#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.

EDEN research workshop

I’ve been meaning to gather my thoughts on the European Distance Education Network (EDEN) Research Workshop that I recently attended in Paris.  It was my first time attending a European conference, and there was a lot to like. Paris is one of those places that you have to visit at least once in your life, so the location got top marks.  Actually being inside the UNESCO building was admittedly surreal.  The airport-like security to enter the building was one thing, but once inside, the combination of the highly preserved mid-century artifacts and architecture (photos coming) along with energy that only a world organization headquarters can provide made the epic adventure in and out of Charles de Gaulle airport worth the trouble.

I have mixed feelings about the EDEN research workshop itself, partly due to my own inflated expectations.  Research workshop suggests less presenting, more discussion, neither of which happened.  Keynote panelists went way over their time, creating a domino effect that lead to confusion during the workshop sessions, where presenters rushed to get through their presentations at the expense of discussion periods. Some keynotes were also left with no time–I for one would have like to have heard more from Sara Guri-Rosenblit from the Open University in Israel. There was a lot of talking to, at the expense of discussing with (and way too many government officials saying very little in too much time), which lead me to feel extremely frustrated by the end of Day 2.  Plus, this being Paris, and conference fees in the 500 Euro range, I expected a little more quality coffee and snacks, neither of which seemed to be available in any sort of abundance.  On the plus side, the wines from Bordeaux at the end of Day 2 were a nice touch.

The theme of the conference was Open Access, and the big takeaway for me was realizing that many of us are talking about different things when we talk about Open Access.  In fact, one of the keynotes from the US even ranted a bit about individuals not respecting copyright agreements, which had a few of us shaking our heads and wondering whether she’d travelled to the wrong conference, and had me wondering what exactly about the semantics of open and access lead her to adopt this position.  However, there is value in recognizing how vastly different we are, and I realized that perhaps the Canadian in me has lead me to adopt a view of open access that is undoubtedly left of centre.

On the plus side, I had the pleasure of meeting some key distance education people who have made such a contribution to DE that I consider them celebrities.  This is the really nice part of attending a conference in person, and the informal conversations that came with this were the highlight of this conference for me, and are one of the reasons that I’ll attempt to attend the next one.

Some of the sessions were recorded (I’ll try and post the link when I can find it), and the papers are being made available, but only temporarily and only to members, if my information is correct, which seems like a bit of a contradiction in the context of the theme of the conference, and the considerable effort that went into the excellent Six Journals Call.