Week 6: OERs – Reuse…Revise…Remix…Redistribute…

This blog post relates to my study of Open Educational Resources as part of my Emerging Technologies for Learning Program of study at the University of Manitoba. Our instructor has asked “How does [internationalisation & localisation] apply to OERs? And how can you adapt your own OER content to address issues of local and foreign culture?”

As with the creation of any artefact, consideration of the intended audience is paramount.  What do you assume that they already know? What do they need to know?  What are their life experiences? What is their cultural background? How will they use the artefact?  In terms of OERs, one of their strengths is the licencing that enables you to repurpose, revise, remix, and redistribute taking into account the context in which the body of work is to be used. So I guess the trick when producing OERs is to design them such that they are as easy as possible to repurpose for different audiences, rather than trying to make your work accessible to everyone.

The localisation of work is not necessarily limited to a region or ethnic culture.  It can in-fact include organisational cultures.  I am considering my final project for the course and what body of work to produce.  I’d like to create something applicable to my place of work.  This means ensuring it is localised to my workplace culture, and aligns with the organisational goals, language (what organisations don’t have their own acronyms and idioms for instance?), facilities and so on.  So re-purposing an OER can mean combinations of reuse, revision, remixing, and redistribution such that the final product meets an organisational need.

Factors to consider when localising content can be obvious such as language.  If an artefact was written in Spanish as an example, it would be completely inaccessible to the likes of myself who can speak nothing other than English.  While other factors are far more subtle, yet still significant.  For instance, it is common to use an analogy (or examples) to teach a new concept or idea by drawing a parallel between a known concept and a new one.  What if the concept you assume to already be known by the learner is not known at all?  So your choice of analogy must be localised to match the context of the learner, or else it becomes meaningless. While there are a growing number of software tools available that will translate one language to another, the more subtle nuances such as analogies embedded within bodies of work are harder to address. Returning to my initial point of designing OERs such that they are easy to repurpose for different audiences, it would be useful to be able to mark-up within an OER, elements that are contextual, such as analogies so that they can be interchanged to meet the needs of a particular audience.  So when translating a body of work from one context to another, these marked-up areas can be replaced with something more meaningful for the intended audience.


4 thoughts on “Week 6: OERs – Reuse…Revise…Remix…Redistribute…

  1. Great point Damien. In the past we traditionally wanted to have a target and idea of who the learners were going to be (and like mentioned, what they already know). Generally, this is where we would do a needs assessment or something similiar. With OERs doing a needs assessment for global learners is not necessarily possible.

    So as you said ” I guess the trick when producing OERs is to design them such that they are as easy as possible to repurpose for different audiences”.

    My students come from various different countries and during the course I run, I spend a lot of time talking about local expressions, slang and other terminology. In this case the goal is to help them adjust to the workplace and be successful in their job search (understanding expressions that might be used in interviews or assessments). In this setting I became greatly aware of how expressions are vastly different in each countries.

    You said: “it would be useful to be able to mark-up within an OER, elements that are contextual.” Is there any paticular way you would suggest the elements being marked up on the OER? Woud you use a simple note or is there a certain software or format that you would use?

    Thank you for sharing your ideas. You have expressed some key points.


    • You said: “it would be useful to be able to mark-up within an OER, elements that are contextual.” Is there any paticular way you would suggest the elements being marked up on the OER? Woud you use a simple note or is there a certain software or format that you would use?

      Meta-data (data about data) is probably the key in terms of doing something like this in a structured way, that is re-usable. Although the development of agreed standards around this sort of thing, and more importantly their adoption can be very time-consuming and fragmented. Consider the popular web browsers, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox and so on – they each (although some much worse than others – ie IE) have their own nuances and interpretations to standards, and it makes it very difficult as a web-developer to create websites that work across all of them. And browser standards are quite well documented and debated amongst technologists. Something for OERs would be even harder to reach agreed use.

      Ideally though, you would want to be able to “tag” elements of your work in a way that identifies them as interchangeable (ie an example or something contextual), and also identifying what the current content is. An example probably works better. You are explaining the workings of an internal combustion engine and you are drawing an analogy from a bicycle – cylinders in an engine are like your legs on a bicycle. In countries or societies where bicycles are uncommon (at a guess Iceland? :)), this analogy may not be as meaningful as say the Netherlands. So the part of the OER that draws the analogy would be marked as an ‘analogy’ and also marked as ‘bicycles’ so that if you were to repurpose this body of work for Iceland, you could easily see that an analogy exists in the existing version, that would not fit well with the icelandic context, and can then be exchanged for another more meaningful one, that would be tagged depending on its meaning (ie. Dog’s legs pulling a sled – showing my ignorance of Iceland here).

      Really something that allows us to maximise re-use, while minimising effort of adaption.

  2. I agree with your overall premise….make your OER as easy for others to localize as possible. It would indeed be an onerous task to try and design content to meet all user needs…some of which you are likely unable to anticipate. Your target audience is primary. The clear intent of internationalization is to design content so that others can [as you describe] reuse, remix, revise and redistribute. Licensing does indeed then become important as well.

    The idea of contextual clues or development information is interesting. We were always told when writing documentation for computer programs to be as thorough as possible. In order to for programmers to revisit programs that they might not have worked on both internal and external documentation must be extremely informative. Your aids to contexualization would be similar.


  3. As in writing or teaching generally, if you’re specific and clear about your audience, then your OER is linked to that audience in all its possible nuances. I don’t think this is a bad thing; as you point out, what would be most useful in an OER is the identification of things that might be “too local” for a wider audience. I like Stu’s analogy of embedding information in the code in “internal documentation.”

    However, a devil’s-advocate proposition might be that part of the work of reusing/repurposing is that intellectual exercise to figure out whether the OER is going to be understandable and meaningful to your audience even though it may have been created for a quite different audience. There may be a negotiated balance between original creator and modifier-adopter around these questions of localization and audience. What does seem true to me is the question of physical disability, that OERs should be easily able to be reworked by software or humans so the they are easily seen or heard.

    Thanks, Damien! I always enjoy reading your thoughts.

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