The Open Learning Champions (OLC) programme has been run by the Open University in Scotland since 2015. Champions support learners to access open educational resources, particularly using the Open University’s free learning platform OpenLearn. Champions are drawn from partner organisations in the voluntary and community sectors, and have existing relationships with people in disadvantaged communities – enabling the university to bring learners in from the periphery. The model can be seen as an example of what Perryman and Coughlan (2013) describe as “reaching out with OER”. The session will explore how open learning champions are using OER and what support they provide to learners to enable them to access the resources in diverse practice settings.
The purpose of this session is to reflect on how OER are being used in these contexts, using case studies from the OLC programme’s evaluation. Our evaluation strategy has been to take a qualitative, case study approach to investigate the use of OER within this supportive relationship and how it relates to our understanding of open educational practice in community settings. Case studies can provide the opportunity to understand practitioner behaviour, and contribute to the programme’s evolving approach of co-creation with communities.
For disadvantaged communities, ‘free and open’ alone does not equate to access. Crucially, the case studies identify the role of relationships and “social support” in overcoming barriers for potential open learners. Programmes that are centred in the community can help return open education to its potentially democratising and emancipatory basics. The session will offer the opportunity to critically reflect on the “possibilities of openness as well as the limits, risks, and struggles — for individuals, organisations, and institutions” (Cronin and Czerniewicz, 2017) in a community context.
This session is intended to be interactive, using provocative questions or statements after each case study to invite dialogue with participants. These will be drawn from the stories of the open learning champions working in the community. They will encourage participants to reflect critically on their own open educational practice and how it may “shape and change the world” (Smith, 2011).
Perryman, L and Coughlan, T (2013). The realities of ‘reaching out’: enacting the public-facing open scholar role with existing online communities. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, article no. 21. Available at: http://oro.open.ac.uk/39100/ (accessed 30 November 2018).
Cronin, C and Czerniewicz, L (2017). Critical pragmatism and critical advocacy: Addressing the challenges of openness. Presented at OER18. Available at: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ymP1_bThRNxfL2gUTt9XaiDLP5CG2LcRT-YkgRGcduY/edit#slide=id.p (accessed 30 November 2018).
Smith, MK (2011). What is praxis? The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education. Available at: http://infed.org/mobi/what-is-praxis/ (accessed 18 January 2019).