Archive for June, 2009

OERs in the national news

25 June 2009

It was nice to read today’s joint JISC/HEA press release regarding our OER programme. It was also interesting to hear David Lammy’s words from several days ago about the new £20m open learning innovation fund for UK universities made at the launch of the Demos report, The Edgeless University.

My BDRA colleague Jai has written an eloquent blog today about the national implications of the Demos  report, and what it means for us at Beyond Distance in particular. I imagine it’s the same for all our institutional partners. It made me think what an exciting time to be working on a high-profile programme like this.

My OTTER colleagues and I are learning something new every day, and questioning quite a few of our assumptions.

On the technical side, I’m still trying to establish whether there is a way to monitor accurately downloads from a repository like our Plone site – where a resource can be downloaded with a simple right click – without site registration.

As our OER user-evaluation process will rely on voluntary feedback via a form, I’m thinking that we could ask visitors to Plone  to ‘tick this box if you have downloaded this OER’. If anyone else has a simple solution for measuring downloads, I’d love to hear about it.

Simon Kear

OERs at the EDEN conference in Gdansk

17 June 2009

A number of BDRA colleagues went to the 2009 EDEN conference in Gdansk, Poland, between 10 and 13 June. I attended a workshop on OERs led by Grainne Conole and her OU colleagues. The workshop used the OLnet initiative to illustrate methods, tools, challenges and technologies relevant to designing and evaluating OERs. This blog post aims to share the key points that are relevant to OTTER. There are useful references at the end.

The workflow used by the OLnet project is very similar to OTTER’s.

Their output, however, is a set of ‘open educational courses’, i.e. high quality resources integrated and interlinked in such a way that they can be both very useful but very hard to ‘dismantle’, repurpose and reuse as individual chunks.

Lane (2006) suggests 3 models for OERs: integrity, essence and remix. It is under remix that learning design comes firmly in.

There’s still very little evidence of OER reuse.

It’s worth asking ourselves: what do some OERs lack that makes them unusable?


Lane, A. (2006). From Pillar to Post: Exploring the issues involved in re-purposing distance learning materials for use as open educational resources. Retrieved June 17, 2009 from:

Wilson, T. (2008). New Ways of Mediating Learning: Investigating the implications of adopting open educational resources for tertiary education at an institution in the United Kingdom as compared to one in South Africa. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 9, No 1. Retrieved June 17, 2009 from

Alejandro Armellini
17 June 2009

JISC’s OER start-up meeting

16 June 2009

Both Gabi and I found the JISC Open Educational Resources Programme start-up meeting last Tuesday to be very useful.

It was great to meet both our JISC colleagues and representatives from the other OER projects. The JISC presentations were instructive and well coordinated, and all the speakers were happy to answer queries from the floor. (For links to descriptions of the sessions, see the oerstartup cloud in the Open University’s cloudworks site.)

As OTTER‘s learning technologist, I was particularly pleased to see Nicola’s faultless demonstration of the new OER Deposit Tool. I hope to add our first completed OERs very shortly, but in the meantime I’ve been familiarising myself with the tool’s 4-stage interface and uploading a few test files. Its simplicity wasn’t quite what I had been expecting, so it has been a very nice surprise.

We also found very useful the institutional strand session in the afternoon hosted by Heather. I had no idea that so many of our partner HEIs had existing OER experience. It’s a shame that we didn’t have enough time to chat to each other after the seven introductions. Fortunately, though, Nottingham’s BERLiN project is only a few miles up the M1. I think there is much OTTER could learn from Andy and the others on U-Now.

I’m in the process of setting up my JISC OER aggregator, on which I will include all project RSS blog feeds and websites. I also look forward to chatting with my OER colleagues on Jorum Community.

So thanks to Heather, David and everyone else at JISC for a successful start-up meeting.

Simon Kear

OTTER development

2 June 2009

The project is one month old now. We’ve had project and Steering Group meetings. The workpackages are running smoothly. Good progress so far!

Today we had a useful team meeting in which we addressed two main issues: criteria for OER evaluation and a process workflow to streamline the ‘otterisation’ process. We reviewed existing good and not-so-good OERs from various sources and we discussed possible criteria emerging from our user experiences. Sahm provided a useful set of issues that need careful consideration  in the development of the criteria, based on existing literature. We made progress towards some of the criteria against which we’ll evaluate our OERs. Over the next two weeks, we’ll have both the criteria and the workflow firmed up.

In parallel, the enhancement process of the materials we’ve already received has started. We’ll soon have a prototype to showcase and improve – and to further develop the evaluation criteria.

Watch this space.

Alejandro Armellini