One of the aims of Open Educational Resources (OER) is to make materials widely available. For resources to be truly open, we not only post them online but we make sure they are licensed so there are no (or at least minimal) legal restrictions to access, reuse, remix, or redistribute the content. We also try to limit the technical barriers to access. That includes posting resources in an editable format (e.g. DOC) alongside compressed versions (e.g. PDF), offering online streaming of video as well as downloadable versions, adding descriptive information so the resources are discoverable through search, and other recommended practices for packaging OER.
A couple months ago, I mulled over if and how OER can address the goal of increasing the visibility and use of educational materials and, if yes, what to do at Open.Michigan and the African Health OER Network in order to better meet that goal. The answer that I came up with was, in order to meet that goal, OER must have low barriers to access, be findable through a variety of pathways, be available in common file format(s), and be traceable so that you know when, how, and how many people are accessing them.
This thought exercise led to me to create a flow diagram (Omnigraffle file also available), slide deck, and 11 minute narrated presentation about some of the distribution and monitoring methods for the African Health OER Network. The OER produced through the Network are distributed through multiple offline and online methods by the authoring institution, OER Africa, and University of Michigan to try to make them easy to access. I won’t deny that it’s a bit of effort to manage those several channels, but it enables us to reach diverse audiences dispersed across the globe. With multiple channels, we’ve realized that we need to devote more attention to monitoring, consolidating, and reporting usage; we’ve begun to do so. Check out this great dashboard for Open.Michigan created by my colleague Dave Malicke. Expect to hear more from us as we venture deeper into our explorations for ways to effectively monitor and report on usage of our OER.
In the meantime, we want to hear from you. How do you distribute and track usage (quantitative) and feedback (qualitative) of OER at your institutions? Any words of wisdom for someone just starting to delve into analytics?