Reusability Paradox etc. change11

I’m falling seriously behind with the change mooc for  a number of reasons. Whilst I am mindful that i shall get most out of the course if I follow in real-time, I dont want to just skip the few weeks that fell by the wayside, especially as they touch on topics close to my own heart.

A few weeks ago, David Wiley led a week on open learning. I didn’t manage to attend his sync session, but read his position paper, which related ideas which I have followed over the last decade or so. For almost half of that time, I was  involved in working on various JISC projects related to open learning, specifically the reload project which looked at standardisation of packaging and description of Learning Objects and later the creation and reuse of learning designs. Over those years (2002-2006) I spent a lot of time thinking about some of the motivations and practicalities of reusing learning materials. I always felt there was a mismatch between what funders such as this tried to promote and what learners and academics needed in the way of learning materials. Although I am no longer directly involved in this area of work, in the Caledonian Academy we have retained an involvement in what are now called open educational resources projects, so the ideas are never far away.
David’s summary of the reusability paradox reminded me of my views on learning objects and reuse of learning materials. As well as the tension between the complexity of  a piece of  learning material and its potential for reuse in another context, I have a number of other issues:

  • whole course or lesson chunks of material work well in college level education and other contexts where there are standardised curricula, but they are go against the tradition in HE where a course at two different universities will differ significantly because the lecturers who deliver the course have different research interests and backgrounds and are actually defined by their diversity not their similarity (yes I know standard curriculaare  becoming more prevalent, and there are instances of standardised curricula controlled by professional bodies)
  • teachers and lecturers fundamentally don’t want designs or content for whole courses or even whole lessons. Instead, when delivering a new course they bring together their own notes, resources, perhaps lecture notes from a previous lecturer etc then look for gaps and fill these in. Only once they have delivered the course and start to develop a feel for what is working and what is not working do they begin to seek external sources of learning material – and at that point what they want are specific solutions to problems they have (as an aside, designing content around threshold concepts has felt like an interesting avenue to explore in this regard).
  • finally, what do learners want? We know that learners constantly find learning resources using google – on the whole these learning resources aren’t bundled up in a standard way, nor do they come with accompanying learning objectives/outcomes etc. Maybe there isa  research project somewhere where we analyse what useful resources (ie the ones learners use) look like.

Answers … I feel I have been quite negative above, but it’s not all doom and gloom. I think going up a level and promoting open text-books would be a grear idea – this is sufficiently ‘removed’ from lesson plans and learning objects/oers that some of my ‘issues’ disappear.

Author: Colin Milligan

Learning researcher based at Glasgow Caledonian University, and living in beautiful West Stirlingshire.

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