Gibbs, Graham R. (2012) The dissemination and discovery of open educational resources. A case study of research methods. In: Social Sciences: Ways of Knowing, Ways of Learning HEA Social Sciences Conference, 28-29 May 2012, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Liverpool, UK.

The field of Social Research Methods is shared not only by the social sciences, but also by many other disciplines. There is therefore enormous scope for the creation and re-use of open educational resources (OERs) in this area. However, our work with social scientists on a number of recent projects suggests that barriers exist to OER creation and use in social research methods teaching. Although there are now a number of national and institutional projects which have created learning resources in research methods and made them openly available for teachers and students to use, many still use licences that restrict re-use and, in particular, modification. We refer to these as grey OERs. We also found that, in contrast to the well-developed practice of citation in research work, academics and teachers had a narrow notion of licensing and copyright of teaching materials, consistent with a limited experience of sharing teaching materials. Academics conceived of potential users mainly as other academics who were subject experts like themselves. That meant that they gave little weight to the role of broad description and metadata in making resources findable. At the same time, when academics looked for resources, the provenance, quality and relevance of those resources and the ability to judge that quickly were paramount.

We examined an approach that attempts to tackle these issues, namely the development of a website based on Web 2.0 technology. (Methods) We were concerned that there was a barrier to academics’ re-use of open educational resources particularly in terms of judging appropriateness and quality and in finding high quality resources. So this site exploits the contributions of academics using and reviewing research methods OERs. Users can find resources by quality, pedagogy, and other metadata as well as content.

There are some other similar sites attempting similar things for broader areas in education: EdMediaShare and Cloudworks. But a common problem for all is sustainability and curation. So we suggest a different solution; use University Repositories for OERs.

Most universities now use repositories for research outputs and they will be around for a long time. In most cases library staff tend to curate (and add meta-data) and mechanisms for licensing are in place. So that covers most of the curation issues. But an additional benefit is that repositories are searchable using Google and it is a simple matter to create a customised search which will only examine these repositories. However, there are still some limitations to this solution. It excludes the large amount of good resources that are to be found on You Tube and (unless the resources in the repositories point to sites like Vimeo and You Tube) there is still no quick and easy way for potential users to inspect the resource.

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