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Building open learning as a community-based research activity
Thille, Candace

PeriodicalChapter 11, Pages 165–179
PublisherOpening Up Education The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology Open Content and Open Knowledge, The MIT Press, The MIT Press
EditorsIiyoshi, Toru and Kumar, M. S. V.

Improvement in postsecondary education will require converting teaching from a solo sport to a community-based research activity. Herbert Simon (1998) The open educational resources (OER) movement has the potential to provide broader access to higher education and to markedly improve the quality of higher education for a diverse body of learners. Many OER projects to date have focused on making content that supports existing traditional forms of instruction openly and freely available. In these projects, the power of the Internet is used to overcome barriers to access by serving as a medium for freely distributing content. Making existing content available in this way is based on the revolutionary idea that education and discovery are best advanced when knowledge is shared openly. These OER projects have enabled a great leap forward in democratizing access to educational material. The next step in the revolutionary potential of the OER movement is in using technology to make instruction, as well as materials, accessible to the widest possible audience of learners and, at the same time, improve teaching and learning. The Challenge of Meeting the Growing Demand for Quality Higher Education Pressures of many kinds grow in both the developed and, especially, the developing world to provide more people with increased access to education (United Nations Educational, Scientifi c and Cultural Organization UNESCO-World Bank, 2000). At the same time, report after report announces that the quality of education, even in the developed world, is 166 Chapter 11 not keeping pace with the demands of what is now and what will be an increasingly knowledge-based economy (Desjardins, Rubenson, and Milana, 2006; The National Academy of Sciences, 2007; Presidents Information Technology Advisory Committee, 2005; Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2004). Traditional forms of developing and delivering instruction do not scale well to meet the growing demand. Individual faculty members working as solo practitioners who are experts in a domain of knowledge are often ill-equipped to address this changing context. A long-standing concern of many who have worked in higher education is that most faculty members knowledge of how students learn is not only insuffi cient but also largely intuitive (Smith and Thille, 2004). Most faculty members are dedicated instructors and spend much time and energy preparing for their course presentations. In traditional teaching this meant spending hours reading and rereading books and articles, writing and rewriting lecture notes, anticipating student questions and formulating answers. Historically, one of the fundamental errors in this process has been that faculty members often equate their own learning processes with their students learning processes. Unfortunately, research has shown that as teachers become more expert in any discipline, they are less capable of seeing and understanding the diffi culties encountered by the novice learner. This well-documented phenomenon of the experts blind spot tells us that instructional intuitions of experts can be faulty, because expertise in a domain can cloud judgment about what is diffi cult for novice learners in that domain (Nathan and Koedinger, 2000). In traditional small-scale, face-to-face instruction with a fairly homogeneous student population, the problem of the experts blind spot is suffi ciently mitigated by the dynamic feedback that the instructor receives from students through the instructors observations in class and through student questions.

Keywords evaluation of OERs · community of practice · OER research

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