Open Educational Resources (OERs) is an attempt made by the international community to provide free access to knowledge to one and all irrespective of geographical boundaries (Bissell, 2007). However, formal adaptation and integration of OERs in academic programs is scant, primarily due to lack of design skills on part of instructors (Conole & Weller, 2008). A review of literature has revealed that there is little research in the field of use of freely available Internet resources in blended education. OERs may just be a drop in the ocean of knowledge created by the vast pool of resources available on the Internet. This study thus attempts to fill a large void in literature by exploring the viability of and suggesting practical ways of integrating relevant resources on the Internet viz. videos, websites, images, etc. in blended course content design and authoring.
Traditional institutions venturing into blended education often face the challenge of creation of digitized content for the online portion of blended programs. The content authoring, digitization, quality assurance, and continual updation thereof can be an expensive exercise. Not only it requires significant time frame for content creation, but also adds on to the overall cost of the program and related fee structure to be charged from the students. Open Educational Resources (OERs) are often the center of attention for course designers and researchers dealing with blended content creation. This paper makes a case for using the resources available freely on the Internet (viz. videos, websites, images, etc.) that may not have been essentially created for academic purposes, in designing and creating blended courses. OERs are just a small part of the vast resources available on the Internet. Arguably, the relatively small quantity of the OERs available today in a given field of study may be a hindrance to their large-scale adaptation by instructors in their teaching materials/ online course content.
The author shares his first-hand experiences of creating online content for blended programs by harnessing freely available Internet resources. In the proposed 10-step approach, starting from the design stage of the blended program, to content authoring, and finally, blended delivery, key challenges faced and mitigation measures thereof are highlighted. In order to showcase the pragmatic aspects of this approach, a unique blended joint program between an academic institution in Singapore and a university in Bangalore, India, is considered. The dual-degree/ diploma program is delivered in a hybrid format, wherein part of it is conducted online and the remaining part in a conventional face-to-face format. The online course content of the program has been developed by international experts by weaving the textual content around relevant open-source videos, text, images, and other resources. The online as well as face-to-face parts of the courses are taught by professors of British, Australian, Bangladeshi and Indian origin, thus providing a multi-cultural, multi-national context. However, all the students are from different parts of India and based at the university campus in Bangalore. The last leg of the program provides them an opportunity to visit Singapore and acquaint themselves with the global business environment by engaging into face-to-face discussions with Singaporean business leaders, scholars and professors. The author presents his first-hand account of online content development and course facilitation of Global Operations Management in this program, while sharing the challenges faced and solutions thereof. The proposed approach takes care of copyright issues in using the Internet resources, while ensuring that the desired learning outcomes are achieved.
The results of the proposed approach are measured by taking into account the feedback of all the stakeholders in the blended program viz. the students, the professors, and the academic administrators. A structured survey instrument is used to gather the feedback of all the students in the global operations management course in the blended program considered in this study. The students rated the course highly on various parameters, in terms of course content as well as faculty facilitation. An informal interview of the faculty involved in design and delivery of the program revealed a high degree of faculty satisfaction in terms of interaction with the students as well as achievement of course outcomes. Last but not the least, the academic administrators of the program were highly appreciative of the innovations brought about by the faculty in the design and delivery of the blended program. The study challenges the notion that only the OERs are legitimate and viable resources available for use in academic online course content development. It compels the online course designers to consider the availability of a vast pool of resources freely available on the Internet, which can be effectively used as part of the online course content. The proposed approach to course design is relatively inexpensive, though the frequency of maintenance and updation required in digitized content may be higher. Educational chieftains may argue on the academic rigor of such online course content, however the blended nature of the courses provides enough scope for taking care of this issue through the face-to-face component. The limitation of this study is the application of this approach currently confined to the South and South-East Asia region. It would be interesting to see if the approach produces similar results in other parts of the world, particularly in America where blended form of education has a much wider audience. Similar studies in America may focus upon exploring if the use of free Internet resources in blended programs may help the traditional institutions in dramatically reducing the overall costs and in increasing their global student outreach, to make themselves more viable and sustainable in the wake of acute curtailment of government funding.
Bissel, A. (2007) Some guiding principles for legal and technical interoperability in OER, Proceedings of Open Education, Localizing and Learning, Logan, UT Conole, G. & Weller, M. (2008) Using learning design as a framework for supporting the design and reuse of OER, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, Vol. 1 No. 13