Key messages from OER10 conference in Cambridge

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).

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