Archive for the 'Use/reuse' Category


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

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

Maths in the City website re-launches with new features

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

As a prelude to announcing the competition winners, Maths in the City is happy to announce the launch of an updated website.

Visit the interactive map on our homepage and go on a mathematical tour of cities around the world. Join the adventure today and shine a mathematical spotlight on your city.

Amongst the top new features we’ve added are:

  • New homepage: find maths in your city and around the globe using the interactive map
  • Maths in the City competition entries: these sites are now visible. If you entered our competition, find yours and send the link to your friends and family
  • Snapshots: this is a new kind entry that you can add to the map, see this page for details
  • Rate Sites and Snapshots: you can now rate Sites and Snapshots using our new five star rating feature – log in to start rating your favourites
  • “Recommended” content: gold icons indicate a Site or Snapshot that has been approved by a Mathemagician because of its high quality, see this page for details
  • Improved image uploader: it is now easier to upload images into your Site or Snapshot
  • Improved equation display: if you’re including mathematical equations in your Site or Snapshot, they will display better. For those of you who like knowing this kind of stuff, we’re using MathJax to support LaTeX

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

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.

OER and the curriculum

Monday, January 31st, 2011
Flower made from 5 spoons and a marble

AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by kcolwell

Last Wednesday I attended the latest in the very useful series of Elluminate sessions organised by the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery programme.  Entitled “Academy/JISC OER Programme: implications for curriculum design and delivery”.  This session gave a really valuable overview of the JISC OER initiatives so far in this context.  For our study the following questions posed by Helen Beetham particularly resonated.

  1. What kinds of OERs do we see being adopted and re-used, and how? What new skills/expertise are required?
  2. How can OERs be integrated sustainably into curriculum processes? In what ways are curriculum processes challenged/contested/changed by use of OERs?
  3. How does the use of OERs impact on (e.g.) Student engagement? Student autonomy? Student achievement? Staff workload? Pedagogies in use?
  4. What kind of communities (e.g. Subject-based)benefit from OER sharing/reuse? How can OERs enhance existing open practices in learning/teaching communities?

If you want to experience this for yourself a recording is available at .

OER reuse landscape

Friday, January 21st, 2011

We started our investigation into reuse of OER by reviewing both the relevant research literature and a less formal, but equally important debate, in the blogosphere. The purpose was to:

  • Understand what issues associated with reuse have already been covered in the research and what still needs to be explored; and
  • Identify things that we haven’t thought about but might want to explore in our own research.

Below we give a brief summary of our observations; however, at the end of this post you will find a mindmap with the OER reuse landscape as it has presented itself to us in the literature that we have reviewed. The map has been published and is available for anyone to edit. We envisage it as a living document, so please contribute – for example, by adding new nodes, restructuring the old ones, or adding notes or new references.

Now, some of our general observations:

  • There are many beliefs as well as context-, position-, and perspective-sensitive opinions about the benefits that sharing and reuse might bring to society, education, teaching and learning in general, as well as to specific groups of users.
  • Something, but not enough, is known about who reuses what. Although quantitative data on downloads and hits tell us little about a particular user and their preference for specific types of OER, there is some qualitative evidence that particular user groups have preferences for specific attributes of reusable resources: e.g. teachers tend to prefer materials made out of loosely coupled assets that one can pick-up and incorporate into a new whole (see JISC Synthesis and Evaluation Report).
  • Almost nothing is known about the how and the why of reuse, but we were able to identify some interesting case studies with evidence of reuse and related benefits (e.g. Greaves et. al. 2010) (we are looking for more so please contact us if you have one or know of one).
  • More and more voices are now advocating a shift from the supply-driven concept of OER towards an understanding of their place in current teaching and learning practice, and whether (and how) they might contribute to changes in this practice. In this respect, they suggest discarding the concept of an ‘open resource’ and focusing on the concept of an ‘open person’ instead.
  • The areas defined as most challenging to the successful uptake of OER in educational community are: quality assurance, teaching culture and tradition, and the conflicting agendas of different stakeholders, e.g. institution promotes sharing and reuse of OER but at the same time only excellence in research is being rewarded.
  • Although our research is about reuse, nonetheless we should keep the notion of sharing at the back of our minds, as there seems to be a close link between the former and the latter in several aspects (for more about this, see our mindmap).
  • The OER “umbrella” seems to cover a huge range of resources (as shown on the mindmap), which may not make it a very useful concept from the user’s perspective. Certainly, it makes evaluating the impact of OER on teaching and learning practice very difficult. What we intend to achieve, however, is to broaden our understanding of the area to an extent where it will be possible to make suggestions about where further, in-depth investigations are needed.

Who is using Open Educational Resources?

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

This post marks the official open-on-the-web style start to our JISC funded OER Impact study. The key tasks of the study being:

  • The investigation of patterns of behaviour around the use and reuse of OER.
  • Examining the impact of these behaviours on teaching and learning strategies from institutional, tutor and student perspectives.

Our methodology is distinctly qualitative, focusing on the ‘why’ and much as the ‘what’. Why you might be using OER rather than why they should exist.

As anyone who has cruised the blog posts around OER will know there is a never-ending debate about the value-cost ratio of openly licensing educational resources much of which hangs on an expectation of repurposing/remixing. Up to now there has been little research on the potential value of OER as distinct from stuff-on-the-web from the perspective of the users/re-users/remixers. We hope to somewhat redress that balance.

Most ‘big OER’ activity to date has been driven be the production side of the produce/resuse coin. I recently heard of a university which was considering working with iTunesU in a potentially OER manner. Interestingly it was the marketing department who was pushing for this which is indicative of an understanding of one of the values of open resources/OER from an institutional perspecitve. I don’t know if that marketing department has considered who might use/reuse the resources they hand to Apple?

In any event, stats out of our slice of iTunesU here at Oxford show that a lot of people are using OER. The majority of this use being informal (a term often incorrectly equated with ‘casual’) and individual. I suspect the videos which are CC licensed are used in much the same way as those that aren’t. After all, one of the benefits of informal usage is that you don’t have to be seen to be playing by the rules isn’t it..? That aside there is a pleasant ‘social-good’ aspect here because beyond any formal curricular use of OER they benefit the-man-in-the-street in a manner that would be difficult to argue against.

In a recent post Amber Thomas made the point that OER is a “supply side term” which I tend to agree with. Given that the distinction between OER and stuff-on-the-web is technical (in legal terms) one of our primary concerns is to make sure that we capture narratives of use/reuse which are related to OER not simply to open-stuff-online. Having said this we don’t want to devalue non-OER reuse or examples of the steady cultural shift towards an acceptance of ‘openness’ in the most general sense. To position our conversations with participants within a broad use/reuse territory we are proposing to use the following map.

David White, JISC OER Impact Study.

As ever the semantics could be tweaked/argued over well into the night but I hope the map covers much of the use/reuse area that could be found in and around a Higher Ed institution. Suggestions for how the diagram could be improved are, of course, very welcome.

In conjunction with our research questions this approach should allow us to concentrate on OER value from a use/reuse perspective without discarding valuable examples of the informal use/reuse of OER or close-to-OER type resources.

Over the next six months our project will interview staff who use OER in their teaching practice and those who are interested in taking advantage of OER. In addition to this we will be interviewing students about what motivates them to use particular resources in their learning either as directed by the curriculum or discovered independently. If you have any good examples of OER use/reuse which has been embedded in course programmes/institutional strategies then please let us know.