I read Keith’s blog entry today, and it got me to thinking about why we are so resistant to using each others materials, and what we can do about it. Cooperation and collaboration in producing good quality instructional resources is rare to the point of being unheard of.
I think there is one reason that Keith neglected to mention, and that is the hope of stardom. What I mean by that is in the competitive research world, there are massive egos and the opportunity for blips of stardom (being the top researcher in an area that only interests 14 other people in the world drives many). However, HE teachers, the ones who aren’t really in the research game, look for their chance for stardom in producing a best selling textbook or teaching gimmick. That’s a solo effort (or possibly a duet). As a result, we get inundated with “original” ways of looking at virtually every subject in the world (something Keith alluded to). Because every teacher has their own special way to reach students, and many of them publish their approach in hopes that they will gain niche stardom and all the fame and fortune (usually about £47.50/year) that follows.
As a result, there is no tradition of working together to produce high quality materials.
To use high quality resources that publishers market (and there is some superb quality stuff out there) is unacceptable – either because the cost is too high (the institution won’t fund it), or your colleagues will accuse you of selling your soul to the devil.
OERs are great, but usually mediocre quality. How do we establish a tradition of getting together to produce high quality materials? If they are already out there and freely available, where are they? How can we become co-producers and sharers in a world where no one wants to consume?
We do ourselves and our students a real disservice by not moving in this direction. Since information is abundant, we should be adding to it as a community and sharing our additions with each other. But more importantly, we need to be using what has already been made.
I was away in the Canaries for a couple of weeks and developed pneumonia while there (I went with a bit of a cough, and it got worse). The medical care I received there was the inspiration for my blog post today.
I have lived all of my adult life in either Canada and the UK, both of which have had national health care systems (UK okay, Canada, much better). WHat shocked me about the health care I received in Tenerife (Canary Islands) was the focus of the care. The doctor in Tenerife acted like she actually cared about me as a person – she indicated on my daily visits that she had been thinking about me, and was concerned about my progress. I have developed good friendships with a number of the medical professionals I have seen in both Canada and the UK, but I have never been led to believe that the doctors I see at home are concerned about me as a person. They are there to treat an illness, and I happen to be the person currently carrying that illness. That doesn’t mean they aren’t kind and friendly, but the centre of their focus is almost completely on the treatment of some ailment, not on me as a human being.
What does this have to do with HE. I think we do the same thing with our students. We are concerned about everything except them and their learning (as people). Administrators worry about how well the system is holding together, lecturers worry about delivering a good lecture (or teaching event), and the students worry about getting good grades. Even the external stakeholders ignore the learning – parents worry about grades and job prospects, wile employers focus on institutional prestige, GPA and degree classification.
Who is concerned about learning? Who cares about the personal development that accompanies intense learning experiences? Assessments are largely focused on memory. Lectures are used because it is an easy way to teach and a passive way to learn. Large groups are the norm because we don’t have the resources to properly fund real learning opportunities. MOOCs are all the rage, in part because the give a whole new meaning to ‘large group’. We are teaching the material in education rather than helping our students learn. We need to refocus what we do on our learners and not on our instruction.