Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Encouraging Teachers to use OER


"What do you think will encourage instructors to go beyond using the LMS as a document hub?" Bryan Alexander asked in a blog post comments exchange recently. This exchange followed an interview that Bryan did with Phil Hill, an educational technology consultant and industry analyst, about the future of the LMS. Bryan and Phil were speculating on what the LMS would become. What the LMS becomes is less significant, in my opinion, than how teachers or instructors use learning management systems in classrooms. Put another way, the feature sets and capabilities of the LMS aren't as important as teacher skill and understanding of how to use any LMS effectively with students. Adding more features doesn't necessarily make an LMS easier to use; more features might even make the LMS more complex and less easily understood. Of course, there are examples of new features making an LMS easier to use for some things, but I don't think that's been the general trend since I began using an LMS in the classroom over 10 years ago.

When I wrote this guest post, Writing the Elephant in the Classroom, on Scott McLeod's blog seven years ago, professional development and teacher training on how to use an LMS was almost non-existent in K12. An LMS was still thought of as web software to be used with online learning. In 2010, wifi was not available in most K12 classrooms, wifi devices were still relatively expensive and viewed as distractions to 'real' learning. Computers were mostly in labs and used primarily for testing or once a week or so for "Friday free time." Some schools were beginning to incorporate computers into media literacy, but not into everyday learning activities. Things were not much different in higher ed, either. 

What's changed in the past seven years is that wifi devices have become increasingly less expensive and most schools have wifi capabilities. Most students have 1:1 access to a wifi device. The other big change has been the emergence of OER, open educational resources. OER used with a well supported LMS will naturally provide greater opportunities for learning that is Personalized, Relevant, and Contextualized. Student agency and social learning are also essential components of the learning environment when students, teachers, parents and the larger community all have a stake in re-making the content to provide maximum local benefit.

As was the case seven years ago, professional support for the crucial work of designing new student-centered learning environments that effectively incorporate technology, are aligned to some set of standards, and allow for open-walled learning will cost money.

We created the Stone Arch Bridge Initiative for Education Resources, SABIER, to take the money that’s currently being spent on textbooks and divert it to paying for teachers to acquire the training and skill to make all of the possible customization available with OER and an LMS a reality. This is consistent with the U.S. Dept of Education’s #GoOpen Initiative and similar efforts being articulated in most states. SABIER’s recommended implementation refines the #GoOpen Launch Packet and tailors it to each team in a district. SABIER works with school districts to make the changes necessary so that all of the customization and personalization is realized. Districts are able to use existing money and available philanthropy dollars to pay for the initial teacher training that’s necessary to become proficient at using open education resources. It’s the next step in transforming ‘how kids experience school, how teachers teach and even how classrooms look.’

So, the answer to "What will encourage instructors to go beyond using the LMS as a document hub?" is OER and professional development. Start with K12 and higher ed will eventually start doing it, too.

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