Rosemarie McIlwhan, online learning specialist from UWS Education futures, interview with Kate Miller and Gary McKenna from UWS school of Education for Open education week

Biography: Gary

My name is Dr Gary McKenna and I am a research fellow in the School of Education at the University of the West of Scotland. The focus of my research interests is on the development of evaluation criteria suitable for assessing the usability of Learning technologies for leaning in HEI contexts, and the development and testing of such technologies to enhance learning engagement within HEI environments. My other areas of interests include virtual and personal learning environment; e-learning and multimedia; educational learning theory; psychology of learning; tertiary education; adult learning; continuing education; and curriculum development and research methodologies, methods, processes and techniques.

Biography: Kate

My name is Dr. Kate Miller and I am a lecturer in Education in the School of Education at the University of the West of Scotland. My research interests are on open educational practices and collaborative curriculum design with the aim of improving educational access, inclusion and widening participation. I have spent the last two years coordinating an Erasmus + project with the aim of developing Collaborative Open Educational Resources for different learning contexts.

RI: Can you tell us a bit about your OER?

KM: Our OER is named “Assets Based Working with Communities” and is the product of a collaboration between five higher education institutions and a range of community stakeholder groups across Europe.

GM: As a result of this partnership we produced five Assets Based Collaborative Open Educational Resources (COERs), that were developed using a research and design process to exchange knowledge and share innovative practice, and implement assets based approaches for multiprofessional working across international community contexts.

KM: The important aspect of the design process for me is the collaboration between different professional and community groups and the knowledge exchange process that informed the design. This process generated new learning for all involved and provides a resource that should be useful to others working in mutiprofessional community contexts across the globe.

GM: Yes, so the course provides learners with the opportunity to further explore community assets based multiprofessional working resources and how these COERs can be applied in their own working contexts.

RI: Did you know much about OER before you created this one?

GM: I knew that free courses existed in various formats on websites on the Internet but did not realise the extent that the Open University and other educational institutions were supporting OERs in relation to widening access to education for anyone with a computer, laptop, tablet, or smart phone to learn about just about any topic that a person could be interested in studying.

KM: I’ve used OER in developing curriculum for online and blended learning, but I really started engaging with the wider Open Education movement through first attending workshops organised at UWS by The Open Educational Practices Scotland project (OEPS) []. By talking to the workshop facilitators and participants and others at Open Education conferences, this expanded my understanding of the uses of OER and OEPs for widening participation and social justice issues in relation to access to knowledge and knowledge making practices.

RI: Did you consider any other forms of resource before deciding to make it an OER?

GM: The COERs were developed as part of an Erasmus+ project and so the remit was to produce learning resources that would be open and could be reused and remixed for usage in other contexts.

KM: Again the advantage of OERs is that they can be adapted to face to face or online purposes.

RI: Why did you choose to use an OER?

GM: We chose to use an OER because we wanted to develop a process that would draw directly from practitioner and professional knowledge and experience in order to create looped learning, which is constantly being updated and reinvented to be implemented in different contexts and in different ways.

KM: So that process that Gary describes is about creating epistemic learning artefacts, or in this case, OERs that draw those different types of knowledge together. The beauty of OER is that because they can be retained, reused, revised, remixed and redistributed for different purposes in different contexts this means they can be recontextualised [] to make curricula more relevant, accessible and inclusive for a wide range of learners.

RI: How did you find creating an OER?

GM: The Erasmus+ project was funded for two years and the process of creating the COERs was multifaceted having many different aspects to complete from the initial development to the publishing of the open resources on the Open Learn Create Open University supported website. The whole entire project was informed by completing five Intellectual Outcomes that involved the production of: Mapping diagrams to Identify the common multiprofessional challenges of implementing assets based approaches, across national and community contexts; writing and sharing documentation with our partner institutions; agreeing a Common Qualitative Approach: determining ‘Qualitative Coding Practices for Transcripts, Photos and Film’ to enable a cross case analysis of all the qualitative data collected from all of the partner institutions; having a Common agreed upon Case Study Implementation Plan: using Appreciative Inquiry as an approaches to Organisational Development and Curriculum Design; and the Development of an online infrastructure using Moodle.

KM: Yeah, it was complicated but a great learning experience. The design process was a pedagogical tool for all the stakeholders.

RI: How do you plan to use the OER? What will your project partners do with it?

GM: The COERs will be used for the production of five modules based on all five COERs. We are currently at the stage in which we have developed five module descriptors. The COERs and the modules will be used to further promote and develop assets based approaches and multiprofessionalism. As such, we are working with our partners to develop an international master’s programme.

KM: But right now, these COERs can be used in for professional development in workplaces and in educational contexts and are actually being used already by our stakeholders. They can be embedded in various professional degree programmes and personal development initiatives.

They are openly accessible here:


We intend to analyse their use and evaluate their impact.  

RI: What advice would you have to anyone considering using or creating an OER?

GM: Not to underestimate the magnitude of the amount of work and time that is required in producing and developing an OER. However, building a resource that can be used by a wider audience can be extremely rewarding and insightful in terms of synthesising new processes, techniques, approaches and methods across different domains of knowledge.

KM: Using OERs to support your learning can be a great way to make your learning more interesting and more accessible by reducing costs and making learning more flexible.

RI: Any other comments?

GM: You should think about how you intend to reach out to your intended target audience in order to get the maximum engagement with your OER from potential learners and users of the course materials. This will involve having an engagement strategy. Also, it is important to ensure all the original contributors of the OER can agree to a Creative Commons copyright licensing strategy []. A final thought to think about is whether you want to be responsible for maintaining and updating the OER once the course has gone live. This may involve answering email queries and requests for further information from learners and users about aspects of the COER or acting on feedback that will enhance or improve the resource.  

KM: Alternatively, you can just put it out there and let it go! It depends on what you want to achieve or do with the OER. So, you need to think about sustainability and how you can embed that or not into the design of the OER.