Searching for OER

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If you’ve never been to New Zealand, you have to put it on your “bucket list.” It’s the most beautiful country in the world, and it’s no surprise that the Lord of the Rings movies were shot there. They probably had to do the least amount of computing enhancement to their raw film footage than if it had been shot anywhere else in the world. The place is magical!

I’ve been fortunate in the last 14 months to visit New Zealand twice. In December 2013, I attended two conferences in Sydney, Australia, both within one week. The first was the IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV) where I attended in my role as President Emeritus of the IEEE Computer Society; the second was the Electric Dreams, 30th Ascilite Conference where I was a keynote speaker decrying the then-popularity of MOOCs. From Australia I traveled to New Zealand’s South Island where I toured for about 2 1/2 weeks. (And yes I drove on the left side!)

This year, I attended the 2014 IEEE TALE (Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering) Conference in Wellington on the North Island of New Zealand where I was co-chair of the track on Computer Science and Computer Engineering Education. Following the conference I had the opportunity to explore the North Island, again by car, for about 10 days.

It’s been my experience, in my many years of involvement in multidisciplinary educational technology endeavors that the disciplines of Engineering and Computer Science have seemed to be less interested in the application of technology to learning and teaching than have other disciplines. It’s clear from some of the discussions in which I participated in Australia and New Zealand, that either my perception has been wrong or that the situation is changing. Regardless, it appears to me that the quality of teaching and learning is becoming increasingly important in those disciplines. And of course it’s no surprise that educational technology has an important role to play in that regard. Here are a couple of examples.

The November 2014 issue of the IEEE publication TIEEE Transactions on Education (yes, they have such a publication, and they even have one called IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies) had a special issue on OER. It was one of the best reviews of OER that I’ve read in any discipline-based publication. It’s worth looking it up in your institution’s library to see what I mean. Most colleges and universities have a subscription to IEEE’s digital library, Xplore.

Also while in Wellington, at the TALE Conference, following a session on OER that I had organized, in which I participated, and which had exceptionally good attendance, I was approached by attendees from both India and Hong Kong about the potential for OER in their countries. I am continuing to explore opportunities with them regarding the use of OER through the deployment of MERLOT. It’s too soon to say what will come of all this, but I am optimistic that there’s a trend developing, even in the hard-core disciplines of Engineering and Computer Science. Stay tuned!

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