This post is about an imaginary digital skills course for teachers. It forms part of the assignments for the Open Learning MOOC, h817open, from the Open University, which I am following, along with about 500 others around the world.
Let’s imagine we are constructing a course in digital skills for an identified group of learners (in this case, secondary school teachers). It is a short, online course aimed at providing these learners with a set of resources for developing ‘digital skills’. It runs for five weeks, with a different subject each week, accounting for about six hours study per week.
Week 1 – Overview of the course and applications
The first week will provide an orientation for students of the meaning of “digital” in context of the course aims. It will provide examples of the application of digital systems including information storage, service providers, platforms and software. The course teaching channels will be exercised and illustration of productivity tools will be included.
Week 2 – Finding information
This week will consider the public repositories of knowledge and how this information is accessed. Search engine skills will be developed, licensing and copyright briefly addressed, and the issue of using crowdsourced repositories such as Wikipedia will be considered.
Week 3 – Blogging and other forms of publishing to the web
A look at the different ways that publishers of blogs and other material on the web do so. We will look at hosting, domains, tagging and search engine optimisation.
Week 4 – Media production and publishing
Audio podcasting and video methods will be explored including equipment, tools and software to produce both audio and video pieces for publication. An evaluation of some of the available channels will be made.
Week 5 – Getting interactive and a miniproject
The final week will look at video conferencing and collaboration and will include a joint project to produce a multi-channel digital artefact from the school curriculum for pupil use. Students will be expected to plan and produce a homework task for pupils from which pupils may obtain all of the necessary information to complete and digitally submit a short assignment. The task should be available online and should include at least three of text, video, audio or image.
Repository survey and evaluation
The following table identifies how useful each of the six OER repositories seem to be for the above course outline.
|1||Overview and applications||Bad||Good||Bad||Medium||Bad||Good|
|5||Interactive and project||Bad||Good||Medium||Bad||Good||Bad|
I used the same search string for each week’s intention, in each of the six providers’ search engines. Notice that this is bit of a blunt instrument to make comparisons about these organisations but for the purpose of this exercise I found that Ariadne and Merlot both reported almost nothing of any use, whereas Jorum reported a rich set of useful results in every search. Ironically, the Jorum results often included materials from the Open University when the OU search drew a blank. The OU, MIT and Rice were a mixed bag.
Clearly there is something worthy of further investigation here, and as an OER user I would expect to spend considerably more time looking into the best way to make use of these repositories in order to find great resources for my online courses.
There is nothing in this exercise that has made me alter the course content, although this is quite broadly defined in my head at the moment. I took the approach of looking out resources within the search results that might provide sufficient appropriate material so as to offer a good learning experience for the intended students when put together in the course. I think that there is the potential for significant time saving in the use of OER within online learning provision and certainly when it is used as extension or support material in more traditional or blended learning environments.
Accessibility should be addressed where demand exists by offering information and guidance on the use of appropriate services. Material formats can be altered where this aids transcoding for, e.g., text-to-audio renderers.