Impact of Open Educational Resources in the Netherlands – ‘Social Content’

October 30, 2007

A blog on the talk by Robert Schuwer at OpenLearn

This represents my off the cuff post-talk reflections rather than an exact description of the session.  Some comments have also been given by Robert.

Fairly early on Robert talked about informal learning within formal settings the ‘looking over the shoulder’, informal chat, and the outside of the time of the lesson. ‘in the school yard’ type of learning which was an important part of learning – the ‘between the lines’ [my words].  How could we get at this in a virtual environment?

The talk looked at possible solutions to the forum crisis…why don’t forums work in a lot of cases?  Of course people will always cite examples of those that do…but this is the tip of the iceberg…the ones that survive…the majority do not.  Part of the problem of this was the fact that there was not critical mass.  If an individual makes a post they may have to wait days or weeks for a reply.  Indeed the reply may never materialise.  Forums are a bit like medical cures the ones that succeed are cited and the forgotten ones fade into oblivion.

Forums most often succeed when driven by common purpose, motivation or integration with assessment.

In this talk Robert outlined some of the potential problems with forums and gave some alternative possibilities.  One of these included a form of interactive content where users were able to add notes to a text.  These notes were then available to other learners who could add their own notes.  This merged interactive text with inter-personal communication.  There was some discussion of the text then becoming a community entity…belonging to the group of people who had created it.

In this example the text became a communal entity allowing inter-personal communication and representing this as an evolving construct.

Robert also talked about the ability to ask questions of experts.  But perhaps Robert would like to explain a little about this and other issues I have mentioned:



In my presentation I mentioned two characteristics of open content that makes it difficult to get users communicate and learn from each other. First, the users are anonymous and second the use is noncommittal. On the other side, users of open content cannot go to some faculty for support so they have to find support somewhere else, e.g. in communities around open content. The way we look into this is to make electronics support as easy to use as possible and as valuable for the user as possible. Continuous user feedback about this usefulness therefore is essential. Maybe the things we try are sometimes trial and error, but I see no other way.


One Response to “Impact of Open Educational Resources in the Netherlands – ‘Social Content’”

  1. sgodwin Says:

    I would like to add a reflection on this talk. For me this type of interactive content draws in a social and inter-personal aspect. In conversation with a colleague about this at the end of the conference I thought that it was a type of ‘social content’. I have since added this to the title of this blog because I think it might be an important idea.

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