Brent, Isabelle, Gibbs, Graham R. and Gruszczynska, Anna Katarzyna (2012) Obstacles to creating and finding Open Educational Resources: the case of research methods in the social sciences. Journal of Interactive Media in Education (JIME), Spring.

Social Research Methods are approaches to undertaking research shared not only by the social sciences, but by many other disciplines. There is therefore enormous scope for the creation and re-use of open educational resources (OERs) in this field. However, our work with social scientists on a number of recent projects in the context of JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee)/ HEA (Higher Education Academy) supported UK OER programme suggests that there are some barriers to both OER creation and use. Although there are now a number of national and institutional projects creating learning resources in research methods and making 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 materials 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. The tacit understanding of academics about learning resources also meant that they saw potential users as mainly 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 quality and relevance of those resources and the ability to judge that quickly were paramount.

We discuss two approaches that attempt to tackle these issues. First, the development of a mapping tool that supports those creating OERs to identify a range of classificatory and metadata in a way that gives those looking for resources a much wider range of ways of finding them. Second, the development of a website, based on Web 2.0 technology that exploits the contributions of academics using and reviewing research methods OERs. We suggest that the activities on a blog-based website creates a cultural context which constitutes an element of a community of practice of social science academics. Users can find resources by quality, pedagogy, and other metadata as well as content and through vicarious learning about the use and reviewing of resources by other academics, they may develop better practices in their own re-use and attribution of OERs.

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