A response to Stephen Downes

Stephen has written some valuable comments on my ‘Defining OEP’ blog post. Couple of minor things in my defence and then some more subtaintive points to discuss! ;-)  Clearly my choice of picture to show the meeting was not a good one given Stephen’s reaction!

…but a conference session consisting of standing in a circle around flip-chart sheets would send me running and screaming into the nearest woods, never to be found again. So, please, let’s not make that an open education practice


Actually the meeting was excellent with a nice mix of different types of group work, use of flip charts, illustrative art drawings to capture key points, images on flckr etc. I found this a great mix and much better than the usual sit round in boardroom style meetings with one person dominating the meeting. Maybe we could have used more technology during the meeting but actually I think the face to face interactions were a key part of us connecting as a consortium at this point in the project.

Stephen critiques my initial starter for ten diagram which articulates the 4 different types of stakeholders involved in OER/OEP arguing that

…so, I’m not sure I like a model where ‘policy-makers’ (also called ’stakeholders’) are distinct from ‘creators’ and ‘users’ - people who create and use should make the policy, in my view.

Clearly the diagram isn’t quite right yet, my intention was never to suggest that the four roles were distinct and separate, rather that they are four aspects which have different agendas and interests. A ‘learner’ could very easily be involved in all four, but at each stage – when they are looking at creating, using, managing or ‘policy-making’ OER they will have a different focus of attention and it was this that I really wanted to bring out and explore.

Good to have some early feedback on this – I think there is a lot to trash out in terms of exactly what OEP is. I am reminded of some work I did a few years ago as part of the NSF/JISC DIalogPlus project. The aim (a naïve one now I admit) was to create a learning design guidance toolkit that would take practitioners through the process of creating learning activities. It would provide guidance and advice on pedagogical approaches, what technologies can be used when and why and a process of mapping learning outcomes, topics, activities and assessment tasks. The toolkit is still around if you want to play. Near the beginning of the work I thought ‘hang on a minute – what exactly do we mean by a learning activity anyway?’ A seemingly simple question… which turned into a mammoth amount of work and a very detailed taxonomy articulating the different components that make up a learning activity! More on the details of this are available in a chapter on the Handbook of Learning Design and Learning Objects by Lockyer et al. (Conole, G. 2008). I have a funny feeling something similar might happen with OEP – i.e. it seems obvious what it is, and easy to articulate it, but I suspect in reality the task will be much more complex.


Conole, G., 2008. Capturing practice, the role of mediating artefacts in learning design. In In L. Lockyer, S. Bennett, S. Agostinhi and B. Harper Handbook of learning designs and learning objects.  IGI Global.



3 Responses to “A response to Stephen Downes”

  1. Frances Bell Says:

    Don’t be too quick to abandon the word ‘role’ - it can be useful to separate people from the (sometimes different) roles they adopt - we don’t have to be confined by the rigid usage of it in systems such as VLEs. Also, there is a long tradition of using stakeholder analysis to surface assumptions (that may be hidden when we just think about people and what they do) prior to implementing strategic change http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hs=Ibm&q=author:%22Mitroff%22+intitle:%22On+strategic+assumption-making:+A+dialectical+approach+…%22+&um=1&ie=UTF-8&oi=scholarr
    On a practical level, I think such an analysis would be helpful prior to designing tools (LAMS is the LD tool with which I have any familiarity). The first example that springs to my mind for students designing learning activities is of them being able to define their own groups and associated activities for project work. Their learning design could be a valuable artefact for sharing with each other and for their teacher if this formed part of the assessment. Unfortunately, in any VLE I know and probably LAMS, it is hardwired into the system that group formation is on the teacher’s control panel. An exception is Buddypress that is based on a multi-user blogging system and allows users to form groups.

  2. More on Open Educational Practices « Says:

    […] 1, 2010 · Leave a Comment Last week OEN reported on a post by Gráinne Conole on open educational practices. She has responded to some of Stephen Downes’ comments to […]

  3. Gráinne Says:

    Hi Frances yes I think you are right - role has an important ‘role’ sic….
    I like your ideas about students active engagement in designing learning activities - I think this could be something very powerful. It’s certainly one of the avenues we’d like to explore in the OULDI work.

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