Open Educational Resources and the Zachman Framework

The theme of Open Educational Resources (OER aka Open Educational Content, OEC) is clearly a topic of current interest but, I believe, often discussed from different perspectives. If we are to discuss OER, and specifically if are to discuss projects, programmes or initiatives around OER, do we need a structure to make more clear the perspectives? Does the Zachman Framework help?

The Zachman Framework, devised by John Zachman about 20 years ago, is most commonly associated with the field of Enterprise Architecture and generally viewed as a 2-dimensional grid. Do not be put off by the “Enterprise Architecture” label; the Zachman Framework is really a way of understanding and structuring the components of a description of a system (in the general sense of the word). A quote from Zachman:

The Zachman Framework is not a methodology for creating the implementation (an instantiation) of the object. The Zachman Framework is the ontology for describing the Enterprise. The Framework (ontology) is a STRUCTURE whereas a methodology is a PROCESS. A Structure is NOT a Process. A Structure establishes definition whereas a Process provides Transformation.”

The Zachman Framework, as it is described, is rather industrial in its terminology so some of the descriptions of the meanings associated with the cells in the grid need a bit of re-phrasing to be applicable to OER as do row headings like “technician” (would “custodian” or “support” be better?). For each cell, though, I can imagine a re-description consistent with the concepts of the Zachman Framework.

My proposition is that the Zachman Framework is useful if, for each row/column intersection in the grid, we ask questions like: “do we have anything to say about this aspect” or “is this an aspect that I should be considering deeply or is it someone else’s concern”. Similarly, if discussing doing something under the category of OER: “which cells does our discussion cover” or, if developing a coordinated programme, “did we miss anything”.

As the whole point of the Framework is about thinking at an “Enterprise” level, although that term is somewhat inappropriate to OER, it seems like a resonable approach to asking whether a set of planned interventions are consistent with achieving the changes we seek across the “Communication Interrogatives” (columns) and the “Reification Transformations” (rows). To diverge again from the industrial/manufacturing heritage of the Framework, maybe we should think about the “Enterprise” from more of a social viewpoint and ask, when considering the Operations row, “what is is about an OER-related intervention that seeks to change the capabilities and intentions of the various stakeholders?” I think sociologists would use the terms “structure and agency” here.

What do you think?

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