What research questions the project addresses, aims & themes
The EU funded openED project seeks to trial a model for open institutional course production and global open course delivery. It aims to explore the benefits and challenges for universities, for their (fee-paying) students, for non-student participants who individually elect to join the course (free learners) and course facilitators. Seven European organisations have shared a total funding of €474k to collaboratively generate a Free/Open online business studies course based on existing and freely available materials, build a platform to deliver this, and to organise and evaluate three rounds (for which just over 1000 participants registered). Each round enables students to view, learn from and build upon previous cohorts. The course would be truly open to: the project partners' student/trainee population; educational providers outside the project partnership; and free learners outside of formal education.
Research questions focus on the evolution of the learning design, impact of and participation in learning, perceptions of value need and cost, and the role of user generated content. This includes questions such as:
- How do these open materials and communities develop over time and why?
- What learning takes place and how?
- What issues arise associated with cross-cultural and multilingual settings?
- How are differences between formal and informal education exhibited?
- What are the factors affecting speed of production, effectiveness and sustainability?
- Is such a model applicable and what possible revue models exist?
Given there is no fee, no formal tutor-marked assessment and no formal award, a further challenge has been: how can participants be motivated to learn without these structures of control in place and what factors determine their engagement or withdrawal.
How the research questions are addressed by the project (methodology and activity/environment)
The openEd project will:
- Develop experimental approaches for participatory learning within open educational environments
- Implement and test those approaches by means of 3 consecutive pilots to promote continuity, community building and evolutionary growth
- Develop and test revenue models - in accordance with pilots' results - to assure financial self-sustainability
- Analyse the results & benchmark them against initial assumptions
- Evaluate the project, disseminate outcomes and take the results further to the wider community
Data collection methods used to date include: website and download logs; learner completed reflection forms, end of module questionnaires, participant interviews, observation of forum posts and interactions, evaluation of documents uploaded by participants; analysis of live chat session logs and facilitator feedback. Together, this evidence will offer a rich picture of participant experiences of the course.
Findings and outputs
We have presented some interim findings in a paper to the EDEN conference titled 'Some issues affecting the sustainability of open learning courses' (Aczel, Cross, Meiszner, Hardy, McAndrew and Clow, 2011). Although these are preliminary results, it is clear from this work that adopting an Open Educational Service approach to the design of online courses introduces much more complexity than simply re-using OER. For example, it proved challenging to fully open, up in a single course presentation, design decision-making, resource selection and material development, quality control processes, facilitation, and paid-for assessment. It is possible that the nature of the challenge is less to do with the time available than with the designers' need to cope with unfamiliar, and perhaps uncomfortable, shifting sands associated with opening up so many educational processes simultaneously. But it is also possible that participants in open courses might tend to be more genial about failings in a first presentation because (a) the course is free; (b) there is an acceptance that such courses are intended to be collaboratively improved over time; and (c) dissatisfied participants simply withdraw. It remains to be seen whether such geniality remains in subsequent presentations, particularly when some services are paid-for.
More research is needed over the rest of the project, particularly looking at the development trajectory of materials by the community over time, the pattern of participant interactions, the quality of participants' work, the usability and functionality of the technical infrastructure for learners and authors, the trialling of models for sustaining the course, and the evolution of the community participating in the course.
The openED course website and resources is the project's principle output: http://www.open-ed.eu/. In addition to a paper presented at the EDEN 2011 Conference (see below), we have delivered presentations at several other events including OpenOpen (part of the OU E- learning Community Series) and SCORE Short-term Fellowship Residential Course.
To date over 1,000 participants have registered for the openED course and we have organised, delivered and iterated the course three times over an 18 month period. This has given us a valuable longitudinal perspective on how open courses and those who participate in them develop over time (i.e. how materials evolve or roles change) and has revealed a range of international perspectives about the use, value and prospects of open courses.
Aczel, James; Cross, Simon; Meiszner, Andreas; Hardy, Pascale; McAndrew, Patrick and Clow, Doug (2011). Some issues affecting the sustainability of open learning courses. In: EDEN 2011 Annual Conference: Learning and Sustainability: The New Ecosystem of Innovation and Knowledge, 19-22 June 2011, Dublin, Ireland. http://oro.open.ac.uk/29100/
openED; open learning; free learning
At The Open University:
James Aczel, Institute of Educational Technology
Simon Cross, Institute of Educational Technology
Doug Clow, Institute of Educational Technology
Patrick McAndrew, Institute of Educational Technology
Augusto Medina, Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovação - SPI (Coordinator)
Richard Straub, ELIG - European Learning Industry Group
Ioannis Stamelos, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Yannis Kalivas, Hellenic Management Association
Mathias Rossi, HES-SO// University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland
Pascale Hardy, HES-SO// University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland
Andreas Meiszner, United Nations University UNU-MERIT, Collaborative Creativity Group CCG (Associated Partner)
Project partners and links
For further information and contact details see http://tinyurl.com/d4w57ho
The European Commission
Start Date and duration
1 December 2009 - 31 July 2012