Academic Capacity Building through the Development of OERs for Enhancing Academic Practice


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Presentation at ICDE 2011 World Conference on Distance Education, October 2-5, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.

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  • Hello everyone. It is a pleasure to be the opening talk in this afternoon’s first parallel session. Today I want to talk about a project that is being run at the University of London International Programmes that is working in partnership with King’s College London and the Centre for Distance education. And this is a project that brings together work in the area of academic practice, capacity building and OERs. And I have my colleague Patricia McKellar here with me today.
  • Who are we? What is the University of London International Programmes? The problems we face are perhaps not that dissimilar to many other ODL institutions but the context within which we as organisation work giaves them a certain uniqueness?
  • The University of London International Programmes, in one guise or another, dates back to 1858 when the University of London resolved to admit students to its examinations irrespective of whether they were enrolled and in attendance at a constituent College. Such students were known as external students and for Bell & Tight (1993) this initiative was indicative of the development of a first generation open university. For many years, students either presented themselves for examination or attended a third-party institution (other than a constituent College) for supplementary instruction prior to taking the examination. As it happens, a number of these third-party institutions in the UK and across the globe were sufficiently successful in tutoring external students that they eventually emerged as prominent universities in their own right.   The academic and business model was minimalist and yet afforded the students some flexibility as to how to study. The university provided advice and guidance on how to approach each examination and the student fees reflected this. The student either chose to study independently or pay an additional fee to their nearest third-party institution for tuition and support. Over the years, the advice and guidance offered by the university to independent students became more elaborate, particularly on the postgraduate programmes where online delivery is prevalent. The dominant mode of study for undergraduate provision, however, remains for the student to attend a third-party institution. However, very recently the university has developed an overarching corporate strategic plan and a learning, teaching and assessment strategy which reinforces its commitment for quality provision in the context of both competitive demand and student needs and expectations. Integral to these developments, a new policy for third-party arrangements has been agreed together with an accompanying institutions ’ quality assurance framework. Additionally, our focus on accessibility and flexibility of student choice has encouraged us to re-visit the nature of online learning and programme development.   However, the challenge for us is that the University of London is not a unitary university as the constituent Colleges operate in a relatively autonomous manner. Within the past forty years, each College has developed as a discrete legal entity, has its own governance and funding arrangements, is assessed separately in terms of quality assurance and research excellence, and determines its own curricula independently. Until quite recently and irrespective of which College a student attended, all students were awarded a University of London degree. Now, many of the Colleges have secured their own degree awarding powers; some exercise them whereas others prefer still to offer University of London degrees.   Nevertheless, twelve Colleges work with the International Academy - a central academic body - in a collaborative endeavour to develop and offer a range of international programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level for distance study. The academic lead falls within the remit of the Colleges who take responsibility for the academic direction of the programme ’ s subject development. Even though students are registered with the University of London and on successful completion of their studies are awarded a University of London degree. Whilst there is an agreement between the International Academy and a College which lays down respective responsibilities and accountabilities, there are critical discussions about the nature and extent of learning provision and the use of appropriate business models. The prevailing issues in relation to programme development revolve around who determines what, how, when and why which in turn reflect the sensitivity in transformational change in distinguishing between enhancements to established programmes and new initiatives. As we have more than 50,000 students studying in 180 countries, this engagement has become more acute in light of aspirations for more intercollegiate initiatives, market competitiveness and rising student expectations together with the need to harness good practice and secure greater efficiencies. The approach we take below allows us to mediate between the respective interests and perspectives. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), University College (UCL), Royal Holloway, Institute of Education, Heythrop, Queen Mary, Kings College, Royal Veterinary College, Goldsmiths, Birkbeck, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • What we have observed is that a lot of the tutors in our recognized institutions often do not have access to teacher training programmes nor resources and materials to help enhance their teaching.
  • We probably mean a variety of things – that cover both personal and professional impact: Self confidence, sense of agency Continuing professional development E.G. Concepts of professional competence first introduced in his book "The Reflective Practitioner," Schön ... to handle the complex and unpredictable problems of actual practice with confidence ... Using examples from an architectural design studio and the arts,
  • So our tutors are also often part-time and therefore mobiliity and flexibiilit of study or training for them is a prioity and therefore any intervention must respond to this need.
  • Non-scalable (though train the trainers model is possible) How do we scale?
  • Access to resources is important for our lecturers.
  • MIT: 2000: OpenCourseWare initiated Goal: to make all primary course resources accessible on the web 2002: launched 50-course pilot 2009: 1,900 courses available free online
  • So we are repurposing resources from a Teaching Fellowship Scheme for Law tutors run and the UoL IP and combining these with resources developed by KLI for their PGCAP.
  • Sit within a framework or scaffold for their use i.e. not standalone objects – therefore for us implementing staff development processes is equally important as a place within which Institutions can ‘make-sense’ of the OER (opportunities for sense-making. IN this manner the OERs are only one, albeit a core, part of the jigsaw of enabling capacity building Philanthropic : Sharing and providing education to people all over the world, with special attention to those in third-world countries or without access to high-quality local education. Strategic : Adapting educational practices to the changing world culture may increase viability of educational institutions. (Additional motivations exist here as well, but are perhaps more subtle or less overarching). Pedagogic : The act of sharing may increase attention to quality; the act of adapting or remixing may increase quality; the utilization of new technologies may enhance educational engagement amongst learners. Economic : Cost-savings to the institution by digitally archiving their own materials, and then sharing and reusing within the institution and amongst peers. Lowers the costs of educational materials for students Fosters pedagogical innovation and relevance that avoids ‘teaching from the textbook’ Gives faculty tools to gain control over learning content and delivery. Share and remix learning materials for customized and localized use Potentially a fast feedback loop on quality and relevance of learning materials => continual improvement and rapid development
  • To come back to the broader picture – and a suitably busy slide, we are looking at different layers of activity and the strengthening the complimentary activity between. Making links – an example here is how the ePortfolio is a space for reflection (already mentioned Schon and the reflective practitioner)
  • Academic Capacity Building through the Development of OERs for Enhancing Academic Practice

    2. 2. who are we? <ul><li>an educational organisation delivering a portfolio of international programmes via distance and flexible learning </li></ul><ul><li>as such we have a particular set of (perhaps not surprising) problems </li></ul>
    3. 3. our context: a complex … multi-stakeholder environment
    4. 4. <ul><li>50,000+ students </li></ul><ul><li>Global market (190 countries) </li></ul><ul><li>75 recognised teaching institutions </li></ul><ul><li>Three student ‘ study types ’ </li></ul><ul><li>100+ degrees, diplomas and certificates. </li></ul><ul><li>Academic quality and direction maintained by ‘ lead colleges ’ </li></ul><ul><li>Long history (1858), strong values and commitment to enhancing student experience </li></ul>
    5. 5. problem spaces: <ul><li>enhancing student learning and the student experience; </li></ul><ul><li>ensuring quality; </li></ul><ul><li>building growth; </li></ul><ul><li>developing academic and costing models; </li></ul><ul><li>improving academic practice (impact on learning and teaching). </li></ul>
    6. 6. let us try and build capacity in the area of academic practice
    7. 7. what do we mean by ‘ academic capacity building ’ : <ul><li>planned development of teaching staff and institutions through the acquisition of knowledge, skills and capabilities via incentives, technology and training; </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. encouraging and rewarding reflective teaching practice (Schön,1987). </li></ul>
    8. 8. For the tutor: flexibility, mobility, independence, confidence. For the student: better learning, improved achievement. For the institution: stability in human resource management; increased market value. ?
    9. 9. solutions <ul><li>Pros </li></ul><ul><li>direct, intense and activity driven promoting deep engagement </li></ul><ul><li>Cons </li></ul><ul><li>expensive and labour intensive in a global context </li></ul><ul><li>sustaining change after the intervention </li></ul><ul><li>difficult to scale </li></ul>model 1 solution: run workshops
    10. 10. model 2 solution – OERs plus workshops <ul><li>resources act as a learning objects </li></ul><ul><li>‘ open ’ resources promote ownership via reuse and repurposing in new contexts </li></ul><ul><li>help teaching institutions to help themselves </li></ul><ul><li>OERs are ‘ objects to talk with ’ </li></ul><ul><li>build communities around OERs and their [re]use and establish networks of excellence </li></ul>
    11. 11. OERs – what are they? <ul><li>Learning content - full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections and journals </li></ul><ul><li>Tools - software to support the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content including searching and organisation of content </li></ul><ul><li>Implementation resources - intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design principles and localisation of content . </li></ul>
    12. 12. three types of OER initiative: <ul><li>Institutional OpenCourseWare initiatives e.g. MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Open University </li></ul><ul><li>Disciplinary initiatives e.g. HumBox repository </li></ul><ul><li>Pedagogic initiatives e.g. simSHARE </li></ul>
    13. 13. how?
    14. 14. CORRE: a framework for transferring teaching materials into OERs (University of Leicester, Otter Project)
    15. 15. <ul><li>Multi-layered: </li></ul><ul><li>Generic skills </li></ul><ul><li>Subject specific </li></ul><ul><li>Contextualisation material e.g. case-study </li></ul><ul><li>Addressing attitudes, values and cultural sensitivity </li></ul>Academic practice: Content: Media: Plan; Deliver e.g. small group teaching; Assessment & feedback; Review; Develop. Activities; good practices; examples; guides; references; stories; templates; case-studies. Text; image; audio; video/flash.
    16. 17. what happens in the real world … ?
    17. 18. what we can control <ul><li>content </li></ul><ul><li>storage </li></ul><ul><li>access </li></ul><ul><li>search and metadata (lite) </li></ul><ul><li>quality </li></ul><ul><li>IPR/copyright </li></ul><ul><li>tracking and academic recognition (recently downloaded) </li></ul>
    18. 19. what we cannot control <ul><li>sustainability e.g. after funding disappears </li></ul><ul><li>community [re]use by our practitioners </li></ul><ul><li>obsolescence e.g. legal or medical resources </li></ul><ul><li>hosting (e.g. local or JorumOpen?) </li></ul><ul><li>quality </li></ul>
    19. 20. when do OERs work? <ul><li>transformative – they act as a vehicle for change </li></ul><ul><li>as social objects </li></ul><ul><li>establishing a shared vocabulary across stakeholders </li></ul><ul><li>creating investment via ownership and repurposing </li></ul><ul><li>are situated within a framework or scaffold for their use i.e. not released as standalone objects </li></ul>
    20. 21. in conclusion
    21. 22. a complimentary, multi-dimensional approach … Impact Support Dimension Level 1) Capturing expertise, creating resources; sharing knowledge. Expert authors; Design Patterns (Alexander, 1978) ; Anecdote Circles (Snowdon, 2010) . Practice Attitudes and values OERs – social objects; digital repositories. 2) Frameworks for implementation Staff development; Micro-certification. Ownership Transformation ePortfolio; repurposing tools 3) Policy and strategy Embedding; Reward; Quality; Accreditation Motivation and confidence Capturing value Wisdom of the crowds; tracking. 4) Sustainable enhancement Sharing; Trusted, learning networks; Community support; Networks of excellence. Social capital Empowerment Social networking services and platforms