Posts Tagged ‘OTTER’

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

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

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

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: http://www.slideshare.net/heather_jisc/oer-project-posters-201009-compress2-2229165

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

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

OTTER LIVE

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