The mixably Open Online Course (mOOC), Part 1.5: OER and Integration Cost

So I was going to head straight into part two, on mixability in the mOOC. But I realized I needed to outline how mixability of OER stands now, at least when used in a traditional institutional context.

The answer, in short, is using OER today is like trying to compose emails to people using only clauses found in the work of Henry James. Or language from any other defined corpus. While the clauses may be quality, the time cost finding those them and integrating them to tell a coherent story far exceeds any value those clauses bring to the equation. The problem, in other words, is integration cost. The video below explains how this works in a typical example an instructor might face.

3 thoughts on “The mixably Open Online Course (mOOC), Part 1.5: OER and Integration Cost

  1. So I entirely agree that finding and then repurposing materials takes a lot of effort, more effort than many OER proponents might have you believe. BUT…compared to what? Buying a prepackaged course from a publisher? Building it from scratch yourself? And are the results equivalent, both in terms of their appropriateness for what they are trying to teach and in terms of their effectiveness in helping learners learn? Their costs, in all its forms?

    I understand that the point of this series isn’t to dispute the usefulness of OER but instead argue for ways to build them that can help with their reusability. Which is great. But part of the problem is that the norms of how long the material would take to build from scratch and how well they are acheiving their goals are more assumed than known, and so inevitably instructors shy away from what looks like a major effort to reuse existing materials. While that video may have taken 4.5 hours, can instructors realistically produce something comparable on their own in the same time? Or buy something (that doesn’t simply hide or shift the costs down the line to the institution or learners) for 4.5 hours worth of their time?

    Also (as I’ve tried to argue in my “Open Educator as DJ” talk and elsewhere) too often the course creation process is approached as a discrete effort in time and space instead of an ongoing flow. We teach people through these discrete exercises (term papers, exams) that only iterate once and for which we orient them as creators, not re-users; it should be of little surprise that they then don’t have the capacity or inclination to behave in this way when then asked to produce teaching materials later on.

    I guess I’m simply saying we can approach the issue for both sides – making the concerted effort, as you are doing, to produce materials that address some of the easily identifiable barriers to reuse is a good thing (and one that I’d argue many in the OER community have in fact been trying, albeit in seeming obliviousness to how the internet outside of the academy actually functions). But so would helping people reveal some of the hidden assumptions they make about their own work and workflow, and helping them to develop re-use competencies that are much more widely applicable than just creating courseware in a world of information abundance.

  2. Scott — you’ve asked a lot of good questions here, and I’m struggling to answer them in the form of a comment. Let me think on this a day and maybe write a blog post response?

    One thing I can say is that right now people *do* vastly overestimate the quality of their own work. The truth may be that your 4.5 hours of work produces something far inferior. In fact, I might argue that that usually is the case. One of the things I’ve been trying to do in the mOOC is put aside my own ego and build off of existing OER, even where I have some qualms about the pedagogy of that OER. Because it’s very easy for me to see the flaws without understanding all the flaws my own work will introduce. So I should be more clear about the lesson of integration cost — I actually think that 10 hours to prep a one and a half hour class is *entirely reasonable*. But when you follow that to it’s logical economic conclusion the lesson becomes that we cannot expect *everyone* to fully integrate a class — that we have to pool the integration effort as well.

    I think we agree on that?

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