Open, Teaching & Learning

On weak ties and faculty OER research

Yesterday BCcampus published a research report on how faculty at BC post-secondary institutions use open educational resources. I’m not going to do any analysis or synthesis of the report here. You can read the report.

Really, this is more a public thank you to the OER Research Hub (and in particular Martin Weller and Beck Pitt), and the BC Open Textbook Faculty Fellows Rajiv Jhangiani, Christina Hendricks and Jessie Key. This was an immensely satisfying project for me to work on for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the opportune excuse to work with excellent people.

I always knew we wanted to do some kind of research with our open textbook project, but in those early days (not being a researcher) I had a tough time figuring out how to pull it off. I am not a Ph.D. and, despite the fact that BCcampus as a whole is a research project in the eyes of our parent institution SFU, we don’t do the kind of research typical of research projects. Both Mary and I tried to jump through a few administrative hoops to work with the SFU Research Office to make a research project happen, but it felt like we were getting bogged down in the weeds.

In the fall of 2014, I was pretty well convinced that a research project as part of the open textbook project wasn’t going to happen. Which made me feel like I was blowing an opportunity to be able to give something of potential value back to the OpenEd community. I was (and still am) acutely aware of the need for more research on all things open to further the work we all do, and the thought that we were seeing an opportunity slip away was eating at me.

Then, just as I was reaching peak frustration with our lack of progress on the research front and my own feeble attempts to will it into being, something serendipitously awesome happened. Martin Weller at the OER Hub contacted me and asked if we were thinking of doing any research and, if so, did we need help.

I literally wanted to reach thru the interwebs and hug Martin. But at that point we were still kind of weak tie social media friends and I thought I should wait a bit before commencing the hugging. Besides, he’s a Spurs fan and I’ve spent my adult soccer life rooting for the Gunners, so that would have just been awkward (this was before I knew of his love for ice hockey).

But…Twitter folks. Twitter made that connection happen.

<insert reflective pause to acknowledge the power of weak tie networks here>

Anyway, from there, Martin brought Beck Pitt in, and the research was looking more real than it had just a few days earlier.

On our end, around the same time, we had our first meeting with the BC Open Textbook Faculty Fellows. Rajiv especially latched onto the research angle right away and saw the importance of coming out of the open textbook project with data in hand. A few meetings between Rajiv, Beck and myself and we were off and running….and then stalled….and then took off again….and then stalled….and then took off again.

We collected the data in Feb/March of 2015 via a survey to faculty who use OER in BC. Rajiv, Beck, Jessie and Christina analyzed the data in the spring and summer, and we spent the fall writing the report. If you saw our presentation at OpenEd in November (Beck I am truly sorry that Rajiv and I changed your slides without telling you just moments before you hit the stage), then you got the high points.

And here it is.

All hail the power of the weak ties in enabling cool stuff to happen.

CC BY 4.0 On weak ties and faculty OER research by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Profile Picture for Clint Lalonde
Wrangler of learning technologies by day, Dad, cyclist, soccer fan and, lately, home roaster of coffee by night. INFJ. I am the Manager of Educational Technologies at BCcampus, working primarily on open education projects. This blog is a personal blog and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BCcampus.