Tuesday, May 17, 2011

OER is About Students and Sharing

I like this idea of rotating the baby-sitting of this blog, because it has encouraged me to post here. I am not much of a blogger, and that is hard to admit in this trendy techno group. Let's see where I can take this.

During Summer Quarter, our eLearning department was contacted by Dr. Kim Washington, WorkFirst Coordinator on our campus. She had this intriguing idea to create a virtual resource/community center for our WorkFirst students, and one that would be available to them regardless of which courses or programs they were enrolled in. She wondered if Angel could perhaps be utilized in this manner. After talking with her for a few minutes and clarifying what she intended to accomplish, we told her that while perhaps not the typical use of an LMS, it could most certainly be done. Now, Dr. Washington has never taken any training in Angel (but had worked with Blackboard), but she was enthusiastically willing to try. Not really understanding how far this great woman wanted to go with this we created an account for her, a master shell, and provided her with the bare minimum of training - and I do mean "bare minimum". We showed her how to log in, and some basics on adding content. About a week later, she came back to us with another intriguing challenge - she wanted to include a screening survey in this classroom that could automatically redirect students to varied content based on their answers to single items in the survey. That caught my attention, because I knew that I could set up an agent to redirect the students based on the results of an entire graded content item, but not for a single survey survey question. I eventually solved this challenge, but this story isn't about me.

While I was working on the survey problem, Dr. Washington continued to enthusiastically build her resource center with only the occasional consultation with our department, and she continued to master Angel through primarily her own self-directed learning. And as she grew more familiar with Angel, her vision for this project also grew. She would excitedly talk with us about the possibility of making this resource available to the other community and technical colleges in Pierce County, then expanded this to include the entire state. She consulted with Cable Green and Scott Dennis on the State Board; she networked with the local. regional and state WorkFirst, WorkSource, and DSHS offices.

And in Angel, she built something wonderful!

By the time I had built the module that would include her screening survey (I also created the content that the students would be redirected to) and loaded it into her master classroom, I noted that she had created this wonderful resource for the WorkFirst students. Housed in its Angel shell are informational resources, self-assessment tools, links to community services, entertainment resources, calendar of events both on and off campus, community building forums, assignments to teach technology, attendance tracking forms, various forms of other kinds necessary or useful for WorkFirst students, and much much more - including my insignificant module on expunging a criminal record and the screening survey to self-assess whether the student qualifies for expungement and the resources to get them started.

And this incredible tool for connecting students to students, and students to resources, and students to their community and beyond is available with a CC BY license for anyone who cares as much about their WorkFirst enrollments as Kim does. As I said, Kim is not faculty and she has most likely never thought about creating OER - she just cared and shared and that is a big part of what OER is about.

I am currently storing a zipped copy on a sharable DropBox account while we work out the details for a wider and more effective distribution that will eventually include several state agencies. If you are interested, please contact me.

Kelley L. Meeusen,
Instructional Designer, Clover Park Technical College

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