Archive for the 'OpenSpires' Category

Open Oxford

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

open projects at Oxford

While MOOCs have been hogging the headlines in recent years, many universities, including Oxford are continuing to produce open content in other forms, such as OER (open educations resources), podcasts, research and even the odd freely available course…

This has now been brought together through the  new Open Spires home page, which also has 3 lovely videos explaining what this is all about. All of these have lots of Continuing Education goodness, featuring academics from the Department, those from other departments with whom we have developed online courses and OER with, and even me – possibly getting slightly over excited about the wonderfulness of Open.  So to hear more about what Oxford and Continuing education are doing in the open sphere check out the videos below:



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.

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.

Reuse in action

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Having been involved in several research projects around the area of OERs (especially OpenSpires) and more specifically the reuse of existing content (Mosaic and Cascade),  it is really gratifying to see some of this work enter our mainstream course production practice.   A major benefit of Mosaic was a real tightening up of our approaches to reuse, copyright and IPR across our entire short course programme and this is now starting to really pay dividends.

An example is the course we are currently developing on Globalization, available in May.  Among other things, this course is using podcasts recorded by the author Jonathan Michie with the OpenSpires team.  As we will be providing transcripts to make the course fully accessible we can make sure that these are fed back to enhance the original OERs – a virtuous circle.

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.

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.

Open content and libraries

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

I was really interested in Tony Hirst’s recent post Open educational Resources and the University Library Website, which raised something which had never occurred to me and I am not sure why.  At the end of the Mosaic project one of our key conclusions was “maximise discoverability, put open content where people already look for things” and somehow in writing this, immersed in the web and web 2.0 and thinking of google and flikr I overlooked one of the  key places where people already look for things are library sites.

It still seems to me the two biggest barriers to wide-scale uptake  of OERs remains 1)  licenses and 2) the ability to find useful OERs in the first place.

So I agree with Tony, this is something we have to resolve, and soon.