Connecting the Dots
Camie Rodan & Alana Harrington, Saylor Foundation, US
Conference Theme: Innovation
Summary: Connecting the Dots will cover the Saylor Foundation’s open content aggregation process for free college-level courses.
Abstract: When the Saylor Foundation surveyed the open education space three years ago, we identified four problems:
Excellent content is disaggregated and often hard to find. Many content providers “recreate the wheel,” duplicating the efforts of others while leaving entire subjects largely devoid of useful content. The quality of content is difficult to assess due to a lack of validation metrics. Even where excellent, discoverable content exists, there are no end-to-end solutions that organize and contextualize the content a student needs to master within a given subject, course, or discipline. We sought to address all four issues by developing a structured content curation process, by which professors seek, vet, frame, and add to existing resources in order to yield complete courses, hosted on a central site, and tied to learning outcomes, assessments, and pre-defined learning taxonomies. An ideal presentation for educators, open content creators, and OER proponents looking for best practices in the compilation of open content, Connecting the Dots will focus on Saylor’s content aggregation process, which encourages the sharing and reuse of open content. We work with over 170 professors to aggregate content into college-level courses. To find accurate, accessible resources, we acquaint our professors with known open content repositories and textbook sites, and encourage discipline teams to share discipline-specific resources. By beginning our process with learning taxonomies and outcomes in place, we are able to focus content searches, identifying only those resources needed for content mastery. We have also made the strategic decision to include copyrighted materials in our content aggregation process: while we are able to host some content, we continue to link to copyright-protected materials with the hope that we will either obtain permission to host the resource permanently or replace it with a more effective, openly licensed version. Our structured aggregation technique addresses all four of the initially stated problems while offering salient benefits to stakeholders in the OER space.
First, it addresses the needs of students and educators searching for content by contextualizing and vetting content. Students visiting Saylor.org will know that a professor has canvassed the web on his or her behalf and, therefore, that they can trust the quality of content contained in each course. They will also understand how content fits within a chosen course and its projected outcomes. Second, our process enables us to identify gaps in existing content and to avoid unnecessary duplication, thus assisting content developers and funders in the sensible use of time and resources when developing new OER content. Third, our process promotes open practices and engages the academic community in the OER space. When a copyrighted resource is deemed superior to an openly licensed variation, we reach out to the copyright holder to encourage relicensing or sharing of content. Finally, we draw attention to the work of content providers who have previously remained relatively undiscovered. Presentation attendees will come away having learned about the Saylor Foundation and how its content aggregation procedure encourages the sharing and reuse of OCW content.