I took up residence in Milton Keynes, England, for one week as the Linked OER Research Hub Fellow for the School of Open. The School of Open is a community of volunteers from all around the world who are developing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of openness in their field of choice, whether that’s education, science, research, or community design. The free education opportunities consist of online courses, face-to-face workshops, and in-person training programs. Whatever the format, volunteers seek to help people do what they already do better with the aid of open resources and tools. One obvious example is helping educators to find and use free and open educational resources (OER) for the classroom.
In developing these opportunities, we decided it would be a good idea to simultaneously attempt to measure the impact of our activities. We teamed up with the OER Research Hub for a Linked Research Fellowship, which would provide funding for travel/accommodations and a researcher to help with administering, collecting, and analyzing School of Open data. Since we only just launched in March and have a limited data set to work with, we decided to start by focusing on a subset of our online, facilitated courses. School of Open volunteers administered optional surveys in four courses: Copyright 4 Educators (AUS), Copyright 4 Educators (US), Creative Commons for K-12 Educators, and Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics and Beyond. The surveys gather feedback from participants on their sharing practices and attitudes towards OER before and after the course. In combination with feedback from the facilitators themselves and archival course material, we hope to write up a short report on our preliminary findings. This report will likely identify gaps where more research is needed, which we hope to conduct during our next round of facilitated courses in March 2014. Then we will publish a final report with our findings in the third quarter of 2014.
My week with the OER Research Hub
As a linked fellow, my week with the OER Research Hub was organized around meeting with Beck Pitt, the researcher I have been working closely with around collecting the data, in addition to meeting the rest of the Hub’s research team and Open University staff working on open education projects of interest to the School of Open. Since I had been and would continue to work on aggregating and analyzing the data remotely, it was crucial to make the most of my stay through face-to-face meetings. Through these meetings, I was thrilled to discover additional areas for collaboration. They are:
• OER Research course: A School of Open course on how to conduct research openly, especially in the field of OER, to be developed in conjunction with an OER research toolkit that the OER Research Hub team is already developing. The initial concept for the course is still being shaped, but we imagine the course to be for those who are leading open education projects of their own that don’t currently have the resources to measure the impact of their project. This course would equip them with the methods, tools, and familiarity with ethical, privacy, and cultural issues researchers need to consider when conducting research. We aim to have the course developed in time to be part of a facilitated round of School of Open courses in the second quarter of 2014, and to exist thereafter as a stand-alone course for anyone to take at any time.
• Open Translation course: A School of Open course on open translation, or more specifically, how to translate materials that are openly licensed and what that means. The TESS-India project at the Open University already runs translation workshops for its volunteers in various regions of India to translate OER addressing regional, cultural, and linguistic issues for translation into several Indian languages including Hindi. As part of the workshops, TESS-India will include a day/session on OER and open licensing and what that means for translation. As these workshops will be recorded, we will have video in addition to the workshop resources which can be adapted into an online course for translators around the world. We hope to work with TESS-India to prepare this course for 2014.
• OpenLearn OER course: A joint OpenLearn and School of Open course on OER, drawing on existing resources like Creating open educational resources.
• CC license and OER education for the OER Research Hub’s K-12 educator networks, such as the Flipped Learning Network, in the form of webinars and media such as infographics.
For our main collaboration — research on School of Open courses — we were able to ready some of the data we had collected for the Mozilla Festival, where Beck hosted a “scrum” on visualizing open education data called the Open Ed Data Detective. Throughout the festival, several participants came by to experiment with the School of Open data along with other data the OER Research Hub made available. In addition to preparing for the data scrum, we collected and compiled most of the initial data on the School of Open courses listed above, including web analytics and data for all 13 stand-alone courses. We outlined a plan for completion of a report on preliminary research findings, follow-up interviews we will conduct with facilitators and course participants, and additional research we will conduct in 2014 during Round 3 of School of Open’s facilitated courses.
For a research residency that lasted less than a week, we made a tremendous amount of progress. I look forwarding to working closely with the OER Research Hub and Open University staff in the coming months!