Posts Tagged ‘OER’

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).


Increasing institutional web presence: the OER impact factor

18 August 2009

Last month webometrics, which ranks world universities based on global performance and web visibility, was published. The ranking has been published twice each year since 2004 and covers over 17,000 higher educational institutions worldwide.

The ranking, which measures visibility of HE institution, has as one of its main objectives the motivation of institutions and scholars to have a web presence that accurately reflects their activities, especially those related to the processes of generating and communicating scientific knowledge.

The methodology used by webometrics for arriving at a web impact factor (WIF), and hence a rank, include

  • link analysis (i.e. the number of external in-links)
  • the number of pages of a website
  • the number of documents from rich files in a web domain
  • the number of publications collected through Google Scholar database.

Not too surprisingly, MIT came first in the world ranking and this has been directly linked to its huge OpencourseWare programme. UK universities that featured in the top 100 include Cambridge, Oxford, The Open University, Nottingham and Leeds, all of which have vibrant open educational resource (OER) programmes. The same reason, i.e. open access initiative, is reported to account for the improved performance in the league table of other European universities in Norway, Spain and Portugal.

Whilst the methodology for generating data for ranking the Universities can be queried, the fact cannot be ignored that institutional open access policy initiatives, aimed at promoting and increasing the volume and quality of electronic publications of an institution, is an important factor in web visibility and hence contributes to the perceived quality of education and academic prestige of that institution.

We are encouraged by such news to press on with OTTER. Hopefully, the University of Leicester, which currently is ranked 383, will improve its rating in future webometrics.

Samuel Nikoi

OER Evaluator

OERs save time for learning designers

17 August 2009

This morning I spoke at the National Association of Distance Education and Open Learning in South Africa (NADEOSA) annual conference. In my presentation, I looked at the landscape for open and distance learning in the 21st century, with a particular focus on the issues for developing countries in terms of resources, connectivity, etc. (As if to drive home the point, the Skype connection between Leicester and Pretoria kept dropping!)

One of the ‘threads’ in the tapestry I described was Open Educational Resources, which I believe can enable educators to produce high quality teaching materials both cost-effectively and within reasonable time frames. The audience picked up on this point in the Q&A session:  the importance of critically reviewing OERs before using them was noted, and some concern was expressed about the time involved in finding suitable OERs and modifying them for the context in which you teach.

Tony Mays from SAIDE/UNISA then made a great point: he described two studies that had been carried out in different parts of Africa. These studies found that, whereas designing learning materials from scratch took an average of 100 hours per notional learning hour, sourcing and modifying OERs took only 40-60 hours. Still time-consuming, but a significant saving.

Does anyone know of other studies to this effect?

Gabi Witthaus

Student Engagement

30 July 2009

Now that we have Sahm’s final, super duper CORRE workflow template to put our learning materials through, our discussions during the past few days have taken a step back from the intricacies of the materials themselves, and centred more on our current status in terms of gathering materials, and, for those that we have, what stage they are at in the workflow.

It quickly became clear to us that we are quite advanced in CORRE with some materials, and therefore we should start making some concrete plans to validate the materials with a view to releasing them. 

Gabi produced some wonderful charts and a timetable which were discussed in our Project Meeting yesterday, and following on from that today we met with Alex Smith, our Student Representative and the University’s Academic Affairs Officer.  

During the meeting it transpired that Alex had actually used an element of MIT’s OpenCourseWare during his studies and he was incredibly enthusiastic about the usefulness and benefits of such materials, which is wonderful news for us. We hope that once the OTTER materials are available for download, students will be as excited by them as Alex was about his experience of MIT!

Overall we felt the meeting was extremely useful and we are all positive that Alex can help us both establish contact with the student community to allow us to engage them in recruiting students for the impending initial reality checking process, and help us fine tune our scheduling so that we can ensure we get maximum take up from the student population.

Tania Rowlett

30 July 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


8 May 2009

Yet another brick from the crumbling wall of 20th century learning is loosened today. To be replaced by an ambitious OTTER! We’re delighted to be part of finding out what happens when the old style non-accessible, carefully covetted and protected resources for learning are released into the great pool of shareable knowledge.

In a new world of learning, Open Educational Content, facilitated by new ideas on licensing, reuse and repurposing, is made free to use or share, and teachers and learners can share what they know. Of course we know it’s not easy. Of course we know there are challenges. Of course the technology needs testing. That’s what we’re going to do with colleagues across the University of Leicester.

Please come back often and see how wet we get.

Gilly Salmon