In this assignment, we are asked to blog about our views on the role of collaboration in sustaining open education. By drawing on examples from our own experiences and supporting the writing through examples from course content, readings, videos, and forum discussion (forum discussion examples are noted as personal communications)
The Role of Collaboration in Sustaining Open Education
There are many examples of collaboration in open education, ranging from grassroots, such as open calls to write open educational resources (OER) collaboratively, to top-down examples, such as open policy made explicit in strategic plans (Czerniewicz, 2021. Carson, 2020). Collaboration requires support in the form of funding, such as virtual learning strategy (VLS) funding via eCampus Ontario, institutional support through funded OER creation, adaptation, and adoption and integration into courses that includes release time, short-term contracts, and wrap-around support for editing and publishing. Tlili et.al (2020) noted that participants viewed a positive and transformational outcome when there was an institutional commitment to support collaboration. Collaboration has the potential to sustain open education, but only if that collaboration is supported financially.
My Experiences in Collaboration
I have led, supported, and participated in many multi-institutional Open Educational Resources (OER) creation projects, which led to long-term collaborations. For example, members from the original collaboration team for Building a Medical Terminology Foundation OER came back to collaborate and develop Therapeutic Communication for Health Care Administrators’ digital text and companion game simulations. A collaboration for the second edition of the first OER is now underway, based on a remixed version of the original OER. When funding is unavailable, we use components of a community model used by FemTechNet and share workload and costs across institutions (deLanghen, 2018). For example, the creators who developed Global Value Supply Chain used this approach, with the two creators supported by their institutions, working together and with facilitated integration into one OER. I recommend this approach to faculty considering adapting or developing new creations. Taking on a large project in isolation can be daunting, and working with others produces higher-quality resources. Czerniewicz (2021) suggests that when you write collaboratively, you build a community, have accountability to others, and the project remains high on the priority list. There are many positive reasons to work collaboratively on supported OPEN projects.
Challenges to Collaboration
Anyone involved in collaborative project work knows the challenges of keeping a project within scope and on time. Collaboration on open projects is no different. I wonder if they are more challenging since many open projects rely on funding, often with short timelines. Utilizing a community model means there must be time allocated to consensus building, and often the funding due dates do not allow for the time it takes to build consensus well. deLanghen (2018) found that community building was an essential part of keeping open education sustainable because it connected the values of open with the needs of stakeholders.
In this course, we discussed how open collaboration means viewing collaboration from a social justice lens, asking us to examine our practices critically and determine who has been excluded from our open projects and how we can be inclusive moving forward (personal communications, 2023). Open collaboration as defined in our course material, means more people and diverse people are included in the project (de Langen, 2018). The feminist ideology used by community groups such as FemTechNet works toward making the invisible visible and ensuring equity in workload (deLanghen, 2018). Open collaboration requires funds to ensure people are fairly compensated for their work, form partnerships with other institutions, and allow time for consensus building and recruitment of diverse perspectives.
Open collaboration does not guarantee adoption. It is essential that before writing starts, learning outcomes are agreed upon, matched to the course outlines from participating institutions, and that the people who make the decisions on adopting course materials are included in the project decisions (personal communication, 2023). Measuring the impact of OER development through adoption for the funders of OER projects is a challenge. Wepukhulu, 2021 noted in her interview that the platform used for the African Storybook project could not measure downloads. Since the storybooks are free, it is challenging to track how many children read them (Wepukhulu, 2021). Much like Wepukhulu (2021) noted, we do not have effective ways to report and measure OER adoptions because they are free for students, usage stats are not calculated through sales, and much of that work is done manually.
Supported collaboration has the potential to sustain open education but it is not without its challenges. Sustainable funding models that go beyond one-time lump sum support, include impact measurement tools and compensate people fairly from conception to adoption including integration into courses, will lead to the greatest chance for long-term sustainability. From my humble view, It will be important for open community groups to work collaboratively when advocating for funding models in the same way that they collaboratively generate content.
Ahmed Tlili, Fabio Nascimbeni, Daniel Burgos, Xiangling Zhang, Ronghuai Huang, Ting-Wen Chang. (2020) The evolution of sustainability models for Open Educational Resources: insights from the literature and experts. Interactive Learning Environments 0:0 pages 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2020.1733045
Carson, B.T., (2020). Breaking barriers: understanding and removing barriers to OER use. Royal Roads University https://viurrspace.ca/handle/10613/23447
de Langen, F. (2018). Sustainability of Open Education Through Collaboration. The International Review of Research in Open and DistributedLearning,19(5). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v19i5.3548
Wepukhulu, D. (2021) African Storybook: Interview with Dorcas Wepukhulu. [Video]. OPEN ED 9600: Open Ed Policy in Leadership. Activity 3.2, Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Stranger-Johannessen, E., Doherty, L., & Norton, B. (2018). The African Storybook and Storybooks Canada: Digital Stories for Linguistically Diverse Children. Language and Literacy, 20(3), Article 3. https://doi.org/10.20360/langandlit29413
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