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Category Archives: conferences and meetings

This week is particularly busy for me, with two conferences back to back, ALT-C then PHEC.

I’d hoped to be included in a workshop at my first ALT-C but it wasn’t to be, still I went along. Crowdvine, which I’d never encountered before, was particularly useful when attending a large conference for the first time and without colleagues. It gave me an idea of who would be there and the topics that were uppermost in peoples’ minds, so when I arrived at the conference itself I hit the ground running.

It also got me using Twitter, which at that time was little known and still finding its feet. I don’t know if any of us knew then what we were going to do with it but I’m glad I persisted.

This will be my third ALT-C and my first time with a presentation which makes it particularly special. Crowdvine has again be very useful for pre- conference planning and I aim to be using Twitter in my usual ‘meeting’ mode (a cross between note taking and broadcasting.)

If you have an interest in open educational resources, whatever your discipline (or none),  do stop by poster 0225, flag me down during the conference or leave me a comment on Crowdvine.

I attended an online conference on open educational resources (OER) organised by OTTER, the University of Leicester OER project. This took place using Wimba with the session themes being proposed by the attendants.

I try to use Twitter at events as I have found it an excellent tool for summarising what I’m hearing (or thinking) and others, who are not present, have been kind enough to tell me that they find it useful; those who find it irritating have been kind enough to keep it to themselves.

Looking back over my Tweets, I seem to have asked a lot of questions inspired by the presentations. Here’s a selection:

  • Do OER replace the textbook… or the educator?
  • What would OER look like that didn’t need an ‘educator’ to deliver it?
  • What do students lose by not seeing inspirational teachers?
  • What happens when the number of graduates exceeds the number of graduate posts?
  • What do we mean by ‘validation’ and ‘quality control’ in OER? Who decides, the users or a committee?
  • What about accreditation for students self-teaching with OER but not enrolled on a course?
  • Could an institution be created, based on using OER already available, giving accreditation?
  • Is learning without accreditation worthless today?
  • Who should be creating OER? A free for all? An organised body that take commissions?
  • Do academics know just how many OER there are out there incl. Creative Commons images, and how easy to find?
  • Are people who create OER also users of OER? Does it matter if they are two separate groups?
  • Do we need to be looking at relative levels of supply and demand for various kinds of OER?
  •  Is it ethical to charge for a course made of OER?
  • Problem of orphan works; what’s to do?
  • Is copyright the problem?
  • Are the copyright laws now outdated in the digital age?
  • What is the meaning of ‘Commercial/non-commercial’ in Creative Commons licenses?
  • How much can knowledge be said to be owned by individuals?
  • Does copyright deny the contribution of others and hold back development?
  • Could and should OER replace educators?
  • Are institutions missing the point my focussing on OER as marketing tools?
  • Is there a relationship between the open source and OER model?

I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Though this was mostly an informal networking event, we were given a presentation on the STEM Ambassadors programme from STEMNET. This scheme puts those working within STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, or with a passion for technology in general, in touch with local schools. Here they can find themselves helping to enthuse pupils about STEM, giving them a new perspective and perhaps an idea about what careers STEM subjects could take them into.

Anyone who is interested in becoming a STEM Ambassador should visit the website for more details and the chance to register.


HEY! Girl Geek Dinners are held on a regular basis in locations in Hull and East Yorkshire. Everyone who shares the group philosophy is welcome to attend. Further details are available on their Facebook page and by following them on Twitter at @HEYGGD.

Phil Barker (CETIS) opened the day, mentioning the ‘dark web’, that part of the web which is inaccessible to search engines (‘The Invisible Web – Sherman and Price, 2001) and not adding your work to it inadvertently by choosing the wrong repository. Different repositories were contrasted, ones that manage resources instead of managing access (eg MIT OpenCourseware) and ones that manage different types of content (eg work in progress, finished work.) Ben Goldacre’s request for information on the content of a homeopathy course, though initially refused by the institution, was eventually granted after a court ruled that this was legally public information. Do we think of course material this way?

David Davis (Warwick) took us through his survey on searching for resources, conducted for the OOER project. This was full of interesting and somewhat counter intuitive insights into how users searched and how they assessed resources when they found them: an excellent read (see link below.)

David Millard (Southampton) compared sharing through repositories and Web 2.0 sites. He pointed out that those that shared did so for a reason (backing up our research in Skills for Scientists) and so it was important that the repository/site fulfilled those needs.

Joss Winn (Lincoln) expressed the view that a repository needed to concentrate on storing resources and nothing more, providing ”food for Google” rather than trying to provide social web functions which other sites already did so well and could be taken advantage of.

Patrick Lockley (Nottingham) spoke about the challenges of harvesting a multitude of RSS feeds; should be easy but it isn’t!

Lisa Rogers (Heriot-Watt) gave details of her work on two Subject OER projects, CORE for Materials and the Engineering Pilot Project. CORE involved experimenting with uploading to JorumOpen using RSS feeds (since manual upload of so many resources was unfeasible) whereas the engineering project had authors upload material themselves to make the process more sustainable.

Roger Greenhalgh (Harper-Adams) took us on a tour of repositories, including the Virtual Carrot Museum (everything you wanted to know about carrots ….and some) and his own OpenFields: a repository for land based studies.

Sarah Currier outlined a repository built by a community of practice based on Diigo and Netvibes.

Links to all the position papers can be found here:

Tweets (tagged #cetisrow) can  be found here:

Recently, I attended the first, of hopefully many, Girl Geek (York) Dinners held at Grays Court, York. There was a full house of people from a range of backgrounds and, after an excellent supper and lots of time to network, we were treated to two inspiring presentations.

The first was from Helen Harrop of Sero (and a million other enterprises, as anyone who follows her of Twitter will tell you) entitled How I Learnt to Love Numbers. Helen took us through her early influences and experiences with numbers and how she caught the computing bug. Helen expertly weaves her affinity for logic with her passion for art, probably because she instinctively sees the overlap between them. You can find evidence of Helen’s artistry including her doodles (the word just doesn’t do them justice) on Flickr.

The second presentation was from Mary Vincent of Green Star Solution. We were given a whirlwind tour of her many business interests, with a discussion on a host of green ICT issues including thin clients, cloud computing (potentially greener?) and data centre design.

The tag for this meeting was #GirlGeekY so it’s worth looking for other blog posts and Tweets about this event.

After being immersed in our Skills for Scientists project for almost a year now, it was good to get a fuller picture of the other projects at this conference. Many were represented and I attended presentations from as many as I could, especially other Subject projects. Alex Fenlon and Rob Pearce spoke for the Engineering Subject Centre project, from the vital IPR aspect and meeting the challenge of  searching for OER stored in a multitude of repositories.  Megan Quentin-Baxter and Suzanne Hardy ran a workshop from MEDEV, illustrating how their project was supporting those creating and releasing OER in a complex area of ethical considerations and how much the project was promoting policy change. Alison Dickens and Kate Borthwick gave a presentation on the very impressive HUMBOX project and how keeping a group of disciplines together was promoting sharing and reuse of resources.

Several interesting themes emerged from the conference as a whole. These included the reasons for and the promotion of sharing (eg Ulrich Tiedau); building a business model (eg Charles Duncan); institutional/senior management backing (eg Andy Beggan and the BERLiN project); taking OER to the (re)user (eg Nancy Graham); digital content training (eg Neil Bruton and the 4C Initiative); and student involvement (eg Chris Follows).

Since the majority of presentations were held in parallel I only saw a fraction of what was available (always the way at larger events). This reflection represents only a part of  the conference, I wish I could have seen and heard it all. The links below provide access to the programme and all the abstracts and presentations, plus Tweets, photographs and more.

A big Thank You must go to all the organisers for putting together such a stimulating event.

OER10 Links

Skills for Scientists presentation:

Conference Website (including programme with links to abstracts and presentations):

Conference photographs:



Today’s meeting was an opportunity for Subject Centres to learn more about JISC’s Curriculum Design and Delivery Programme, in particular the Design Studio.

The day started by looking at the programme which comprises 12 projects running from October 2008 – July 2012. The projects are all looking at institution-wide curriculum design issues and how practice can be improved or enhanced across the institution, with regard for necessary discipline variations, making curricula more responsive, flexible and agile.

Transforming Curriculum Delivery through Technology comprises 15 projects, two in FE alone, spread across the disciplines (sadly, none in physical science.) The emphasis is generally not on the technology itself but how it is being used (so may involve using established systems such as the institutional VLE.) Initial findings show a commitment to listen to learners and engage with stakeholders (though this can be difficult to measure) and to consider a cost benefit analysis (which is challenging to calculate.)

The Design Studio is an evolution of a wiki for the Programme. It comprises the outcomes of the projects (assets) and a design cycle linking them. The assets are tagged so (currently) the visitor can work through the Design Studio either by segments in the design cycle or through the tags.  Representatives of Subject Centres have requested a way visitors can look at this work with a discipline perspective and ways this can be achieved will be investigated as the wiki is developed.

Design Studio

Programme blog

Twitter: @circlespace


Yesterday, at the Girl Geek Dinner held at the Enterprise Centre at the University of Hull, attendees heard a presentation by Emma McGrattan of Ingres. Along with discussions about Software Engineer Barbie and whether men and women code differently (don’t go there), I was particularly interested in what she had to say about Open Source.

We had many IT students in attendance and she encouraged them to see getting involved in the Open Source movement as a way to get some real world experience, something to add to their CV and a way of finding what they were particularly passionate about within their discipline. We heard about Google’s Summer of Code and the opportunities it offered as just one example.

Could there be such enthusiasm for Open Source the UK in the future (as there is in the US) and could the OER movement become as popular?

Could we encourage student teachers and new lecturers (on post graduate certificate courses) to get involved in OER as part of their studies, contributing resources to some repository for which they could receive feedback or which could be developed by others? How much support would this need and who would/could provide it?

(My thanks to @iamhelenharrop for prompting me to attend this event.)

I was asked to speak about OER in general and our OER project Skills for Scientists  at our event celebrating the last ten years and looking forward to the future…

Having, by chance, a number of our project partners present at the event kept me to the facts of the project; no idealising the benefits of OER without mentioning the time and effort it can take to produce them.

Again, by chance, one of our partners Nick Greeves was speaking about ChemTube3D which is one of the OER that will be released through Skills for Scientists and provided a great example of what will be on offer.

And I noticed on the final slide of another partner’s talk a Creative Commons licence graphic, and on questioning I found that this licencing was done as a consequence of having been involved in Skills for Scientists.

I hoped to raise awareness of OER, as well as our project, and also to inspire  the audience to become involved, either creating OER, using them or both. Members of the community displaying their OER and embracing the idea of openess does more than I could ever do with a talk.

Catherine Ngugi, Director of OER Africa, got the conference started with a synopsis of the history of the University of Nottingham, how it had been founded with the help of philanthropism, and contrasted this with the similar spirit that can typify the sharing of educational resources. For OER to work, she said, we had to be prepared to change and accommodate different outlooks; be willing to build sustainable relationships; and spend the necessary time and effort to make things work. 

Luke Mckend from Google revealed that overall 81% of visitors to websites got there after using a search, and searches for HE related terms (such as ‘online courses’) are increasing. Looking at YouTube Edu we learnt about the web statistics it was possible to obtain.

Samuel Nikoi introduced the CORRE framework which forms part of the OTTER project from the University of Leicester.

Peter Robinson spoke about the Open Spires project based at the University of Oxford which aggregates audio and video content. It includes a range of content across many discipline (including physical sciences) and makes extensive use of iTunesU.

Andy Lane from the Open University demonstrated OpenLearn with its concept of reaching out to new people and places and being open to new educational ideas. OpenSpace makes resources available but also related tools to support them, such as social networking tools to enable resource users to connect. LabSpace makes resources available to a developer audience.

Russell Standard (University of Westminster) spoke about the role of social networking in OER, particularly his use of Twitter.

Jackie Milne (JISC Legal) gave a presentation on OER legal matters highlighting the key areas of accessibility law, data protection and IPR. We were reminded that owning work did not necessarily equate to owning the IPR and authors had to check their employment contracts. Also, once Creative Commons licenses were embedded into resources they could not (easily) be revoked, so it was important to be certain that the IPR owner had been consulted as mistakes could lead to loss of reputation or legal damages being sought. Further advice could be obtained from the Creative Commons website or JISC Legal.

Bjoern Hassler from the UK National Commission for UNESCO told us more about forging links between OER in the UK and OER Africa. OER freedoms include legal (in respect to the license used with the resource), technical (ability to use and reuse) and educational (reusable in different context/countries). The OERSchools project in Zambia is using OER to increase and improve access to learning.

Neil Butcher (OER Africa) talked about two projects: one in Rwanda is to deliver HE courses based on OERs  delivered on low-cost mobile devices; the other in Kenya is to provide an online MBA course based on OERs. Both projects are interested in partners and interested parties are encouraged to make contact.

Keynotes were recorded and will be made available on the conference website. Tweets including the conference tag have been recorded.

Online Learning Conference

Twitter stream for #0lconf