Archive for February, 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 http://www2.le.ac.uk/projects/oer.   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: http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/blog/entry/all-you-need-to-know-about-copyright/ 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