Guest Post: Furthering access, equity and pedagogy: Developing a new OER/OEP resource By Catherine Cronin, Celine Peignen, Claire McAvinia and Angelica Risquez
One year ago, the FemEdTech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education was shared publicly at #OER20. The quilt was a labour of love, coordinated by Frances Bell and created by feminists across multiple continents. #OER20 and the launch of the quilt seem more than just one year ago, after this year like no other. As #OERxDomains21 approaches, we wonder what physical artefact could possibly capture the work of care and justice in open education of this past year. How to describe the work of keeping going, supporting, caring, repairing, calling out injustice, advocating, falling, rising, keeping going – in education and more broadly? We look forward to connecting with all at #OERxDomains21 to consider these and other questions – and to sharing our own open work.
We are four open educators in higher education in Ireland, all actively supporting students and staff who teach across a number of domains, organisations and institutions. During the early months of remote/online teaching, each of us found ourselves sharing with colleagues the potential of open educational resources and practices (OER and OEP) for designing authentic assessments, building/adapting textbooks, developing digital/data literacies, fostering student-staff partnership and furthering equity. We began collaborating last summer with a vision of answering many of the questions we had received and describe the potential of using OER and OEP in various contexts. With the support of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, our plan was to develop an OER/OEP resource, to share and invite feedback on this resource, and later to develop a short professional development course.
The initial resource was released in March 2021; Using OER and OEP for Teaching and Learning is available on the National Forum website and open to all. The resource begins with a section on ‘Understanding Open’, highlighting the main aims of open education, i.e. expanding access, advancing equity and enhancing pedagogy. Three further sections explore Using OER, Creating OER, and Using OEP. The resource curates a wide variety of OER/OEP work and is only possible thanks to many open creators who have shared their work so generously. We credit each of these in the resource, with gratitude.
As a team, each of us has brought our own intentions, experience and positionality to this work. Following is a brief contribution from each of us – we very much look forward to meeting you at #OERxDomains21.
Catherine: As Strategic Education Developer at the National Forum, my role involves engaging with all higher education institutions in Ireland, specifically regarding digital and open education. Revisiting the quilt metaphor, I am aware that there are multiple threads of support for students and staff in the area of open education, e.g. T&L centres, institutional libraries, individual open education/scholarship advocates, personal learning networks, and various types of formal/informal/nonformal professional development. Our aim was that whatever OER/OEP resource the National Forum would produce would not replace or supersede any of these, but rather be complementary to them. Through diverse representation on the development team, a staged development process (inviting and incorporating feedback), and using a very open license (CC BY), we hope that the resource will be useful to all who learn, teach, support and lead in Irish higher education, and beyond.
As a librarian, embracing openness in my profession where knowledge and resources are far too often kept behind paywalls, and rethinking collection development to incorporate the concept of openness were the main factors that drove me towards OER and OEP. I strongly believe libraries have a role to play in raising awareness of OER in the academic community and in supporting our colleagues in a collaborative manner to use, re-use and publish OER. In the current environment where online/remote learning is increasing, libraries also need to become more agile and offer a more diversified and cost efficient range of resources. The library sector must look at OER as sustainable alternatives or supplements to conventional paid for /subscribed resources. Access to resources and equity for all our learners must become a priority for libraries. It is a fantastic opportunity as a librarian to contribute to this resource to support all who learn, teach and the wider community of librarians in the Irish higher education system who are considering exploring OER/OEP or are already using or publishing OER.
Claire: As an educational developer, and previously as a learning technologist, I have worked with staff teaching in higher education over many years using and sharing OER. This process has often started with solving an immediate problem: finding digital resources for particular subject areas, and integrating them with the VLE. This initial practical focus can then evolve towards consideration of how to develop and share resources, and how to adopt OEP in teaching. In my role as one of a team at TU Dublin providing accredited programmes and workshops for staff, we have designed opportunities for staff to develop their own OER and encouraged them to use similar approaches with their own students. To take two examples, modules on Instructional Design and Universal Design are assessed by creation of small digital resources which can be shared later under Creative Commons licences. Webinars focused on OER have drawn large attendances from staff this year; a previous lack of awareness of OER appears to be changing. In my current part-time secondment with the National Forum, I’ve drawn on this experience with staff encountering OER and OEP for the first time to help inform the development of our new resource, which in turn I will use in upcoming professional development activities with colleagues.
OEP is part of my own teaching and scholarly philosophy and from the perspective of my role as an educational developer, I see myself as playing a small part in advocating for it. I am interested in the ways that developing capacity around OER and OEP can address concerns in terms of content creation, copyright compliance, time pressures, etc. I am particularly drawn to the intrinsic benefits of working with a community of practice elements that OEP can bring. Many resources exist on OER and OEP, but we felt there was a need to develop one that is contextualised and localised for the Irish higher education sector, covering specific legislation around copyright, OEP experiences, etc. There is also a clear need for curation: we are aware of many pockets of expertise (for example, we learned so much about great work with OER LibGuides during #OEWeek recently) but there is a need to collect these projects, experiences and approaches; in the process, raising the profile of open educators across and creating new networks. The National Forum recently curated OER/OEP activities across Irish HE during #OEWeek 2021, but this was of course only a partial snapshot. We hope that the Using OER and OEP for Teaching and Learning resource will help to serve that need and inspire conversations about the ways in which OEP can permeate through the sector.
Image alt text: Blue door with small sign reading ‘Welcome, We Are Open’