Elements of an ENCORE+ Workshop

When the important restrictions on travel and face-to-face contact which were introduced to alleviate the Covid-19 pandemic began to be relaxed it became possible for the ENCORE+ team here to meet with our stakeholders at various in-person events.  These included OER22 in London, UK and Open Education Global in-person congress in Nantes, France.  Over the course of events like these we have been able to refine some of our activities which are designed to promote stakeholder interaction and communication while providing our project with some insights that can be applied in ENCORE+.  In this blog post a description of these activities will be provided.  There are several reasons for doing this: to provide a template for those who wish to replicate our activities; to provide a chance for feedback; and to encourage a consistent approach across the project.

I. Welcome 

Depending on the size of the workshop, a strong start can be achieved by inviting those present to provide a short introduction to themselves and their perspective on OER.  Social, cultural and economic positionality can make a difference to why someone might be interested in OER.  People can also be at different stages of their journey into open education, and this might have a bearing on how the rest of the workshop is structured.  If the workshop is taking place at a conference, then it establishes that this is a session where participants are supposed to contribute rather than passively consume.

Being welcoming and learning people’s names is also just a friendly and appropriate thing for a network to do!

If the workshop is of a significant size (or restricted in time) then a round of introductions might not be practical.  But it can still be worth asking people to briefly state their name and role as a way of involving people in a conversation. 

It’s also important at this stage to make it clear to people that ENCORE+ workshops function as data collection exercises for the project, and that their (anonymised) contributions might be used in outputs from the project on an open licence.

II. Introduction to ENCORE+

We usually spend five minutes after this providing an overview of ENCORE+ as a slide presentation.  This needs to be brief as the longer it goes on there is a reduction in time available for interaction.  There’s also quite a lot going in ENCORE+, so there’s a trade-off to be made here and a balance to be struck.  We have some very detailed, high-level descriptions of the project which were written for our grant application but these aren’t always the best way of framing things to a general audience or people new to OER.  So the real goal here is to articulate an explanation that makes things clear to the people in the room but is as short as possible.  One way of achieving this can be to focus only on the elements of ENCORE+ that are of most interest to a particular audience.  People can always ask clarificatory questions and there’s a lot of information that can be pointed to on our website.  You can see an example of an ENCORE+ workshop slide deck here.

III. World Cafe

At recent events we have made this activity central to our workshops. The World Cafe method is essentially a way to facilitate dialogue and reaching a shared or collective understanding of a particular matter.  Conversations are organised around a small number of stations (typically tables).  In the case of ENCORE+ we have a dedicated station for each of our thematic work packages (quality, technology, innovation, policy/strategy).   Each station is set up with some pens, post-it notes and a large sheet of paper which has been preared ahead of the session starting with a spider diagram and a few initial prompts.  These prompts are briefly explained as part of the introductory presentation. 

Here are some examples of the prompts we have used recently – these are generated by activities from across ENCORE+ and reviewed before each workshop.

How should we define OER quality? (content, ‘openness’, user-friendliness, &c.)

Harmonization / Developing a common European framework

Establishing reliable and realistic systems of peer review / quality assurance 

Better user engagement by OER repositories

Achieving an interoperable European metadata and search engine strategy
How can we establish the right kind of interfacing and protocols?

What can artificial intelligence approaches do for OER / OEP?

How can technology support co-creation and sharing of content?

Facilitating the sharing of content across platforms

Open-source API infrastructures for sharing content, metadata, multimedia, learning pathways, etc.
What are the main enablers/barriers for innovation with OER?

Should we focus on core provision or radically rethinking markets?

What does an innovation focused OER culture look like? 

What do future business models look like? What do we need to consider?
– Externally funded (philanthropy, sponsorship, governmental)
– Internally funded (institutional programes, redirection of funding)
– Community funded (services, membership model, platformisation)
– Service models (data exploitation, dual-mode HEIs, freemium, segmentation)
How is your organisation engaging with open educational practices?

Why is your organisation engaging with open educational practices?

Does your organisation have OER/Open Education policy? If yes give some details, if no why do you think this is?

What are the main barriers to large scale adoption of open educational practices?

What are the key enablers to large scale adoption of open educational practices?

What business models for open educational practices do you think will evolve in the future?
World Cafe Prompts

Each station has a sheet of paper detailing these prompts (or simplified versions of them). Participants are invited to use these as a starting point for contributing their responses or additional data; asking additional questions; making notes or otherwise reacting. Participants should be divided equally between the stations. The spider diagram is a prompt for discussion rather than a task to be completed. But as much as possible should be recorded about the discussion. After 25% of the allocated time is up, everyone should move to a different station. Here they respond to both the initial prompt and the responses left by the previous group. Thus a collective understanding of the issues emerges through structured and facilitated interaction. By the end of this activity all participants should have contributed to all stations.

Each station can have an ENCORE+ facilitator, or facilitators can move between stations to support those participating. Their main role is to facilitate discussion and encourage the recording process.

At the end of this activity each station will be an artefact of the discussions which can be shared on social media or analysed for useful or original data. Participants might also wish to take a copy.

Here’s a couple of examples of what a completed sheet looked like at previous events:

IV Stakeholder Analysis

A shorter activity that is easy for people to engage with is to invite suggestions for the ENCORE+ stakeholder model. This can be edited in real time by showing a breakdown of stakeholders in the European OER Ecosystem and asking who they think might be missing. Here’s an example of such a table.

HEI leaders, decision makers
Learners (formal/informal)
Instructional Designers / Technologists
Copyright/Data Officers
Course providers
Ed Tech companies 
Service providers
Infrastructure providers
Educational authorities
Public bodies 
Quality assurance agencies 
Charities / NGOs (macro/micro)

V. Reflections

At the end of the workshop there is a good opportunity to invite and gather reflections on these activities and the place of participants in the wider OER ecosystem. This is a time to share contact information for keeping in touch and thinking about future collaboration.

The next ENCORE+ workshop will take place in Athens on 21st October 2022 as part of the I·HE2022 Conference organised by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities.  Please join us there if you are at the conference and would like to connect and collaborate with OER stakeholders from across Europe!

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