As part of MDDE 622, "Openness in Education" we were tasked to create a learning module comprised of open resources. The course instructions offered the following guidance: "[s]elect an area of interest, preferably related to your work, and produce a learning module comprised entirely of open educational resources. This module should include a variety of texts, activities, and videos and should take a learner a minimum of one hour to complete." (MDDE 622, n.d.). As the concepts described in the course were my inherent area of interest, I created a module introducing open educational resources (OER), using OER, and used Tumblr as a platform to deliver the module.
This course marked my first elective as part of my program, and I was so excited. I had become interested in the idea of "open" following a debacle that occurred on social media after it was learned that the department I work for on campus had trademarked the portmanteau "OpenEd". This happened in the summer of 2015 and in the lead up to the 12th annual Open Education conference in Vancouver, many proponents of the open movement were (understandably) upset. Questions had been raised, and I was interested in finding the answers. More, I was excited to take a course instructed by Dr. George Siemens, as I had followed him on Twitter for some time, and I knew that he was a respected scholar in this area.
Beyond this, I chose this artefact for a few reasons. As noted in my learning goals, I wanted to improve my instructional design practice. While I did complete another learning module for MDDE 604: Instructional Design in DE, I was interested in reviewing this module from MDDE 622 as it allowed me a bit more freedom of experimentation. Meaning, that while I believe it demonstrates a systematic approach to design and constructive alignment (2,5), it also was delivered in an unusual way, given that I selected Tumblr as a platform (3,1;3,5). Furthermore, I always have tried to find synergies in my studies and my work, and I appreciated that this assessment made explicit the encouragement to do so (2,7). Since, I have shared this module with others as a means to improve understanding of open education resources in our post-secondary context, and while the field is evolving (and thus, this module may require an update), I think it exists as a great example of how our studies can intersect meaningfully with our professional pursuits.
Click on the image below to visit "OpenCuteKitten" on Tumblr.
I wondered at the time of this activity if I was perhaps taking the easy road - it may have been harder to find OER on other topics. After all, most things produced for OER advocacy, are inherently "open". That being said, I wanted a work product that would have value beyond the scope of the course (2,7), and so I focused my efforts mainly on the instructional design process and curating current quality content (1,4; 1,5). I ensured that the module offered clearly defined learning outcomes, and that the content and activities that followed, were in alignment with the stated goals (2,5). Most of the content in this area is licensed in a way that ensured its use (CC-BY). One challenge I had, which was unexpected, was that it was difficult to find a short OER explainer video, which I wanted to include to have varied content types. Interestingly, the best one I found was on Vimeo, but there was no license clearly referenced (1,1; 1,2). I contacted the creator (through commenting) in the hopes of confirming permissions, but unfortunately never had a response. While it was tempting to include it anyway, I opted for media that was clearly licensed. Otherwise, I was able to find many useful content items to provide a breadth and depth to the module, and in some cases was able to remix content (while still providing attribution) for my purpose (1,4;1,5;5,3). While it was at first difficult to conceive how to make the module overly interactive using the Tumblr platform, I feel that the opportunities for participation that I included were creative and in the spirit of establishing a community of learners (2,3;2,4). In the end, I feel that I employed a creative approach to the design of a distance education learning object, and was satisfied with the output (1,11;2,5).
I have shared this module with some following its inception. Interestingly, the url was initially "OpenGuelph", but I was asked to change the title as the flames were still being fanned about the marking mentioned above (it was released). I selected the title "OpenCuteKitten" as a nod to a blog post authored by Dr. Siemens on his Connectivism blog in 2009 (hopefully this link works, I had to use the Wayback Machine!). It his post, he wonders if the trend toward OER adoption is just another manifestation of what he called "Cute Kitten Syndrome" and goes on to offer critical commentary stating "OERs are window dressing if systems and structures of education do not change" (Siemens, 2009). I include this here as it is interesting to reflect on this post almost a decade later (1,7). I would argue that despite the fact that "change" (any) in higher education systems is a slow moving beast, we have come a long way these last 9 years in terms of all things "open". In Canada, we have entire textbook libraries that are open, and while that is exciting, it is not nearly as important as the growing conversations around open educational practices and pedagogies . As others have noted, a focus on "open" textbooks alone merely perpetuates the same systemic ideologies and reinforces the notion that content is king (2,6).
I think the conversation *has* evolved in the last three years, and while it is still often complex, it is most often increasingly forethoughtful of the myriad other ways that open education should be, and the ways that it can support and improve open and distance learning opportunities (1,10;2,6;3,4). Since this course, I have been fortunate to work alongside colleagues on open initiatives, motivated by a shared belief that a move to open is one concerned with social justice. Most recently, eCampus Ontario has worked with the provincial government to place emphasis on the need to consider open education options in the post-secondary curriculum. Following a program launch last spring, they corralled a group of Ontario educators to collaborate as "Open Rangers" and to share knowledge and advocate for open education practices on our campuses. More recently, I was fortunate to travel to OpenCon in Berlin, where I learned from so many passionate scholars and educators from around the world. I continue to be invested in "open", and this course was the beginning of my journey.
Ecker, M. (2007, March 3). open. [Cover Image]. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/CiYK2. CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0.