Exceptional Quality

In response to David Wiley’s “Stop Saying ‘High Quality,’” his follow-up “Being Clear on ‘High Quality’” and Jeremy Browne’s comment to that second post, I have to agree with Jeremy and his apparent hesitation to using “effective” as the loftiest goal for educational resources. Indeed, there are a wide variety of factors that could influence the effectiveness of a given resource; what is highly effective for one student may not be for another. More importantly, determining the effectiveness of a resource implies something has been measured. This measuring most often happens after students have interacted with the resource in a course. The only way to capitalize on the effective quality of the resource is to use it again, in the same state it was offered when measured. Identifying effectiveness implies an end point of sorts, a check box. That arrangement, is the antithesis of what OER is all about. At its core, OER is about open; and with open comes continual change. Ironically, Wiley’s call to revise, and his proposed Remix Hypothesis highlights the elevated import of this characteristic of OER.

So as not to “kick up [more] dust” as Jeremy suggests, and to give a feeble nod to Caufield’s “Type 2 comments,” I suggest using “engaging” to supplant “effective” when referring to what our highest goals for educational resources should be. As an instructional designer (one of my many hats), I have a much better idea of how a resource may engage a student before the interaction occurs, than how effective it will be in actual practice with a group of students I initially know nothing about. Regardless of whether or not the student is engaged by the resource, I can assess its engagement potential before the student-content interaction occurs. After the interaction I can assess the effectiveness of how well the resource engaged students and contributed to their attainment of intended outcomes. Then, in the spirit of OER, I can revise/remix the resource to enhance the level of engagement.

In regards to scope, only focusing on an individual resource, like a textbook or other educational resource is too limiting for my liking. I don’t know of a “high quality” educator that believes an isolated resource used in their course will make or break their students’ ability to attain course objectives (of course they hope all will). Using an “engaging” text book does not ensure “learning” will occur. Likewise, using a less engaging text book does not prevent learning either. What percentage of students receive credentials using a textbook in isolation? Students are engaged in courses filled with a variety of content, activities and assignments. We provide opportunities for them to interact with the content, their instructor, their peers and the world. All of these opportunities contribute to student engagement and the likelihood that meaningful learning will occur.

Perhaps I’m not close enough to publishers and their lingo to be offended by using “high quality” to describe exemplar educational resources; especially when referring to courses, their content and the opportunities they provide students. In his second post I’m pleased to see Wiley recant his call to stop using the phrase “high quality.” Why should the publishers usurp the fine language I use to describe engaging learning experiences?

2 thoughts on “Exceptional Quality”

  1. I am really intrigued by the idea of how OER challenges (or allows?) us to think about learning as a process rather than a product. Of course, most of us have been on that page for years, but I think with OER, we can see how radical it actually is to put our courses into perpetual movement like this. To ask students to enter into a scholarly dialogue with their educational materials, to critique/alter/augment them, is the first step in decentering the classroom in multiple ways. It decenters the teacher and the notion of “expertise,” of course, but also just generally decenters the course itself in that the course no longer has a beginning, middle, or end– it becomes an ongoing conversation which students join and hopefully never abandon. If that’s the case (and of course, OER alone won’t insure this, but an attentive open pedagogy could), then we need to find better semantics for talking about what success looks like. Learning “outcomes,” “efficacy,” “quality”: seems that ALL of these terms are product-based, stable, reified words that don’t emphasize the true goals of open learning. Perhaps you can also tell that this week my Crit Theory class is talking about Derrida??? Anyway, thanks for the great food for thought. I appreciate what you’ve added to this discussion…

    1. Seems there are two projects: Project 1) #OER instead of proprietary for what @holden calls a “beachhead” for open and Project 2) the deeper engagement open can enable for many aspects of teaching and learning. These projects are complimentary and Project 1 has huge immediate impact: moving faculty, students and institutions to #OER to build what @opencontent calls “educational infrastructure” and mindshare as a sort of “gateway drug” for the deeper, ultimately more impactful, Project 2.

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