Archive for October, 2009

Finding OERs

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

One of the biggest challenge for OERs is getting used.  Despite many large scale projects I suspect most would say that uptake is relatively disappointing. I am sure the new JISC funded OER projects won’t be satisfied with only making everything available in JORUM – but it will be interesting to see what you can find using a basic Google search in the spring.

For OpenSpires the  OERs we are producing are podcasts which also means that they don’t have the full text information inherent in most other online content, suddenly metadata and perhaps more importantly resource description becomes more important. However we also know that for the creation of OERs to really take off it is more important for the sharing process to be lightweight and easy then to expect our academics to not only podcast in the first place but then to subsequently provide all the information a consumer could ever require.

However with web 2.0 we are also in a situation where it is not just the content creator who can potentially supply information that makes a resources more discoverable.  Recommendations, ratings and comments, as per Amazon etc as well as the sort of metadata a system holds about how a resource is used, by who , when and where, are all things that help a user work out which resource is most likely to be for them.

The problem with educational metadata

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Continuing to think around the information to provide around our OpenSpires content it is reminding me how problematic educational metadata is.  It seems obvious that learning objects or OERs should be discoverable by metadata describing things such as, subject and educational level and it is arguably desirable that things such as instructional method or pedagogy might be covered as well.  However from both our work reusing content and in learning design it is clear that the latter is almost never something that can be usefully encapsulated in a few simple terms, and while there are many lists for subject and level they are often surprisingly hard to penetrate. Browsing by subject in JORUM English literature is under Linguistics (can you tell what subject Mosaic was in) and while I know what Undergraduate level 1 means I am not confident I am right in guessing it maps to  SCQF 2, Entry level 1, CQFW Entry, Access 2.

Clearly repositories like JORUM are just trying to make sense of a complex landscape – but we already know perceived complexity of the process is a barrier to sharing – and the reality won’t help.

So for now I think we are going to ask people to provide information in the following areas, title, description, subject, keywords and some variation on intended audience/use which will hopefully be a way of indicating level.  As much as possible relying on existing information and individually provided definitions and see what comes out.

OERs for teachers or learners?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I am sure most OER projects would say both…but in looking at this area recently it is clear there is a fundamental difference in expectations between making your OER available in iTunesU or YouTube and placing it in a repository – yet most of the debate in this area does not make the distinction.

In Oxford we have a track record in both, iTunesU is acting as the launch pad for our OER work, but projects like Mosaic were always more teacher focused.  I know both camps would want all of these to be used by everyone, but I suspect there is more we could be doing to make it actually happen.

Visitors & Residents: The Video

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Last month I gave a presentation on the ‘Visitors & Residents’ principle at the ALT-C conference which was well received so I thought it would be worth videoing the talk under laboratory conditions…

Some of you might also be interested in our paper on Visitors and Residents:

Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement
by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu.
First Monday, Volume 16, Number 9 – 5 September 2011

Just a few notes to go with the video:

The original ‘Prezi’ presentation is here:

The tinyURL that is supposed to link to Andy Powell’s ‘Twitter for Idiots’ post is incorrect. Please follow this link instead.

At points I use the term ‘real life’ which seems to imply that anything which is online is somehow not part of ‘real life’. A better phrase would have been ‘offline’. Language in this area is difficult at best…

The quote “…just knowing how to use particular technologies makes one no wiser than just knowing how to read words” is a quote from Prensky’s recent paper on ‘Digital Wisdom’. In the journal ‘Innovate’. In other versions of the talk I refer to Prensky directly but seem to have omitted it when I was in front of the camera.  All other non-attributed quotes are anonymised statements from our students.

The images I used are under the Creative Commons license:

‘Tourist Trap’ visitor image
‘Rusholme’ resident image
‘Sunny Park’ web as a space image
‘Tool Box’ web as a toolbox image

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.

Hurrah for repeat students

Monday, October 5th, 2009

We know we have always had a loyal following of students at the Department for Continuing Education, but what has been especially gratifying in recent years is to see this developing online.  On a purely commercial basis it is great, with about 30% of our students returnees each term it helps our recruitment, but as someone interested in  learning design there are a lot more plus points that this.  It is great to know we are creating something they like – our course designs work, but more importantly we have a group of students who have bought into this way of learning.

This is more significant then it might seem – our students are only a minority internet “residents” the majority are at best “visitors” (see our isthmus work on this) in addition we know they value traditional ideas of teaching and learning – when asked, they want an expert to teach them the course.

This means that online study based around a model of learning through activities, exploration and discussion, as much with each other as tutors, may make for good elearning, but does not meet their expressed preferences and is not  in their comfort zone. Yet it is working and it is our students who make it work.

Our repeast students are improving the experience of study for the whole cohort, by modelling the sort of behaviour that make these courses work best.  They want to discuss, they are happy to contribute (admitted some a bit too much!) and are prepared to support each other.  It is great to go into a course in the first few days and see new students being supported as much by thier peers as the tutor – and it makes our lives easier.

I do feel very strongly that you cannot expect all students to contribute all of the time (being a lurker is not intriscily bad) but this sort of learning does not work unless enough students are happy to join in – so it is great to know that you can rely on our repeat students as much as our expert tutors, wonderful academic authors, and excellent course design, to make courses that work.

Record breaking online student numbers

Monday, October 5th, 2009

This term we have  a record breaking 1000+ students taking our online courses.   This is especially good in the face of the current economic climate, and  may be a consequence of it.  However I also think it is a great testament to the quality of our courses and the work of everyone in the Department and TALL.

It is  particularly  gratifying to see the high number of returning students, clearly a lot of people are having a good experience on  these courses, and one which they want to repeat.

We are taking enrollments for January already and will be offering two new courses, Literary Theory and our first ever 5 week course, Introduction to the History of Medicine, with new courses in creative writing, economics, literature, philosophy and history coming later in 2010.