Archive for the 'Open Educational Resources' Category

Sesame: talking to practitioners

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

In addition to producing Open Educational Resources (OER), one of the main aims of the Sesame project has been to embed open ways of working in the development and delivery of the Department’s Weekly classes programme. In particular we wanted to work with the large cohort of part-time tutors who teach these courses to improve their skills and confidence in identifying, using and creating OER. Now that we are just over half way through the project, we took the opportunity to talk to some of our tutors about their experience of participating in the project. This short video provides a brief introduction to the Sesame project and some reflections from tutors on the impact the project has had on their teaching practice.

To find out more about the project, and to browse the resources released so far, visit: http://open.conted.ox.ac.uk.

The video is published under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY NC SA)

Book boxes to OER: opening up Oxford

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
A mountain of book boxes from Rewley House library

A mountain of book boxes from Rewley House library

A couple of months ago while filming a video about our work on the Cascade project with JISC we visited the  mountain of  book boxes that are in the basement of our library.  These are  legacy from the days gone by of the department, when opening up access to Oxford meant traveling around the UK by train, with your TRAVELLING LIBRARY  and giving lectures.

The interior label from an early book box

The interior label from an early book box

It is worth noting that although we now offer many online courses this does actually still happen, with the occasional church hall still hosting a book box as we speak.  There is more about the history of the department on our website, acting as a reminder that exploring how best to open up education is not a new pursuit, and that projects such as Sesame and the generation of OER are just the latest evolution of this work.

Open education week

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

We’ve been publicising open education week to our students this week, letting them know a bit more about what it means and what they might to explore further on our Departmental website.  While we took this chance to tell them about OER and open ed more widely, we also blew our own horn a bit too….

The Department for Continuing Education was one of the first departments to contribute to Oxford’s iTunes U site and Marianne Talbot, the Department’s Director of Studies in Philosophy, has had her lectures downloaded more than three million times with two of her podcasts – ‘A Romp Through the History of Philosophy’, and ‘The Nature of Arguments’ – being global number one on iTunes U. You can listen to Marianne’s lectures and other podcasts from the Department’s podcasts site.

As well as contributing to the University’s open education initiatives, the Department has undertaken research into the use of open educational resources by tutors and students and, where possible, releases the outputs of its teaching and learning projects as OER.

One example is the Course Design Moodle, which highlights examples from some of the Department’s online courses and aims to help teachers worldwide to develop their own high-quality online learning resources.

The Department is also embedding open practices across its work and has just started an exciting new project to create OER as part of the Weekly Classes programme. So far, the project has made available more than 150 online resources from 11 weekly classes and will be openly licensing these resources in the future. For a preview of the sort of material we hope to release see: open.conted.ox.ac.uk/.

Learning from OER research projects

Thursday, February 9th, 2012
The iceberg of reuse

Another chance to consider the iceberg of reuse

I recently visited the OU to present on the OER Impact project for the SCORE‘s session on learning from OER research projects.

With proper social media credentials the entire day is on Cloudworks here http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloudscape/view/2375  this contains both the slides and  a video of all the presentations of the day so you to can experience it as though you were there (although the video is not currently working for me).  If you already think you know enough about our study I would recommend in particular viewing the talks from Alison Littlejohn and Patrick McAndrew talking respectively on the findings from the OER Project evaluation and synthesis and the OLnet project.

Surprising search results from Flickr

Friday, January 13th, 2012

We’re working on a new online course on Microeconomics and have been looking for pictures to help illustrate the themes covered by the course.

It was surprisingly easy to find great Creative Commons licensed images in Flickr, some by the simple expedient of using the themes we wanted to illustrate as search terms.

This is what “supply and demand” returned:

Street filled with taxis and only one potential customer standing on the pavement

Supply and Demand (http://www.flickr.com/photos/atencion/46862708/) / MaX . (http://www.flickr.com/photos/atencion/) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

Empty gondalas waiting for customers on a rainy day

The Law of Supply and Demand (http://www.flickr.com/photos/storm-crypt/3479382935/) / Storm Crypt (http://www.flickr.com/photos/storm-crypt/) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

Not only are both images beautifully shot, they help to illustrate the factors that affect the competitive market.  So, which aspects of supply and demand are being illustrated here? Submit your answers below and win the admiration of your peers.

 

Extrapolating

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Our new Introduction to Statistics in Healthcare Research course has been massively enhanced by the inclusion of  XKCD cartoons, stats courses require a bit of light relief.  All set to negotiate the copyright clearance when we discovered they are cc licensed.  I love Creative Commons. All I can say is anyone who is involved in developing a stats course should be using these.

Work found at http://xkcd.com/605/ / CC BY-NC 2.5

OER Sesame

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Genie in an oil lamp

I am delighted to report that we have received funding from the Higher Education Academy/JISC Open Educational Resources Programme Phase 3 strand for the Sesame project.

Sesame aims to  produce a rich and sustainable source of open educational resources (OER), aimed at adult learners and their tutors, but of use to all, across a broad range of subject disciplines.  The resources will be made freely available for others to view, download, re-purpose, and incorporate in to their own learning and teaching.

The specific aims of the project are to:

  • Embed open ways of working in the development and delivery of the Department’s Weekly Class Programme.
  • Increase awareness and knowledge of OER among staff and students.
  • Enable weekly class students to find and use appropriate, validated OER in their work.
  • Improve part-time tutors’ skills and confidence in identifying, using and creating OER.
  • Widen access to Oxford’s teaching to new audiences globally.

To achieve these aims the project will:

  • Create and release new open content.
  • Develop tools and processes that facilitate open practices.
  • Provide training to support part-time tutors to identify, use and create OER.
  • Develop infrastructure to enhance discovery of OER generated by the Weekly Class Programme.
  • Share lessons learned from the project with JISC and the wider community.

The project began in October 2011 and will end in October 2012.

For TALL this project is an exciting move from our work consuming OERs through projects such as Mosaic and our broader online course development work, and researching how others do this in the OER Impact reports.  It will also give us a chance to contribute to the wider work  producing OER at Oxford that the OpenSpires project has started so strongly.  I am hopeful our experience as end-users will help us produce more usable and useful OER and that is certainly something we will be investigating as the project moves forward.

Image: Genie in an oil lamp. / shannonzhang / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Learning Black Market

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Last week I gave a talk about what I call the Learning Black Market at a Guardian seminar on the uses of Social Media for learning and teaching in higher education. It’s something that I have seen emerging from the data we are collecting for the Visitors and Residents project and from interviewing students for our study on the use of Open Educational Resources. In simple terms students personal use of the internet is generally very effective for their education but they are nervous that their practices are not valid and don’t reveal them to their tutors. The messages or lack of messages from educational institutions on these practices is generating a learning black market which masks the sheer scale of these new modes of engagement.

Scott Room at the Guardian

Printing press outside our Guardian seminar room

The Visitors and Residents project is capturing student’s motivations to engage with the web for learning in as broad a manner as possible. To guide our understanding of the interviews with students in the UK and the US we have added a vertical axis (see below) to the Visitor and Resident continuum. The Personal/Institutional axis allows us to plot student’s online learning activity and accepts that this activity is not bounded by resources and opportunities provided directly by the institution they are studying at. As the project progresses we hope to plot students trajectory through this digital landscape. It should also be possible to use this map as a tool to reflect on institutional approaches to digital literacy.

The learning black market exists largely in the Personal area of the map. Our data from the Transitional education-stage (Late stage secondary school + first year undergraduate) is indicating that learning activity in this area has two main elements:

Vistors and Residents map

1.    Emergency collaboration

Many of the students we have interviewed wait until the night before coursework is due then IM their friends in Facebook to confirm what they have been asked to do and to check they are taking the right approach. If they can’t find their friends in Facebook they text them to either ask for clarification or to encourage them to log-in to Facebook. There is an expectation that someone from their class will be in Facebook when they need them which is one of the reasons that coursework can be left to the last minute. I suspect that Facebook IM is used extensively for homework as it’s convenient and immediate. It’s also private and a very low risk way of collaborating with a fellow student. The extent to which coursework is actually completed via this method rather than just clarified is difficult to assess. There is a lack of understanding amongst students as to what constitutes plagiarism in this scenario and a consequential wariness around discussing this type of practice. The line between collaboration and plagiarism is not easy to define and I believe students would benefit from this area being openly discussed. This practice is also an interesting reminder that much of the activity in Social Media is not visible. Wall postings and twitter streams only represent a portion of the activity in these spaces meaning that platforms such as Facebook are effective at facilitating Visitor style approaches.

2.    G.W.R.

The majority of students activity is information seeking, this could be via another person but is usually a more direct engagement with ‘content’. What appears to be a common practice (we are still in the process of analysing our data) is this very simple process.

Google > Wikipedia > References

A search on Google to help complete an assignment commonly returns a Wikipedia article. As we know Wikipedia articles are pitched at an ideal level and length to get a handle on a new subject which is something our Transitional students have to do a lot. The problem is that most of the students in the Transitional education stage we have spoken to in the US and the UK have been told not to use Wikipedia and so keep this practice a secret. A simple way to do this without losing the value of the platform is to cite the references attached to the Wikipedia article rather than the article itself.  This appears to be a very successful strategy for coursework but can be done without any substantive learning taking place.

Learning Black MarketThere appear to be two main reasons that students have been told not to use Wikipedia. The usual, culturally acceptable, reason is that it’s not accurate because ‘anyone can edit it’. It’s difficult to support this claim and as Jimmy Wales said recently the decline in Wikipedia editing activity is partly because many entries are now so accurate that only key experts could add to them. There are examples of what I would call knowledge vandalism but these tend to be so farcical that they are easily identified. Even so the students are wary of Wikipedia despite rarely finding it lacking when they use it:

“…a lot of the times teachers say don’t use .com or don’t use Wikipedia, they like hate when we use Wikipedia.  But Wikipedia is always right, so I always use that. “

The second and more telling reason which is rarely expressed is because it’s too convenient. One of the US students asked a tutor outright why they didn’t like Wikipedia and got this response:

“The problem with Wikipedia is it’s too easy.  You can go to Wikipedia, you can get an answer, you don’t actually learn anything, you just get an answer. ”

The tutor then goes on to say that the process of learning is about collating and critiquing multiple sources not simply taking in a correct answer i.e. the path you take in forming a new understanding is as important as the resultant knowledge. The very valid ‘show your workings’ standpoint.

Student at laptopThis is fundamental to the debate around technology and learning and the real issue at stake. Describing the web or Wikipedia as ‘inaccurate’ or negating the use of sources that have been written by multiple ‘non-expert’ authors has little impact on the actual practice of students (or the success of those practices). The debate should be around how we evolve educational processes to take advantage of or to account for these new forms.  We cannot continue to teach the literacies that have been the mainstay of the educational system in their current form because the web smashes traditional paths to understanding.

There are good examples of the ways in which the web can be used to facilitate learning, new approaches which accept the situation has fundamentally changed and that learning is now less likely to be the result of successful information seeking. Many of these methods involve a more Resident approach to negotiating understanding and use classic scholarly notions of discourse to encourage learning over and above the now largely redundant retention of knowledge.  Unfortunately it appears that many practitioners are turning a blind eye to these issues and are stigmatising emerging learning practices by simply banning talk of platforms such as Wikipedia.

“They don’t fail you but you get ridiculed in front of everyone for sourcing Wikipedia.”

This is generating the learning black market in which is it all too easy to simulate understanding for coursework and formal assessments. Worse still, it is a market in which genuine learning can take place but is not being recognised because resources and practices are not seen as valid and therefore do not become visible to the formal education system. Students have told us that they learn from Wikipedia but also skim read the textbook to cover their backs in case they are asked a direct question…

Whatever the case it is clear that students need guidance on how to engage with the web for their learning and would greatly benefit from clearer messages around what it means to learn in the twenty-first century and how their practices may or may not intersect with the formal educational frameworks they find themselves in.

 

Images:
Scott Room – David White – CC attribution
Visitors and Residents map – CC attribution
Learning Black Market – Gilderic http://www.flickr.com/photos/lanier67/5253473681
Student at laptop – cindiann http://www.flickr.com/photos/trucolorsfly/438068232/

Link curation at scale

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
The weakest link

http://www.flickr.com/photos/darwinbell/465459020/

In our report OER: The value of reuse in education,  we focused our attention on the reuse of online resources whether licensed or not .  There was no doubt that making no distinction between licensed OER and stuff on the web reflects the experience of the majority of HE practitioners, who use “stuff” relatively indiscriminately in low risk contexts.

However when not writing reports we develop and deliver a large portfolio of online courses  where we make extensive use of online resources.  These are mainly from large institutions such as other universities, or museums, but very rarely cc licensed.  As a result we mainly link out to these rather than incorporating them into course materials, as clearing copyright at that scale is not manageable as we know from our Mosaic project.

We are currently launching to over 1200 students, something that brings home the value of open licensing in purely pragmatic terms.  50+ courses a term, with between 5 and 300+ links per course checked 3 times in the lead up to  a course run  = a lot of work. Obviously we have tools that automate this up to a point, but they only tell you whether a link is live, not whether it ends up where you expect, and then there is what you do when a link is broken……This is a major overhead and it is getting worse.  A colleague suggested this post should be called “This has been a *@#! term for links”

So yes licensing is complicated and we should not see it as the be all and end all of OER, but when open licenses are  in place, by letting us bring resources into our course so we don’t have to check thousands of links each term, they allow us to design and deliver better courses. Long may it continue.

Image: the weakest link / darwin Bell / CC BY-NC 2.0

 

Disappearing digital resources

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

One of the most striking aspects of our JISC funded Open-Educational-Resources Impact study was the extent to which using digital resources has become embedded in teaching practice. Digital resources are ‘disappearing into use’ as they become part of the fabric of higher education.

We interviewed strategists, academics and students to find out how they found and used digital resources. It wasn’t surprising to find that students were Googling for anything they could get their hands on but the extent to which academics are doing this as well was unexpected. The difference between the groups was that staff have the expertise required to critically evaluate what they find while the students are nervous about waiting-time using resources which might prove to be off-topic. They are also uncertain of how to cite non-traditional resources or if they should admit to using them as all. This is a good example of where digital literacy and traditional research skills are both essential.

But what about licensing? Well, those whose practice was highly visible on the web and therefore closely tied to the reputation of their institution were keen to use openly licensed materials. E.g. an online distance elearning team or groups that make modules which are rereleased out onto the web. Those in course or programme teams were less focused on licensing because their practice is largely private – within the VLE, in the lecture theatre etc. In day-to-day teaching the technicalities of reuse come second to the potential of a resource to make the student’s learning experience richer.

The OER Impact project analysed the link between the value of use and its impact in teaching and learning. There is a full research report and a shorter ‘accessible’ report available for download from JISC. Or you can watch the short video below to get an overview of our findings.

The video is published under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY)

OER Impact project team-

Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning:
Mr David White
Ms Marion Manton

Learning Technologies Group:
Dr Elizabeth Masterman
Ms Joanna Wild