#OER and quality

Posted on June 19, 2018



So!  I couldn’t attend this b/c I was roaming around on the Grand Illinois Bicycle Tour (sigh, the replacement for drowned phone should arrive tonight).

Ahrash Bissell is the moderator, from NROC   and he’s talking to Dr. Lisa Petrides who founded ISKME  which runs oercommons.org  and Dr. David Wiley of Lumen Learning . NROC folks do a lot with GED/adult ed.

It was a fun listen.   They celebrated the growth in popularity of OER and the whole districts abandoning commercial providers and the cool stuff happening.

Dr. Petrides was especially celebratory about teachers using and sharing and re-working, which Ahrash Bissell challenged because of the studies showing most use is just grabbing and using.   She said she saw lots of stuff happening that wasn’t being counted in those studies and I think she’s right.   Later she also commented on the “danger” that so many teachers just didn’t want to bother with licensing (as I’ve noticed w/ the Math community) — they just share.      Both would be “off the grid” OER…

Quality comes up at 26:53… and at first Dr. Petrides talks about other stuff, then says that well, everybody would agree that … wrong equations are no good, but that aside from that… quality … well, basically didn’t mean anything.   Was it color, text layout?

She also noted that stuff that was excellent,  from MIT,  was *not* considered high quality by some users b/c they said went too fast and didn’t have enough background stuff. It didn’t meet their students’ needs.

Quality was deemed a “red herring.”

Dr. Wiley?   Even stronger opinion, he says.  All the stuff labeled “quality” — they are all proxies for student performance.  We just need to do studies and measure student outcomes.  Example:   a Master’s student did research and the OER were “low quality” on all the production stuff:  the layout was ugly, it was black and white, it was paperback.   But Ss performed same as or better than with commercial texts on the standardized tests.

My question:   did all of the students do better?  Is production quality your only measure of quality?   Why?

And … why this decision … not to care about quality?   Rather than dismiss quality because obviously that MIT stuff was amazing “quality”  … why not discuss what qualities are desired, such as building background and providing more examples, explanations and practice?   What kinds of examples and practice?   It’s OER!   Let’s talk openly, with your “Yes, and…” approach, and adapt and add the qualities we need.

I mean, if lousy quality could mean we do as well as commercial… just IMAGINE what we could do if we cared about quality.   Dr. Wiley suggests that materials are a pretty small factor compared to what student brings.  He says there’s a “Theoretical Upper Limit Of INstructional Products.”   I really appreciated Dr. Petrides’ response that pre-OER, the commercial folks had things locked down, and OER were like a Trojan horse and could free up funding for professional development. However, I think they both underestimate the potential for good materials to make a difference. Our “blended” use of ALEKS and good instruction has improved student performance here.

Dr. Wiley also noted that there’s a healthy amount of OER in the high-school and entry level college courses… and that the next thing is to build on the “Tails.”

I remember watching a Rebus Community discussion where people were frustrated with the tendencey for OER funding and support to be directed at high volume, high demand courses thank you.

I would suggest:  if we’re going to build onto the “tails” and get past the generic stats book and the status quo… it would behoove us to talk about those qualities that will best serve our learners instead of deeming it not even worth discussing.  While Dr. Wiley did say we should choose from what outcomes we want to measure, standardized test scores seemed to be The Big Thing.

When I’m working w/ students … quality (of all kinds — production and content) matters more for some students than others.   Think about that.  Do some students still not matter so much?

They also discussed OER “as a noun”  (as opposed to open pedagogy)… that they were tlaking about the materials, and of *course* there are *so many other variables* — instruction, for starters.  Dr. Petrides emphasized that yes, OER’s value was in the practice, not “free affordable texts.”

Dr. Wiley suggested describing OER as “infrastructure” and that often there were new and excellent possibilities w/ a new kind of infrastructure that get discovered after the infrastructure is in place.    He says pizza delivery wasn’t imagined when roads were being built.  I’d like to extend that analogy and suggest that the infrastructure needs to be designed for multiple users — bicycles and pedestrians and scooters and wheelchairs as well as pizza trucks.

And … erm… quality matters.   Khan Academy vs. Math Antics.   It matters.


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Posted in: rant