#OpenEd 14 -Evolving towards open in a relatively closed institution

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 2.39.48 PM At Open Education 2014 last week in Washington, DC,  I presented our preliminary findings on our JIBC OER study  that we conducted in September and October 2014.  The presentation can be fully accessed here but it’s a bit useless without some narrative, so here’s a summary.

1. Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 2.33.44 PMOur institutional context – I spent someScreen Shot 2014-11-28 at 2.38.07 PM time talking about institutional context since I think it’s relevant to discussions about OER uptake especially in relation to business models, yet doesn’t often get discussed.  Since I was staying near George Washington University I did a crude comparison of GWU tuition dollars to JIBC institutional budget (and number of students). To some extent, this answers the question of why consider OERs at JiBC.  This was supplemented with some information about who our students are – 75% of whom are working 30+ hours a week, and an approximate 10%/age group distribution from 20-60+.

2. Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 9.51.28 AMSo why open at JIBC? And what’s this stuff about business models?  I spent a bit of time talking about where our institutional funding comes from, since the research is structured around the $ part to some degree. Basically, as this slide shows, we most of our funding is spread equally across four pots, with a bit coming from federal research funding.  Our research assumption was that business model (as it relates to the institutional context) was going to influence degree of uptake depending on the type OER.

Secondly, we noticed in our lit review that most studies that focus on OER uptake for the most part have gathered faculty or student perceptions at the expense of a broader institutional perspective.  Furthermore, OERs are generally lumped together as a group in research surveys, whereas in our own institution type of OER seems to be closely related to degree of uptake (eg. Open textbooks vs instructional video; see also Babson survey where instructional video adoption greater than open courseware, but research doesn’t drill into the why of that).

3. Research Questions: The research was designed around 3 questions:

1.Globally, what are the key drivers at JIBC for OERs?
2. Are the drivers different by depending on type of OER project and type of business model?
3. What has contributed to the diffusion of OERs at JIBC?
There are a couple of required definitions here:
Drivers: Project drivers are defined as key influences in the decision to undertake or participate in an OER project. 
OERs: free or creative commons licensed textbooks, curriculum, courses, resources, apps, simulations. While we acknowledge that free and open are not synonymous, we included free resources such as apps whose license selection is constrained by the distribution platform (Apple App Store).

4. The Study:  In an nutshell, the design involved:

  • Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 9.43.20 PMinventory the OER projects by year, type of OER, stage, context, technology used
  • distribute survey with 19 stakeholders – program managers, directors, librarians
  • interview 19 stakeholders
We realized in our inventory that most of our activity involves some sort of remix, which had me characterize JIBC as a remix and adapt institution.
5. So, what were the key drivers?   Based on a preliminary analysis the most important drivers were, in order of importance:Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 9.52.10 AM
1. Availability of the appropriate (read Open) technology to support the project
2. Availability of supportive people at the institution
3.  Students
4. Belief that OERs are the right thing to do
6.  Are the drivers different by depending on type of OER project and type of business model? We aren’t ready to answer this without more analysis – the only place where it’s a glaring yes is in the case of open curriculum.
7.  What has contributed to the diffusion of OERs at JIBC?  This can be answered very simply:
Diffusion of OERs happens at JIBC because it provides an easier or more practical solution to a problem, it’s good for students, and it’s the right thing to do.
Let’s unpack this a bit.  While the goal of finding a new or better business model wasn’t a key driver, central to uptake was the degree of fit with the existing business/revenue model in the area where the project sat.  Fit can be broken down as follows:
1. when it saves on development costs, in a context of reduced funding 
2. when it’s the easier solution (technologically or administratively)
3. when core client funded training was traditionally free anyways
4. when the funding source requires it or public funds are being used
So basically, if it’s a win for the institution, students, or client (and especially if it’s all 3) OERs are a no brainer for us because for the most part it’s easier on some level.  Open technology is a really key part of that.
We also mapped some external events to our own evolution of OERs, and with a bit more analysis, these triggering events are no doubt contributing to the diffusion.Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 9.53.06 AM
8.  Surprises

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.17.46 PM

1.  being open has actually increased the bottom line (as measured across 3 projects)

2. increased access—some adult learners don’t want to go through the registration process 
3. perception that being open has raised profile of the institution because…
a.  it positions us as a quality control mechanism—allows us to be the standard and set the standard in areas where this has previously been a problem and…
b.  makes our standard more visible and transparent
Additionally, even though finding a new way of doing things for better business purposes wasn’t a key driver, new models are emerging, for example:
1. intro courses open and free 
2. pay for assessment model
3. pay for program, textbooks are free
4. resources that students need to take away open and free so can be used by the professions
Research tools:  Once we are completely wrapped up we’ll share the research tools (survey and interview questions) here.

OpenEd14 and Week 47 in Review

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 9.34.18 AM

This week was spent at the OpenEd14 conference in Washington DC along with about 100 other people from Canada (slight exaggeration).  I was accompanied by my daughter who busied herself with Minecraft and drawings on Hilton hotel paper.  We managed to get to a good number of sessions and having her there forced me to pace myself during the jam packed 3 days.

I’ve attended the two OpenED conferences that have happened in Vancouver, which my first attendance back in 2009.  I was struck by how far it’s come in terms of attendance and number of sessions.  This OpenEd felt a little more international, with a little more research options, and a great librarian focussed/influenced track.  I think this is a good thing and it felt like the field had matured in a significant way.

It’s hard to be critical about one of the conferences that I most value, but in the interest of helping to highlight areas of improvement I’d say that still missing from OpenEd (as it is in other Ed Tech conferences) is greater diversity of voices and amplification of those voices.  Ryan Brazell has a great series of recent blog posts that touch on some of this and every one of them is worth reading.  The @Hybridped folks also put on a good session that outlined the importance of more voices to the conversation, which I appreciated.  Beyond this, I observed that some (although not all) of the international speakers weren’t well attended, and some presentations were overwhelming attended by one gender (including my own, where more than 70% of the attendees were female).  This might be pure fluke, and is hardly scientific, but it’s perhaps worth paying attention too. For the record, I’m guilty of attending sessions by people that I “know” or follow on Twitter despite consciously trying to make a effort to explore new people and new topics.  I’m reminded of one of the first Northern Voice conferences way back in 2007-ish where in one of the gender diversity in blogging sessions  a male audience member asked us to observe our blogrolls and count how many female bloggers were actually being followed.  This has stuck with me as an example of how sometimes good intention doesn’t translate into action and I think that there’s probably still some work to do to broaden the field as it moves into bigger pastures.

That aside, I have nothing but enormous thanks and respect for those who organized, supported, and kept us well fed with really great food at this year’s OpenEd.  It was an incredibly welcoming place for me attending with a child who was also welcomed (and having dragged her to other less welcoming conferences, it was greatly appreciated).  Washington DC was one of the most stranger friendly places I’ve been too–I think I made more friends in the Starbucks line up and the Metro than I have in the last 10 years in Vancouver.  I hope that when OpenED travels back to Vancouver next year, we can be as sincerely friendly and welcoming as DC was for us, and since the BCcampus folks are hosting, I have not doubt that it will be GREAT.