This is the first part of a two-part blog post.
In October, Sunny Pai, Wayde Oshiro, and I presented “Putting OER into Practice Through a Continuum of Professional Development” at the Open Education 2018 Conference held in Niagara Falls, NY.
Once our presentation proposal was accepted, the pressure was on to come up with something insightful and innovative, or at the very least, helpful! We chose to examine the OER professional development (PD) at Leeward CC and Kapiolani CC, identifying the elements for successful PD, then analyzing it through the lens of adoption models such as Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Model and the Technology Adoption Model.
I will simplify what we presented and concentrate on what I am most familiar with - professional development or professional learning as I prefer to call it. Over the last three years, both campuses have offered a variety of OER professional learning opportunities for instructors. These ranged from a 1-hour informational session to a 5-day intensive hands-on, in-person workshop.
After offering different OER professional learning options, we saw it resulted in varying degrees of OER implementation. This led us to the question: What are the essential elements necessary in professional learning to guide faculty through the process of OER awareness and to then make a strong commitment to adopting and creating OER?
Looking back on our experiences, we identified what we think are the essential elements for successful professional learning for OER:
- Safe Environment
- Variety of Activities
- Social Connections
- Focused Attention
- Open Mindset
- Clear Why
As we took a step back and reflected on the different OER professional learning offered at our campuses, the one element that leaped out as being most critical to successful OER adoption was time. Instructors need to have enough time to process through their questions about OER. One of the first activities at Leeward’s 5-day workshop is to ask each participant to share his/her questions and concerns with OER. Throughout the week, some of the questions were answered, while others were not. While there may not have been answers to all the questions, it was an important part of the process for facilitators to recognize and validate the concerns participants raised. Participants needed time to work through their concerns, to weigh the usefulness of incorporating OER in their course, and to shift their attitude (if needed) before taking the first steps to fully commit to using OER.
Safe Environment & Variety of Activities
Creating a safe environment for participants with a variety of activities went hand-in-hand with providing time to work through the OER adoption process. As educators, we all know how important it is to create a safe environment for our students to learn. Participants in the OER workshop series were no different. When designing it, I intentionally created a safe environment for instructors to openly express their concerns, engage in deep discussions with their colleagues, and gradually bring the entire group to a shared mindset in which OER adoption is a possibility. As facilitators, we did not rush through content, nor did we quickly jump from one topic to another. Instead, we designed a variety of hands-on small group activities and discussions that encouraged learning and deep reflection. It was through the sharing and processing as a group that we saw connections being made and a community beginning to develop.
We encouraged the building of social connections among participants in one-on-one and small group conversations during “social time”. We found participants talked about their personal life, hobbies, travel, teaching, respective campuses, and many other areas. As we all know, living in Hawaii, food helps to encourage these social connections, so we were sure to feed both the body as well as the mind. It is important to recognize that “hanging out” time is productive and necessary to building community.
Another essential element was focused attention. While it is not always possible to offer PD when instructors are not teaching, we found the most effective PD occurred during the summer, when instructors have the time to focus their undivided attention on one thing only and that was OER.
PD on our campuses is voluntary so it is not surprising that individuals that participate nearly always have an open mindset. Participants with an open mindset are most willing to learn about and fully commit to OER.
Finally, it is important to clearly articulate the “why” Why is OER important for students as well as for instructors. It is important to give instructors the opportunity to explore why OER is important to them so it can be deeply integrated into their own beliefs and teaching philosophy.
Providing time, creating a safe environment, using a variety of activities, encouraging social connections, conducting professional learning when participants can focus, encouraging open mindset individuals to participate, and articulating the “why” are all elements I have found produce the best OER PD results. While it isn’t essential for all elements to be present for quality PD to occur, incorporating as many of these elements as possible will spur a deeper, more profound commitment to the ideals on which OER is built.
In collaboration with the instructional designers I work with, and through my own personal experience, I have found these elements can be applied to other topics that also call for transformational change in the teaching and learning process.
Thanks, Wayde for editing this long post!