In reflecting on the web conference experience with my learning partner Kelly McCormack, it was a very useful activity in reinforcing my understanding of OER. My research leaned towards broader topics such as conceptual frameworks and student outcomes with less regard for important legal matters such as Creative Commons. Kelly’s research was also high level, but effectively integrated the legal angle. Of particular interest was a provincial debate regarding the British Columbia government’s development of open textbooks between Professor Todd Pettigrew from Cape Breton University and BCCampus, a publicly funded organization whose role is to support higher education.
After this discussion, I narrowed the focus of main research to exclude topics such as hardware and the strides made between publishers and online content distributors, both of which could be very lengthy discussion papers in their own right. Instead I focused on the quality control implications of OER, how it can support in-class activities, and on the impact it has on the teacher-student dynamic.
Kelly’s discussion brought up concerns around the legitimacy of the information and who owned it; I then began researching the accuracy and verifiability of information on Wikipedia and who the overseers were. This subtle shift provided me with one of the moments I had been looking for: verifying a site consisting of contributions from motivated, interested parties could be neutral, current, and thorough. The criticisms of the open textbook that Kelly discussed were consistent with the criticisms I have heard of Wikipedia, which I never took the time to disprove. The biggest takeaways for me were that sites such as Wikipedia now have several academic studies proving they should be treated as legitimate sources of information and that free or low-cost websites do not necessarily correspond with an absence of quality content.