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Defining openness: Updating the concept of "Open" for a connected world

TitleDefining openness: Updating the concept of "Open" for a connected world
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsBrent, I., Gibbs G. R., & Gruszczynska A. K.
PublisherJournal of Interactive Media in Education
Date Published05/2012
Keywordscase studies, communities of practice, educational resources, educational technology, Electronic Publishing Expertise, focus groups, Foreign Countries, higher education, information technology, instructional materials, metadata, open education, pilot projects, research methodology, social sciences, surveys, Web 2.0 technologies, Web Sites

The field of Social Research Methods is shared not only by the social sciences, but by many other disciplines. There is therefore enormous scope for the creation and re-use of open educational resources (OERs) in this area. However, our work with social scientists on a number of recent projects suggests that barriers exist to OER creation and use in social research methods teaching. Although there are now a number of national and institutional projects creating learning resources in research methods and making them openly available for teachers and students to use, many still use licences that restrict re-use and, in particular, modification. We refer to these as grey OERs. We also found that, in contrast to the well-developed practice of citation in research work, academics and teachers had a narrow notion of licensing and copyright of teaching materials, consistent with a limited experience of sharing teaching materials. Academics saw potential users as mainly other academics who were subject experts like themselves. That meant that they gave little weight to the role of broad description and metadata in making resources findable. At the same time, when academics looked for resources, the provenance, quality and relevance of those resources and the ability to judge that quickly were paramount. We discuss two approaches that attempt to tackle these issues: first, the development of a mapping tool that supports those creating OERs to identify a range of classificatory and metadata in a way that gives those looking for resources a much wider range of ways of finding them; second, the development of a website, based on Web 2.0 technology, that exploits the contributions of academics using and reviewing research methods OERs. We suggest that the activities on a blog-based website create a cultural context which constitutes an element of a community of practice of social science academics. Users can find resources by quality, pedagogy, and other metadata as well as content and through vicarious learning about the use and reviewing of resources by other academics, they may develop better practices in their own re-use and attribution of OERs. (Contains 5 endnotes.)


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