“Fervent OERu supporters need to soak themselves in a bath of realism.”

Posted on June 8, 2012

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Last Thursday I gave my “end-of-SCORE-fellowship” presentation to a group of other SCORE fellows at the Open University. It was a bit premature, because I had only just received all the survey data (42 respondentsfrom UK HEIs  – thank you to everyone who participated) and was still in the process of gathering data via the interviews with UK HEI “thought leaders” (some of which I have already blogged about here). But the gathering of fellows gave me an opportunity to present some very preliminary findings, which I summarised in this slide show

A few comments for now – more to follow once I have more detailed findings available:
  • The title of this blog post comes from one of the survey respondents, who was clearly not in favour of the OERu concept. It encapsulated many of the more sceptical comments made in both the interviews and the survey.
  • The rules of the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in the UK) were perceived to present a signifant obstacle to collaborative provision of courses as envisaged by the OERu. A number of participants felt that “soft badging” (a la MIT) would be a solution to this problem, but recognised that that would not be within the spirit of the OERu, which aims to give learners equivalent awards to what they would receive in mainstream higher education.
  • Many respondents, understandably, felt that their institutions would be relcutant to consider a radical new model of provision (even for a portion of their offerings) until the dust has settled regarding the new fee structure, in which students are now bearing the full cost of their education (in most cases, around £9,000 per year for full-time study) in England. The new fees will be implemented from September of this year, and I would say there is a general climate of anxiety in the sector in anticipation of the possible impact on institutions. Many universities (including my own) have implemented a freeze on new staff recruitment and incentives for voluntary early retirement; some are carrying out painful cuts as well.
  • The negative comments were almost (but not quite) balanced out by a view that “It would be wrong to ignore it (the OERu)” – which I interpret to mean “We think it’s a good idea, but we don’t want to commit ourselves right now”. In many cases, individuals expressed both positive and negative views, with the positives primarily coming out in response to the overarching questions (such as “What is your view on the OERu in the context of higher education in your country?”) and the negative comments being attached to questions about the details of how the OERu concept might be implemented.
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