April 7, 2013

H817 Activity 7: Issues with OERs.


Three key issues in OER based on selected readings from http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/3487/references
Articles
Hylén, J. & Schuller, T., 2007. Giving knowledge for free. OECD Observer, 263. http://www.oecd.org/document41/0,3343,en_2649_35845581_38659497_1_1_1_1,00.html

Hatakka, M. (2009), ‘Build it and they will come? – Inhibiting factors for reuse of open content in developing countries’, in EJISDC - The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, Vol. 37, n. 5, pp. 1-16 http://www.ejisdc.org/ojs2/index.php/ejisdc/article/view/545/279

Context
Using OER in Developing Countries or Least Developed Countries at any level of education.
KEY ISSUE 1: Localisation of OER material
Language is a big issue. I found that while I was working in a country with three official language, one being English, using English resources still required some interpretation. Support was required for the resources to be used effectively. Most of the people I worked with had 3-4 languages. If English was 3rd or 4th then there required a fair bit of translation of the OER into the language that the client was more proficient in.
While you can say somebody using a Microsoft operating system should be able to use Microsoft Open Resources, the language used in these resources is quite often prohibitive to the learner. The message could be transmitted much simplier using a cut-down version of the original OER.
This article mentions the “style of language” rather than the actual words used. The Style of Microsoft training material can be quite formal and unnecessarily verbose. This can be quite a barrier to a novice user and most users will stop using the material if there is no other support available.

KEY ISSUE 2: Lack of Infrastructure
Internet access in urban areas may be more available and faster versus more rural areas or other islands within a country. While it might be tempting by an outsider to say that the OER should be used across all areas the reality might be that it is only practical to use it with fast and reliable internet and hence parts of the organisation may take much longer to access it or miss out all together.  
Lightweight content (does not use much bandwidth) might be more attractive to use but may not have the level of pedagogy sophistication that could be required in the area of study. This then brings the challenge of again using specialist labour to build the content to a sufficient standard.
Hardware – older computers, sufficient to run very basic tasks, struggle with the load of OER that were not downloadable but run online. It then may be more attractive for the students to use older, existing paper-based resources to save the hassle of downloading.
Software – while a basic browser and flash program might be reasonable to expect, it required a base level of software that in some developing countries is part of the learning curve of managing a network and not a reality.

KEY ISSUE 3: Finding, Promoting and Encouraging Use of OER (or is that three issues?)
Finding: This often requires a person with specialised knowledge and ability to use search engines. In a Developing Country this usually means that a consultant has been made available to the section of Government or Community to find the resource.
Promoting: Again this usually falls into the lap of the person finding the OER. Although the original requirement has come from the overarching organisation, the promotion activities are specialised and need to be conducted in the correct cultural and organisational perspective to get the buy-in of the senior management.
Encouraging: This important feature is often missed and I think this is why great OER’s are not used or completed. While the first two steps might have been completed, if the ongoing encouragement of the use of the OER (through badges or organisational recognition) does not happen the learner may easily get dissuaded from using the OER. Extra support may also be required if the study is expected to take a long time and cover a number of subjects. The encouragement role should be somebody local and spread across more than one person to preserve continuity.

These readings have opened up a whole realm of issues that need further analysis but this will do for now! I will keep moving onward in this Open Education journey.