Key messages from OER10 conference in Cambridge

26 March 2010

This week at Clare College in Cambridge University, 100plus delegates gathered with high expectations for what was the first major conference on Open Educational Resources in the UK – OER10 . Malcolm Read, the Executive Secretary of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) set the tone of the conference with his keynote on “OER and the Open Agenda”. Situating OERs within the wider context of openness – software, standards, access, research etc – Malcolm highlighted the challenges faced by institutions and national bodies in achieving sustainable OER practice and reaping benefits. The challenges notwithstanding, he expressed the view that the level of scholarship improves when resources are made freely and openly available. He suggested designing not just content but the whole learning experience attending to issues such as discoverability, the learning process, aggregation, and impact of OER on the wider HE sector.

A workshop on “network of content and curriculum” facilitated by Brandon Muramatsu from MIT focused on interoperability. Brandon made a distinction between “inter-working” i.e. social systems working together, and interoperability, which is more about systems exchanging information. Drawing examples for the photography and electrical appliances industry, he highlighted the need to consider interoperability approaches which are not just one-to-many but also many-to-many, and also consider attention to non technical actors. A participant made a point about moving beyond technical interoperability of developing generic applications – which are useful for end-users across systems – to integration of pedagogical models that are more reusable and sharable.

Tina Wilson from OpenLearn spoke on “Global Evidence of OER reuse” pointing out how OERs can help prospective learners choose university level courses reinforcing a point made earlier by Malcolm regarding the need to expose sixth form level learners to OERs. Tina concluded her presentation by challenging participants to think about how the design of OERs can help or hinder their reuse.

Engin Kursun spoke on the current status of the Turkish OpenCourseWare consortium highlighting the challenges faced, prominent amongst which was lack of digital resources in Turkish languages, barriers posed by copyright, and absence of institutional policies on sharing of resources. He observed that OERs have the potential to contribute to university environments where resources are scarce and noted that staff needed to be supported in their efforts at producing OERs. An interesting aspect of his talk was on reward and recognition of giving points to staff members for publishing and releasing OERs in some Turkish institutions.

David Mossley and his team from the Humbox spoke (or rather read a transcript) on academic self identity and its impact on sharing teaching practice. A key point of this presentation was that teaching and learning practices are different in different disciplines largely because of epistemological characteristics. Hence, designers of OER need to consider contextual relevance and reduction in cognitive barriers to engagement with OERs for different community of users.

Last but not the least Tania and I gave a presentation on the CORRE framework for transforming teaching materials into OERs which is available from the OTTER dissemination activities page.

To me, the conference was a perfect space for sharing local and national experiences on OER. The question that will continue to engage my attention is open what, why and for whom?

Samuel Nikoi (25 March 2010).

Education, education, education!

23 February 2010

What lessons have I learned during the OTTER project?  Honestly?  More than I expected.  Having worked in the University’s David Wilson Library for the previous three years clearing material for teaching purposes, I thought I had heard, seen and resolved most of the copyright queries and issues that exist within a University.  However, turning materials into Open Educational Resources turned out to be a whole different ball game.  We are not covered by educational licenses or exceptions for criticism and review or private study.  Everything has to be assessed down to its minutiae and nothing can be taken for granted.

There appears to exist a complete dichotomy within the academic community, at one end we have people extremely clued up on Creative Commons, sourcing and referencing materials which can be made freely available, and using emerging web 2.0 technologies and embedding them in their teaching materials. At the other end, there are people who are surprised that they can’t simply reproduce something found on the web, or sourced from a book that they wrote.  To enable me to keep a record of these varying issues, and of what needs resolving within each resource, I have found my tracking sheet absolutely vital. 

So my new mantra is ‘education, education, education’, and this is one of the key points I have learned.  I, as Copyright Administrator for the University, need to produce more guidance, and run more sessions, on the Creative Commons/open access movement, web 2.0 technologies, and sourcing open and re-usable materials.  There are a wealth of materials which can be freely re-used, but people simply don’t know about them, which is why I have made a start by pulling together a list of OER copyright guidance and resources which not only explain copyright in the relation to open licensing, but also provide the actual open resources.

Interlinked with the ‘education’ message is that “if” the University is intending to take the issue of Open Educational Resources to its heart, we also need to change the way people write their materials.  They need to design materials with openness in mind (thank you to my colleague Sahm for coining this phrase) and realize that copyright does not prevent them from creating interesting and visually stimulating teaching materials, they just need to bear a few things in mind (which I have drawn together as key do’s and don’ts and spoken about in many of my presentations, most recently at our Learning Futures Festival).    

Additional guidance and more specific decision making tools to assist copyright compliant OERs can be found within the OER copyright guidance and resources mentioned above, but a more simplified Copyright/IPR workflow, to be used in conjunction, has been embedded within the CORRE detailed checklist

The final thing I have learnt, is that although the open access movement is gaining pace, with ever increasing international understanding and recognition, and publishers are coming on board with respect to allowing access to journal articles and other types of research output, they are still a long way from allowing the re-use of their text and diagrams in freely open and re-usable materials, despite the fact that it is likely to drive people to their sites and their books.  The same can be said of large corporations, although they appear slightly more amenable to come to a mutually agreeable solution.

I think I’d be right in saying that copyright clearance doesn’t make you the most popular person in the world but (unless Sahm gets his way, and copyright is abolished), it will, along with a good take down policy and disclaimer, always be a necessity.

Tania Rowlett

OTTER Project

22 Feb 2010

Lessons learned from collecting ‘OER candidate’ materials

19 February 2010

Persuading academics that OERs are valuable can be a tricky business. Many are very reluctant to ‘let go’ of their precious materials. ‘Giving them away’ does not really make sense to some colleagues. On the other hand, other academics are fascinated by the idea that their materials may be useful to unknown audiences and are more than happy to hand over large amounts of information, in multiple formats, for conversion into OERs.

This is a by no means comprehensive list of lessons we’ve learned at the collection stage of the CORRE process:

– Familiarise yourself with the relevant evidence of OER impact, use and benefit, as well as the risks involved. Review the literature!
– Meet colleagues face to face, individually or in small groups.
– Explain what you want (their materials) and why you want them (ultimately, to make them available as OERs, after clearing the various stages of CORRE).
– Be prepared to respond to their genuine concerns with evidence, not with opinion.
– Provide examples. Show those examples on screen.
– Offer options. For example, colleagues may wish to select a sample of possible materials to turn into OERs. Once the process has been completed, they can decide on whether they want to submit more content.
– Use the contributions of others in your institution, sister projects (if available) and examples from some of the big players in the OER arena to show tangible benefits to all stakeholders (e.g. OCW, OpenLearn).
– Give them a quick tour of repositories and aggregators such as OER Commons and JorumOpen, in addition to your own project’s repository (OTTER, in Leicester’s case).
– Address the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question head on. Articulate your answer well in advance: this will depend on the context, your audience and their likely contribution and scope of your project.
– Ditto ‘what’s in it for the students?’ – present and future ones.
– Promise to keep them involved in the project and informed throughout. Then deliver on your promise.
– Be flexible and keep them on board. Without your colleagues’ contributions, there’s no OER project!

More to come soon.

Alejandro Armellini
OTTER Project, Leicester
19 February 2010

Planning for the future

19 February 2010

Following on from Simon’s, my fellow learning technologist, blog below I’d like to talk about some of the things I feel I’ve learnt from this project.  Obviously I learnt that it was fantastic being part of an award winning team who love nothing more than a bit of shameless promotion!

To be more serious and following on from Simon’s point about the ‘polishing’ aspect that arose when gathering the initial content, I would say that the OERs we have produced are primarily text based.  There is nothing wrong with this as they are all fully functional and have a purpose and use but perhaps they are not the most interesting of file formats.

Coming from a web design and development background I do perhaps get a little carried away with all the innovative ways to digitise content for example: an interactive flash resource, an mp4 file, or a Flickr stream.  I think that when digitising the material it was important to decide what would work and in which file format, for example, some smaller text based files could work well when transformed into audio files.  However this is not the case with the majority of text based files and I think that this is part of the reason that we decided to include .epub files as part of the standard file formats we would release.

So the lessons learnt here would be compromise on my part, not letting myself get too carried away with the options for content when digitising and also an (hopefully) important lesson on planning for the future.  Why is this important?  Well the e-book industry is just starting to develop and thanks to lessons learnt in the other project (DUCKLING) that I’m involved with, I can produce industry standard e-books in the .epub format.

This file format will hopefully become more popular and important with the introduction of the Apple iPad as well as the evolution of the Sony Reader.  This will lead to us being ahead of the game in the file formats that we include as standard in our OER repository.

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

Lessons learned on OTTER

19 February 2010

Although I am now settled in my new role as Keeper of the Media Zoo, I started in Beyond Distance as a learning technologist on the OTTER project. And as my colleague Maddy pointed out recently, ‘Once an OTTER, always an OTTER!’

Gabi asked me whether there was anything I had learned as a member of OTTER. To be honest, it’s a more a question of where to start: working as part of a team, appreciating my colleagues’ abilities and experience, understanding the role of the project funders, and so.

But specifically regarding OERs and my job as a learning technologist, I think the biggest lessons I learned were right at the beginning when I gathered the first of our materials for transformation  into OERs.

Coming from an editing background, one thing that clearly stood out was that the material – regardless of the OER format ultimately selected for release – needed to be ‘polished’, i.e. proofread and if necessary edited. In fact, a continuous process of polishing by many eyes was factored into CORRE.

Another important part of this initial grab was ensuring all materials referred to were included in the handover from the provider, otherwise significant problems could arise further down the OER-transformation road when much work has already been carried out.

Both of these issues are now part of the first stage of CORRE (Content).

Simon Kear

Keeper of the Media Zoo

Latest developments in OTTER copyright

4 February 2010

So, what’s been happening in the OTTER copyright world recently? Well, this week I’ve been working on a great resource from our Geology department entitled Snowball Earth, which has required one of the most extensive sets of permissions requests so far.  I’ve looked at many, many pictures of the earth from NASA JPL/Caltech and received positive responses from as far afield as Australia (thank you PIRSA).

I’ve also been liaising with our Student Support and Development Service (SSDS) about their broad range of award-winning*resources covering everything from Research, Writing and Study Skills, to Career Planning and Applying for jobs.

Straight after the Christmas break the Beyond Distance Research Alliance had their annual Learning Futures Festival, an eight day, purely online conference, at which OTTER held two workshops, and my colleagues gave a variety of presentations.  All will be available soon via our new OER institutional repository   Amongst other things, one conclusion I came to following the conference is that more education is required about Creative Commons licensing and copyright in general.

I was pleased to find out this week that JISC have released some new copyright guides: which explain copyright in general, and in relation to audio visual resources and still images.

Last week I attended a great CILIP event called Copyright in the Web 2.0 Environment.  I came back knowing a lot more than I did about the ownership of material in blogs and wikis and was introduced to the concept of content scraping (not a term I particularly like!).  Sadly it didn’t cover Second Life, which would have been useful for my colleagues, who have so far managed to run a Sports Day, a psychology training exercise, and give a presentation through the virtual world, but I’m sure there’s one in the pipeline.  It would also useful for our Swift (Second World Immersive Future Teaching) project.

Next on the horizon, apart from checking and clearing the last sets of material from our partners, is preparation for OER10 in Cambridge in March, at which my colleague Sahm Nikoi and I have been accepted to give an oral presentation.  These last few months of OTTER will not be quiet……..

By Tania Rowlett, 4 Feb 2010

*They won the Times Higher Education Award for Outstanding Student Support 2009-10

OTTER presentation at Online Educa Berlin

10 December 2009

Last week at the Online Educa Berlin Conference, the OTTER project was discussed in two sessions. I gave a short overview of OTTER at the Learning Cafe session, in which all of the Beyond Distance projects were presented. Simon Kear then gave a more detailed account of the project in a panel presentation, alongside Andy Beggan from the BERLiN project at the University of Nottingham, and Uwe Spangler from the IE Business School in Madrid.

The OTTER presentations led to some interesting discussions. Members of the audience talked about the need to have a system in place for dealing with outdated material, particularly in the  medical field, where knowledge is constantly being updated. Delegates also shared ideas on the role that OERs can play in enhancing an institution’s image, and marketing courses or programmes.

For a description of other conference highlights, see the Beyond Distance team blog.

Gabi Witthaus

Digitisation at the British Library

7 November 2009

News from the ELKS community website:

Bringing the world’s knowledge into the digital age

Introduction to the seminar:

The British Library is one of the great research libraries of the world, holding over 150 million items in all the common languages and formats of the world. The advent of the Internet and the ability to digitise large quantities of text and images and make them available over the Web has transformed ways of working in research and learning. For almost two decades, the British Library has undertaken a number of focused digitisation initiatives. More recently, we have entered the world of mass digitisation of newspapers and books. Using the experience gained from digitising 25 million pages of books and 4 million pages of newspapers dating from the early 17th century, the approach, challenges and lessons learnt will be presented. Strong partnerships with higher education institutions have ensured the resultant resources met pedagogical needs, the current approaches and possible future trends will be presented.

About the speaker – Mr Aly Conteh, Digitisation Programme Manager, British Library.

Aly Conteh is the Digitisation Programme Manager at the British Library, a post he took up in April 2003. He is responsible for the development and implementation of the policies, workflows and standards which govern digitisation of items from the Library’s vast collections. He has been involved in many digitisation projects at the British Library including projects to digitise 25 million pages of 19th Century books and 4 million pages of pre-1900 newspapers and hundreds of manuscript volumes. He serves on the Executive Board for the IMPACT project a large-scale integrating project funded by the European Commission as part of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). He is as a member of the European Commission’s Member States’ Expert Group on Digitisation and Digital Preservation.

Click here to watch the recording of the seminar:

Gabi Witthaus

Award-winning OTTERs

28 October 2009

Yes that is indeed correct: you are reading the blog of the award-winning OTTER team. Admittedly the prize was a box of chocolates but it was a prize nonetheless. What exactly did we win this award for? Well for having the winning entry in the virtual poster competition that was run by JISC as part of the OER Interim Meeting on the 20th October. You can view all the other competitors alongside our winning entry here:

I’ll stop bragging about the award-winning OTTERs now and talk about the poster in more detail. We wanted something that would stand out and that would be memorable so we took a more humorous approach by choosing to include representations of ourselves in the poster. We’re each being asked a key question by a panic stricken lecturer struggling to juggle all her commitments alongside being asked to make their resources open. The questions are answered by the relevant OTTER expert who provides the detail required in a clear concise manner.

The poster also provides an opportunity to welcome the two newest OTTER members: myself and Richard Mobbs. We’re both working as Learning Technologists for the team. It’s also, with regret, a farewell to a former OTTER, Simon Kear, who is now our resident Zookeeper.

OTTER Virtual Poster Slide 1
OTTER Virtual Poster Slide 2

The OTTER team are always available to answer any questions you might have on OTTER and OERs, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment in the blog.

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

OTTER dissemination seminar

25 September 2009

Yesterday was an exciting day for the OTTER team as we held our first official dissemination event.

The audience from Leicester were accompanied by attendees from JISC and Jorum, and all listened to us give an introduction to the types of OERs we were aiming to produce, the technical considerations we had to take into account, a rousing run through of OER FAQs (thank you, Sahm), as well as an update on the copyright and IPR issues we have encountered/tackled to date.

PowerPoint slides from the presentations can be viewed here.

We were also honoured to have Tina Wilson from the Open University as our guest speaker. It was great to hear from someone at the institution who introduced the UK to OERs on a grand scale via OpenLearn.  She talked about a range of projects run by the OU, ending with their most recent – SCORE – which aims to provide support for other UK OER projects.

Integrated into the programme were two question-and-answer sessions, and the audience had clearly been listening as they came up with some tough questions for us all.

The feedback received so far has been good, and we hope to be able to deliver an update at our next dissemination event (date tbc – watch this space!).

Tania Rowlett

Copyright Officer