Thoughts on quality

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Wikis are open authoring systems -- and in education circles, quality is an important consideration. We're keen to hear your views on the following three questions.
  1. Do you have any concerns about the quality of educational resources developed using an open authoring approach? If so, what are your concerns? If not, how does an open authoring approach contribute to high quality learning materials?
  2. In your opinion, should the creation of teaching materials and course development use closed or open authoring approaches? Give reasons for your view?
  3. What mechanisms can be adopted to assure quality of educational content developed in Wiki environments?

Lulu Maitai

These are interesting questions the substance of which flashed through my mind this morning when trying to explain to a significant other about wikis. When gathering content as a community the acronym TEAM comes to mind - Together Everyone Achieves More. So, instead of relying on the expertise of one person you trust the expertise of the community. Will you get quality? This forum is for educators many of whom will not have published books or resources but whose 'chalk face' experience make them as valuable as those who choose to earn money from their knowledge. I guess the challenge is in the paradigm shift from education/knowledge as a resource to guard then make available to others for a profit to education/knowledge as being freely available to everyone as a right. I guess this is what the article in Wikipedia is saying. Still thinking....

Pascale Hyboud-Peron

Wished I could be as concise as Lulu, but...

Yes I do have a concern about the quality of resources shared openly. Working mainly with secondary teachers in New Zealand, I am aware of the demands of the National Curriculum ( its newly revised version allows for great flexibility without detracting from an emphasis on the teaching of core skills, as well as "paying head to new technologies" [1]) and the need to infuse learning in an engaging manner. Currently teachers are under a lot of pressure to re-visit their teaching and learning styles and "old hat" pedagogy is definitely under scrutiny. Hence quality is a major concern and can hinder the willingness to share.
I'll illustrate this with an example drawn from my occupation: a contributor shares a resource to publish on which I may think does not align, what do I do? Can't reject it, too rude. Suggest amendments? Well I am really qualified to do that, is it my role? Seek advice within my network on how to improve it ? Possibly but demanding. Publish it as it is? Hard, because of criticism ( of the resource, of the author, of me publishing it). So what do I really do? End up suggesting diplomatically an area to look at, crossing fingers the contributor won t be put off. These are real feelings and I get it time and again when inviting people to share their work: they are concerned about the "is it good enough? is it interesting enough? etc" and can not see that someone else can adapt it and improve it and "share it back".
When these hang ups associated with authoring and publishing (and let's not talk about the technology associated with it) are dealt with and ironed out, the open authoring approach can be successful, since there is no more fear to publish something "half cooked", but rather the satisfaction of seeing the seed planted grow out of collaborative work. The open authoring approach can contribute to high quality learning materials when a wide range of educators have learnt of its value and how it really works, that exemplars to emulate are provided, and that step by step guide to the process are readily available. Despite aspiring to the blue sky vision of "Bazaar-like" environment, I am stuck by a personal mindset moulded by the "Cathedral approach"! For instance I do take great pride in cataloguing resources, directing users to them, providing feedback and generally "taking visitors and contributors" by the hand: quite time consuming, taxing on people skill (especially via email mainly or chat!) and rather lonely too!
Reading the OER handbook has been a bit of a ah ah moment for me: creating teaching materials using open authoring approach is indeed the way to go and is well worth promoting. It is an excellent opportunity to reiterate to teachers, bogged down by their school demands (curriculum, assessment, limited or restricted access to Internet, Moodle and other cumbersome VLN etc) that education is a common good. An open authoring approach can be successful if contributors and users are a) open to criticism, b) generous in their suggestions, c) sold to the principle of sharing back for the common good. So the promotion of this approach should be accompanied with exemplars, a step by step "how to" , and a "what for" to be embraced readily. And maybe more importantly it needs to be human: securing the valuable support of selfless, committed, enthusiastic and rewarded people will facilitate the transition from a "I do it all myself anyway" to "we do it all together' attitude.
I look forward to reading what you all have to say as an answer to these questions. It will certainly help me get a clearer, more general picture, and thus enable me to be more convincing if I commit to spread the OER word!

Faye Booker

I think the open authoring approach has the potential to provide greater quality, as users collaborate and produce resources that are better than just one person can come up with. Maybe this is being idealistic?

Educators are often perfectionists and thus are reluctant to share unless they have had time to perfect resources. However the reality is that we don’t have time to perfect resources. The collaborative approach means there is a chance someone has already done quite a bit of work on something and you can spend time on making it fit your situation or adding improvements as you see fit.

We need to make sure that there is a supportive culture within OERNZ so that educators feel comfortable both with sharing their resources but also having others edit them without it being seen as a criticism.

I would prefer open authoring approaches on the wiki but realise this will take a substantial mind shift for some. I particularly want to see the students become involved with the resource development (as per Albany Senior High School).


I think we duplicate effort a lot by not sharing between learning institutes and see open authoring as a good way to reduce the duplication and potentially freeing up time to do more indepth development or more specific content for a subject. Peer review of open content seems appropriate to me for ensuring quality standards, obviously with some guidelines - I take content recommendations from other teachers all the time, word of mouth is always good. I think we should make all teaching material open, you learn as a teacher by getting feedback from other teachers if you do this. Quality of content happens on wikipedia as there are so many people reviewing it and editing it, but it still takes a core team of reviewers as well. I hope we can keep making quality education resources here.