Last Friday I was fortunate enough to attend 2 panel discussions on the use of OER in higher education. It was a bit of an occasion as one of the panels included a few board members of the Opencourseware Consortium (on a side note, UWC is a member of the OCW Consortium). This post is really just a few of the comments made during the panels.
The session began with a welcome message by the university’s Chancellor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a wonderful man who is always a pleasure to listen to. Something he said struck a chord with me, as I’ve been reflecting on this issue with my students in the ethics module I teach. He said to remember that we are not second rate, and that we don’t have to apologise for who we are. This is important because so often I find that my students lack self-confidence and seem almost apologetic for even being here. The history of this particular institution seems to haunt them, and they can’t seem to shake the belief that their degree isn’t worth the same as one from another university. This is obviously a deep issue that I’m not going to go into here, but I just wanted to mention that comment.
The Vice-Chancellor also made an interesting point in his short welcome address. That is, a redistribution of wealth from the rich 10% won’t significantly improve the lot of the poor 90%. Only by empowering the majority of the people to make their own change, can the country move forward.
The other comments I made a note of included the following:
Andy Lane (Open University, UK): OER is not just good to do. It’s about some form of social justice.
Neil Butcher (OER Africa, South Africa): Curricular frameworks must drive the development of OER i.e. content is not the focus, content comes after pedagogy
Derek Keats (Wits University, South Africa): 1) When content is free, students can use scarce financial resources to acquire technology, which opens up access to an even greater body of content. 2) When institutional strategy is developed around OER, faculty pushback can be reduced
N.B: 1) Institutional pushback is reduced when the OER conversation happens around better ways of addressing faculty and student needs. 2) The content is infrastructure.
Philip Schmidt (Peer 2 Peer University): When lecturers become "internet superstars", they can teach a greater body of students than any traditional lecturer could teach in a lifetime. This reduces the emphasis on formal recognition of professional development.
Ultimately, OER is about content, but I’m more interested to know if it has a role to play in changing teaching and learning practice?