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Tag Archives: OER

I’m in the process of handing over a website to be archived and backing up a large number of related resources by adding them to a repository.

It’s coincidental that I was also in the process of updating many of these resources with Creative Commons (CC) licences. As part of the process, I created a rights register, basically a combination of a spreadsheet recording all the resources and their copyright holders,  and copies of the replies received when the copyright holders were asked for their permission to use a CC licence on their work. This rights register was then passed on to those archiving the website and managing the repository.

As these resources shortly become someone else’s responsibility, it occurred to me that perhaps this sort of information (particularly permissions given) should be routinely held in the repository that stores the resource. This could be useful should there be a challenge to the licensing, particularly since materials can outlive their creators and the ‘depositor’ information that repositories routinely hold can quickly go out of date (job change, retirement, etc.)

Are there any repository managers thinking about storing information from rights registers for the long distant future of their resources?

I was attracted to this conference both for the content which sounded intriguing but also to experience a wholly on-line conference.

The presentations and workshops were spread what at first seemed very thinly across the time available. But once I had attended a couple of sessions I began to really appreciated the breaks: it allowed me to keep up with my other responsibilities for the day, catch my breath and gather my thoughts. Each session was very intense with the oral presentation, slides, the synchronous and asynchronous panes to follow. It was a real challenge to take it all in and keep up; how the presenters managed, I do not know. The use of facilitators seemed to be an excellent idea and did at least aid the speaker in the balancing act of giving their presentation with following the ‘conversation’ going on amongst the audience sufficiently well to be able to comment and answer questions.

I couldn’t choose a highlight as I enjoyed all the sessions I attended both for the presented material and the interaction with other attendees. All were thought provoking.

I have attended a number of individual on-line sessions before this conference, many of them using Elluminate (the same tool used here), and though I could never say that I would like virtual meetings to replace all face to face events, I see real benefits. Short meetings are simply hard to justify the time spent in travelling, let alone the expense, and attending remotely may enable some to attend and still fulfil other commitments on the same day. Virtual conferences may enable some to attend events they would not otherwise be able to afford. Who wouldn’t support something that enables conferences and workshops to continue in lean times and possibly attract a greater range of attendees.

But I wonder also if there isn’t something extra to be gained from on-line meetings. It’s often said one of the most important aspects (or at least most often achieved) of face to face meetings is networking. I don’t know if it just the virtual meetings that I have attended, but I notice a lot more interaction, and between many more people, than in face to face events. Of course, what the quality of this interaction is, only time will tell. It would also be interesting to know how presenters feel about the kind of session where the audience can be ‘talking’ even more than they are.

My Tweets on the event

Another packed programme of presentations this year, here are the highlights of some of them:

Ifan Hughes (Durham) spoke about the use of interactive screen experiments and the role of pre-lab tasks to increase the efficacy of the time students spend in laboratories.

Steve Hanson from the Centre revealed some preliminary findings from the soon to be published data on graduate skills in physics, based on detailed interviews with new graduates from around the UK (there will also be corresponding data published on chemistry and forensic science.)

Simon Bates (Edinburgh) reported on the shift there from years of recruiting undergraduates to now being able to select students and the challenges this has brought.

Vijay Tymms (Imperial) looked at whether repeated testing (at school) was leading to a shift from intrinsic to extrinsic motivation in students.

Fredrick Floether (Cambridge), our Student Award winner, spoke about his experiences as an undergraduate. He noted the movement towards documents existing only in electronic form (and the possible advantages of this), more use of animations and use of mobile devices. He noted the increase in online learning, the encouragement of students to take learning into their own hands and increasing interdisciplinary nature of science courses. Also highlighted was the increasing internationalisation of higher education, with students flowing in more directions around the globe in pursuit of their education but also the possible bifucation of students into those who attend a campus and those who teach themselves from online resources.

Dick Bacon from the Centre introduced the new adaptive questions that are now available in Question Bank with a call to try them and perhaps submit more to the collection.

Ross Galloway (Edinburgh) spoke about work with students whose coursework scores were significantly higher than their exam scores. These tended to be students whose qualifications were non-UK and who had taken a gap year, and interviews had shown that they had unrealistic ideas about exam preparation and the time it would take. Interesting, merely interviewing students about this appeared to have the effect of improving their subsequent exam performance, though no other intervention had been made.

Sally Jordan (OU) presented details of work on computer assessment of short-answer questions. She emphasised the importance of modeling answers on the real answers of students, rather than those of staff who answer questions differently. The unintended consequence of this has been the greater understanding of the ways students interpret questions which has been used to improve question.

Ross Galloway (Edinburgh) held a workshop on data handling skills. Discussion amongst the participants revealed the following:  teaching such skills tends to be concentrated in the early years and it is hard to convince  students are they should do some data analysis during the experiment as they would rather do it afterwards once the experiment is complete. At Edinburgh it was found that once teaching data handling skills stopped, improvement stopped also; students appeared not to pick up skills without support.

Robert Francis (NTU) detailed an archeo-astronomy project that was being used with school and university groups. A virtual field trip was built to enable pupils/students to be able to make the most of their field work.

Marialuisa Aliotta (Edinburgh) reported on the use of scoring rubrics, use of which students felt led to reduced variation and fairing marking.

Lynn Moran (Liverpool) spoke about outreach work which had grown from an informal grouping of students and had worked on tackling negative views of science.

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.

Recently, I’ve been hearing a few comments that seem to suggest we should be using the most open of licences for resources or, frankly, not bothering at all.

The reasons include the carrot-y ones (‘the less restrictive the license the more likely your resource will be reused‘) to the stick-y ones (‘if there are restrictions on reuse, you just don’t get the meaning of open’.)

So I’m getting on my soapbox…

I love the idea of sharing that which does not diminish us and practice this with my own personal work (I do not own that which I create at work, so that’s a different story, but I’m working on it.) However, I do not subscribe to the all or nothing view of openness. Here’s why.

There are categories of resource that are just not suitable for completely open release.  Here’s are some examples (there are others) and if you disagree, leave your counter arguments in the comments:

  1. Sensitive material – e.g. forensic science photographs.
  2. Q & A that include the A –  good for self-educating students, but can there be nothing that educators can use ‘as is’ without having to change because students can look up the answers?
  3. Specialised tests – e.g. concept inventories, the outputs of which are only useful because when students meet them it’s for the first time.

Is anyone saying that the originator should never presume to select who should access a resource?

I’m also in favour of having a more restrictive license available in cases of new users, and not giving them a hard time if they use it. Organisations and individuals can be nervous about openness and what will happen; is there real harm in them ‘testing the water’ with a more restrictive license so they can get some experience and see that adding an open license does cause the sky to fall in? And if they do find that their resources don’t get much reuse, that might be the perfect time to explain that it’s opening the licence up that may solve that problem. In this way, the user moves in a more open direction and doesn’t need to be pushed or cajoled.

I’ve seen nothing that suggests that those that use the more restrictive licenses never graduate to less restrictive ones; I myself have moved from the most to the least restrictive CC licence as I have become more comfortable with the idea. I had to start somewhere and I’d like to extend that option to others.

I’m for encouraging sharing, and support this as part of my role, and to me that means understanding others’ motivations to share and the specialist knowledge they have about their resources. Saying ‘all or nothing’ when sharing,  might get you the latter; be careful with your zeal you don’t just put off the very people I am trying to coax into participation. The shallow end is there for a reason: paddlers have the potential to become strong swimmers.

(Many thanks to @Lawrie for giving me the impetus to complete this posting, started some time ago.)

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.

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:

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:



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.