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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.)

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:



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