Competencies and OER considerations

In December I was given an opportunity to work on a project that involves developing a checklist of instructor competencies for e-learning.  This kind of project has the appearance of being simple, since checklists are purposefully simple after all.  But delving into the world of instructors, competencies, and e-learning is an onion with many layers, and one that engages a bit of an internal struggle.  The administrator-by-day part of me welcomes this project since it will have an immediate, tangible benefit to the people I work with and have a mandate to support.  If done well, it will help with planning, managing, and evaluating some of our activities.  It can communicate expectations that are the responsibility of both instructors and the institution to fill.

The academic part of me bristles at the idea of online instructors being distilled into a list of competencies that will somehow speak to the diversity of learning contexts, student needs, teaching and  learning approaches, and technologies that inform e-learning.  I’d like this checklist to somehow be flexible to the above, but still be usable. This is the challenge I’m currently faced with and have yet to resolve.

Nonetheless, the research phase of this project lead me to a few gems, which I’ll continue to share.  My favourite by far is E-Learning Methodologies:  A guide for designing and developing e-learning courses produced by the FAO in Rome. It’s a huge pdf, but anybody starting out in the field would be well served by reading this visually pleasing, informative, and well designed document.  In fact, if a pdf could be a MOOC, this would be it. The document description reads:

The purpose of this guide is to provide detailed guidance on designing and developing an e-learning course for trainers and instructional designers who are new to e-learning design. It also provides basic concepts and information on the processes and resources involved in e-learning development, which might be of interest to capacity-development managers. The information in this guide is based on consolidated instructional design models and learning theories and incorporates FAO’s experience in delivering e-learning courses in development contexts…

What I particularly liked about this guide was the attention paid to OERs, which  should now be a standard chapter in any guide on e-learning design.  In fact, in my research it was only 1 of 2 documents that considered locating, reusing, or creating OERs as a skill or competency for instructors or e-learning developers.  This is an obvious gap in both institutional expectations and expectations of the field in general.

Box.net as a media repository

box

 

This post is basically  a thinly-veiled, massive plug for Box.net.  You can read all about what it’s supposed to do on their website, but I’ve been using it here at Canadian Polytechnic as a media repository for one of the programs I work with.

Consider the problem (one not so unique):  you work within a large unit that produces fantastic media for the institution on a daily basis.  This media gets used by instructors and students via different channels–online courses using a CMS, websites, powerpoints, even paper manuals.  The media is then dispersed through all these channels and sits in various locations–personal hard drives, servers, DVDs, CMS repositories.  There is no central index to the media, therefore no way of locating a: what has been created and b: where it is sitting.  Basically, imagine all the contents of your institutional library distributed across the cubicles  of your institution’s 5 campuses, without knowing what is sitting at which cubicle.

Let’s say you need a series of images of boats. Given the size of your institution, you know that somebody must have some boat pictures that were created for XYZ program, since they talk about boats.  You can go and find somebody in the program to see if you can “borrow” them.  Alternatively,  you have no idea that XYZ program even talks about boats, so you ask somebody at the institution to a: create some boat images or b:  purchase some for you.  Perhaps your saavy librarian could even see if there are any open access images of boats that could be used.  But searching the open repositories is pretty time consuming, and not always fruitful, so that might not turn up anything.

Your institution might be in discussion about setting up a searchable repository for institutionally created media.  But this might take a while for various reasons, and in the meantime XYZ program has decided that they want to a:  locate all the media sitting in the CMS courses and have it in one place, b: make it searchable and shareable with other programs in the Faculty/School/Institute and other institutions.  But it has to be super easy to:  

1. get any kind of media into the repository (from docs to movies, with a drag and drop interface)

2. tag it

3. share it (simple link so borrowers don’t to have to set up accounts or login)

4. search it

5. control permissions (different media and programs require different levels of permissions)

 

Box does a lot more than all that, but this is what we’ve found useful.  I like to think of it as a very small step towards an OER strategy at our institute–when the tools make it easier to share, then sharing might actually happen.