Part 2 of a 3 part series.
In my previous post, I discussed a number of the problems facing OERs. To recap, they were:
- Quality Control
- Searchability and Indexing
With this post, I’m going to brainstorm ideas and solutions to the particular issues surrounding OERs.
Quality Control Solutions
Nothing new here, just a need to define “who” the authority is for reviewing an OER (beyond the teacher). The authority should have some type of credentials or proof that they are, in fact, an authority in the content area of the OER.
In Ohio, a number of organizations come to mind. InfOhio, ITCs, ESCs, various school consortiums, even (fingers crossed) the state.
When authority is defined, some type of system also needs to be put in place to verify an OER is reviewed.
Wisdom of the Masses
On the opposite side of defining authority is using the wisdom of the masses. In this type of system, you have the masses up voting or down voting resources based on their quality. Similar to Reddit, Amazon reviews, or Digg.
This solution has its own challenges. First, you need critical mass to leverage the wisdom of masses. An OER watering hole where educators hang with fellow nerds. Second, sometimes the masses aren’t very wise (see Jaron Lanier’s Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism).
The best solution would likely be a hybrid of sorts. A collective place to share and vote – but giving extra-weight to authority. Or possibly a curated collection of highest voted OERs. Wikipedia and BetterLesson have elements of this as well.
Searchability and Indexing Solutions
To some extent, InfOhio has laid some groundwork in this area with their iSearch feature (although this doesn’t necessarily search for OERs). Other organizations such as OER Commons and Search Creative Commons are making solid strides as well.
Personally, I would like the next level of searchability with an open API that allows districts to tie their curriculum platforms with a robust OER search engine. OER Commons has this. Abre will soon have APIs available as well.
OER Portability Solutions
This is not a new problem and others have put forth some solutions. SCORM, IMS Global, Tin Can API: All are possible approaches to a portable “unit” of learning. The geek in me really likes them. The pragmatist in me gets that their complexity prohibits widespread adoption. Your average teacher (much less technologist) is going to interface with an API. The problem is that this is very much a difficult problem to solve without complexity. That said, we can look at popular models to get some ideas on how we might grow OERs.
Take OverDrive as an example. When I want to read Thinking, Fast and Slow I follow this procedure:
- Login to my library account
- Click Overdrive
- Select Thinking Fast and Slow
- Pick how I want to read the book.
Step four is key. I’m given simple options: Amazon Kindle, ePub, web, PDF. While not exactly platform agnostic, the creator/publisher does pick the top 4 platforms (three of which are pretty open) to allow 95% of the market access to their content.
Was I a betting man, I would bet the development of OERs using web standards (especially with the recent announcement of the merging of the two major consortiums W3C and IDP). Then the issue becomes how to “extract” an OER made with web standards into whatever flavor of platform a school or district uses.
The key is keeping OERs as open as possible in their original form. I might create a Word Document worksheet and give it a Creative Commons License. It’s technically an OER. But if I want to build on that worksheet I really need to own Office. (This is a bit of a gray area. Microsoft would say that docx is technically an open XML format. But I’ve had many a Word Doc blow up when trying to open it with any other program other than MS Office).
Next Post: Open Education Resources: Marketplace Model