Thursday, 31 March 2011

OER and Riskless informal learning

I've been at the OER Hackday today. I wasn't intending to go as OER isn't really my thing, but I found it useful anyway. Before I went, I started to think about how OER might link into my thoughts recently on the Risk society, and how Education relates to the societal manufacture of Risk that Beck describes.

There are many use-case models of OER. One is its use in 'informal learning'. I'm a little uneasy about the definition of 'informal learning', but I guess in comparison to 'formal learning' there is a difference in the risk that learners are subjected to by institutions. Formal learning imposes a risk of failure which is absent in informal learning, although informal learning may still carry an imperative related to the context within which the learning occurs.

This leads me to think that one of the questions I've been thinking about, "what is the risk produced by education" can be answered by saying that education creates artificial risk situations which are intended beneficently to aid learning (without the risk of failure, would students do anything?). (it's interesting to compare beneficent risk production with malevolent risk production: Ryanair's risks are intended to catch people out!)

How might this work? Possibly, it could go like this:

which produces more risk, etc.
Informal learning might then look like:

If the latter is a use-case for OER, then OER must fit into the final stage. However, there is a problem and it relates to what the ANXIETY actually does. If the learner reaches for OER in response to societally-induced RISK, fine. But my reckoning is that this is probably not going to be the first thing they reach for.

If they reach for education at all, then I think it will be through formal learning in institutions. In assessing how the risks of the institution might affect them, there may well be a case for OER ("this is the sort of experience you will have as a student... look! here's a lecture..."). The fact that education carries RISK in response to RISK may be significant.. I'll have to think about that!

OER in itself is essentially RISK-less (at least for learners; not for teachers!), and I think there is a question as to whether a riskless resource can be useful for education (but I'm not sure..).

On looking for ways of dealing with anxiety induced by Risk, the most common thing people do is to reach for palliatives: entertainment. OER might fit here.. but on the whole, it is pretty un-entertaining. Maybe we should give a bottle of whisky to every learner who actually spends a couple of hours with an OER resource! That would be to balance the boredom of watching with the chance of pleasure in the outcome (i.e. getting drunk!). Of course, the risk would be terminal boredom...


Scott Wilson said...

Its an interesting line of thought.

For some, perhaps many in the "mainstream", education is a kind of "habit", and doesn't really follow a sense of anxiety. For them, the introduction of much higher fees may raise awareness of risk and create new anxiety.

For others - myself included - the path to formal education was I think as you describe. I had a societally-produced anxiety ("do you want to be working in this factory for the rest of your life?"). Formal education was an answer at this point as a concrete type of commitment to ACTION to address the anxiety.

OER does not necessarily correspond with any action that resolves the anxiety; an individual could create the commitment to action in some other fashion (leaving their job, moving to a new environment, making a strong personal commitment, joining a kibbutz or other structured community...) and then use OER within that commitment.

I've come across this "dark side of learning" argument before (anxiety linked with change) and I must admit I'm a bit ambivalent :-D

Mark Johnson said...

I guess those for whom education is a "habit" are maybe caught managing the beneficent risks of education: those are easier (and safer - they're 'artificial' risks!) to deal with than the potentially 'malevolent' risks of real life. You're right that the funding thing will change the balance here.

Action and commitment are very interesting... Do they relate to curiosity? Is commitment an acknowledge of risks consciously taken? I'll have to think about that... Fernando Flores pops up again I think...!