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Thursday, October 18 • 10:30am - 11:15am
Moving to OER at AU - An Institutional Strategy

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Supporting the widespread availability of OER is a goal that Athabasca University (AU) has embraced through association with the Commonwealth of Learning and by becoming a charter member of the OER University. The use of OER in AU programs has strategic local implications.

While much of the potential value of OER is expressed as easier, less costly access to content, AU learning designers also focus on their potential as resources for learning activities. One reason for this strategy is the desire to address a traditional weakness of distance education – low learner persistence.

In response to the challenges facing AU as it transforms the university and to the opportunities offered by open educational resources, an OER plan was developed. It captures AU’s strategic and operational approach – one that includes a series of workshops and community conversations designed for internal learning and capacity building across the university, and a series of showcase demonstrations of OER already developed and integrated into courses, with results from student and tutor feedback. These presentations share experiences and stimulate ideas about how using OER in course design may improve productivity by reducing costs, speeding up development, and offering students opportunities for engagement with learning resources in ways that should keep them interested in their studies and focused on their learning.

An inventory of existing OER is being developed for general access through an open repository. Design-based research projects are under way, and a survey of the perspectives of university faculty and staff on OER will soon be delivered. The results will not only provide a benchmark against which we will be able to measure awareness and adoption, but will also serve as an OER readiness tool.

The AU experience has shown that the shift from static proprietary content to dynamic learning environments populated by openly available learning resources needs to be approached as a systemic change with complex and often unanticipated ramifications. Like a brain developing new neural connections, the institution has to open new channels of communication among faculty, designers, developers and copyright officers. The focus shifts to evaluating the reliability of free resources and accepting a certain level of risk with respect to permanence. For externally produced OER that can be appropriated and repurposed, staff technical expertise needs to be fostered. In addition to basic quality of OER, features such as availability of base code, ease of repurposing, and appropriate Creative Commons licensing all must be considered.

Building on the research and practice of online educators and proponents of open educational resources around the world, Athabasca University is positioning itself for greater involvement in the development, adoption, and inclusion of OER into its courses. Recent pilot projects are consistent with the mission to remove barriers that restrict access and limit success in university-level study. Through a commitment to both increased equality and quality of educational opportunity for adult learners worldwide, AU is opening up many aspects of university practice, including course development.

avatar for Dr. Cindy Ives

Dr. Cindy Ives

Professor, Athabasca University
Dr. Cindy Ives is now Professor in the graduate programs in Distance Education at Athabasca University, after a long career as an an instructor, educational developer, researcher, distance educator, course developer, academic administrator, including vice-president academic, and evaluation... Read More →
avatar for Mary Pringle

Mary Pringle

Learning Designer, Centre for Learning Design and Development, Athabasca University
In a world filled with tools, needs, and potential, I try every day to discover what learners already know, what motivates them to learn, how they can best learn with the resources that the course design team can make available to them, and how to demonstrate to learners and administrators... Read More →

Thursday October 18, 2012 10:30am - 11:15am PDT

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