Archive for the 'OER' Category

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:

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  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 ( / MaX . ( / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (

Empty gondalas waiting for customers on a rainy day

The Law of Supply and Demand ( / Storm Crypt ( / CC 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.



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 / 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

Link curation at scale

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
The weakest link

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

OER Workshop

Monday, March 28th, 2011


Last week we ran our first workshop exploring OER use with 9 academics across a variety of institutions.  They were chosen to be practitioners with  little previous exposure to OER – reflecting the starting position for the majority of HE.  This was a very hands on session where we asked participants to look for OER with a particular teaching session in mind (although without precluding the discovery of things they might want to use elsewhere), hoping to understand processes at least somewhat close to actual practice.

It is obviously too soon to draw any firm conclusions at this point, but a few themes that emerged were:

  • Everyone reuses all the time, but not necessarily OER.
  • All aware of issues around copyright – but not always how best to manage them.
  • There is simultaneous more and less out there than you might expect – VERY dependant on what you are looking for.
  • Similarly contradictory evidence around where best to search, for somethings Google is best, others found specialist sources a revelation “why didn’t I know about JORUM before?”
  • The form of OER is vital to how it is reused,  wholesale reuse most likely with video and multimedia you cannot make yourself, textual resources are often used more for inspiration than anything else.
So at the moment just impressions from the day.  We are running our second workshop on the 4th which should provide more data to explore. Image: Reuse / / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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

OpenAttribute tool

Monday, February 7th, 2011
Happy woman

Jubilation / Keith Kristoffer Bacongco ( / CC BY 2.0 (

Today we are very excited in the TALL office because David Kernohan has drawn our attention to the very cool OpenAttribute tool, available from

As the site says:

The problem: Creative Commons licensed content is awesome, but attributing it properly can be difficult and confusing. The first rule for re-using openly licensed content is that you have to properly attribute the creator. There are specific requirements for what needs to go into that attribution, but those requirements can be confusing and hard to find.

It is in no way an exaggeration to say that a tool which addresses this challenge has caused jubilation from the project team at TALL, who while we frequently use OERs are always worried we have inadvertaintly attributed things wrongly.

As you can see from the example of the picture here, we can generate attributions from this tool in plain text (as in the caption) or in html (Jubilation / Keith Kristoffer Bacongco / CC BY 2.0) which is clearly more elegant, but not always an option.