Last week I attended the kick off meeting for an exciting new EU-funded project, OPAL, from the website:
The Open Educational Quality Initiative will focus on provision of innovative open educational practices and promote quality, innovation and transparency in higher and adult education. Beginning in January 2010, the two-year OPAL Initiative is a partnership between seven organizations including ICDE, UNESCO and ICDE member institution, the Open University UK, and will be coordinated by the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. The project is part funded by the European Commission Education and Training Lifelong Learning Programme.
As you can see the project has a strong consortium with some significant players/representatives from across the EU. It is also an important and timely project given the increasing focus and interest in Open Educational Resources (OER).
For us at the OU it builds nicely on two stands of related work – our work on OER (through the development of the OpenLearn site and more recently the Olnet initiative) and the OU Learning Design Initiative.
At the kick off meeting we trashed out the details of the vision behind the project, with its focus on enhancing quality and innovation through clearer articulation and support of Open Educational Practices (OEP). For me a key first task in the coming months is going to be to try and really unpack what we actually mean by OEP, what are its dimensions, how can we expose existing OEP and from this translate this into a set of useful guidelines to help facilitate better OEP? These are important questions that we will be addressing in work packages 3 and 4 of the project. We will begin by undertaking a state of the art review of the field and then a more extensive quantitative survey. This will be followed by four in-depth studies exploring how recognised leading institutions in the development and use of OER have instantiated good practice in OEP. These findings will then translate into four guidelines – for learners, educational professionals, managers and policy makers.
So what do we mean by Open Educational Practices (OEP)? The detailed discussions from the kick off meeting are currently being written up and distilled but here is my started for ten to stimulate debate:
Open Educational Practices (OEP) are the set of activities and support around the creation, use and repurposing of Open Educational Resources. It also includes the contextual settings within which these practices occur. Therefore there are three importance dimensions to this:
- The stakeholders engaged with creating, using or supporting the use of OER. These can be further sub-divided into two types: those involved in ‘creation and use’ of OER and those involved in ‘policy and management’ aspects of OER. Creators: create the OER, and could be either ‘teachers’ or ‘learners’. Users: Use the OER, and could be either ‘teachers or ‘learners’. Managers: Provide the infrastructure to support the OER (technical and organisational) and the tools/support to create/use OER. Policy makers: embed OER into relevant policy.
- The range of mediating artefacts that can be used to create and support the use of OER. These include tools and resources to help guide the creation and use of OER, as well as the technologies to support the hosting and management of them.
- The contextual factors which impact on the creation, use or support of OER.
Does this definition make sense? Can we provide a finer grained set of indicators for each of these three dimensions? What existing research and development work in this area should we be looking at to develop these concepts further?
This is going to be an exciting and challenging project, I look forward to working more with other members of the consortium on this over the next two years. A number of people will be involved from the OU – in particular researchers from the Olnet team (led by Patrick McAndrew), but also drawing on expertise from the OULDI team. Paul Mundin has taken on the role of project manager for the OU aspects of the work.