Summary of OERu 2011.11 meeting outputs for AVI

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Summary of AVI ideas as of November 2011

Note: Copy of Meeting summary for Academic Volunteers International

"Academic Volunteers International" is a core activity under the Open Student Support initiative of the the OERu logic model. It aims to develop a financially sustainable and scalable system of support for OERu learners drawing on a gifting culture and a global network of individual philanthropy. A critical mass of interested people donating one hour per week could scale exponentially in a relatively short period of time.

Academic Volunteers International is not intended to replace tuition services offered by traditional institutions, but rather to generate an international social networking space to support OERu learners. Group 2 was tasked to begin developing a proposal for action for this Open Student Support component of the logic model, paying particular attention to ideas for scaling the model for large numbers of students. The notion that "you can't tell volunteers what to do" emerged as a constituting principle for future success and that the model will harness the benefits of self-organisation and open governance approaches.

OERu founding anchor partners identified a number of potential sources of volunteer support for the model including for example:

  • Retired academics who could be recruited using an "honour referral" approach;
  • Existing academics where community service recognition is integrated into the staff appraisal systems of OERu anchor partners and other formal education institutions for support provided through Academic Volunteers International (Empire State College was cited as an example which already recognize work on OERu as recognised community service contributions);
  • Students who participate in community service learning courses where course credit is provided for OERu service hours.
  • Students studying education could be required to provide e-moderation services as part of their official course assignment(s) for credit within existing education courses.
  • OERu senior students could qualify for rebates or discounts on assessment and credential services from OERu anchor partners in return for providing support through Academic Volunteers International.
  • Professional bodies could consider Academic Volunteers International as an option for retaining membership.
  • Corporate citizenship models could be designed for businesses to donate staff time to Academic Volunteers International.
  • Existing open communities who work in the open education and other related areas.

The group noted that using appropriate design, automation and embedding of learning analytics' approaches, Academic Volunteers International could leverage the Pareto principle whereby 80% of the support requirements could be achieved by only 20% effort. For example, the notion that 80% of new students' questions have already been asked in previous offerings of a course. Consequently, it would be possible to develop FAQ databases as part of the course development and maintenance process. A hybridised approach drawing on gaming theory and the open source software experience with reference to meritocracy and community kudos could be effectively reused and modified for Academic Volunteers International. A combination of community status coupled with a pyramid design where most of the queries can be addressed before a senior community volunteer needs to spend time would be key to the scalability of the model. The sequence for requesting support, for instance, would be to first consult the searchable FAQ database, then to request peer-to-peer support from the active global cohort, then to ask help from general academic volunteer supporters and finally the Academic Volunteer "Gurus" who have earned their status through the ranks of the system.

The group recommended the development of OERs and open capacity building opportunities (similar to WikiEducator's Learning4Content training model) as well as a community badge system to acknowledge levels and experience within a volunteer typology depicting levels of expertise.

The focus on the short term will be for OERu to design the system for Academic Volunteers International and to nurture the development of a critical mass of volunteers needed for self-organisation and scalable growth.