Update on OER policy research: Fun with Excel and colour coding

After presenting at the Open Education Global conference in Delft, Netherlands, and submitting the research with my collaborator Michael McNally, I’m finally back to work on my OER policy study.

Currently, I’m gathering documents that represent the open education/OER policy or “policy directions” from Canada’s four Western provinces. I’m looking at documents from the provincial government and research university level, to answer the following questions…

  1. What are the focuses of the OER initiatives at both the government and research university level?
  2. Are there differences in emphasis between the four provinces?

I used criterion sampling (Patton, 2002, p. 238; Palinkas et al., 2013) to create clear inclusion and exclusion criteria for collecting documents. All the documents were collected via web search. Some examples of the documents I collected include strategic plans, provincial funded open education initiatives (eg. BC Campus), budget letters, Hansard minutes, task force reports, etc. I also used government press releases where information was thin – particularly in SK and MB.

In a nutshell, I gathered 140 documents and analyzed 75. All relevant sections of the documents (those that referred to open education) were coded using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). I only looked at the semantic level – meaning I took the text as written and didn’t read into it too much. I also coded the text at the sentence and small paragraph level because it makes it easier to preserve the context. Lots of notes accompanied these text snippets. In an earlier blog post, I showed how I organized all this data in Excel (as I don’t like qualitative coding software… clunky).

Today, I want to show some of my quantitative results. While this is a qualitative study, I think numbers and tables really help the reader. The limitation here is that there is a big difference in the number of documents I was able to collect by province. BC represents the lion’s share of the documents, and the number shrinks dramatically as one moves east – at least in this snapshot of data. Below, you can see not only how many documents I collected, and the number of text snippets by theme, but the percentage of text snippets according to province. I’m still working out the table titles or course…

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In the last screenshot, you can see all nine themes I identified. I highlighted the ones in orange that are most commonly emphasized across all four provinces. For each province, I chose the top three themes emphasized in the analyzed text. There’s lots of crossover but also some important differences. For instance, while all four provinces had “cost savings” as one of their top three themes, it’s the 3rd most emphasized in BC compared to the most emphasized in AB, SK, and MB. I’m assuming this is because BC has been working at open education longer.

I assumed “cost savings” would be a big part of the emphasis among all provinces, but I’m very happy to see “impact on learning” and “technology, usability, and accessibility” as strong contenders. I’m surprised that “quality control” is so poorly represented – given that it’s something emphasized so strongly by faculty, and it is well represented in the literature as a general criticism of OER.

Now that I’m getting into the writing, I’m really looking forward to describing these themes and discussing how the collected data compares to the literature.

Presentation – Creating Information Literacy Competencies for Psychology Undergraduates

I recently had the pleasure to lead a webinar for the a Psychology Librarians group in Canada – where I discussed a SoTL project my colleague and I are working on. The aim of the project is to survey psychology undergraduates during library instruction classes, to determine what information literacy skills they possess at each year in the program. Ultimately, we want to use this data to develop a more scaffolded information literacy program with competencies for each year of the psychology degree.

There is a summary of the project on the webinar slides which are available here: http://hdl.handle.net/11205/376 

OE Global 2018 Presentation Slides

Thank you to all who attended my session at OE Global 2018 in Delft, Netherlands. What a massive turnout! The room was packed and there were excellent questions from participants! I have posted my PowerPoint slides for you to view. If you have any questions about this research paper or the presentation, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Mount Royal University Institutional Repository Link: http://hdl.handle.net/11205/366

The feeling of being behind

I’m certain anyone who’s worked in academia has felt ‘behind’. I would bet many early career academics feel this way constantly.

I admit that I have (and still) get myself into a headspace where I’m saying things like “I should be doing more” or “this should be done by now.” My university recently opened our new state-of-the-art library and learning centre – filled to the brim with exciting new technologies and teaching spaces. While I can’t speak for my colleagues, I feel there’s more pressure to deliver this Fall. However, a couple of recent experiences have grounded my expectations and made me take pause.

I recently read a 2016 blog post by Zack Kanter which outlines why we feel behind. Most of us have a vision of our perfect self and we constantly compare ourselves to this vision. Kanter’s summary is perfect.

The question that finally helped me break the cycle was: behind compared to what? Some alternate-reality version of yourself without flaws, a relentless Terminator on the Perfect Course of Life, chasing down and slaying goals and if you stop to catch your breath for one second the cyborg-take-no-prisoners-has-no-bad-days-or-relationship-or-family-issues-and-never-binge-watches-Netflix ‘you’ will just fly by and you will never be able to catch up no matter how hard you try?

I will tell you a secret. There is no other version of yourself, there is only the version sitting here right now. You are not behind (or, for that matter, ahead): you are exactly where you are supposed to be. So take a deep breath and relax.

The perfect version of myself has already published the two research projects I’m currently working on, planned all his classes, and has pre-read all the committee materials. But, putting unnecessary pressure on one’s self-doesn’t lead to greater productivity.

During a recent conversation with a colleague, this feeling of being ‘behind’ came up. She asked me about my current research projects and what teaching strategies I planned on implementing, to which I provided a lengthy explanation. Her reply was, “You’re doing a lot! You should slow down.” I was taken aback. Her comment was followed by a book recommendation – The Slow Professor. The book argues that “corporatization has engendered a pervasive time pressure” in academic life. In the book’s ‘slow manifesto’, the authors say this:

While slowness has been celebrated in architecture, urban life, and personal relations, it has not yet found its way into education. Yet, if there’s one sector in society which should be cultivating deep thought, it is academic teachers… Slow Professors advocate deliberation over acceleration. We need time to think, and so do our students.

It’s ok to stop and think. It’s ok to breathe. I still think being ambitious and productive are good goals. So instead of feeling behind, I’m feeling motivated. The difference? Tempering expectations. Assume what you want to achieve will take longer than you think. Learn to appreciate the small accomplishments along the way.