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Dissemination events - OER2010 conference

Page history last edited by Anna Gruszczynska 14 years, 3 months ago

We (i.e. Darren, Anna and Richard) have just come back from the OER2010 conference in Cambridge, where we presented a paper "Evaluating the Practice of Opening up Resources for Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences". While it will probably take some time to take in everything we learnt during the workshops and presentations, we'll start off by posting some of our post-conference thoughts.  In the meantime, if you want to get a feel for what's been happening at the conference, feel free to trawl through the 600+ tweets or explore the conference cloudspace.



1. One issue which repeatedly came up during the conference was sustainability (and we were grilled on precisely that during our presentation!)- while collectively there were no definitive answers, I really enjoyed a talk given by John Naughton at the end of the conference. He suggested that we might want to look at the concept of "slow burn", he also stressed that in our discussions about sustainability at the moment (together with a related concern about lack of a sustainable business model) we're not taking into account a historical perspective and gave the example of radio broadcasting - when it was first introduced, people had no idea how to find a suitable/sustainable business model for that innovation, maybe OERs are similar in that respect? John Naughton made some very interesting comparisons between the OER movement and the open source movement - and pointed out that when it comes to software, reuse is not seen as problematic; whereas in the context of OERs there seems to be a lot of anxiety related to versioning and in particular a possible loss of control over one's resource.

2. The issue of academic identities: there were some suggestions from the audience during the closing plenary that OERs are potentially disruptive to academic identities and ultimately are changing what it means to be educated. On a related note, there was an interesting hierarchy of potential motivations/attitudes towards reuse, where junior academics were seen as keen to embrace innovative methods, senior academics were open to sharing their resources because they "had nothing to lose" and mid-career academics were most reluctant and pointed to a possible danger of deskilling teaching. On the other hand, is it time to "deschool" the society and follow the vision of Ivan Illich? (as suggested by one of delegates)

3. A number of delegates, both during the more formal conference presentations and informal conversations over coffee and biscuits seemed to indicate that trust is a much more pertinent issue than for instance copyright, and I believe this is something that a social sciences-based project is perfectly placed to explore; we might want to address that in our case studies but also when we come to talk about how distinctive our project is?

4. Finally, we liked the idea of "charting", mentioned in the keynote speech by Allison Littlejohn - seemed like quite an apt metaphor for what we are trying to achieve in the context of this project, charting people's pedagogical journeys in opening up their teaching materials.


Some more notes from Darren:


Tom Browne, Exeter (institutional project) – challenges to academic practice

See the process as an experiment – refer to the recent 2010 Educause Horizon report including OER.

Why should academics contribute? Aspects include altruism, profile, career, sharing knowledge – but OER needs academic buy-in, tension in a research environment.

But academic buy-in needs underpinning by institutional mission and strategies (i.e. marketing and knowledge transfer), OER might have an effect on raising quality of materials?

Repositories – not just stuff, needs usefulness and design. Are we really re-thinking pedagogy or just marketing. However, clear potential in:

·         Curriculum design and delivery

·         Transformations in L&T

·         Encouraging sharing of knowledge

Challenges to practice:

·         Staff awareness

·         Reward and recognition

·         IP issues

·         Quality and reputation (Exeter takes the approach of only ‘high’ quality material)

·         Confidence and trust

These above figured as the “initial sensitisation” towards OER.

Noted difficulty in translating pedagogic discourse to academic staff.*

Need institutional policies to address OER and career development / promotion etc.

Difficulties of IPR around quality / coherence, difficulty to sustain in-depth risk averse practices around copyright. Also can’t sustain the MIT intensive approach of core staff harvesting resources.

Anxieties about cc licence and re-use, however academics generally more interested in confidence and trust issues than copyright and ownership.

One approach to sustainability could be around staff dev – OER part of scholarly endeavour, incorporate into HEA accredited PGCert for new staff (so ‘demand side’ of new staff needing).

But need to allow time for mature debate around OER to emerge. How aligned are individual motivations to OER with institutional?

2.       Humbox presentation

References – Paul Trowler 2008, models of change and agency of individuals, difficulty of evidencing cascade effects from projects.

Differences in subject epistemological characteristics – complex processes of practice often overlooked.

Tendency of individual’s orientation towards discipline rather than department or HIE, unlikely to share without culture change at discipline level (lack of intimacy also a reason not to share).

Humanities often the ‘lone researcher’ but some shared beliefs about academic identity in humanities – hope to capture some of these in humbox through open tagging, peer-review, wanted to avoid JACS codes and vocab taxonomies.

Humbox partner’s final reports as videos, also put a lot of the project’s guidance materials into the repository (i.e. a preparing to share checklist - * possible idea for video in our ibox?)

3.       Workshop – H Beetham , A LittleJohn

Hypothesis about sharing practices in different groups, the evaluation wants to take a step back wider perspective across the programme.

Key issue – how would things be different if OER was deemed successful?

Often not much in the way of hard evidence about effectiveness of OER, and many different criteria (value, costs, reward, motivations, practice, polices, efficiencies, staff development, skills etc)

The evaluation generic framework – 3 main headings, focus areas / key questions / issues raised. Some headlines:

·         Communities already engaged might be more inclined to share OERs

·         Lots of discussion about granularity

·         Low level awareness generally by staff

·         Quality has different interpretations but could include evidence of peer review etc

·         Legal – lot of repetition in guidance, much risk aversion

·         JISCInfonet will produce a resource capturing outputs

·         Hosting issues – dynamic vs. static resources (updating)

·         Sustainability – discovery strategies, web 2.0, push and alerts (again might be more effective in some communities than others).

·         Future – more questions, need time to test models of sharing

Motivation for release may have an impact on how resources are used and how OERs are designed.

What counts for hard evidence? Difficult to define, could be use by other staff or students (but little time to assess this now in the pilots). Anecdotal and narrative evidence more likely now, this can be useful and can influence policy decisions. New demands perhaps on evidence due to funding circumstances (though H and A not overly concerned with financial aspects). Narrative evidence rather than statistical.

Any comment about partners sense of relevance of engagement in the project would be powerful, any indications towards notions of transformational change. Stories about motivation would be good for the evaluation.

Can we also get any sense of assessing ‘culture change’ in such a short time?


Pedagogy hard to articulate from partners and a process of terminology translation.

Can a resource be a single image?

OER could be a catalyst for wider review of T&L polices and practices.

Metadata – most projects opting for a lighter approach.

Hosting on other platforms – issues around comments, flaming, etc

Why not adopt OER? What are the differences in ‘cost’ for those who choose not to participate, what is the added value?

Can OER align or support research outputs?


Keynote by Malcolm Read (Executive Secretary JISC)


He examined the notion of openness, suggesting that we are approaching situation where materials as well as data will be open for re-use (i.e. research papers and the data will be open for peer review and re-use). He talked about 'harnessing openness' to improve research and teaching and learning. He talked about motivation for openness and the values this involved, including notions of collegiality, and greater reputation by attribution. He outlined the JISC OER project (£5.7M, 14 Subject Group projects, 7 Institutional Projects and 8 individual projects) and how JISC is offering a support function (technical, legal, and strategic advice and workshops). An OER Infokit is being developed to guide future work. The Evaluation and Synthesis function is being led by Helen Beetham for the Subject Group Projects. He addressed the concern that some academics have about OER: 'academics who worry they will be replaced by a set of Powerpoint slides really should be replaced by a set of Powerpoint slides'


Of the 3 groups involved he pointed to Subject Groups as having a greater potential to draw on a community of practice approach. He raised the known issues (copyright, clearing rights, difficulty in making some aspects of practice open) and the embedded difficulty of seeking 'pedagogic meaning across the resources'. Further funding (£4.7M) has been allocated to further development to examine:

  • discovery and use of OER
  • benefit of OER to learning processes
  • OER to meet the needs of the sector
  • learning from the experience of this round of projects

This will be a cascade model, including aggregation around important themes, and the examination of the effect of OER on pedagogy. He talked about the approach to finding the material, outlining the 'library way' and the 'web way'. He (appeared to) advocated minimal tagging, multiple methods of finding, and peer review (recommendation). His big vision was of the building of capacity (aims to have 10-20% of academics engaged with OER).


Possible implications for CSAP OER Project:

  • Congruence between the aims and methodology of our project and those of others
  • Unlikely to be a clearly defined model of developing and using OER in near future
  • The notion of Learning Design as OER (in our project) is not universally shared, but is clearly in the thinking of key people (Littlejohn and Beetham)
  • The problems of locating practice within clearly defined pedagogical frameworks is shared by many others.


P.S. And here's some evidence that we really attended the conference... http://www.ucel.ac.uk/oer10/gallery/day2_pm/PMP_5324.html


Comments (6)

Dave Harris said

at 11:14 pm on Mar 25, 2010

It was good to see the Xerte team presenting. I really like the technology and lots of developments are in the pipeline. If colleagues want to try it, I think the best way is to donwload from the Xerte site (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xerte/) the basic device and then install the <u>page templates</u> (separate download from the Resources page on http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xerte/resources.htm NOT the <u>online</u> toolkits). Alternatively, you can acquire MAXOS ( moodle and Xerte on a stick ) from TecDis (http://www.techdis.ac.uk/index.php?p=3_28), who also offer tutorials. Finally you can try downloading the Online Toolkits, but to install that on your local machine requires a further installation of a local server -- XAMPP -- and a bit of tinkering. Lots of browsers refuse to access local servers. Our technician at Marjon -- Adam Read -- has managed to install th Onlie Toolkits on our local server and will help ( I am his agent on 10%).
Have fun!

Dave Harris said

at 11:16 pm on Mar 25, 2010

Shocking typing again -- sorry. 'onlie' - 'online' throughout

Anna Gruszczynska said

at 3:45 pm on Mar 26, 2010

Unfortunately, two of the links above are broken - but you can access them here: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xerte/ and here http://www.techdis.ac.uk/index.php?p=3_28

Dave Harris said

at 12:13 am on Mar 27, 2010

I enjoyed the bits about trying to equate openness and sharing with 'business models', together with the speculation about why academics (especially elderly ones) seemed willing to do anything as non-businesess like as giving away their material free (we just don't care any more it seems). I went to a conference about 10 years ago where people were discussing how to set up free personal websites to give away their material. The managers who were there were deeply puzzled about this and dismissed it all as totally irrational and thus as doomed. The recent official interest in OERs seems to indicate a late recognition that there might be some 'value' (as they measure it) after all. The institution can claim some credit and share (sic) the IPR; e-publications tend to get more citations (handy for the REF); idealistic academics are still keen to provide material (free work! but we don't care!). Academics can be required to e-publish there and not on anything as subversive as a free personal website. The clincher was lots of help to pay for the new toys that software salespeople were keen to demonstrate to a bunch of gullible Arts graduates and accountants.

Anna Gruszczynska said

at 11:57 am on Mar 29, 2010

Well, as they say, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"...

Dave Harris said

at 10:12 pm on Apr 1, 2010

Indeed -- for every opening there follows a closure

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