Friday, 20 February 2009

Bootstrapping the culture of sharing: refining our understanding of learning objects

or oooer as I like to think about it....

Bootstrapping a Culture of Sharing to Facilitate Open Educational Resources
, Davis, H., Carr, L., Hey, J., Howard, Y., Millard, D., Morris, D. and White, S. (2009) Bootstrapping a Culture of Sharing to Facilitate Open Educational Resources. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies . (In Press)

We have been working on a paper for the IEEE Trans on Learning Technologies on some of the cultural change aspects of our experiences of working with repositories. Its about our experience of developing EdShare, but also reflects a rather richer back catalogue of experiences of establishing and using repositories, plus a few insights into the heady world of technology enhanded learning.

We are really proud of the progress we are making with the EdShare repository of educational resources, and its kid sib language learning repository called Faroes.

Thanks to shed loads of hard work on scholarly repositories led by Stevan Harnad and Les Carr from right here in ECS at the University of Southampton, we have built ourselves a real track record in that very important area.

EPrints is an open source repository which has blossomed thanks to the the hard working EPrints team with support from JISC. Our paper is not concerned with the technical aspects of the software, but more importantly about the organisational learning which we have derived from our intense usage of EPrints respoitories - probably most importantly because, compared to other well know repositories, we observe that EPrints users not only install their repository, they actually populate it.

Here at Southampton we have EPrints repositories for academic publications in ECS, and across the whole institution (University of Southampton). We are also using EPrints to drive our eTheses repository, and our EdShare repository of resources used educationally for teaching and the support of learning.

We not only have ground level experience of installing and running the repositories, but we are also getting increasingly sophisticated in our understanding of the most effective organisational drivers which can not only get the repository established but also get it used.

Many different colleagues have identified advantages from using the repositories, each individual will have a personal priority list. Findability figures big on the list. People like to be able to find their own stuff irrespective of moving on to new machines, or new institutions. We also like the fact that items in the repository are findable - classic search engines index the repository, and even if the paper is not world visible, will provide a pointer to its existence, often resulting in individual approaches for further information - thereby enhancing and enriching the scholarly knowledge network.

well that's enough of me blowing our trumpet, take a look at the paper if you want a little more information, oh and why don't you take a look at EPrints....

Potential users can find out more about the system and set in train further contactvia the software site hosted at

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Thinking about OER

Thinking about OER sends me to a long list of references.

JISC through CETIS have been hardworking in providing an OER Briefing Document - content to be listed way below.

Meanwhile a few web searches have turned up resources from various places, and I am using this space to collate theme here. My objective is to produce one or more concept maps which give a flavour of the objectives which can be addressed by a successful

The Shuttleworth Foundation in South Africa (clearly folk who do not listen to Radio 4) have been looking at open education, and suggested these high level documents.
  1. Open Sourcing Education: learning and wisdom from iSummit 2007 [1]
  2. Budapest Open Access Initiative declaration [2]
  3. Hewlett's A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement [3]
  4. OECD's Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources [4]
  5. OLCOS Roadmap 2012 [5]
They held a workshop, and there was a concept map and a mindmap from a couple of the groups which whilst not all encompassing, can be a starting point for some of the possible perspectives

JISC Briefing document - was originally produced in Word, the content below is more useful as you can follow the links (of which there are 40!). I will get round to making all the links live later on. For now at least you have them available in your web browser.

Briefing Paper on Open Educational Resources
(prepared to support bidders to the Academy/JISC Open Educational Resources funding circular)

This paper details a range of further reading and resources that may be useful to you in preparing a bid to any part of the Open Educational Resources (OER) programme. It is by no means a complete set of resources, neither is it required that bids reference any or all of them.

We have split this document into sections as follows

Briefing Paper on Open Educational Resources 1
What are Open Educational Resources? 1
What are the aims of this Programme? 2
Overviews and General Guidance 2
Intellectual Property Rights. 3
Technical and Data Management Issues 4

What are Open Educational Resources?

What are learning resources?
Whilst purely informational content has a significant role in learning and teaching, it is helpful to consider learning resources by their levels of granularity and to focus on the degree to which information content is embedded within a learning activity:
• Digital assets – normally a single file (e.g. an image, video or audio clip), sometimes called a ‘raw media asset’;
• Information objects – a structured aggregation of digital assets, designed purely to present information;
• Learning objects – an aggregation of one or more digital assets which represents an educationally meaningful stand along unit;
• Learning activities – tasks involving interactions with information to attain a specific learning outcome;
• Learning design – structured sequences of information and activities to promote learning.

What are open learning resources?
The following definitions and examples are taken from a paper prepared by Li Yuan at JISC CETIS concerning the state of open educational resources internationally. This has been a very well received paper, and can be accessed from the CETIS website (

The term Open Educational Resources (OER) was first introduced at a conference hosted by UNESCO in 2000 and was promoted in the context of providing free access to educational resources on a global scale. There is no authoritatively accredited definition for the term OER at present; the most frequently used definition is, “digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research” (OECD, 2007).

Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives aspire to provide open access to high-quality education resources on a global scale. From large institution-based or institution-supported initiatives to numerous small-scale activities, the number of OER related programmes and projects has been growing quickly within the past few years.

According to OECD (OECD, 2007), there are materials from more than 3000 open access courses (open courseware) currently available from over 300 universities worldwide.

In the United States resources from thousands of courses have been made available by university-based projects, such as MIT OpenCourseWare and Rice University’s Connexions project: ( , )

In China, materials from 750 courses have been made available by 222 university members of the China Open Resources for Education (CORE) consortium.
( )

In Japan, resources from more than 400 courses have been made available by the19 member universities of the Japanese OCW Consortium. ( )

In France, 800 educational resources from around 100 teaching units have been made available by the 11 member universities of the ParisTech OCW project. ( )

In Ireland, universities received government funding to build open access institutional repositories and to develop a federated harvesting and discovery service via a national portal. It is intended that this collaboration will be expanded to embrace all Irish research institutions. ( )

And in the UK, the Open University have released a range of their distance learning materials via the OpenLearn project ( )

What are the aims of this Programme?

The joint JISC/Higher Education Academy Open Educational Resources Pilot programme has been designed to support institutions, consortia and individuals to release open educational resources for use and repurposing worldwide, by assisting the development of appropriate processes and polices to make this process an integral part of the learning material creation workflow.

The pilot year will help us understand the most effective ways of supporting this aim, and is intended as the precursor to a longer programme to promote the embedding of these processes across institutions.

Widely available learning content, and informational content, is fundamentally changing the relationship between students and their institutions as sources of expertise. This presents a challenge to existing models of the production of academic knowledge and the role of the institution in supporting student learning. Coupled to this, HE funding models are changing in response economic pressures, many institutions are re-examining their own business models in response to this.

Our objectives in investing in this area are to promote the sharing and reuse of learning resources, and to provide a reputational benefit to UK higher education through the promotion of high quality learning resources world wide.

We expect to see benefits to the institutions involved and the UK HE sector as a whole in terms of overseas recruitment and academic reputation as a result of the work started by this programme.

Overviews and General Guidance
A number of high-level studies have already been commissioned in this area, along with many projects and guidance notes. This section provides a general overview of the resources available to institutions, consortia and individuals with an interest in Open Educational Resources and the OER Pilot programme.

The Open CourseWare Consortium (OCW) is an international organisation offering guidance to institutions and organisations across the world investigating the open release of learning content. They have provided an online toolkit to support potential projects in exploring the issues related to this form of release.

The Open University’s OpenLearn project has opened access to a wide range of distance learning material via their website. In addition to these learning resources, OpenLearn have also provided advice for educators, which describes the nature of open content and the ways in which it can be used.

Get Started: Educators

“Creating Open Educational Resources” module

Pocket Project
This project is investigating the potential of migrating open content approaches in a range of disciplines across a number of different higher education institutions. The project will run from November 2007 until February 2009 and will be led by the University of Derby. The partner institutions currently working with the University of Derby on the POCKET project are: University of Bolton, Open University and the University of Exeter.

Good Intentions Report
The JISC information environment and e-learning teams have jointly commissioned a report entitled “Good Intentions”, examining various business cases for sharing learning materials. We would strongly recommend reading this as a precursor to identifying and describing your own business case.

Sharing eLearning Content
The JISC Sharing eLearning Content report is a synthesis of and commentary on findings across 30-40 JISC projects in a number of different programmes over the past 3-4 years. The conclusions it draws are aimed at JISC rather than individual institutions, but this is a useful overview of existing work in this area

LRA Infokit
The Learning Resources and Activities Infokit contains further links to previous and current JISC funded resources in this area.

RepRODUCE Programme
The RepRODUCE programme is addressing the repurposing of existing content for use within institutions and for subsequent open release. Helen Beetham has worked with the programme management team to provide resources concerning the evaluation of activity in this area. You may wish to view the slides linked to from:
and the evaluation plan and quality assurance plan linked to from:

Intellectual Property Rights.

JISC have recently published guidance on the various types of open licences suitable for resources released by projects in this call.

The CASPER project was established to support the RepRODUCE programme. It provides a range of online resources, including guidance on clearing background IPR, letter templates and licenses.

The Web2rights project was developed alongside the Users and Innovation programme. It creative an interactive toolkit to facilitate the consideration of relevant issues when using web 2.0 resources in learning.
An animation based on the work of this project has been released.

The JISC Legal service provides guidance to the community on various legal issues, including intellectual property rights.

The JISC IPR consultancy has also provided a range of materials in this area, including guidance specific to web 2.0, and useful background material for those unfamiliar with IPR issues:

The TrustDR project have produced a “development pack” dealing with IPR issues in content sharing:

Further guidance will be made available shortly after the release of the call concerning institutional IPR policies. This document will be updated to include a link.
Technical and Data Management Issues

The JISC CETIS innovation centre is active in most of the technical areas linked to the release of open learning content. The Educational Content Special Interest Group (EC SIG) is a good starting point for engaging with open educational content initiatives and debates. EC SIG contact details and additional resources are available from:

Jorum is a online repository service for teaching and support staff in UK Further and Higher Education Institutions, helping to build a community for the sharing, reuse and repurposing of learning and teaching materials. Jorum is in the process of moving into a new phase that will be engaging with the open educational resources agenda. For further details of Jorum’s current and future direction visit:

A useful briefing paper on sharing learning materials through repositories, written by Andrew Rothery of Worchester University,

Community Dimensions of Learning Object Repositories - Structured Guidelines for setting up LO repositories

I will get round to making all the links live later on. For now at least you have them available in your web browser.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Reflection, learning , careers and employability

The problem
Put stuff to do with careers and employability on the curriculum and you are guaranteed to have the students in revolt before you can blink your eyes. I have already been working on ways of making the educational side of this process better for the students, This year I have an opportunity to try to make some innovations which impact on assessment and feedback.

Introduction: My Situation
This week those two agendas have bubbled to the surface in an interestingly counterposed manner

1) I am tasked with 'teaching' students to complete reflective portfolios which I will later mark

This is a task and a subject area which they often hate with a passion;
think is a waste of time and would generally dump in preference for getting on with some meaty topic which they perceive as being relevant to their chosen degrees.

2) I am tasked with working with colleagues to develop our employability agenda across and within the curriculum

Things which are easy to do may be totally ineffectual as far as the students who need assistance are concerned.
Many of our students are highly employable, and willingly develop their own employability skills out of class, we have good general employment rates.
Those students who have difficulties may be self consious, odd, shy, lacking in self confidence, confused, or generally struggling. Such students may not respond to additional structured activities, and we are to be advised to design any such activities with great care


The portfolios the students will create are structured to help them with their learning ( a practical task) but are also seen to be relevant to the careers and employability agenda. I am shuddering at the whiff of the letters PDP, and of course the students have a lot of baggage in that area as well. School portfolios and skills classes mean this is a very difficult area of the curriculum. I am having to work hard to help the students understand what might be in it for them, beyond a few marks for a fairly simple task, which gets them a little closer to the end of their degree. I think the processes have great value, I am not however convinced about the outputs. Let me expand...

Some ethical considerations

I have a few ethical concerns which are in the area of the process of reflective logs and portfolios generally. Different people will reflect in different ways. Students need a great deal of self confidence plus the sense of personal safety to be able to reveal their inner thoughts on their successes and failures in writing.

Faced with the prospect of answering/interpreting a series of short questions to put into a document to be potentially ripped apart by the critical eye of an academic, many of them take an opt out of this activity and rather than offering reflections, offer bland statements which distance themselves from the process, and protect themselves from any harm.

My Dilemma
I am not sure it is easy to award a fair mark for such a personal activity. Students rely on clear assessment criteria to assist them in objective tasks, but clearly reflection and creating a reflective portfolio is highly subjective.

This puts me in a difficult position. What am I to do? How should I mark these portfolios? Should I mark the portfolios? Surely the fact that they are marked will change their purpose?

Last year I read each portfolio, constucted an individual mark which was based on what I understood to be the level of engagement based on the content with which I was presented. I was not sure when I marked each portfolio, from what base each student was starting.

I constructed some generic feedback, and sent this to all the students. Each portfolio had some individual comments, I was wary of being hurtful to the individuals, bit I tried to provide constructive feedback and criticisms.

So.... this year we are asking another cohort to produce portfolios. For the marking I will be:
  1. meeting with each student individually for 10 minutes to discuss their portfolio
    .... for some reason I was suddenly reminded of a recent rather unsatisfactory appraisal meeting....
  2. The meetings will be videod for moderation purposes and quality assurance.
  3. I am thinking of making an audio recording of each session which I mail to the student at the close of the discussion, so that they have their own record of the proceedings.
  4. I will produce a generic feedback document for this cohort

Discussion points
It will be interesting to see how I can streamline the process, from the point of view of producing the audio and video, making sure it is indexed and analysing what the students' perception of the process compared to their previous experiences - quite a few methodological challenges in that little bit, never mind the technology.

I hope that my personal awareness will serve the students well. I suddenly have another memory, this time of a comment from a one-time vice chancellor at another university. "We deal with student's life chances, we don't have the right to fuck them up"!

It may be that the already self confident fill in such forms with ease and as a result get a good mark, but I do not believe that their ease with the task will help the employability of the whole cohort. We are working with engineering students. We have a high level of dislexia across our student cohort. I had a student close to tears today because of some comments he had received on a previously submitted portfolio.

The good bit
I suppose because I am sensitive to the possible shortcomings, and I do care about how the students benefit, I will bring these considerations to bear in our school planning and discussions.

Friday, 6 February 2009

how to find statistics on social media

How to find statistics on social media is a question I often need the answer to. Browsing Mashable this morning I chanced across and interesting blog with just that title "How to find statistics on social media".

I was however also partly prompted to raise this because of a tweet by Jim Hendler "Internetworldstats says 1.4 billion people use the Web. CIA factbook says 800M people are literate. My head explodes."

With social media grabbing the headlines, and falling into the hands of publicists - described by one pundit as being lower in the pecking order than snake oil sellers ( and therefore presumably also estate agents) we are reminded that we need all our critical faculties when looking at statistics - whether they are about social media or any other topic.

So Bobby Johnston has declared in his Guardian blog "Why I am finished with social media" getting a good slew of comments, and pointing to some of the reasons why we need a pinch of salt when we use and muse on what we understand as being the phenomena of social media and web 2.0.

All of which is a challenge to us in universities who are researching new technology applications and trying to educate tomorrows technological trailblazers about the ways of the world.

this is a topic which could benefit from a lot more exploration. My interim conclusion - well there is an echo of Gladwell - 10,000 hours to mastery? Maybe we had better find some time to think about things. You can't reach conclusions without doing the thinking, you can't use statistics unless you think about them before you try to explain them. and by the way, you will need to think about the context of the phenomena you are analysing (but then I would say that because I am a social constructivist). Ah, then maybe you need to find out a bit more about the 'perspective' of the source of your statistics, and see how you can make them 'objective'.

This is a big message which we need to communicate to research students, and which we need to remind ourselves of on a daily basis.

hmmm.... time to think

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Learning Literacies and Digital Natives -> digital literacies??

Those good folk at Glasgow Callie are doing some interesting stuff with their leaning literacies project LLiDA.
As well as gathering data about the student learning experience (see my previous blog about their paper digital natives myth or reality) they are busy at work
  1. collecting exemplars of best practice in supporting the development of learning literacies
  2. getting institutions to audit their current practice to gain a profile of current activities from a universities' perspective
I did get a bit confused by their email requesting snapshots of institutional practice - I was all ready to go out with the digital camera, and confess I was a bit disappointed to learn that they wanted words and explanations - but hey ho, that will teach me to read a little more deeply in future!