Buffalo State will be launching a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on January 16th called “Locating, Creating, Licensing and Utilizing OERs”. They have utilized CourseSites by Blackboard as their MOOC platform.

I interviewed Beth Burns and Mark McBride, from the course design team, to learn more about their experiences throughout the design and development process. Beth Burns is an Instructional Designer at Buffalo State and Adjunct English Instructor, Genesee Community College. Mark McBride is the Coordinator of Library Instruction and Coordinator of Library Liaison Program at Buffalo State.

1. What was the motivation behind providing a course on Open Educational Resources (OER)?

We are both strong advocates for affordable and accessible education for everyone. We believe that everyone should be able to achieve their educational goals regardless of cost. We also have witnessed first hand that many educators either are unaware of what OERs are or how they can be used in their teaching and scholarship. Furthermore, we know many faculty who are using OER and their work with them is not being recognized as scholarly. We wanted to build a course that could create a community of practice. A place where like-minded people could gather, discuss, support each other and create.

2. Why did you choose to offer the OER course as a MOOC?

First we wanted to make sure anyone and everyone could attend. Often times course are identified as being owned or managed by an institution and we were focused on opening the course to anyone who was interested. We are both fans of the Connectivist MOOC and admire the way the course evolves based on the direction the participants take the course. We were also inspired by the courses at American Public University that Phylise Banner created at their Center for Teaching and Learning. Her idea of a community course really inspired us and we hope that OER 101 will follow that model.

3. Why did you choose CourseSites as your MOOC platform?

Mainly because we have been really impressed by the level of commitment the CourseSites team have made to this course. Initially we looked at another LMS, but Jarl Jonas and his team really made a commitment to us to help with making our vision a reality. We have both been impressed with the intuitive nature of the design structure and CourseSites has made it easy for us to set up open enrollment and issue badges, two of the key aspects of the administrative side of OER 101.

4.  What were some key instructional design decisions you made to make the course scalable?

One of the biggest design decisions regarding scalability was the choice of learning activities.  Discussions in large courses can often be unwieldy and confusing, so we wanted to choose learning activities that would cultivate sharing and discussion, but in a more manageable format.  We settled on blogs after looking at the experiences of others involved in MOOCs, both from a teaching and learning perspective.  It is our hope that the course blogs allow participants to record their thoughts, connect with one another, and cultivate a sense of community exploration.  Additionally, we elected to use a visual navigation format and a suggested, linear progression for the content.  Participants are encouraged to follow the suggested content progression or create one of their own.

5. Did the MOOC design process facilitate collaboration with other institutions?

Once we began conversations about OER 101 it brought many of our SUNY colleagues together. We have all been asked at our individual institutions and by our individual departments to answer what open education means for higher education. The people who are working with us in designing the course are invested in making the educational experience better for all SUNY and are committed to. Beth and I both felt, and still do, that getting perspectives from people we admire and respect, asking them to help bring OER 101 to a reality and having them add their expertise to the course content would instill a spirit of cooperation that is essential in developing a MOOC and is truly the spirit of open education. We can’t break down the barriers for students if we still have barriers between us.

6. What is the biggest surprise you have had from the experience so far?

Just how many people really stepped up and helped us with creating content for OER 101 and how many people are waiting in the wings to help facilitate the communities we will be developing within the course. We have been humbled by the collaborative nature of our colleagues.

Learn more about the Buffalo State MOOC or get started building your own MOOC on CourseSites.

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