Empathy, the Library, and Open Education

By Adrian Stagg, Manager (Open Educational Practice), University of Southern Queensland

During an interview, the anthropologist Dr Margaret Mead was asked what evidence she considered noteworthy as a society first progressed toward ‘civilisation’. If we consider the question, physical artefacts such as farming or hunting implements, or perhaps pottery seem likely answers.

Dr Mead used a broken (and healed) femur as her reply.  The healed bone inferred that another human being had demonstrated empathy.  Rather than abandoning this person, another had cared enough to nurse them back to health. Empathy, she asserted, was the start of civilisation (Byock, 2012), and a consideration for the welfare of others differentiated humans from the animal kingdom.

It can be reasonably argued that librarians – whether public or academic – require empathy as a professional skill.  Libraries continue to be places for democratic empowerment, places that value equity, and promote safety. Libraries also become food pantries on many campuses, a function well outside information and digital literacy. 

During a reference interview with a first-year student, most librarians concentrate on normalising confusion and creating a welcoming space as they do answering the questions.  As academic spaces, libraries invest in student-centred design for services and function; when supporting academic colleagues we attempt to understand context to which solutions can be linked.

Unsurprisingly, open education finds a home in many university libraries.  Their remit includes the organisation, access, and maintenance of knowledge resources, and is usually accompanied by supporting infrastructure and staffing (despite consistently conservative or diminishing budget allocations). 

Open education meets pragmatic library needs such as mitigating library expenditure by transitioning to open texts, reducing workload by using existing OER, or accessing low-cost, openly licenced professional learning.

Open licencing affords unique opportunities that connect academic staff with learning and teaching approaches (such as open assessment), and position the library as a key stakeholder in learning design. Furthermore, these partnerships often yield scholarship and research outcomes, raising the profile of librarians-as-researchers.

However, openness is – like libraries – foundationally aligned with social equity. Openness reduces barriers to access and increases participation in education, equalises readership and access to information, and addresses systemic issues of financial inequality and educational attainment. For librarians – exposed to the ‘macro-view’ of the university through interactions with students from all disciplines – it is difficult not to respond with empathy to trends that reinforce inequality.

Our failing in open advocacy is often untempered empathy. Many library-run OER workshops can be summarised as ‘a solution looking for a problem’, presenting openness as a self-evident good without necessarily considering the audience. The results are workshops populated by ‘the usual suspects’ and an inability to sustain open practices beyond small pockets of already-dedicated practitioners.

Starting with OA Week, I’d like to propose that ‘It matters how we open knowledge’ refers to our engagement as much as processes, policy, and infrastructure.

Professor Geoff Scott, when speaking at an ACODE Institute introduced the mantra ‘Listen, Link, Lead’. When advocating for sustainable change, he encouraged the audience to actively ‘listen’ to, and understand the context of others. Then ‘link’ the challenges to new approaches that directly influence a positive outcome for the individual.  Lastly, is the opportunity to ‘lead’ the change and build momentum based on success.

Transforming open education from ‘open as library business’ to ‘open as everyone’s business’ requires empathy and connection. 

Take time this week to review your strategies.  Do you ‘listen, link, lead’? Have you unintentionally excluded teams from your initiatives, and are there opportunities for collaboration (such as Learning Designers, Student Services, the Student Guild)? 

The unique affordances of openness lie in reuse, remix, and repurposing content to suit local contexts and learner needs. Perhaps, using the lens of empathy, we explicitly consider our skills as librarians with similar affordances.

Take the opportunity to share and learn this week by reflecting on your practices in the Comments.

Reference:

Byock, I. (2012). The best care possible: a physician’s quest to transform care through the end of life. New York. Avery. 


Digitally Dexterous Approaches to Microlearning

Keith Heggart, Lecturer in Learning Design, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney. Keith.Heggart@uts.edu.au  @keithheggart  

The rise of microlearning

If you’ve had anything to do with university teaching and learning in the last two years, you’ve probably been caught up in discussions about remote and emergency online learning, blended learning and similar topics. Central to many of these discussions is the need to craft engaging learning experiences for students. That’s where microlearning (Hug, 2007) comes in. You’ve probably already seen materials created using tools like Genial.ly, Quizlet or H5P- these can all be examples of this growing phenomenon.

More and more of us have access to powerful mobile devices. One way we use them is to consume ‘bite-sized’ chunks of knowledge. Torgerson (2021) describes this as a grass roots approach to learning, which is gradually moving from our personal lives (for example, YouTube videos on how to unblock a sink might be an example of microlearning) into workplace learning programs, and now, into the school and tertiary education sectors.

This is partially in response to the lack of time many people face in their day to day lives – such as the ‘sandwich generation’ (Miller, 1981). This is already causing many universities to rethink how they might offer courses to people engaged in full time work as well as caring responsibilities. It is also in response to what Torgerson (2021) describes as our desire to remain in contact with each other: social connectedness, which is facilitated through mobile technologies and especially social media.

What is microlearning? One of the most common definitions of microlearning is Khan’s (2019, p. 276)

“Microlearning can be viewed as a single objective‑focused, outcome‑based, stand‑alone, meaningful, and interactive learning unit delivered in bite-sized snippets (i.e., a short modular format) either digitally (i.e., via computer, tablet, or mobile phone) or non-digitally (i.e., as via a flashcard or booklet).”

While the exact definition of microlearning is still debated, there are some principles common to much of the discussion. Firstly, microlearning is short. Thalheimer (2017) calls it a short engagement in a learning related activity, and this follows on from Kapp and Defelice’s (2019) definition that it is a short engagement instructional unit. Of course, this begs the question: how short is short? Some have suggested that it should be less than half an hour. For Torgerson (2021), it’s 5 minutes or less – but best measured by the question: ‘Would you give up time in your day to learn this?’ If the answer’s yes, then that’s an example of microlearning.

There are some significant benefits to this bottom-up approach to microlearning. Malamed (n.d.) suggests that it’s a form of informal learning, but the benefit of microlearning is that it is ‘like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed and the route’. This is the personalisation aspect of microlearning. There are some other factors that contribute to the benefits of microlearning: because of its brevity, it needs to be focused on being both efficient and effective. This is also a potential drawback, of course. Not everything taught at university might be suitable for microlearning. Rather, it’s up to the educator to think carefully about what might be leveraged into a microlearning opportunity. In addition, microlearning has the benefit of repeatability and scalability – one object can be watched many times, and it can be shared with 10, 100 or even 1000 students with no more effort than sharing it with one.

Six best practices for designing microlearning

So how can educators make use of microlearning? Fortunately, much of what we know about good examples of microlearning already conforms to our understanding of best practice approaches to teaching and learning. Perhaps this is not that surprising; after all, micro teaching has been a staple of many courses for a long time. As you would imagine, microlearning relies heavily on the use of technology and multimedia assets, and thus Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning (2005) is pertinent. In particular, the following ideas are worth keeping in mind:

  • Be very clear about what the purpose of the microlearning is, and how learners will achieve this through the learning process.
  • Include images, rather than having only written representations in microlearning objects.
  • These images should add to or help explain the information presented, not distract from it.
  • Make use of automated feedback  – but make the feedback descriptive!
  • Make it clear how users can interact with the microlearning object through careful design of elements like buttons and links.
  • Show ways that students are progressing through the learning such as percentage completed (from Tufan, 2021).

References

Hug, T. (2007). Didactics of microlearning. Waxmann Verlag.

Kapp, K. M., & Defelice, R. A. (2019). Microlearning: Short and sweet. American Society for Training and Development.

Khan, B. H. (2019). Microlearning: Quick and meaningful snippets for training solutions. International Journal of Research in Educational Sciences.(IJRES), 2(2), 275-284.

Malamed, C. (n.d). Informal Learning: An interview with Jay Cross. http://theeleanringcoach.com/elearning2-0/informal-learning-an-intervew-with-jay-cross

Mayer, R. E. (2005). Cognitive theory of multimedia learning. The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning, 41, 31-48.

Miller, D. (1981). The ‘Sandwich’ Generation: Adult Children of the Aging. Social Work 26, 419–423.

Thalheimer, W. (2017). Definition of microLearning.

www.worklearning.com/2017/01/13/definition-of-microlearning/

Tufan, D. (2021). Multimedia Design Principles for Microlearning. In Microlearning in the Digital Age (pp. 58-79). Routledge.


Digital Dexterity Educators: a platform to share digital dexterity resources

By Kelly George, Academic and Research Librarian, Charles Darwin University Library

Ever needed some inspiration, a quick activity, or a handy infographic?

Where do you go to look for activities, lesson plans, handouts, and anything else related to the teaching and learning of digital dexterity?

As library professionals, many of us in the Digital Dexterity (DigiDex) Champions network use OER repositories like Merlot and OER Commons to get ideas and supplement our teaching materials. However, with the development of the Champions network we wanted to encourage the sharing of our own resources, relevant to our context, and to raise the profile of the work that we do as educators in the Australian and New Zealand tertiary sector.

Which platform?

There was no one place already established where we could easily find and share resources. We asked ourselves: what features do we need in a resource sharing platform? What is most important to the Champions network?

One of the most important things that emerged was openness – you wouldn’t need a log in to browse or download the resources, and it would be accessible to anyone, not just the Champions network.

In fact, we developed a long list of desired features and set forth to identify the platform that best matched our needs. OER Commons came out on top, with its ethos of Explore. Create. Collaborate, and it enabled easy upload, licensing, tagging, and version history. ISKME (the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education) designed OER Commons to be much more than a simple online repository of OER; it is also a collaboration and teaching platform and aims to involve educators in a sustainable culture of sharing and continuous improvement.

The Digital Dexterity Educators group

You may already be aware of OER Commons, but what you may not know is that we have created a group on the platform which gathers together relevant resources for the Australian and New Zealand tertiary sector. We can also add to the group any resources already published on OER Commons that we think useful. To become a member of the group and to upload or add a resource, you do need to create an account, but this is a simple process. On the OER Commons website, click on the Sign in/Register button as indicated by the first arrow in the below image.

Screenshot from www.oercommons.org of the top menu banner to indicate with two arrows and corresponding text boxes where to 1. click to register for an account and where to 2. click to search for groups on the website

Find the Digital Dexterity Educators group, and others, by clicking on groups (as indicated by the second arrow in the image above) and then see all groups (in the ellipse in the below image). For a quick search, try popping our tag, MyDigiDex, into the search box to find resources added by the DigiDex Champions. You can also search for Digital Dexterity Educators to find us (second image below).

Screenshot from www.oercommons.org of the top menu banner to indicate with an ellipse where to click to search for groups on the website
Screenshot from www.oercommons.org to indicate with an arrow where to search for 'Digital Dexterity Educators' in Groups on the website

After clicking on the Digital Dexterity Educators group, anyone involved or interested in promoting digital dexterity can join the group so please go ahead, explore the site, and add yourself as a member (see image below).

Screenshot from https://www.oercommons.org/groups/digital-dexterity-educators/5554/ to indicate with an ellipse where to join the 'Digital Dexterity Educators' group on the website

Here’s a taste of what you’ll find posted in the group: from Curtin University Library, we have the comprehensive 23 Things for Digital Knowledge; from Queensland University of Technology Library, the in-depth modules of AIRS – Advanced Information Research Skills, and from Griffith University Library, the handy digital dexterity tool designed for self-assessment.

Share and share alike

A vital feature of the platform is the ability to assign a Creative Commons (CC) licence. Adding a CC licence to a resource enables us to reuse, adapt, and share resources without having to ask permission. If you are creating resources, or adapting existing resources, consider sharing them with your community of fellow educators. The process for adding or uploading a resource is easy—contact your DigiDex Champion, or leave a comment in this blog post, if you have any questions at all.

Image depicting the CC BY SA licence logo

We recommend assigning a CC BY SA license to your resource whenever possible—find the Guidelines for Licensing Learning Objects for Re-use with Creative Commons on the Digital Dexterity Educators group.

Maybe you could set this as your ‘digital dexterity’-goal for 2021. Let’s see how many resources we can share by December!

So get creative, review your copyright literacy, and start adding resources to the Digital Dexterity Educators group on OER Commons.

Note: All screenshots are from OER Commons where the content is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Building a digital skill set with Aus GLAM Blogs

By Hugh Rundle, Manager, Digital Innovation, La Trobe University Library

Several years ago I created an aggregator service for blogs by Australasian GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) workers. Initially this was a simple Twitter bot, but later I built a web application that eventually allowed blog authors to register their blog, and readers to search by keyword, browse by tag, or subscribe to new posts via RSS or directly into their Pocket list, including the ability to filter out content they may be less interested in. If you’re interested in what Australian librarians are thinking and talking about, this is now a useful place to look.

One of the obvious questions for people wanting to start independently learning computer programming skills is where to start. The best advice I was ever given was to start by working on a real project you want to see exist, or contributing to an existing project you like. Aus GLAM Blogs was one my first “real” coding projects. I had unsuccessfully tried to teach myself some kind of computer programming for a couple of years, but it didn’t “stick” until I had something tangible to work on. Having a real life project to work on – especially one that was operating in public – really helped provide an incentive and focus to develop and practice the skills I needed to complete the job. The first version was quite rudimentary – a simple text file of manually-entered RSS feed URLs, some JavaScript loops, and a Twitter account back in the days when Twitter API keys were very easy to obtain within a couple of minutes. It barely worked at all, but it was something I thought would be helpful to bridge the gap between library bloggers looking for an audience and Library Twitter looking for good local content.

Last year I wrote about re-building Aus GLAM Blogs from scratch when I had developed more knowledge and skills. Developing the app in incremental stages meant that it wasn’t completely overwhelming. This sort of project-based learning approach can be used in many contexts, but is particularly useful when building your digital skills. Creating a web application meant I needed to host it somewhere, which led to learning about Linux server management. Gradually increasing the scope of the application led to developing an understanding of how databases and software applications interact. Re-writing the entire thing led me to consider problems of data normalisation and to what extent it is useful and acceptable.

Scaffolding my own learning like this has enabled me to slowly build a technical skillset around computer programming and server management, and think more deeply about the sort of data management questions colleagues working with library metadata have to deal with every day. I will never consider myself an “expert” in coding or server administration, but through a personal project I’ve been able to build my knowledge over time. For a while this was simply to amuse myself, but I now find myself in a library job where these skills are really useful and help me to look at problems in a different way.

Your own interests may be different. Perhaps you want to be able to make animated videos, or build your own computer from parts, or fancy being the in-house Excel macro expert. If you’ve been telling yourself that you’re “just not a technical person” or you will “never be able to do it”, I don’t believe you. The trick is to find some small projects – ideally personal ones where there are few consequences of failure – and work on them because you’re interested in the actual thing you are making. It’s surprising how much you can learn “accidentally” just by focussing on what you want to create rather than on the skills themselves. Then, simply increase your ambition for the next project, and the next one, and the next one.

Oh, and don’t forget to share it in a blog post so the rest of the library world can share your learning journey!

Five ways to advocate and promote OERs within your own institution.

By Frank Ponte AALIA (CP) Academic/Research, Manager, Library Services (Teaching), RMIT University Library, frank.ponte@rmit.edu.au 

There are many ways to engage with open educational resources (OERs).  Start your journey with these five easy steps.

1. Understand the language of OER: 

Open: Free to share adapt or modify.  
Free: Free to access but not necessarily allowed to share adapt or modify. 
Fair use: An American phrase that permits limited use of material for educational purposes in the United States. In Australia, we are bound by several educational licenses set out within the Copyright Act 1968. 
Public Domain: Works that are publicly available because intellectual property rights have expired or been forfeited. 
All Rights Reserved: Copyright holder reserves, or holds for their own use, all the rights provided by copyright law.  

2. Badge:
Badge your content with a CC license and host it on a shareable platform.  By doing so we: 

  • contribute to the Creative Commons worldwide repository. 
  • increase our professional connections and reach through attribution. 
  • build a large collection of locally created and customisable content. 
  • have access to a broader selection of adaptable materials  
  • streamline our workflows. 

Speak to your Digital Dexterity champion at your institution to discuss hosting your
       creative commons licensed content on a shareable platform.  

3. Share: 
Librarians have an entrenched ethos of sharing. Become experts at curating OER content and sharing your original and remixed resources.  
textbookscoursescourse materialsInteractive simulationspublic domain booksaudiobooksmodulesopen access booksvideospodcastslearning objectsprimary resources  
 
Use Metafinders to help uncover materials quickly.  
Here are some shareable materials from RMIT University Library.  
 

4. Collaborate, Customise & Co-Create: 
Here are some examples: 
 
Customise – Remix an OER by adding your original content with adapted content for your audience. Example: Social Science Research: Principles, Methods and Practices (Revised edition) is an Australian University remixed textbook that has modified the original work to include editing and formatting changes and the inclusion of content in Chapter 16 to describe the Australian context. 
 
Make OERs culturally specific: Localise content to an Australian audience. It can be as simple as using Australian names and places or using local case studies.  
Example: A Charles Darwin University academic teaching Cultural Capability has added four case study chapters written by students. 

Co-create content with your students. Robin De Rosa, a Plymouth State University Professor built an open anthology with her students that is now free to access. 

5. Celebrate Your Success by 
Sharing a new OER resource with the world. 
Mapping student financial savings
Demonstrating impact

RMIT University Library host the Open Textbook Initiative and is interested in highlighting student textbook affordability by building a student savings bank when academic staff adopt an OER textbook in their teaching. This initiative is open to all Universities to participate. Tell us if you are using and OER Textbook in your teaching practice by filling in this form.  

If you’re interested in reading more on OER, have a look at this recently published article by Frank Ponte, Anne Lennox and Jennifer Hurly.

The Evolution of the Open Textbook Initiative. https://doi.org/10.1080/24750158.2021.1883819

Day 4 of Championing the Digital Dexterity Framework Virtual Festival – Using collaboration to understand engagement with OERs

by Susan Vickery, Associate University Librarian, Macquarie University

Day 4 of the CAUL Digital Dexterity Virtual Festival explored the concept of Open Education Resources in Higher Education with Sarah Lambert sharing some of the findings from the research related to Australia Open textbooks as Social Justice, a study funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE).

Whilst the affordability benefits and accessibility options are easily identified as incentives for the use of Open Education Resources, Sarah’s presentation explored the opportunity of OER practice to incorporate diverse perspectives and collaboratively create/curate more inclusive range of learning resources. Sarah also reported that the research identified that some Australian academics may be more ready than we realise with frustration over dated content and limited access conditions associated with commercially produced texts. OER offers a solution to deliver current content that can easily be updated to grow with the knowledge of that field.

So how do we translate that understanding back to our own institutions where some of us may already be worried about the feasibility of convincing our administration that whilst using OER makes perfect sense, are they equally supportive of our academics also “giving it away” for free?

The second part of the Day 4 Digital Dexterity program gave us the opportunity to workshop this together. In teams we explored what we could do in reality to help bring our teaching and learning partners along in the understanding of the wider benefits of collaborating in the practice of Open Education. Led enthusiastically by Kristy Newton (Digital Literacies Coordinator, University of Wollongong) the groups employed a design thinking methodology (on speed) to step through the first few phases: Empathise – Define – Ideate – Prototype – Test.  

persona: Melanie Chang (Undergraduate Student)
●	Summary of Studies:
Melanie worked really hard during her VCE to get a high ATAR in order to study dentistry. Melanie has a family history in dentistry, her father and uncle are both practicing dentists. Before the COVID-19 lockdown, Melanie was only able to buy a couple of her textbooks (in print), as the cost of her textbooks range from $200-$500.

During the lockdown Melanie returned home to Melbourne, this meant her study relied on her teachers making sure all necessary resources were available online.  Chapters from textbooks were uploaded to the LMS by teachers for students to access. Certain textbooks were not able to be provided online as this breached copyright, this led to students sharing PDF copies of chapters through email. All the PDF scans were in black and white, which made it difficult for students to identify symptoms relating to gum disease, infected teeth, etc. Melanie raised this issue with her teacher and the PDFs were uploaded again in colour, this resulted in a delay in vital information required for Melanie's studies.

Melanie’s demanding course schedule means she has no spare time for causal work, thus her parents are supporting her financially. Melanie finds it difficult to ask her parents to buy textbooks on top of paying her rent. Melanie feels it is especially hard to justify the purchase of textbooks that are only going to be used for one semester and as the curriculum is changing next year, there is no option to sell the textbooks to next year’s dentistry students.

●	Icon Info:
○	Lives in Bendigo on campus in a single room with shared amenities with 11 other students
○	Basic Digital Skills, can navigate social media really well and use basic Microsoft software.
○	Collaborative Learner – Able and willing to try new things with friends.
○	Spends most of their time studying
○	Likes catching up with friends outside of class, running, yoga, reading books on her Kindle.

●	Key Factors(Quotes):
○	“I missed the initial library sessions about how to search to find materials, but have picked up some skills using the pre-recorded content and additional resources added to the help guides. It took me awhile to get the basics and I am sure I am still missing heaps of online resources, but you don’t know what you are missing out on I suppose”.
○	“It is really hard not having all your resources in folders waiting for you to use like we did in high school, it is so time consuming searching through databases and library search for good quality items we can use.”

With the help of personas, each team collaborated to brainstorm and identify the needs of academic and students and then define how OERs might meet those needs. At the end of the two hour session we had collectively developed a range of practical ideas and strategies including potential assessment tasks that facilitated students to co-create lists of OERs to complement assigned readings.  

The beauty of this exercise was a enthusiastic high-energy demonstration that through collaboration – surely one of the lynch pins of Open Education – the groups were able to collectively understand and unpack the pain points and related clients’ needs, and creatively identify possible solutions that might influence engagement and uptake of OERs.    


DigiDex – Championing the CAUL Digital Dexterity Framework – Day 4, Thursday 11 February 2021

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Day 1 of Championing the Digital Dexterity Framework Virtual Festival – Setting the scene: the Digital Dexterity Framework, Champions group, and Community of Practice

by Fiona Salisbury, Executive Director and University Librarian, La Trobe University, Australia

What does Digital Dexterity mean for us?

Digital dexterity describes the ability to adapt and change, to create, and to work with digital technologies as the world around us changes.  The ways that people experience knowledge are changing, and university libraries need to continue to change and innovate in this domain.  We need to empower our people and organisations with the ability and desire to exploit existing and emerging technologies for better business, social, economic, educational and research outcomes.

The Digital Dexterity Program

CAUL’s Digital Dexterity Program was established in 2018, following discussion the previous year about the need for a shared understanding of the relevance and role of libraries in building digital capability in higher education institutions.  The Digital Dexterity Program achieved two key outcomes:

  • a national position on digital dexterity, and
  • a sustainable model for building capability amongst member staff

These outcomes addressed the program objectives to:

  • promote awareness of digital dexterity, and
  • ensure graduates have opportunities to develop digital capability.

As a result of this program, CAUL launched the Digital Dexterity Framework in February 2019. At the same time the Digital Dexterity Community of Practice (CoP) was also launched to support  promotion of the Framework and capability building for library staff.

Digital Dexterity Champions

We needed the Digital Dexterity CoP to be a sustainable model for bringing library staff together to share and build their digital capability and support advocacy for digital dexterity.  Accordingly, University Librarians in Australia and New Zealand had the opportunity to each nominate at least one staff member as their Digital Dexterity Champions. 

Being nominated by a University Librarian gave each champion the recognition and support of their institutions to take a leadership role in promoting and advocating for digital dexterity.  The champions were provided with a position statement to guide the achievement of their objectives, together with an advocacy toolkit.

This group has been a dream come true for CAUL. The presentations on Day 1 of the Digital Dexterity Virtual Festival showed that the champions have embraced their role in governance, resource sharing and engagement working groups to support and energise the Digital Dexterity CoP while leading by example.

Digital Dexterity Community of Practice

The Community of Practice (CoP) approach has proven successful in increasing buy-in and representation from a ‘grass-roots’ level, building capability and opportunities for development in an organic, informal way that can also give each member evidence of their learning.

The Digital Dexterity CoP is supported by the Digital Dexterity Champions group, and the Champions are supported individually by their institution and collectively by an industry partnership between CAUL and CAVAL (for guidance and administrative support).

The Champions and members of the CoP are generous, energetic individuals who are passionate about digital dexterity and empowering others.  I’ve been proud to support the great work of the DigiDex Champions and their Community of Practice, and I know they will continue to be an empowering force in this space.

In the comments section below, please let us know whether you have used or adapted the Digital Dexterity Framework at your institution.


DigiDex – Championing the CAUL Digital Dexterity Framework – Day 1, Monday 1 February 2021

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Can OERs address Teaching and Learning challenges in Higher Education?

By Frank Ponte AALIA (CP) Academic/Research, Manager, Library Services (Teaching), RMIT University Library, frank.ponte@rmit.edu.au 


Open Educational Resources (OERs) are teaching, learning and research materials that are published under creative common licenses. These licenses specify how materials can be used.  OERs can include textbooks, curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and software.

Driven by a reduction in international student arrivals, the sharp pivot to emergency online learning and a prolonged period of reduced revenue, universities are now pondering a new normal and envisaging a hybrid learning future. OERs have intersected and underscored many of the teaching and learning challenges faced by higher education institutions and advocates are now considering the efficacy of OERs to address these challenges.

Some of the Teaching and Learning concerns that OERs can address are outlined below:   

  • Student Affordability - Every student begins the semester with the same learning materials and has free digital access. Check these platforms and begin your search.  
  • Ongoing access and accessibility – Free access to learning resources in perpetuity. Access to resources in multiple formats. (select download this book to uncover the formats available.) 
  • Equity - Studies have found that using OER resources in coursework can increase grades for all students, but more so for low socio-economic students and ethnically diverse students.  
  • Retention - Studies suggest that students using OER textbooks were more likely to complete their course than those using commercial texts. 
  • Deeper Learning using Open Educational Practices – Studies suggest that OERs provide academic staff with the flexibility to customize the curriculum altering the student learning experience to achieve deeper engagement.  
  • Cultural diversity: OER’s can be used to reflect the diverse student voice. They can include gender neutral language, reflect the diverse names of students who make-up the classroom and include first nations representation and recognition.

Higher education has been challenged by many social justice issues in 2020, accelerated and reinforced by COVID.  The concepts above are some of the emerging issues that are being examined in higher education. Studies are now suggesting that OERs have a larger part to play in stemming the social justice disparities to create an even playing field for all students. Libraries are at the forefront of this fight demonstrated by this open letter in the United Kingdom signed by over 3000 Librarians, academics, and students to investigate the academic Ebook market and its practices. 

In the next post I will explore the ways to promote and advocate for OER use at your home institution.