Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration as Indicators of Learning in OER Communities

Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration as Indicators of Learning in OER Communities

Lisa A. Petrides (Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, USA), Cynthia Jimes (Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, USA) and Carol Hedgspeth (Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0300-4.ch003
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This work specifically sheds light on the ways that OER impacts teacher professional development, knowledge building, and interactive problem solving around teaching practice. Drawing on key findings from several studies, their results reveal the potential of OER to spark new conversations among teachers about how they can be proactive in enhancing their teaching practices. The authors also present a framework for assessing how new teaching practices emerge as a result of collaborative participation in OER. The discussion has implications for engaging teachers in adopting new OER use practices, and for how OER can be integrated as a model for innovation in teaching and in resource development.
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The field of education offers insights into the ways that open educational resources (OER) create accessibility and cost benefits for teachers, learners and the institutions of which they are a part (Bateman, 2006; Allen, 2008; Seidel, 2009). Through non-restrictive licensing and accessible technology, OER are also cited for their potential to facilitate a community of users who share, critique, use and continuously add to and improve educational content (Benkler, 2005; Petrides & Jimes, 2006; Frydenberg & Matkin, 2007; Huberman & Wilkinson, 2007; Petrides et al., 2008; Casserly & Smith, 2008). Drawing on learnings from the open source movement, others further posit that it is through the collaboration of groups of users that the necessary critical mass of content is created and through which OER is sustained (Benkler, 2005; Stephenson, 2006; Petrides et al., 2008). Petrides el al.’s (2008) longitudinal study of content creation and use behaviors of 247 authors on the open platform Connexions supports this argument; the study revealed that when authors joined collaborative workgroups around OER, they contributed more content (and more regularly) than individual authors who worked alone.

A nascent, yet growing body of literature further contends that OER has the potential to align with enhanced student learning (Livingston & Condie, 2006; Conole & Ehlers, 2010). In particular, Livingston and Condie (2006) sought to assess the efficacy of a Scottish online learning program comprised of a variety of OER materials on high school students’ learning. The materials were offered as supplemental content to teachers and learners in all school districts in Scotland, but only some districts chose to adopt them. Through analysis of student test scores, as well as interviews and surveys with teachers and students, the study found that achievement improved in all subject areas for students who used the materials. Students who accessed the open resources did so autonomously, and engaged in self-initiated and self-directed learning—transitioning from passive knowledge recipients into independent knowledge creators.

Others have begun to argue the importance of teacher engagement in collaborative communities around digital resources and OER, and of the role that OER use plays in supporting teacher professional development (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 1999; Tornaghi, Vivacqua, & De Souza, 2005; Albright, 2005; Bateman, 2006; Balcean & Hirtz, 2007; Chai & Tan, 2009; Petrides, Jimes, & Middleton-Detzner, 2010). Albright’s (2005) analysis of 700 discussion postings on a UNESCO facilitated discussion forum—comprised of experts, researchers, project leaders and others working on OER use and sustainability issues—revealed that participants viewed OER as a mechanism for providing users with insight into culture-specific approaches to teaching by offering exposure to the way courses are taught in other contexts. Several empirical studies within this realm have begun to provide early evidence of conclusions such as these. For example, a study of OER localization and use among South African teachers revealed that nearly one-half of the 27 teachers who participated in a survey about their OER use viewed OER as a means to enhance their curriculum development skills (Middleton-Detzner, 2011). Additional studies within this realm—discussed in more detail later in this chapter—have revealed how teachers joining communities focused on OER leads to new conversations about pedagogy and new collaborations with peers that extended beyond the teachers’ existing ways of working with colleagues and students (Metros & Bennett, 2002; Petrides et al., 2011)

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