“The OER approach opens new ways of creating courses”Name: Prof. Marcelo Fabián Maina
Position: Professor of Dutch and Academic Communication
Expertise: Educational technology, open education, competency-based education, 21st-century skills, e-portfolio, learning design methods and tools, emerging digital pedagogies
Institution: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
More info: Home Page Twitter Video
ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1889-1097
An interview with Prof. Marcelo Fabián Maina on 4 November 2021
Can you tell us about your work with Open Educational Resources or Open Pedagogy more broadly? How did you come to be involved in Open Education, and perhaps were there some librarians on the way that supported you on this Open Education journey?
We have support from the librarians in our university, particularly because they take the idea of an open repository very seriously.
Thank you for the invitation and the possibility to share some part of my journey to Open Education (OE). I don’t know if I’m a champion; I would say I’m a practitioner, and I’d like to share these ideas and also hear from others, so I think this is a very good initiative, congratulations for that.
How I got involved in this is probably a long story, in a sense, because I started as a student exploring the learning objects approach. At that time, the approach was more focused on technicalities, Metadata, repositories and interoperability and, of course, there was still something lacking in that. Then the Open Educational Resources (OER) concept appeared, focusing more on pedagogy, and that interested me much more. I really got involved and started developing knowledge on the subject and gaining experience, I would say, thanks to European projects.
As a professor and a researcher, I’ve been involved in many European projects. Each one provided me with an opportunity to explore and develop different perspectives to Open Education and, through these experiences, gain new knowledge. One project that was very challenging was the OERtest. Here we explored how OER-based learning gains could be recognised by educational institutions, particularly Higher Education institutions and VET (Vocational Education and Training). We developed different scenarios that led us to reflect on self-directed learning — for example, how students could engage in open learning through access to different learning resources, and the challenges that this can give rise to. It also forced us to think about different ways in which learning through OER could be assessed and recognised.
I also had the opportunity to participate in another project approaching Open Education from a different angle. It was the CONCEDE (Content Creation Excellence through Dialogue in Education) project, which explored the notion of learner-generated content. Specifically, it focused on the empowerment of learners through the development of OER that could be useful to other students. We integrated the affordances of Web 2.0, reinforcing this idea of a more prosumer approach to the web. This project was developed within a framework of a facilitated learning experience, where teachers intervened to ensure the quality of the students’ productions. That was a very good experience and high quality OER was developed by students for the students, with their own language in the way of understanding challenges in certain ways of activities and knowledge.
I explored another approach to Open Education in an Alpha project with Latin America, where four universities in Europe worked with seven or eight universities in Latin America, from Costa Rica to Uruguay, Peru, and Ecuador. In this project, we moved from OER to Open Educational Practices (OEP). We examined ways of fostering an Open Education mindset and explored implementing practices that target the development of policies within the participating Higher Education institutions. In doing so, we trained lecturers about the Open Education movement and the opportunities that OEP could offer in terms of access, flexibility, empowerment of lecturers and learners, and the need for development of policies that encourage and support lecturers.
I have also been working on a Europortfolio Network project. This network developed an open platform and a set of open resources, like a maturity matrix, which help institutions assess their level of adoption of e-Portfolios. Simultaneously, I was also participating in the EMMA (European Multiple MOOCs Aggregator) project, aiming at the development of a MOOC EU-based platform focused on personalised learning. We merged efforts and developed a MOOC to support the adoption of e-Portfolio reusing and adapting open resources of the e-Portfolio Network and delivering the MOOC through the EMMA platform. These projects encourage ideas and innovation, so we’re always thinking with an OE mindset, and assessing how we can promote OE within projects.
We have support from the librarians in our university, particularly because they take the idea of an open repository very seriously. There is a synergy between what we were doing in the projects and the development of the open repository. It gives us the opportunity to openly publish all of the deliverables and productions that we find to be of interest to the community. It is also a solution to preserve and keep record of all these productions and experiences that unfortunately are no longer accessible if the projects’ websites are not maintained.
Who has benefited from Open Education at your institution specifically, as well as beyond your institution? What would you say have been the key benefits?
The Open Education movement pushed the agenda of open research and created this environment and awareness of the importance of sharing in the open and giving more access.
I would say, everyone. From faculty to students. The Open Education movement pushed the agenda of open research and created this environment and awareness of the importance of sharing in the open and giving more access.
In terms of the institution, there have been many benefits. The adoption of policies and practices, and the creation of an open repository gave increased visibility to the institution’s research and academic productions, thus projecting and disseminating lecturers and researchers work and interests.
These actions, also adopted by other institutions, helped to promote thinking about how to establish alliances with other institutions under the umbrella of projects, usually European, but others more locally developed as well. For example, in Catalonia where the government financed the development of MOOCs targeting specific societal needs of more general scope, like digital competencies, but also related to specific professions.
What do you see as key successes in the Open Education movement, so far, starting from your own experience?
I’m a very enthusiastic advocate of Open Educational Resources, open practices and Open Education in general, and there have been a lot of successes. Personally, I enriched my teaching practices by incorporating OER as well as other practices empowering learners. I have also integrated the idea of open publishing.
In a more general sense, initiatives like the Open Textbooks are quite stimulating since they offer the opportunity to collectively develop and constantly update texts, which positively impacts the reduction in cost of education.
But thinking from a different perspective, we were used to courses that adopted a textbook as the main or unique education resource. The OER approach, however, opens new ways of creating courses. We now conceive our courses and give our students the opportunity to access different voices in different formats and varying ways of articulating these learning experiences through OER. Think about how easy it is to integrate Open Educational Resources from the web, but also, for example, increasing access to other expertise and inviting experts into your courses. So this is a movement that does not end in an object like OER, but I think it pushes the agenda of Open Educational Practices and Open Science.
So these are the kind of successes that have come about through OE. If we trace a trajectory, we went from learning objects to OER to open practices. We also challenged the idea of Open Educational Resources as encapsulated knowledge to rethink them as a sequence of learning that can be shared. Think about the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative that proposed sharing an articulated set of Open Educational Resources with a purpose integrated in teaching practices. Following this trajectory, we moved towards the idea of MOOCs as courses open to the world, and sometimes integrated into formal education.
What do you think still needs to be done for Open Education to truly take hold, and what are still the most pressing challenges?
It’s all about the business model. How can we make Open Education Practices and OERs sustainable? We have experimented with many different business models and they still need to be improved upon.
However, without support from government or associations, this is still a challenge. We are also seeing competitive forces from for-profit organisations like publishers and commercialisors of resources or research at play, for example. Companies and enterprises are acknowledging the Open Education movement. Certain publishers are very interested in offering different ways of publishing in the open and some are more comfortable with this than others. What we do see is that there’s a whole open movement towards Open Education and open data that is influencing change in publishers. But I think we are gaining momentum and solutions are being put into place, like open repositories of data, so I’m very confident in that sense.
There are other challenges, for example, in how we as professors are recognised for adopting Open Practices, including the development and publication of Open Educational Resources. We still need recognition of these practices as a mark of quality in our profession, not only for research, but also for the creation of open learning materials. This should be embedded and recognised in the standard processes we go through in our own career assessment.
Additionally, we always need improvement in terms of policies and support from our institutions because the “lonely rider” does not go too far, so to speak.
I think I will keep on this road I’ve been on over the years. I have experienced how participating in projects and exploring different approaches to OE supports the development of an OE mindset. We learn through each one and apply OE principles to the development and implementation of other projects, initiatives, or even professional practices.
For example, in a recent H2020 project called CRISS we looked at the development and assessment of the digital competence in K12. We had many different ways to approach that project and we decided to apply Open Educational Practices. We’ve been working with researchers, learning designers and teachers from different countries in Europe to develop competency-based learning and assessment scenarios — all with open principles in mind. The work was based on collaboration and cooperation and resulted in the development of a set of reusable scenarios that were published in OE repositories, considering both the licensing terms and the technical terms. This was a productive exercise with the teachers participating in the project, supporting them in developing scenarios not exclusevely bound to their own contexts, and also thinking about creating scenarios that could be localised and contextualised to their own needs and institutional constraints. Additionally, by publishing these scenarios openly, we focused on how to facilitate their reuse.
I believe that this is the way forward. I think we can continue infusing all these ideas into different solutions and procedures within our projects. We need to advocate and disseminate OE, and fortunately we can do it based on good practices that support and demonstrate the value of our approach.
Copyright: Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0 Licence SPARC Europe
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