“O” is for… Open?

Go O's!

Go O’s! (Photo Credit: Beck Pitt CC-BY)

…Or could it be “Orioles”?!

Seriously though, besides checking out my first baseball game, the time in Baltimore to date has been a great opportunity for follow-up research and has generated some interesting data about Bridge to Success post-project. Whilst my colleague Rob has been working largely in the DC area, I’ve focused on speaking with educators, academics and students who have used, or are still using, the OER course materials created by the project’s UK and US content experts over the 2011-2012 period. Two courses were created and improved iteratively over the project’s duration and following feedback during the pilots and user, accessibility and developmental testing: Succeed with Math and Learning to Learn (introductory mathematics and learning/personal development skill courses, respectively). These courses were created with a 1st year Community College student audience in mind, as around 60% of this group of students require one or more “developmental courses” to help them achieve their learning goals (Bailey & Cho, 2010). The course materials themselves originated from The Open University’s Openings programme which were created to help students prepare for Higher Education study.

Visiting a range of Community Colleges and a non-profit organisation over the past week had given me a deeper understanding of the diverse range of adult learners and their needs in different contexts. Students enrol to study for a wide range of different courses and certification at Community Colleges, including their High School Diploma (GED) certificate. Given the high need for “developmental courses” to help students transition to the college environment, students appear to typically arrive at college with a vast range of different skill sets, competencies and with different support needs which need to be addressed in order for them to complete their courses/achieve certification. To give two examples from the past week…

BCCC Downtown

BCCC Downtown (Photo Credit: Beck Pitt CC-BY)

On Friday I visited Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) and spoke with educators and a student about their experiences of the Succeed with Math materials. One particular ‘take home’ for me was that one orientation instructor described how “hundreds and hundreds” of their adult attendees have “sixth grade math” level skills when they arrive at the college to study for their High School Diploma (GED). Bridge to Success math materials were perceived in this instance as something that could be utilised by students with more advanced math skills (e.g. perhaps later on during their studies) but at this stage (their orientation class) short “quick access” materials with easy to remember URLs, which are “not systematic” and “wets the appetite” to learn were perceived as being more useful for students.

At University Maryland University College (UMUC), which serves largely adults who have taken time out of their education (e.g. served in the armed forces, been employed etc.) and are returning to study typically as a “first generation college student[s],” I spoke with instructors and academics about their experiences of using both Learning to Learn and Succeed with Math. Speaking with one educator, he remarked on how although one trial of Succeed with Math in hybrid format had originally been targeted at students with “basic algebra skills” it became apparent that the “hybrid format” utilised in this instance, and which included “a support cohort”, appealed to a wider range of students than anticipated. To quote: “we actually had students who ranged from the introductory algebra up to those who were taking calculus … a range of math readiness, competency …still all had the common theme of anxiety around taking the mathematics programme.”

UMUC Largo Campus, Academic Centre (Photo Credit: Beck Pitt CC-BY)

UMUC Largo Campus, Academic Centre (Photo Credit: Beck Pitt CC-BY)

As the week progressed, and I also received further feedback on Bridge to Success and found out more about instructors’ use of other online resources and OER, I began to reflect on whether either Succeed with Math or Learning to Learn could have ever addressed all the different student needs/issues/contexts I was hearing about. Although Bridge to Success provides re-mixable resources and course materials which are used/were used in a variety of contexts and ways and often with instructor/facilitator support, could it be that a 1st year Community College “toolkit” of OER for different learning preferences and abilities (of which Bridge to Success could be one option for students, as it critically offers a whole course approach) is the next step in providing a broader provision of open resources to help 1st year students transition into Community College…?

Musings aside, it has been great to connect again with colleagues we had worked with previously, and also to meet instructors and students at other institutions who had participated in pilots. I’ll be back at BCCC on Friday, and speaking with other instructors over Skype and face-to-face, so am looking forward to continuing to find out more about Bridge to Success and OER use here in Maryland and beyond!

#oerrhub #baltimore #UMUC #BCCC #oer #developmentalcourses #bridge2success #orioles #adulteducation

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One thought on ““O” is for… Open?

  1. Pingback: “O” is for… Open? | OER Research Hub

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