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Embedding Open Educational Resources in Research Methods Training in Education, Social Science and Criminology


Aim of the project: This project aimed to explore the role of open educational resources (OER) and open educational practices in supporting the teaching and learning of research methods within several subject discipline areas.


This project was based at University Centre Doncaster, where a significant proportion of learners are mature students undertaking foundation degrees, and much of this is managed through e-learning practices. HEFCE is encouraging better ‘research methods’ preparation of undergraduate students and there is a challenge in achieving effective teaching and learning in this area. HE provision within University Centre Doncaster has tended towards face-to-face time with students, and blended learning including e-learning and ‘open’ education is a relatively new concept that they are grappling with. This project accepts that understanding and applying research methods concepts are what is defined by Land and Meyer as ‘troublesome knowledge’ (2010). It used this definition to assist in clarifying the role that OER can play in addressing the difficulties of research methods teaching.


An action research framework approach was used to gather data and disseminate findings.

Three research methods teachers were engaged to participate in the study and evaluate five OER, chosen from a larger list of pre-selected resources, hosted on Cloudworks (http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/5548). A lack of prior experience in accessing OER through repositories amongst participants made this a necessary step to enabling participation.

Evaluation of the resources was based on pre-defined research questions on the quality, flexibility, interactivity, constructive alignment, pedagogic effectiveness and tutor role.

Tutors selected OERs to embed within their teaching. The student perspective on how well the resource worked was followed up with the use of focus group interviews, using pre-defined questions on the challenges of learning research methods, resource provision for research method teaching and learning, OER use strategies, OER interactivity, and the effects of OER use on the ability to work with NVivo.

Data was analysed using a qualitative approach due to the small number of participants. The questionnaire responses were used to focus semi-structured interview discussions, and all qualitative data was analysed using NVivo and applying a thematic analysis approach using hierarchical coding.


  • SCORE End of Fellowship report.

  • Ehiyazaryan, E. (2011) ‘Open Educational Resources’, staff development presentation and workshop, University Centre Doncaster, 16 September 2011.

  • Ehiyazaryan, E. (2011) ‘Embedding Open Educational Resources in Research Methods Teaching in Education, Social Science and Criminology’, presented at C-SAP dissemination event, University Centre Blackburn College, 1st September 2011. Available from the C-SAP Open Cascade project website: http://csapopencascade.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/strictly-come-cascading-at-university-centre-at-blackburn-college-1-september-2011/

  • Ehiyazaryan, E. (2011) ‘Open Educational Resources’ presentation given to the Teaching and Learning Innovation Task Group, University Centre Doncaster, April 2011.

  • Ehiyazaryan, E. (2011) ‘Embedding Open Educational Resources in Research Methods Teaching in Education, Social Science and Criminology’, poster presented at the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) Annual Conference, Thriving in A Colder and More Challenging Climate, 6-8 September, University of Leeds, U.K.

  • ER research methods collection: a scaffolding resource for project participants: http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/5548

  • SCORE project blog: http://tinyurl.com/ucdoer

Presentations published on SlideShare

  • OER staff development session: http://www.slideshare.net/EsterEhiyazaryan/oer-staff-development-presentation

  • Introduction to OER: http://www.slideshare.net/EsterEhiyazaryan/introduction-to-oer

    Outcomes and conclusions

    The findings from this project highlighted a number of opportunities as well as some obstacles in using OER for HE within an FE context. These included:

    OER has the potential to address the teaching of abstract concepts which are not immediately grounded in the discipline area.

    OER encourages independent exploration of content amongst learners and enables them to make links between subject specific knowledge and the more abstract knowledge inherent in research methods learning. .

    OER can offer additional stimulation to learners as well as providing revision material.

    iTunesU is valuable as a medium that provides good narrative and contextualisation for abstract concepts, however difficult to implement for smaller HE in FE providers due to limitations in the IT infrastructure.

    While OER offers access to content for students, this is not the same as knowledge generation. The role of the tutor in directing learning to enable knowledge generation is still very important. Without suitable contextualisation, students may not develop an understanding of the concepts and so tutors are necessary in order to contextualise concepts.

    OER can offer a ‘creative spark’ that generates alternative ideas on how to introduce subjects to students, but that time and pressures affecting the creative process can limit this opportunity.

    Teaching staff may prefer to use OER that are easy to adapt and reuse, saving them time, rather than with those that offer innovative potential, and there was some concern that less experienced teaching staff may over-rely on these resources and therefore fail to gain experience in developing learning resources for students.

    OER could offer opportunities for engaging in blended learning practices, which offer flexibility to the learner. For tutors to gain and maintain enthusiasm for this process however, IT infrastructure at institutions needs to enable easy access to tools, repositories and resources. This is necessary in order for teachers to be able to contextualise the resources being used or adapted.

    Learners appreciated the interactivity of some of the resources as they enabled them to work at their own pace.

    Some (particularly mature learners) are less comfortable working with online resources and so focus may need to be given to improving digital literacy skills amongst learners.

    Independent research can improve learners’ understanding of abstract concepts.

    More information on this project can be found at http://www8.open.ac.uk/score/fellows/ester-ehiyazaryan

Case study by Ester Ehiyazaryan, published online at https://web.archive.org/web/20130425163032/http://www.open.ac.uk/score/embedding-open-educational-resources-research-methods-training-education-social-science-and-criminol under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Ester Ehiyazaryan, Embedding Open Educational Resources in Research Methods Training in Education, Social Science and Criminology, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.