Your standard academic is overworked and time poor, they would like to provide high quality additional resources to help their students study but if finding them is a problem they may not have time, quality checking takes more time. Creating new resources yourself can take time – loads of time if you have to learn a new tool to do it.
So how do we solve this?
Last week on the #octel mooc was all about resources, finding ones that other people have made and making them yourself. I was really busy last week and so had literally no evenings free and so I didn’t even found time for the “Try to find one resource you can use” activity.
However I found this post by Jim Pettiward “Ramblings of an ocTEL junkie (Week 4)” and that and my thoughts about not having time myself kicked off this post.
How do I find it? The first and possibly the largest problem is finding something on the topic you want, you need to know A) Places to look for things and B) how to search. For #octel we were given a number of sites and repositories to search, the most comprehensive evaluation I found was this post “iTunesU – you need to learn how to search it…” (which despite the title had searched everything!).
However even when you know where and how to search it still takes times so…
Get others to do the work – either by having a good PLE (as Helen Crump suggests in this interesting post) or by getting your students to do it! (its not hard – ask your students to all go away and find one good resource/explanation/reading on the topic. They all add the links to a google doc then get them to evaluate which are the best 5 and why, you can then check 5 items and you will both have some good resources and an idea of if your students have a good understanding – next year you can use the resources)
How do I use it? Even when you have found something its not always clear how it was intended to be used, now its not that much of a problem for a experienced educator to weave it into their session or materials but it would be nice if people started adding a “here is how I used it” file when they put stuff online (TED Ed is a brilliant example of how this can be done).
Well its good but its not quite what I want (this can be particularly true for Big OER – for a discussion of Big Vs little OER try this from Wane Barry). Sometimes it doesnt quite fit or covers something you dont want to cover or worse it has something that is wrong. So you go to tweak it and you find they have only uploaded the finished product not the working files (for a simple idea of this imagine a document that you wanted to change a single picture in. If its a pdf you cant edit it so you have to copy and paste all the words into a word doc, then save each picture and then import them into the word doc and then change the picture. If its a word doc (the working files) you simply change the picture and export to pdf).
So ideally people should upload the working files and finished product but even then you run into the problem of the tools they have used and how difficult it can be to learn a new tool set. So you need to download the tool, learn to use it, then make your change.
At this stage some staff have reached the “Right I will make it myself” stage.
More than a powerpoint takes skill/training – if we are assuming that the lecturer wants to do something more than a powerpoint then they need to learn new tools or system, for some this is not a problem (and I would advocate all staff at least having some creation skills). However for some things its just not worth the time it would take to get staff upskilled.
For example a few years back a colleague of mine went out and shot a short video for a member of staff, gave the footage a quick edit and put it onto the VLE for them. It took him all afternoon, I said he will be back every time he wants a video – could you have trained him instead? My colleague responded, If I had trained him we would still be discussing lighting and framing the shot, I would spend 2 days training him and he wouldn’t then do another video for a year at which point I would have to train him again.
For simple things, train the staff. For more complicated source an expert.
eFactory – at City of Bristol College, just before I left for another job they set up a team called the eFactory, the idea being that academic staff could pop in a discuss what they wanted created with a Learning Technologist, who would then mock it up, get it approved by the academic then create it and add to the VLE. They have created a lot of materials from the highbrow to the sock puppet level.
So I guess if your institution sets up one of these then your problems are over yes? Well not quite, when I checked back with my old colleagues they said they still have problems getting academic staff to engage with them, because the academics still dont have time!
Time, Money and Moocs – so we come back to the original problem, in this time of information abundance it still takes time and effort to find or create and then assemble materials into a coherent structure (course, lesson?). If the course has run before then the chances are some materials already exist which means, if staff dont have the time, there is a danger that the existing materials (a tired old powerpoint?) are all the students will get.
Worse – if the course has already successfully run then the institution that provides the course will be very unlikely to understand the need for paid academic time to rework/reassemble materials. So there is unlikely to be any money available to buy staff time to do this or even to buy staff time to spend with Learning Technologists who will then do the work.
However there is a new type of course emerging – the MOOC. A lot of institutions are trying these out and because these are “open” everyone can see them, so institutions want them to be good and are prepared to spend money. A number of the Universities rushing to create a MOOC have set aside the budget to buy staff time to build/run them and sometimes time for Learning Technologists as well.
So maybe institutions will start to comprehend that improving/updating a course takes time and money. Maybe that time/money will actually be forthcoming if/when students start wondering – “If the free course is fantastic, why is my paid course just powerpoints?”
(*Important note – I am not saying that existing University education is not fantastic, large sections of it are, what I am saying is that there is potential to be better – in some cases much much better)