This post is by Samia Almousa.
After a very long and eventful journey, the result was worth every second of tiredness. In this short piece of writing, I am sharing my reflection on the two days’ workshop conducted by GO-GN members and some of my research outputs that reflect different cultural perspectives. Additionally, I will discuss what is next- what I will intend to do to make GO-GN popular in the Middle East area.
Reflections on the 1st Day of the Workshop
We had a great start. Dr. Robert Farrow asked us to introduce ourselves and explain our research interests or topics in 60 seconds. During the break after this short introduction, three GO-GN members discussed my topic with me and asked to share the link of the Saudi OERs platform. All three members were from different countries, which made it a great opportunity for me to learn about the status of OERs adoption in these countries as well. As for the PhD Metaphors session (see below photo), it was really interesting! I felt that I am not the only one who is facing challenges and struggling in their PhD journey. My group called the PhD journey the marathon of danger, and we discussed how we moved at the beginning of this journey from the danger zone to a scary zipline, and then found ourselves in a valley of darkness! However, I am certain that there will be light at the end of this long tunnel, especially with the support of my GO-GN colleagues. Throughout the academic year, we, as GO-GN members, have monthly seminars, discuss our work and any difficulties that we may have, and receive monthly updates about the GO-GN activities as well as news about GO-GN members via email.
I have always wondered how the GO-GN idea was generated, as I want to have something similar in my context. Thanks to Professor Schuwer for a very interesting and informative presentation; I got answers to my questions. The most surprising part was about who created the GO-GN acronym. During his presentation, I felt that I am listening to an interactive story rather than a presentation. For the rest of the day, GO-GN members presented their work. During my presentation, I received a lot of constructive feedback and encouragement. Some colleagues asked me to share my presentation slides, which I was very happy to do. During this workshop, I learned from others, both presenters and attendees. Since we presented informally, the atmosphere was warm which allowed the presenters to ask questions about their research and get feedback about specific points from the attendees. The attendees spent much time providing their views about the presented research. In my case, two GO-GN members sat with me at a table after I finished my presentation and read their comments and discussed them in detail with me. I am so happy to be part of this great community, but I am worried about what will happen after I complete my study and graduate. Will I continue to be a GO-GN member, or will my relationship with this amazing group end? Wait! I met many members who call themselves GO-GN alumni, so yes, there is hope that I will continue to be part of this group, unless there are some considerations that I should follow to have this honour.
Reflections on the 2nd Day of the Workshop
On this day, we divided ourselves into three groups using the World Café format. I selected the ‘Geographical Focus: what are the distinctive challenges for each region’. I chose this theme because in the Middle East, we are still in the infancy stage of OERs adoption and open education in general. I shared the barriers encountered by university academics to adopt OERs from my research. I discussed with the group how we can overcome these barriers and listened to their experiences in their countries, which helped me a lot to finalize my discussion chapter.
At the end of this day, I had a one-on-one session with Professor Martin Willer and Dr. Robert Farrow. It was a very helpful session, and if I had time, I would have asked more questions because they were very welcoming and advised me as if I were one of their students. I am really grateful for both of them for answering my questions in detail. I asked about how to prepare for the Viva and they referred me to a post about this topic. When I asked about my future plan in publication, they suggested some potential journals where I can publish my work. I also asked about my intended article and whether to include the pre-covid data that I have or just the data after covid. Additionally, through our discussion, they drew my attention to another angle that I have not considered before. At the end of the session, they thankfully offered their help and informed me that they will be available whenever I need them.
What is Next?
The GO-GN community is very supportive, and I wish we had a similar community in the Middle East. We need to learn from your experience in open education. As I am the only one from the region, I will recommend the GO-GN to other PhD students in Saudi. When I go back home and start my job as a lecturer at PNU, I will also share the monthly seminars link with my colleagues. I will suggest to the eLearning centre in Saudi to invite GO-GN members to be speakers in one of their annual conferences. I will also discuss the idea of a collaborative work so we can have a research project that includes people from around the world. Finally, who knows! The next GO-GN ‘workshop’ may be in Saudi.
Barriers to Adopt OERs in Saudi
In this section, I am sharing some barriers extracted from the participants in my research, the academics in Saudi universities. In general, barriers that hinder academics from using OERs are divided into five categories. This section presents them in order in terms of their level of importance according to the participants. The first category is personal barriers, which include work pressure, lack of financial reward, and lack of time. The second category is institutional barriers, which include lack of freedom, lack of training, and the absence of an OERs policy. The third category is technical barriers, which include the security system on campus and the slow process of technical support. The fourth category of barriers is curricular and pedagogical, which include the unavailability of OERs in a particular discipline, lack of Arabic content, and poor quality of OERs. The last category is legal barriers, which include unawareness of copyright issues and ownership over content.
When asked why the academics did not use the Saudi OERs platform, SHMS, the participants indicated some valid reasons. For example, they mentioned that SHMS platform needs to focus more on marketing as some of them heard about it for the first time from my research. Additionally, there were misunderstandings about the meaning of OERs quality between SHMS providers and the academics. The role of institutions in increased OERs adoption was mentioned by the participants as the main barrier to adopt both SHMS and general OERs.
It can be concluded that as we are still in the early stage of OERs adoption, we need to raise awareness about the benefits of OERs, and encourage academics to use OERs and share their teaching materials openly by reducing some of their administrative burdens, setting some training courses about OERs adoption, and inviting people who have experiences in OERs adoption to give talks to clarify the benefits of using OERs in teaching practices and sharing openly.
Photo credit: Samia Almousa