all four of Galley&apos;s community indicators and has reached the creative capability stage of its development.There are frequent posts requesting help, advice and information - 1000 in the last month. Often these are about how to do things or how to respond to unfamiliar events or circumstances. Reading these requests can be emotionally draining as many community members are seeking support in difficult situations.  There is likely to be a interpersonal /counselling dimension to the public-facing open scholar role - extending beyond just pointing to a wiki or a book in an unmediated way. Small-chunk OER could form part of the response, but would be inadequate on their own.  The requirement for a counselling dimension would be dependent on the type of community.The anonymity of the forum is a marked contrast to other social media which encourage users to post photos and personal information. An effect is to create a level playing field where no-one begins with automatic authority or status.   The community members have quite a different approach to information-gathering than that found in academia and I’ve learned about three new resources.
  • The pilot findings have highlighted the fact that performing the public-facing open scholar role is likely to require a long-term involvement and, in some communities (notably those focused on sensitive topics), mediating the links to resources will involve a substantial time-commitment.  Above all, the pilot experience has emphasised the importance of step 2 in the role - ‘listen to the needs of the community’ - extending this to involve taking time to learn about the community culture and modes of interaction, in addition to reflecting on the extent to which any resources/links to resources need to be accompanied by an explanation of how the resources relate to the expressed needs of community members.We had not foreseen the implications of working with a community which demands a high level of privacy and requires participants to be anonymous.   For example, in this context it could be difficult, at least at first, for an academic to establish their professional credibility amongst community members when stating one’s profession in a signature is against community rules. In such cases credibility would need to be developed slowly, through sustained participation. In addition, an anonymous forum would be unsuitable for a scholar wishing to increase their own or their institution&apos;s visibility and reputation.
  • The public-facing open scholar role has the potential to extend the beneficial impact of existing OER and to prompt institutions to release new OER in response to the needs of people outside HE, not least of all in the voluntary sector, where resources are often scarce. A public-facing open scholar, in identifying relevant OER repositories, could also help voluntary sector online communities to further develop their capacity to be self-educating and sustainable beyond the academic’s interventions.
  • However, the beneficial impact of this new type of academic may be compromised by the time demands of performing the role, notably when this clashes with the demands of paid work for the employing university. We share Weller’s (2011) assertion that the time is now right for universities to start recognising digital scholarship as an important part of academic output, according digital scholarship parity with more traditional outputs such as journal publishing. Furthermore, we propose that universities should formally recognise the activities of public-facing open scholars in reaching out with OER to benefit communities outside higher education, perhaps rewarding such activities through the staff appraisal process .Should such recognition and institutional support for the public-facing open scholar be afforded, a new role for learning institutions may be on the horizon – that of a ‘benevolent academy’ which takes seriously its responsibilities to civic society.
  • Reaching out with OER: The Public-Facing Open Scholar and the Benevolent Academy'. OER13 Presentation

    1. 1. Reaching out with OER: the Public-Facing Open Scholar and the benevolent academy Dr Leigh-Anne Perryman, Research Associate, OER Research Hub, The Open University (leigh.a.perryman@open.ac.uk; @laperryman) Tony Coughlan, Regional Academic, The Open University (t.coughlan@open.ac.uk) Photo credit: Patrick Gensel, http://www.flickr.com/photos/12142935@N08/7402012502/. CC BY-NC-SA
    2. 2. The problem Photo Credit: Extranoise,http://www.flickr.com/pho tos/10508943@N00/154211994/ CC-
    3. 3. From supply-push to demand-pull Photo credit: Jamie McCaffrey, http://www.flickr.com/photos/15609463@N03/7728672184/. CC BY
    4. 4. The solution ?
    5. 5. The background James Gillray, Scientific Researches! New Discoveries in Pneumaticks! or an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air (1802) – Public Domain Henry Howard, Humphry Davy (1803) – Public Domain
    6. 6. Photo credit: Paul Clarke, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brian_Cox.jpg CC-BY Photo credit: Portable Antiquities Scheme, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:West_Hanney,_Oxfordsh ire,_England_-archaeology_rally-11Sept2010_(1).jpg CC-BY The background
    7. 7. The Digital Scholar
    8. 8. A digital scholar reaches out
    9. 9. The Public-Facing Open Scholar Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/12142935@N08/7402012502/">Patrick Gensel</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>
    10. 10. The Public-Facing Open Scholar Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/12142935@N08/7402012502/">Patrick Gensel</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>
    11. 11. The Public-Facing Open Scholar Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/12142935@N08/7402012502/">Patrick Gensel</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>
    12. 12. The Public-Facing Open Scholar Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/12142935@N08/7402012502/">Patrick Gensel</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>
    13. 13. The pilot
    14. 14. Findings • Creative capability stage reached • Frequent posts requesting help (emotionally draining?) • Interpersonal/counselling dimension • Anonymity creates a level playing field • Different approach to information- gathering
    15. 15. Implications • Being a public-facing open scholar is likely to require long-term involvement + substantial time commitment • Extend Step 2 – ‘Listen to the needs of the community’ – to include learning about culture & interaction modes • Consider the need to explain how resources relate to community needs • The challenge of anonymity
    16. 16. Summary Public-facing open scholars have the potential to: • Extend the beneficial impact of existing OER • Prompt institutions to release new OER to meet the needs of people outside HE (e.g. the VCS) • Help VCS communities become self- educating BUT…..
    17. 17. Real-world challenges and the Benevolent Academy Photo Credit: Cheesyfeet, http://www.flickr.com/photos/25986000@N00/8473272017/ BY-NC-ND

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