This is the third in the what I'm up to at the OU posts. A while back we were part of a consortium that won a bid in the Next Generation Learning Challenges funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Educause, & The Hewlett Foundation. The partners are us (IET at the OU), MIT, the Anne Arundel Community College and University of Maryland University College (UMUC) – the project is Bridge to Success.
It's aim is to use OERs to help community college students who struggle with study skills, and math(s) in particular. So we've taken some OU courses and these have been adapted in the US, and made available through our OpenLearn labspace. But this is about more than just creating content, so these materials are used in classroom instruction, and we are researching how students and instructors find the process.
My role is to head up the research work programme (Patrick McAndrew is the OU lead and does all the real work). One of the things I'm interested here is in the process of adaptation. We have given our materials to US partners to adapt, and what we are looking at is the type and degree of adaptation that occurs. There are at least four types of adaptation that take place:
- Simple context – changing £ for $ is a simple way of thinking about this
- Language adaptation – changing the nature of the instruction that is given in terms of the style used
- Content adaptation – reworking, deleting or adding content so that it meets the needs of a US maths curriculum
- Pedagogic adaptation – altering the nature of activities and instruction based on knowledge of the types of students
Now, you probably want to get away with just doing type 1 adaptation as that is fairly straightforward and takes the least time. But you still need subject experts to do this, and it quickly becomes apparent that it bleeds across to the other types of adaptation too. It is all context.
So what will be interesting to see is just how much adaptation takes place, whether some instructors adapt more than others, and if this has any impact on student performance. There undoubtedly comes a point when you have adapted something so much, it would have taken as much time to create it from scratch. The argument here then is whether the OER approach is worthwhile, if it takes as long to adapt as to create? Even if this is the case (and we haven't found that to be so yet, but it's still early), the use of OER may lead to better material than creating from scratch – this would be a tough thing to test, but maybe for another project.
Those are the kinds of things I'm interested in, beyond the more practical (and worthwhile) outcomes of hopefully improving student performance, confidence and understanding.
Here is a presentation from MIT's Brandon Muramatsu on the project if you want to know more: