Thursday, 4 April 2013

Activity 8 - CRAAP

The title refers to an acronym which I came across while searching one of the repositories for content relating to the evaluation of online sources: Currency, Reliability, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose. Nice and easy to remember. The title could also (maybe somewhat harshly) refer to my first impressions of some of the OER repositories…

My short course in digital skills would be aimed at undergraduates, specifically to aid their transition into Higher Education. I’m looking for material on digital literacies (a very broad term obviously), and in this case two particular strands which are ‘being a digital learner’ and ‘managing digital identity’.

As I’ve already had some experience searching for this type of material, I went into the task thinking that it should be relatively easy to locate open resources on this topic. It was instructive to compare the resources I’m already aware of to what could be (easily and quickly) found on these 6 OER repositories.

   * I spent a lot of time on this and found the search process frustrating so the table below isn't very comprehensive and I haven't included any specific links..

Suitability (G/M/B)
Weeks 1 – 3
Being a Digital Learner
Finding & Evaluating online resources
(search skills and developing critical awareness of web content)
I was able to locate some good materials, a few of which I knew about already. However, the searches also turned up a lot of irrelevant content and many times took me to resources which no longer existed or had moved.
Creativity Tools
(moving from consumer to producer of content: video, audio, blogging, Prezi etc.)
For guides and How Tos, there are better sources out there without going through repositories (e.g. from YouTube itself, blogger, Prezi etc.)
Building your learning network
(e.g. using Twitter, social bookmarking, research portals etc.)
Some good content on Twitter, although a Google search turned up the same or better resources more quickly.
Weeks 4 & 5
Managing your Digital Identity
Staying safe online
A lot of the content which came up was aimed at schools and teenagers. Not so much came up for university students.
Managing your online identity

I’d run out of patience by this stage….

The disappointing results may have been partly due to inept search strategies on my part. As this is just a test exercise, perhaps I needed to give more thought to exactly what I was looking for and how to phrase my searches. It's important to think about:

  • What exactly am I looking for?
  • What kind of resources would support this kind of online delivery? 
  • Aside from the content, what are the learning processes and activities which would support my students' learning objectives? (it's not all about content...)
  • How much time am I prepared to spend adapting material I find?

For example, if I’m looking for specific tutorials on how to use a particular Web 2.0 tool, some of the best sources are provided by the companies themselves, so a simple link to the relevant content would suffice. (e.g a Blogger tutorial, Google's own Google Docs tutorials etc.) So the important consideration would be how I would like students to use this source of information and what processes/activities would support this.

A lot of the OERs returned appeared to be articles or case studies which, while they may be interesting, or thought-provoking, would not necessarily be any use for an online course. If I’m looking for a complete learning resource – perhaps a presentation, screencast, PDF guide, learning object etc. then it becomes more difficult to find something which fits the particular context I’m working in. For example, there are quite a few online Information Literacy tutorials provided by libraries, however, in many cases they will include information on searching their own specific library site, so at this point you also need to look at whether it is possible (and feasible) to adapt it for reuse in your context. 

In summary,  although there are undoubtedly good resources out there, it was so time-consuming to find these that it was hardly worth it, especially as what you do find will often still need repurposing.
A well worded Google search was far more effective – perhaps because I’m more used to using it. Also, I’ve found that a lot of the really good materials in this area, because of the nature of their subject matter, are in fact released under CC licenses anyway. I wouldn’t use Ariadne or Merlot again. OpenLearn and MIT I would use if I was looking for broader, less granular learning resources, perhaps for myself. 

I also have some reservations about these OER repositories as they seem to reinforce the idea that 'content is king' - all you need to do is find that elusive perfect resource that's out there somewhere and you can sit back and put your feet up. This, of course, is not the case.
It's perhaps worth asking whether people who are creating really good and up to date online resources now consider that they should put them in repositories? Or would they be more likely to tweet, upload to Slideshare, put it on a blog and reach out to their own community that way? Perhaps that is the key – for these kind of resources to be most effective they should build on pre-existing communities of practice and be aimed at smaller audiences, rather than putting everything into a one-size-fits-all database.

Final thought: I'm finding it difficult to filter out content going on the blog which is relevant to my own interests (Higher Education). Would it be an idea to add an extra tag (alongside #H817) to each blog post we make (for example #HigherEducation or  #secondary or #furthereducation) to make it easier to filter out blog posts which are most directly relevant to us? I know that it's also good to be exposed to ideas from other sectors, but at least this way we could start with the most directly relevant content...  - the Categories at the bottom seem too vague and numerous to be useful in this respect. We could even tag it with the Activity number as well.... Any thoughts?

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