The role of mentoring in facilitating the process of repurposing OER

Santos, Andreia and Okada, Alexandra (2010). The role of mentoring in facilitating the process of repurposing OER. In: Open Ed 2010: The Seventh Annual Open Education Conference, 2-4 Nov 2010, Barcelona, Spain.


This paper presents the initial data analysis of a research that is work in progress. It discusses the role of mentoring and peer support in facilitating the process of repurposing open educational resources (OER). It also reports on the lessons so far learned from the analysis of two distinct but related case studies on working with learners to use and disseminate OER.

The first case study is based on the 2009 presentation of the distance learning Masters’ course of the Institute of Educational Technology of the Open University UK (from now on OU) entitled “Technology Enhanced Learning: Practices and Debates”. In this course the registered students were guided through the repurposing of content within the OER repository of the OU, OpenLearn, as part of their course activities. The aim was to provide the students with substantial information about and knowledge of finding, using and repurposing OER.

The second case study relates to the activities of the online community COLEARN, an initiative of the Knowledge Media Institute of the OU which started in 2006. COLEARN is an online community hosted within the OpenLearn platform, bringing together researchers and practitioners from Brazil, Portugal and Spain mostly. The aim of COLEARN is to offer a community-supported environment in which research and ideas about the use of collaborative technologies for learning can be shared. All the activities in COLEARN are available to the world as OER, as well as all the resources shared the by participants.

Mentoring in these two cases happen in different ways. In the first case we term it ‘formal mentoring’ because the mentoring is part of the course activities of registered students in the course. The students are guided step by step on how to find OER, assess its relevance and how to make use of web 2.0 technologies to modify the content to fit specific purposes. In particular, they are prompted to use an in situ editing tool offered by OpenLearn to modify and re-publish content. The mentoring in this case is offered through the task design of the course material and through the tutoring available.

In the case of COLEARN, the mentoring process happens through peer and tutor support from the community to the community. This is why we term it ‘informal mentoring’, although at a times the user performing the mentor’s role is a tutor of another learning setting (e.g. a tutor associated with a higher education institution). By means of pre-booked learning sessions (e.g. brainstorming sessions based on a web-videoconference tool such as Flashmeeting ), workshops and discussion forums the participants of this community get substantial support and guidance on how to use OER and technologies that facilitate OER repurposing.

By analysing the activities of the mentors and participants in the two case studies, we aim to explore how both forms of mentoring seem to address the needs of the practitioners/students in terms of learning how to work with OER.

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