Open Courseware?

As the US has an increasing amount of courseware freely available online, what does that mean for universities? Will they go the same way as the music industries, and how do we adapt to what IS happening…

Ever since the open courseware movement was launched in the US almost 10 years ago, traditional universities have deployed a powerful weapon to prevent students from using it to earn degrees.

That so many universities now make their teaching materials freely available online has allowed US and international organisations such as Peer-2-Peer University (P2PU) and University of the People to gather up and organise the content into entire programmes – and to offer these courses to students at little or no cost.

But conventional universities have refused to award academic credit to people who complete them.

So these students have been unable to apply their work towards degrees unless they take – and pay for – the same course again on a bricks-and-mortar campus or via an established distance-learning provider. And that has kept them away in droves.

University of the People, for example, which charges an application fee of only $10 (£6.30) to $50 for any of more than 40 online classes culled from open courseware, has enrolled just 1,100 students in its two years of operation. Meanwhile, some 6.1 million Americans now take (and pay for) online courses offered by conventional and for-profit universities.

Critics contend that the universities fear being undercut the way newspapers and the music industry were when their content was made available for free online.

Read full story.

Academic Digital

Hey, you, get off of my cloud: are scholars too selfish to share IT?

Academics must change to get the best from technology, Jisc hears. Hannah Fearn reports

Academics are failing to make the most of universities’ cloud computing services because of their lack of technical expertise and their reluctance to share resources, a conference has heard.

Speaking in Liverpool last week at Jisc’s annual conference, Paul Watson, professor of computer science at Newcastle University, said that universities must change to realise the huge benefits of the technology. They would have to invest in it as a way to encourage research innovation, not simply as a cost-saving measure, he argued.

Cloud computing allows users to access servers or applications remotely, with the result that universities can share services rather than having to invest in technology separately.

But most providers, including Google and Microsoft, offer very basic cloud computing services, and these require a high level of technical skill to adapt for academic use, the conference heard.

“One of the things we’ve found is that working researchers don’t have (the necessary) IT skills,” Professor Watson said.

“They’re very good at using computing to transform what they do, but don’t have the skills themselves” to take full advantage of cloud computing, he added.

Read full story, and check out what the University of Salford are doing in ‘World Wide What’.

Academic Digital Event

Using and creating sustainable learning and teaching resources (21st February 2011)

The course below looks fascinating, but I’m teaching:


It is increasingly tempting, when creating teaching and learning resources, to ‘borrow’ images and other teaching and learning resources from the internet and elsewhere. ‘Open educational resources’ is a term for original resources which are shared under licence.


This workshop will cover the dos and donts of ‘borrowing’ other people’s stuff (especially if you are planning to upload the results to a virtual learning or other shared environment), and enable you to safely share or protect your own resources using appropriate licences.


Time Activity  
10.30  Coffee and registration  
11.00  Introduction to open educational resources – using and contributing  
11.20  Introduction to Creative Commons and open licensing  
11.40  Demonstration of finding openly licensed resources online  
12.00  Using attribution tools and attributing creators  
12.30    Lunch  
13.00 Discussion of IPR and copyright issues  
13.40 Understanding risk and using risk assessment toolkits  
14.00 Discussion of risk management  
14.20 Using recordings of people (especially patients and their families, healthcare workers, actors, students, etc.) in learning materials  
14.40 How taking a ‘digital professionalism’ can lead to the creation of sustainable resources  
15.00 Discussion and wrap up  
15.15 Close  

Proposed outcomes

At the end of the workshop participants will:

  • Be able to confidently use resources such as images and resources from the internet and elsewhere, attributing content creators (copyright owners), when creating teaching and learning resources
  • Understand the difference between copyright ownership and licencing and how to use resources shared under licence
  • Be able to clearly indicate the copyright status of any works you have created using an appropriate Creative Commons licence
  • Be aware of how to deal with consent issues in using patient data in learning and teaching resources
  • Exemplify best practice in ‘digital professionalism’ and manage risks when creating sustainable teaching resources

An electronic information pack will be available in advance of the workshop and emailed out to participants as well as being made available from the MEDEV website.

Facilitator background

The workshop will be facilitated by Dr Megan Quentin Baxter, Director, MEDEV Subject Centre –

Target audience

For staff working in academic and practice settings.

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 around 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.