Archive for the 'reuse' Category

OUCS consuming and aggregating ContEd’s XCRI-CAP

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Adam Marshall posted a nice overview of the Data Flow in the OXCAP Project.

On the ContEd side, I made a basic searchable XCRI-CAP feed of the Department for Continuing Education’s courses. There are a few courses that aren’t in the course database that the feed uses, but most of them are there.

Cunningly, once the system had retrieved a bunch of data out of the database, it was easy to add a JSON feed of the courses as well, which I’ve used in the Sesame backend for looking up course data. I have a vague recollection of a standard JSON-based data schema that might be more useful than my home-grown structure, but will have to find it again before that’s an option…


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

Re-using 2 minutes guides

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Last term we added a 2 minute guide to our comprehensive online  support site. This site has always been designed for the least technically confident user imaginable, as we know from our support calls that they are the ones who need the help.  However in  the last couple of years it has become clear that the  majority of our students are competent IT users who didn’t look at our support site because it was too large.  Paradoxically this meant they missed out on the information even a confident IT user really did need –  hence our 2 minute guide.

In developing the guide I decided to take the OER route as surely we were not the first to write such a thing.  The nadir of this process was finding a 2 minute guide as a 5 minute video.  However,  in the end, old fashioned non OER reuse was the solution – I asked permission and paraphrased something someone else in the Department had written.

So an everyday story of pragmatic reuse.  Something I have recently been reminded about both in the context of our OER Impact work and our recent google analytics report which showed that the average time spent on the 2 minute guide page was 2.02 minutes – shall I let the person who originally wrote the content know?

Image: 1305 Seconds / Rob Lockhart / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

OERs and China

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

I was recently teaching a session on online distance learning as part of the  e-Learning MSc here in Oxford.  During this I asked the students to critique an OER as an examples of effective online distance learning (or not).  As part of this  one of our students, Kitty Tong reported on her experience of OER use in China which revealed a picture of much more systematic reuse than seems to be the case in most other palces.

She demonstrated Core (China Open Resource for Education) which act as a portal for OERs in China (there may be many others).  In particular it was amazing to hear about the amount of volunteer translation taking place and the extent that students were making their own informal learning opportunities around these resources.  Her description reminded me of some of the vision of independent learning, collaboration and reuse the OpenLearn team had for their resources which was only realised to a limited extent.

Now all I need to do is learn Chinese so that I can check this out properly for myself.

OpenSpires and learning design

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

As part of the Oxfords OER project, OpenSpires we are feeding in  our experiences from the  Mosaic, Phoebe and LDSE projects.  Despite  developing Ancestral Voices as an OER, up to now we have been a net consumer of content (both those developed specifically as OERs and everything else on the web that might be used for learning) .  This project is letting us look at it from the other end of the continuum, we are producing OERs what will help people use them?

For a long time I have been suspicious of the model of reuse learning design projects often assume, an unproblematic set of learning objects to be found in a repository certainly does not reflect reality. The LDSE team is definitely grappling with this – recognizing learning content comes in many different forms, that the stuff we use to build our learning experiences is everywhere.  There is also the hugely social aspect of learning design, in a web 2.0 world I sometimes think we overstate this, but all the data we have on reuse and design processes suggests that this is crucial.  So while we need to look at things like UK LOM I suspect that Flikr and YouTube are more important.

Last thought for now – we know academics are busy, they will only engage with these processes if they are easy, lightweight and offer demonstrable benefits to them.

Open Educational Resources at Continuing Education

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Among our other record breaking recruitment this term we have also launched the Ancestral Voices course developed as part of the Mosaic project for the 3rd time, with the largest cohort yet – in fact our maximum of 32 students.

I am sure this is not statistically significant, but for us it is our first example of freely available content, and students who are still prepared to pay for the full tutored learning experience.   Definitely a good sign for persuading the Department to do more with OERs.

Licensing academic content

Monday, March 30th, 2009

One of the clearest lessons from Mosaic is how much content which may be used for learning exists on the open web through university domains, either in the websites of specific projects, individual academic initiative or other models.  However what is noticeable is that the vast majority of this material has no obvious licence or copyright statement attached to it.  It is a reasonable assumption that when academics put content on the open web, they think that they have shared it and made it open, and in reality for most use they have.  However attaching a licence such as Creative commons  allows for easier uptake. While in some cases this may be a deliberate omission, in most it is probably because they are unaware of these licences and what they mean, or they are aware of them, but don’t feel that they understand them well enough to implement them, or that they suspect using them may contravene IPR held by their university, and don’t know how to find out, so dodge the issue by not engaging with it.

It seems many of the barriers to reuse would be reduced if universities developed clear policies on licensing their exsiting web based outputs and applied it as broadly as possible across all their activities. This is happening already in certain domains – OERs and research outputs from an ever growing list of funders, but especially where universities are publicly funded, surely open licensing should be the default not the exception.

What is learning content?

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

One of our key findings from Mosaic is that almost anything can be learning content. Yes learning objects are great if they exist, but  in many subjects they don’t, or if they do in about the right quantities to make up about 30 mins of learning.  For our Ancestral Voices course we used about 3 items that the creators would have classified as learning objects, but managed to create a 100 study hours course out of approximately 200 items of pre-existing high quality content from a variety of sources including:

  • Academic articles
  • Media articles (BBC etc)
  • Pod casts
  • Fully online courses
  • Online textbooks
  • Assets – Images/diagrams/maps etc
  • Databases (especially archaeological ones)
  • Sites developed by enthusiasts
  • Academic sites (departmental and individual)
  • Academic project sites
  • Museum sites
  • Blogs

These were not in repositories, usually had no special meta data, but they were discoverable through informed browsing and Google searches. While some of these map very closely onto the sort of content used in teaching and learning for decades, whether online or face to face, many do not.  However what is clear is that, if correctly scaffolded by the course, any content can be learning content.  Many of the discussions currently underway on developing repositories and standards, or more generally on approaches to sharing OERs in the future, work on the assumptions that learning content needs separate considerations , extra metadata and unique locations, something our experience contradicts (see previous posts about this).

Work on discovering, representing and sharing learning designs in particular suggests this is a complex field, and also a very personal one – there is no metadata schema, or standard or representation which can encapsulate the particular value of a particular learning design or item of content to all comers.  Where the value of these lies is individually derived and context specific (See the Mod4L report  for a discussion of this space in relation to learning design in particular).  Thus while improvements to standards and metadata, and development of specialised repositories are not in themselves negative, it seems likely that any benefit accrued by these undertakings is outweighed by the barriers to sharing and discoverability imposed by the extra complexity.  Note that it has been frequently observed that one of the main barriers to academics sharing is not intent (in theory they are happy to do so) but rather the complexity of the actual practice (they are not sure how to, where, don’t have time to consider metadata).  Materials openly available on the web are already found and used (legitimately or not) all the time, tapping into these existing locations and networks, seems more likely to lead to success then additional infrastructure.

Reuse and digital literacies

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

As we have been writing our final reports for the Mosaic project it has become clear that our recommendations around reuse come in two main areas, those for people thinking of making materials available for reuse and those for people who are doing the reusing.  In the case of the latter it is becoming increasingly clear that both students and academics need  skills that they currently do not necessarily have, to engage with reused and repurposed materials, and that these skills are part of the broader subset that might be called digital literacies.Through our critical friend discussions it became clear that developing courses with significant use of external content had the potential to change the pedagogy of many existing courses.  It suggested a movement towards the development of online learning experiences that facilitate student interactions with existing content, their tutor and peers, rather than developing the ultimate content that will help your student learn.

A real skill for effective reuse, both for academics and students, is assessing digital information, and while these requirements have been brought to prominence by the growth of the web, much of the skill set involved in judging the value of sources has nothing to do with whether they are online or not.  We would aspire that all sources presented to our students should be critically assessed by them in the course of their study.  Thus, as part of the academic experience we want to build, not all content in the course is necessarily presented as perfect or right, but as something which gives a useful perspective on the topic being studied, in the context of a series of activities that scaffold them in making their own judgment about the materials presented.

There is more to digital literacy than just this, and I am following with interest the work of the LLiDA project which is looking at learning literacies in UK HE and FE, which they define as “the range of practices that underpin effective learning in a digital age”.  However it seems clear that for learning experiences made of existing content to really work, these skills need to be consciously addressed.

Misconceptions about reuse

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Over the last week I have been participating in a critical friends exercise as part of the Mosaic project with our partners from the RECITE and REGEN-1 projects. It has been interesting to start to see consensus about the realities of reuse, how it actually works in practice and what the opportunities and constraints really are.  As our final reporting for JISC is due soon I will be writing a lot more about this in the next couple of months.  In the meantime it is interesting to see Juliette Culver, who I know from her excellent work on Cloudworks give her take on it all here.