Tag Archives: OER

Adopting Open Textbooks in the UK

This post was first shared via the Open Education Working Group blog.

In March of 2017 the Open Education Research (OER) Hub received a small grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to assess whether current US models of open textbook adoption would translate to the UK HE context. In a short space of time we put together under the UK Open Textbook Project a team of interested parties, which included David Kernohan and Viv Rolfe this side of the Atlantic, and David Ernst (Open Textbook Network) and OpenStax on American soil.

The cost of textbooks in the US is massive. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that textbook prices have increased by 88% in the past ten years. The average student enrolling in the 2015-16 academic year had to budget between $1230 and $1390 for textbooks and course materials. To put this in context, a loaf of bread is $2.50 and a pint of milk, 40 cents. That’s over 3000 pints of milk and nearly 500 loaves of bread that you’d need to go without in order to purchase your textbooks (and we all know in bad weather what’s the first thing that goes from supermarket shelves). Seriously though, academic performance is also taking a hit: Student PIRGS says that two thirds of students don’t buy a required textbook because they are too expensive, with cost having a negative impact on which and how many courses they register for. Can you imagine how you would cope in your course without the textbook? Research tells us that earning a poor grade, failing or dropping out would not come as a surprise.

The Open Textbook Library defines open textbooks as “textbooks that have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed. These books can be downloaded for no cost, or printed at low cost”. Because they serve to offset the cost of traditional textbooks, open textbooks have a reason to exist, and the fact that $5 million have been put aside by Congress to fund an open textbook grant program demonstrates that in the US the issue is treated with grave concern. However, is cost a valid argument to adopt open textbooks in the UK? In a recent report on the financial position of students in higher education in England, commissioned by the Department for Education we learn that:

“Compared with the cost of tuition fees, expenditure on direct course costs made up a smaller proportion of full-time students’ participation costs – they spent on average £512 (six per cent of total participation costs) on these items in the 2014/15 academic year. Fulltime students spent the most on computers (£253), followed by printing, photocopying and stationery (£105), then books (£101) and other equipment (£31).” (p. 279)

£101 does not sound like a lot of money, does it? Students in England are delivered a brutal blow by having to pay fees of £9000 a year, not by the amount of money spent on textbooks. It is true that we don’t want to add to their woes and anything we can save them comes as a bonus. What I’d like to highlight here is that if open textbooks are to be adopted in the UK, we need to look beyond cost and sing out loud what we (teachers and students) can do with an open textbook that we can’t do with a traditional textbook. My emphasis in the above definition has to be on “licensed to be freely used, adapted and distributed”.

As part of the work carried out by the UK Open Textbooks Project, the team ran a total of fourteen workshops in eight HE institutions in England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. The aim of these was to raise awareness of open textbooks and to invite participants to review an open textbook from the Open Textbook Library. As it happened, I facilitated workshops in Glasgow Caledonian University, where registration fees are zero pounds, and NUIGalway, where students pay a ‘contribution’ of €3000 per year. Neither of these universities would see cost as the only swinging logic to use an open textbook in the classroom, but both could reasonably buy into the idea of an open textbook as a living creature that can be adapted ad libitum. An open textbook is more than free; it is free with permissions; permission to reorder chapters, localise examples, translate into any language, add content to, delete paragraphs, link to external sources, and more. More. More. Think about it. Ask your students to think about it.

If you do and you’d like our support, get in touch: @UKOpenTextbooks.

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Call for papers – Special collection: Open Education in Latin America

 

LACLO

As we prepared to get the IV Workshop Recursos Educativos Abiertos (WREA) off the ground, my co-chairs and myself discussed the possibility of also co-editing a special collection of papers in the Journal of Interactive Media in Education with a focus on open education in Latin America and the Caribbean. Here it is. Nunca es tarde si la dicha es buena.

JIME Latin American Special Collection CfP

Last April representatives from 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in São Paulo to discuss the recommendations that would be put forward to the 2nd World OER Congress in relation to mainstreaming OER to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal on Quality Education. During the discussions that preceded these recommendations, it was noted that countries in Latin America are still in the early stages of adopting OER. This delayed uptake was firstly attributed to the lack of visibility of existing open education initiatives in the region. In this Special Collection the co-editors seek to highlight issues and challenges emerging from the effective implementation of OER policies, initiatives and projects in Latin America; and showcase research on the process of adoption and impact of the use of OER in educational settings in the region.

We invite contributions to JIME, for a special collection issue on open education in Latin America. Submissions to JIME should have a clear educational focus or application, and should illuminate the special contribution that digital media can make to learners’ knowledge, understanding or skill. Submissions are expected to advance knowledge in the field in some way, by developing theory, or critiquing existing work, or providing an analysis or framework for understanding empirical findings.

Different kinds of submissions will be judged by different criteria. Ideally, we are looking for integrated submissions that present the theoretical basis for a technology, its design process and implementation, its evaluation, and theoretical implications. However, one or more of these aspects may form the basis for a submission.

For this issue on Open Education in Latin America and the Caribbean, themes include but are not limited to:

  • Financing models for the effective implementation of OER policies and practices
  • Strategies for the adoption and sustainability of OER
  • Challenges for mainstreaming OER/OEP
  • Innovative technologies that promote and sustain OER/OEP
  • Overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers
  • Open pedagogy and approaches to teaching and learning based on openness.

Contributors should take account of JIME’s guidelines for submissions.

    • March 17th 2018: manuscripts due
    • Summer 2018: issue published

The co-editors will be:
Tel Amiel, Universidade de Campinas, Brazil
Beatriz de los Arcos, The Open University, UK
Ismar Frango, Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, Brazil and
Virginia Rodés, Universidad de la República, Uruguay.

Featured image: Educación pública, B. de los Arcos CC BY-NC 2.0

OER in schools

Despite great initiatives like the DigiLit Leicester project on these shores and K12 OER Collaborative in the US, OER folks’ attention does not focus often enough on the K-12/school scene. TJ Bliss writes “If we want OER to become the default, we need people to use OER and to know that they are using OER. In my experience, lack of OER awareness runs mostly unopposed among schoolteachers, who more than anyone should be supported in championing open education.

If you do a quick search for studies of OER use in schools, the return is only a handful of publications and reports. Our open-access paper to come out hopefully in the next few months will help fill this gap. In the meantime, the infographic below presents a frequencies analysis of data collected from surveys conducted by the OERRH until December 2014, in total a sample of 657 K-12/school educators across the globe. Open Education week is nearly over and we are seeing it out with a bang!

Download pdf here.

Data on the use of OER by school educators

OCWC Global 2014

DSCN0105

CC BY-NC celTatis

I love this photo. The fourth dragon that guards Zmajski Most, one of the bridges over Ljubljanica river in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I was there in April to present at OCWC Global 2014; I took it on a quick rambling out, while I searched for a scarf to cover an accidental spillage of marmalade over the one and only item of formal attire that I had packed, which would spare me the embarrassment of collecting an award wearing a sticky, albeit elegant black jacket. OCWC Global 2014 certainly knocked OpenEd 13 off the top spot in my list of great-to-have-been-here conferences. There was a lot of work, some happy chats and more serious conversations, glorious food to partake and the odd Laško, always in very good company. Below are the slides for my talk Flipping with OER: K12 teachers’ views of the impact of open practices on students, and also the recording; you can read the proceedings here, and if you are curious about what else happened to the OER Research Hub team, I’m happy to refer you to A is for April, the post I wrote in the project’s blog.


Flipping with OER: K12 teachers’ views of the impact of open practices on students

 

I flip, you flip, she flips…

I’m off to Belfast tomorrow for a Staff Development Languages Day at The Open University’s elegant headquarters on Victoria Street. I usually enjoy these gatherings very much; there are few of us languages tutors in Ireland compared to the other regions and nations, and Saturday will be a much welcomed chance to catch up face-to-face –some of us have been tutoring with the OU for 15 years already! It’ll be an action-packed day: Jing, wikis and HEA membership apart from the usual updates on the nitty-gritty of life as an AL. My slot will be about OER and flipped learning; one thought often occupies my mind these days and it is how the flipped class can be better if teachers flip with OER, so that’s the question I’ll be putting to my colleagues, ‘what does OER use bring to the flipped (language) classroom?’ I was asked to send a handout to be photocopied and handed out (obviously!), but I think sharing here is better –it saves a couple of trees from the chop to counterbalance my embarrassingly high CO2 imprint.

See my slides below: an overview of the OER Research Hub Project, the OER Impact Map and flipped learning as prelude to, I hope, an open discussion on the benefits (or not) of OER-ing.

Flipped Learning and OER: Survey Results

Yesterday the Flipped Learning Network (FLN) announced a formal definition of ‘flipped learning’, a timely reminder for me to share the results of the survey that the OERRHub Project conducted with flipped educators to find out about their use of open educational resources (OER). I blogged about our relationship with the FLN and how this research piece came to be at the launch of an infographic featuring some of these data; here comes a recap and more.

Sample

109 U.S. teachers practising flipped learning in their K12 classrooms completed the questionnaire. A majority (68.8%, n=75) have over ten years of teaching experience but have been using the flipped model for two or less than two years (91.7%, n=100). Subject-wise Science (37.3%, n=40) and Math (32.7%, n=35) top the poll, followed by Social Studies (20.6%, n=22) and World Languages (10.3%, n=11). More teachers are flipping their classrooms in the higher grades –67.8% (n=74) in K9-12 as opposed to 8.2% (n=9) in K2-5. Most teach in suburban schools (63.2% n=67), while rural and urban communities figure less often, 20.7% (n=22) and 16% (n=17) respectively. 61.5% (n=67) of respondents are based in districts where the percentage of students on free or reduced lunch is below 50%. This profile is consistent with that reported in June 2012 following a previous survey of 450 flipped educators, on which we based our demographic questions (see Improve student learning and teacher satisfaction in one Flip of the Classroom). In other details, we learn that a huge majority of these teachers have accessed the internet at home using a broadband connection (98.2%, n=107); they present their work at staff development events (74.8%, n=80) but are not in the habit of publishing their teaching presentations publicly online (11.2%, n=12).

To use or to adapt, is that the question?

Not really, the percentage of teachers who say they adapt resources to fit their needs in a flipped classroom (82.5%, n=90) is much higher that those who report using resources as they find them (17.4%, n=19). The pattern is repeated across grade levels (see chart below). Note that only 2 teachers in K2 answered the survey.

USEorADAPT

Types of resources

It does not come as a surprise that 95.3% of respondents select videos when asked to indicate the types of free online resources they use in the flipped classroom; after all, moving instruction outside the group learning space into the individual learning space, the essence of a flipped class, is most commonly done by means of recording videos and asking kids to watch them as homework. The percentage of teachers who report they use images is even higher (96.2%, n=102) but other online resources slip down the ranks: 56.6% (n=60) use interactive games, 51.9% (n=55) use tutorials and 46.2% (n=49) quizzes. What is interesting is that when compared with the types of resources flipped educators create, images drop to 33.3% (n=30) while videos keep their high position (83.3%, n=75).  This clearly suggests that teachers are following the advice from flipped class pioneer Jon Bergmann that making your own videos helps teachers establish a relationship with students. What I find puzzling is that in an age when it is so easy to snap and share, these teachers are mainly consumers and not producers of images.  Another interesting point was noted by Kari Arfstrom, Executive Director of the FLN, during her visit last September: the difference between teachers who create and use quizzes is slightly skewed towards production, 57.8% (n=52) against 46.2% (n=49), perhaps an indication that they prefer to set their own tests, as they have a better overview of how students have responded to the content taught.

Types Used vs Adapted

Creating OER?

43.3% (n=42) of teachers in our sample report that they create resources and share them publicly online; however, the number of teachers who say that they create resources and share them publicly online under a Creative Commons license drops significantly to 5.1% (n=5). In connection with this, 47.2% (n=46) say that they are familiar with the CC logo and its meaning, which still leaves an important proportion of respondents declaring that they either have not seen the CC logo, or they have seen it but do not know what it means. As for open licensing, 70.1% (n=68) consider it is important or very important when using resources in their teaching.

Repositories and sharing

The chart below shows the most common repositories accessed by flipped educators in our sample when looking for free online resources. YouTube, YouTubeEdu and YouTubeSchool (93.4%, n=99), together with TED talks (66.9%, n=71) and iTunesU (54.7%, n=58) unsurprisingly rank amongst the most popular. Slightly unexpected in my opinion is how little knowledge there is of major repositories of resources for the K12 sector –note, for instance, CK12 (16.9%, n=18) or Curriki (7.5%, n=8).

Repositories

What do teachers do when they access these repositories? The most common behaviour is downloading resources, 81.4% (n=70). Then 38.3% (n=33) say that they have uploaded a resource, 30.2% (n=26) that they have added comments regarding the quality of a resource, and 15.1% (n=13) that they have added comments suggesting ways of using a resource. The most popular way of sharing is via email (89.5%, n=94) and in person (67.6%, n=71).

Purposes of using OER

The chart below shows responses to the question For which of the following purposes have you used free online resources in the context of flipped learning?

Purposes

Challenges to using OER

When asked about the challenges that they most often face when using free online resources, 70.4% (n=69) of respondents in our sample indicate that they do not have enough time to look for suitable material;  for 65.3% (n=64) it is finding resources of sufficient high quality, and for 59.1% (n=58) finding suitable resources in their subject area. Equally interesting is what they consider the smallest challenges: not knowing how to use the resources in the classroom (7.1%, n=7); lacking institutional support for their use of free online resources (13.2%, n=13); and resources not being aligned with professional standards or regulation (14.2%, n=14). If anyone doubted the technical abilities of teachers, only 15.3%  (n=15) think that not being skilled enough to edit resources to suit their own context is a barrier to using OER. And a personal favourite of mine: a skimpy 29.5% (n=29) declare that not knowing whether they have permission to use or modify resources would actually stop them from using them. If we imply then that roughly 70% know when they are allowed to adapt a resource (which is consistent with the number of teachers who say they care about open licensing), how come the percentage of those aware of Creative Commons licenses is much smaller?

Impact on teaching practices

93.8% (n=91) of K12 teachers in our sample agree or strongly agree that as a result of using OER in the flipped class they use a broader range of teaching and learning methods –indeed I would argue that this is exactly what the flipped model facilitates: what is the best use of my classroom time? Not lecturing at students for forty minutes but opening up the space to different, more engaging and participative ways of learning. 89.7% (n=87) agree or strongly agree that they make use of a wider range of multimedia, and 88.6% (n=86) that they reflect more on the way that they teach. Where K12 teachers say their use of OER has had the least impact on their teaching practice can be listed as follows:

  • I make more use of culturally diverse resources (51.4%, n=49)
  • I have more up-to-date knowledge of my subject area (69%, n=67)
  • I more frequently compare my own teaching with others (70.1%, n=68)
  • I collaborate more with colleagues (70.1%, n=68)

Impact on students

91% (n=81) of teachers agree or strongly agree that their use of OER allows them to better accommodate the needs of diverse learners, a thought that resonates with the benefits of flipping the class: teachers have more one-to-one time with students, and students are often allowed to progress at their own pace.  It has been previously recorded (see for instance A Case Study: Flipped Learning Model Increases Student Engagement and Performance) that flipping the classroom makes for happier students; flipping with OER does not seem to deviate from this: 85.2% (n=75) of K12 teachers agree or strongly agree that their use of OER in the flipped class increases learners’ satisfaction with the learning experience. In third spot comes a statement that invites to think of teaching as forging personalities: 81.8% (n= 71) agree or strongly agree that their OER use helps develop learners’ increased independence and self-reliance. At the other end of the spectrum, only 42% (n=37) agree or strongly agree that using OER has any bearing on students at risk of withdrawing actually continuing with their studies; 52.8% (n=47) that it leads to learners becoming interested in a wider range of subjects than before; and 59.5% (n=53) that it increases their enthusiasm for future study.

The Lobster Connection

Lobster Car Reg

Friday, May 3rd, 2013. I’m in Scarborough Middle School, Maine, US. A banner across the entrance hall reads ‘You Are Now Entering THE KINDNESS ZONE’, a caution for bullies to take a break, I’m told. I’m here with Sarah Morriseau from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to visit Mrs. B’s science class. The kids have been working with Vital Signs for the past week and today we are going on a field trip in search of the hemlock tree’s least welcomed resident (at least in these latitudes), the Woolly Adelgid. On the whiteboard Mrs. B has written a note on team jobs: one photographer, two species specialists and one data manager. Kids buzz around while she reminds everyone to be respectful of nature: ‘We are not destroying anything’. And out we go, pass the school’s sport grounds, beyond the pond and into the forest armed with species identity cards and datasheets. Forty minutes won’t count for much if your mind is not on the job. Kids quickly scatter looking for hemlock trees first, then tiny nymphs. We found it! Are you sure? Check against the ID card. Where’s your evidence? The mobile phone comes out. Take a photo. You hold it. That’s great.

Vital Signs ID CardOn Monday I’m back in the classroom. On the way the taxi driver has assured me that the next president will certainly be a latino; that’ll be interesting, I think. Another glorious day weather-wise, pity we are staying indoors. Today the reminder on the whiteboard is for kids to check their datasheets: No blanks! warns Mrs. B. Team Wolverine’s data manager seems to struggle to fill the space about what happened when they were collecting data. The blank in question: ‘I am happy because…’ Are you not happy that you found the species?, I ask. ‘Well, yes but I’m sad too…’ comes his reply. ‘At least now you know where it is!’, me, always the arch-positive. ‘Oh yes!’ The pencil rushes. I wonder have I interfered with human history…

This is Vital Signs in action. It’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable research trip, really. The OER Research Hub project is collaborating with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, in particular looking at Vital Signs, a citizen science program for middle school students in Maine.  The project is funded by Hewlett and its content released under a under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 3.0 License. The idea is genius. Scientists, keen on mapping the extent of invasive species in Maine, propose a mission on the Vital Signs website, i.e. Where is the hemlock woolly adelgid? Where isn’t it? Teachers organise kids to collect data that are then published online and verified by a species expert. Sarah Kirn, Vital Signs Program Manager, explains it better: “The emphasis is not on finding a species but on the evidence that you are collecting to back up your claim; (…) in science, just as important as what you don’t see is what you do see, and that’s not an intuitive point for kids. So (…) you get one of these species cards, go outside, you look to see whether you’ve found it or not, you make a claim, I did find or I didn’t find it and you back it up with evidence. You collect all that information and upload it to the website. You have to do a peer quality check first: students working in teams trade computers, each team look at each others work (…) What’s the quality of the statements that you made? Have you been very thorough and precise about your language and in describing things? Did you take the photographs that capture the most important characteristics of the species that you were looking at? (…) In the evidence and the critique there’s a lot of opportunity to work on critical thinking and reasoning.” Vital Signs is about learning science by doing science. ‘My kids are real scientists and this is real science that we are doing’, says Mrs. P. in Dover-Foxcroft – Se Do Mo Cha Middle School. And she adds: ‘I don’t care if they can identify a dragonfly. What I care about is that they can follow the process trying to identify what bug it is that we found that day (…) Ten years from now it doesn’t matter if they can still identify a dragonfly, but it does matter that they remember the scientific experience and how positive it was for them’.

You can listen to an edited version of my interview with Sarah Kirn here.

On my first day in Portland, I visit the Cohen Center for Interactive Learning at GMRI, where 5th and 6th grade students come for a fantastic hands-on science LabVenture. In one of the tanks the blue lobster has molted, which apparently makes it more vulnerable to other tank inhabitants with great appetites. Judging by what’s on the menu in most restaurants in town, better in than out, I’d say.