Archive for July, 2010

Woruldhord, Ancestral voices, the Great War and more.

Monday, July 19th, 2010

One of the main conclusions from our Mosaic project (which developed an online course, ‘Ancestral voices: the earliest English literature’,  primarily from pre-existing content and made it freely available for reuse and adaption) was that the best way to get your OERs used is to make them as discoverable as possible, by putting them or linking to them from as many places as possible, and especially those places where your target audience are likely to look.  To this end, while we submitted the outputs of that project to JORUM as required by JISC, we also made them freely available through our Open Moodle site, and have been pursuing other opportunities to share and use these materials ever since.

Building on this we are now really pleased to be able to contribute the course to a new project here at Oxford, the JISC funded  Woruldhord project which “sets out to collect together into an online hoard, digital objects related to the teaching, study, or research of Old English and the Anglo-Saxon period of history”.

This project builds on the work of OUCS in community collections from the The Great War Archive and in OERs with OpenSpires.  As  we already use outputs from both of these in our courses,  it is really good to be able to contribute content back in the opposite direction.

As I type this I realise that it is all sounding terribly inwards facing, but while all the examples here are from Oxford sources, this is in fact indicative of the wider growth of truly excellent academic (and non academic) resources on the web and the extent to which our course authors are using them in their materials.  While we are still a long way from the vision of pervasive reuse that I suspect many had a few years ago, at least in our online courses authors are as likely to direct students to an image from flikr, a project database, an online text book, a digitised primary source, a Google maps mash-up or even a learning object, as an article in a journal or a textbook.  The process is slow, but reuse is growing and the more projects like these that take place the more compelling the reasons for reusing digital content is becoming.

The importance of piloting for real

Monday, July 12th, 2010

We are currently in the middle of piloting our new online assignment handling system as part of the Cascade project.  While we are finding out all the usual technical glitches, more than anything what testing this with real students, real course directors and real tutors, submitting real assignments has revealed is:

  • how generous people can be in trying a new system for something which is so important to them.
  • how you can think you have thoroughly mapped all processes in abstract but there will always be some aspect which nobody mentioned until it happens in practice.
  • how completely random people can be.

While we certainly did not think our documentation and support assumptions were going to be perfect, with a lot of testing on trial assignments we thought we were probably on the right track, and for most of the process and the vast majority of  students and tutors we were.

However where things did deviate from our expected norms, they did so in unanticipated ways.  I won’t go into the minutiae here but it is certainly making us think about what are the issues you can plan for and design out, and what is going to happen no matter what you do.