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Tuesday, October 25 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
Connecting the Dots

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A practical approach to vetting, curating, and developing online resources in the form of courses.


When The Saylor Foundation first entered and surveyed the open education space two years ago, we identified four major problems with the OER terrain. 
-First, excellent content is disaggregated and even hidden or buried;
-Second, many content providers are "recreating the wheel," whether informed by the "not made here" frame of mind or by the general difficulty of finding materials and making them interoperable, leaving entire fields and subjects largely devoid of useful content;
-Third, content is difficult to assess in terms of quality, as there are no validating metrics or tools at the public's disposal;
-And finally, even where excellent, discoverable content exists, there are no end-to-end solutions that organize and contextualize all of the content a student needs to know to master a given subject, course, or even discipline. 
While there are any number of approaches to solving these problems, both separately and in conjunction with one another (meta-tagging tools and OER search engines come to mind), we decided that we could address all four issues by developing a structured content aggregation and curation process, by which professors seek, vet, frame, and, where appropriate, add to existing resources in order to yield complete courses, hosted on a central site and tied to user outcomes, assessments, and pre-defined learning taxonomies.  We would like to focus our presentation on the content aggregation portion of our process, as we believe that this step will impact the most stakeholders in the OER community.
When we aggregate content, we are looking for accurate, easy-to-access, approachably written resources.  We acquaint our professors with known open content repositories and textbook sites and encourage teams to share discipline-specific resources, for example, Smarthistory, Google Art, and Flickr for the Art History team, Professor Kimball's Biology Pages and iSpot for the biology team, and so on.  By beginning our process with learning taxonomies and outcomes in place, we are able to focus content searches and identify only those resources needed for student mastery.  Importantly, we have made the strategic decision to include copyrighted materials in our content aggregation process; while we host as much content as we can, we continue to link to copyright-protected materials with the hope that one day we will either obtain permission to host the resource permanently or replace it with an even better openly licensed version.
We believe that our structured aggregation technique addresses all four of the initially-stated problems, and that this solution offers salient benefits to many stakeholders in the OER space.  First and foremost, it addresses the needs of students and teachers looking for content on the web by placing content in context and by performing the important validating/vetting function on their behalf.  Students visiting saylor.org need not blindly weigh the relative value of two comparable pieces of content on, for example, mitosis; they will know that a professor has canvassed the web on his or her behalf and can trust the resource.  They will also understand how a piece of content fits into an overall topical progression, as well as within a chosen course and its projected outcomes.  Secondly, our process assists content developers and funders in the prudent use of resources when developing new OER content.  Our model enables us to identify gaps in existing content, and avoid unnecessary reduplication.  Third, our process, specifically our decision to include copyrighted content, promotes open practices and engages the academic community in the OER space.  When we cannot find an openly resource, or when a copyrighted resource is deemed superior to an openly licensed variation, we reach out to the copyright holder to encourage the relicensing or sharing of content. Finally, we draw attention to the work of content providers who have previously remained relatively undiscovered. 


avatar for Alana Harrington

Alana Harrington

Hi all. I am the Program Director for the Free Education Initiative at The Saylor Foundation (www.saylor.org). We're all excited for the conference and look forward to meeting you all. Please feel free to visit our site www.saylor.org-- we'll share a bit much more about our... Read More →

Tuesday October 25, 2011 3:00pm - 3:30pm MDT
White Pine

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