University’s Open Education Week events experience low faculty turnout
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
Last week marked the second time the Office of IT Academic Technology Services organized webinars focused on teaching professors about different resources they can use in their classroom as part of a week-long event called Open Education Week.
Though eight events were held last week, Educational Technologist Mathieu Plourde said few professors participated.
“It’s hard to get faculty members to attend training sessions because they have busy schedules,” Plourde said. “They have conflicting priorities just like everybody else.”
Friday’s wrap-up discussion was canceled due to no attendance from the faculty.
The movement, which is hosted by the Opencourseware Consortium, seeks to show educators the free resources available to them that are not protected by copyright laws.
These resources are usually covered under Creative Commons laws, where owners of works give permission to anyone to alter or use their work in any way they see fit, according to Mary Lou Forward, Open Education Week Executive Director of Vermont’s OCW Consortium. Creative Commons is in contrast to copyright laws, which usually do not allow for widespread use or changes to the original work unless by the owner, Forward said.
She said Creative Commons can be beneficial in developing the world’s collective knowledge.
“It allows people to more rapidly develop ideas and thoughts,” Forward said.
One of the first areas this idea gained momentum was in the music world, she said. Artists would post their music online and others might change the lyrics or the beats, Forward said.
Creative Commons laws usually imply that users can gain access at little or no cost, according to Plourde.
“‘Open’ can mean free, but ‘open’ can also mean freedom,” he said.
One way professors can take advantage of texts protected under Creative Commons is by accessing one of the many websites which provide textbook databases to users at low prices or for free.
At a Friday webinar focusing on providing more information on one of these websites, one person showed up.
Plourde, who got involved with the movement through professional contacts he has made through social media, said he faces some resistance from professors who think paper copies of texts are more beneficial for students’ ability to retain information.
“It’s inevitable,” Plourde said. “In ten years, nobody’s going to be talking about paper textbooks. It’s so inefficient.”
Although Kevin Currie-Knight, a graduate assistant at the Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning, was unable to attend any of the Open Education events last week, he said he sees a value in implementing open educational resources for students in the classroom. However, he is worried about how it could hurt himself and other professors.
“As a future professor, it concerns me a little bit,” Currie-Knight said. “I wouldn’t really have a lot of marketability because people can get our things elsewhere. As a professor, we really have to brand ourselves.”
Currie-Knight, who is a PhD candidate in education focusing on history and philosophy, said he has used the podcasts of scholars discussing different philosophical principles to augment his students learning.
He said tools like this can “get students to take charge of their own education.” Through both podcasts and online videos, professors can save class time and allow students to choose their own pace of learning.
“Not only can students watch it outside of class, they can watch it again, rewind it, pause it,” he said.
Forward said she felt the most important part of this initiative is to make learning possible for all who want to continue their studies. She said one-third of people who take advantage of these learning opportunities are not enrolled in an educational institute but want to continue their learning after completing their formal education.
“We think people should have access to education,” Forward said. “It’s a public good, it’s a right and the systems in that aren’t friendly to that goal.”
Forward said Open Education Week is a step in making education more affordable, although the main goal of the group is to get these resources out there.
Plourde said he and the Office of IT Academic Technology Services plan to publicize the event more next year in order to increase the amount of faculty attendees.
Ultimately, however, he said he believes students should try to get their professors more interested in finding these resources so that their students may save money while gaining knowledge.
“It’s important for students to realize that they must speak up,” Plourde said. “If it bothers them to have to buy those textbooks, they should at least mention to their faculty members, ‘Have you looked at open education?’”