Open Courseware: No Fear?

Many universities are discussing the possibility of putting lectures, etc. openly online (most already do this through VLEs), but most are nervous about whether that will impact the number of students likely to come to physical universities, and are unsure how to capitalise on it:

Universities should not be afraid to put their course material online because wider exposure will improve their global standing, the head of Europe’s open courseware movement has argued.

Only a handful of UK higher education institutions – the University of Nottingham, The Open University and parts of the University of Oxford – have set up freely available educational collections since the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pioneered the idea in 2002.

But Anka Mulder, president of the OpenCourseWare Consortium Europe, said it was time for universities and nations to embrace the learning model and reap its rewards.

European universities have been reluctant to open up their resources to all comers. Of the consortium’s 260 members, only 53 are European (of which 35 are Spanish universities).

“We have the infrastructure and everyone is online, but it has just not taken off in Europe yet,” said Dr Mulder, secretary general of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Read full article, and read more about Open Education Week.


Digital Delivery of Resources in the Developing World

Purchased from iStockphoto

Whilst universities in the UK consider how to survive in “the current economic climate”, digital technology and Open Educational Resources is making a huge contribution to the developing world:

Widening access to higher education is one of the great global challenges of the 21st century. Higher education is the key to creating the educated and skilled workforces that developing countries need to grow their economies and to ensure a better life for their citizens, but existing higher education systems and institutions effectively exclude large numbers of the world’s population.

Given the scale of the demand, it is not logistically or economically feasible to build and staff enough traditional bricks-and-mortar universities to bring one within the reach of every aspiring student in the developing world. So we need to make a radical shift and move away from the current model of higher education, which we have inherited from the 19th and 20th centuries, and towards new systems that reap the benefits of 21st-century technologies.

To get an idea of what the future could be like, we can look at what is already happening. In Africa today, a revolutionary programme called Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (Tessa) has been made possible by the internet. Operated by a consortium of national and international educators, at its core is a bank of teacher education resources, created by a team of specialists and made available online as open educational resources that support teacher learning in the classroom. Tessa has reached more than 400,000 primary school teachers in nine African countries since 2005.

Read the full story.

Digital Event

Workshop #altc2011 OER & Synergies

Workshop: Enhancing Synergies

  • Alannah Fitzgerald, Uni of Durham, English language/free resources
  • Teresa Connolly, The Open University (open learn)
  • Jane Gay, Kingston University

Score – support agency (

How do you transfer materials into OER?

Not time, not experiment (then say haven’t got time to go to workshops though enthusiastic at demos), can include ‘grey OERs’ (e.g. youTube no CCLC licences; perception that institution owns copyright of their teaching materials; lecturers won’t share materials; don’t understand that educators need to maintain copyright; people interested but too many barriers = excuse; academics concerned about reputation/concerned students won’t come if material freely available online (find materials that blend = not replace).; if students can answer questions on Google are not providing added value teaching!!

Materials go online (MIT – shown & registrations shot up); lectures on video – then use precious f2f time for elsewhere; peer judgement (students are used to making public judgements/academics used to anonymous peer review); a lot of academics don’t want to give ‘their space’ in the classroom.

altc2011-wed 004

Using coaching techniques… Where do we go from here? How positive? Show good examples of teaching etc, discuss – continued teacher development? People like examples… Not just systems. YouTube tutorials on particular packages.

Institutional fears – HE different from FE don’t share. Many actually using materials that others have produced – borrowing & improving – let’s be more transparent about it. E.g Generic examples, then specific contextual materials. Continual looking at practice & improving it. Rather than some institutions ‘marketing knowledge’.

Lot of concern over quality, lots of materials – how to find what’s going to be useful? Jorum – Spend about a minute before giving up and going to Google – needs better usability. Take time to make materials a bit more accessible, rather than putting up digital versions of eg a word doc.

Look at models that work – e.g. amazon – can develop similar models?
Is a validation model for this required? ‘have you thought about a blended learning aspect?” ( if don’t do at least have to provide a rationale for why not.) start small, get it right, spread the word, including the students… Support within faculty/discipline.

Need support materials AND extension exercises (2nd tends to encourage digital).

Another exercise group – similar questions – autumn CPD coffee meeting giving guidelines on finding ‘free stuff’ to save time to augment teaching, help them to search, guidelines on not ripping off guidelines, what a gateway to Find materials – in past = INTUTE, people value items they can’t make themselves (audio, visual, diagrams); issues about employment contracts/IP; openness of the institution of sharing. How derivative works are? Where should credit be given? Ignorance about different formats. Worry about delivery ‘appropriate’. Need for good metadata.

I look forward to seeing more material, which should appear here.

This blog entry was written live in session, with photos/headings added afterwards.


OER Degrees

Universities in Australia, Canada and New Zealand are hoping to achieve “a quantum shift” in open educational resources (OERs) by launching an “OER university”.

A group of universities plans to draw together existing free online learning materials from around the world and develop new OERs to create whole degree programmes that can be studied via the internet for free.

The project will focus on how to offer students using OERs the opportunity to earn academic credit and have their work assessed at a significantly reduced cost.

It is hoped that these degrees could cost up to 90 per cent less than a traditional qualification gained through on-campus study.

In an interview with Times Higher Education, Wayne Mackintosh, director of the Open Education Resource Foundation, said an OER university would help widen access to higher education in the developing world as well as helping students in the developed world faced with rising tuition fees.

“Throughout most Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, the costs of education have been increasing in excess of the inflation index,” he said. “What we’re aiming to do is provide alternatives…the opportunity to get the same quality of education for significantly lower cost.”

The project brings together the OER Foundation, the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, Athabasca University in Canada and Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand.

Read full story, and see more on Facebook.

Academic Digital

Humbox (Open Educational Resource)

A couple of days ago I went to a talk at the University of Winchester (where I work) about Humbox. Mick Jardine, one of our Arts lecturers is a partner in Humbox, and had invited the central project team to come and show us what it can do, before it goes live on 26th February 2010. Missed the first 20 minutes of a talk, as had to come from another meeting, but what I heard was really interesting, and the team is still debating terms of interactivity, quality, peer-review, copyright, etc. Many of these ideas have been considered, but there’s not always an easy answer to them.

What is Humbox?
The HumBox project is part of a wider Open Educational Resources initiative funded by the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and the HEA, to showcase UK Higher Education by encouraging teachers within HE institutions to publish excellent teaching and learning resources openly on the web, focused aroundĀ four Humanities Subject Centres: LLAS, English, History and Philosophical and Religious Studies.


As a test, on Tuesday evening, I loaded up my presentation from yesterday, and an hour later had already had 27 views (which as there’s only 70 full users I think is quite impressive) – wonder if any of them will comment on it, although I’m not sure that feature is fully enabled yet!

Humbox Profile

Each user has a profile page, from which resources published, views, and bookmarks of other resources are connected. I’m not entirely sure if there’s going to be a user URL, but it’s fairly straightforward to find people through the search function if you know who you’re looking for. I’m still not in the least clear on the difference between a Resource and a Collection, but hope that will become clear as I use it.