Today I went down to the BDRA to attend a day on the OTTER project and OERs (open educational resources/repositories). Educational object repositories are a little to the left of my working experience, so this was a great opportunity to find out a little more. The aim of the day was to give an overview of OTTER and OERs in a broader sense.
We began by seeking to define what an OER was – something that could be reused, re-purposed, freely available, and discrete (not embedded within an environment). The primary concerns over using them are currency, sustainability and quality control. IPR/licensing to use/reuse is also an issue – especially third party rights of contents embedded within items. Interestingly there is a lot of use of these objects by Leicester students for their revision, not simply those produced at Leicester. Noted that MIT with their Open Courseware have been leading in this field for at least 12 years.
(Incidentally my favourite learning object is on Kongregate – a game that teaches cellular physiology.)
OTTER is mounted on PLONE, and of course JORUM Open is more well known – as this links to OERs in all kinds of teaching environments. OTTER over-delivered on their target credits material – almost 500 credits worth of material. Also the CORRE framework for creating and evaluating OERs.
We started looking at Content gathering, and IPR/ownership questions were noted – the Uni generally owns copyright in OERs created here, but it was noted there are some cases where this might actually not be as cut and dried. So OTTER worked with people where this wasn’t going to be a problem. Even after the gathering there were questions over IPR and that some depts seemed to misunderstand what had been agreed to be supplied. To get around this the BDRA devised a memorandum of understanding that was an agreement as to what partner depts would supply. Noted that knowledge of copyright, let alone creative commons was poorly understood by the academic community and that education in this respect is needed.
Next is the Content screening – need to do some assessment of the content before you can decide that it is suitable for conversion into a OER. OTTER used indicative questions to perform this analysis. Interesting points about transnational issues over language and spelling were raised. The amount of local references within OERs was an issue too – OTTER thought it was better to remove them and make them more generic, although other institutions didn’t always agree with this viewpoint – saying users could see past the local references to the reusable model underneath.
Then there is Openness – and the difference between creative commons and copyright. In South America for example if it’s on the Web the normal assumption, even in the academic sphere, is that it is public domain and rights free. The question of significant change to create a new object (and how much work is needed to demonstrate this) was raised. Noted, like the LRA, that OTTER was very rigorous with copyright unlike some of the other projects – and had a series of indicative questions to be asked before an object could be progressed (developed with the consultation of Tania, our Copyright Administrator)
Next transformation – which is about enhancing the existing teaching materials as it becomes a OER, effectively making it an object independent of other resources that can be used on its own. It may require restructuring – en.g. a lecture may be designed to work in a certain context, but as an OER its structure will need to be re-examined.
Then we looked at formatting and standardisation, making sure that final file formats are appropriate and openable by as wide a range of end users as possible. It is also about making sure that metadata, and embedded metadata within the OER is appropriate. This was a manual process. There was quite a discussion around the use of iTunesU and YouTube as alternative locations for mounting some OERs, the advantage being the discoverability would be enhanced by their search tools and greater visibility to a broader audience. however, in contrast downloading of some objects can be restricted on these services, unlike from your own OER where you can control this more.
Now in Sahm’s words we move into a fashion parade – or Reuse and Repurpose – thinking about the end users and how they will be using it. So these are questions to ask the various groups, although you can use your own in-house team to go through the tool kit questions. Noted how they validated the materials by running it past real user groups e.g. EMALinc event with librarians.
Finally there is Evidence – this is about the impact and what is the value to teachers and learners around the wold, how do we measure it? Senior management is more interested in evidence of impact, but as a teacher you will be more interested in the anecdotal evidence from learners on how these resources have helped in their learning experience. like the LRA they use Google Analytics to track the quantitative data. However, after all this effort and only 9 people use a resource the question of “worth” arises. Hard to demonstrate what people get out of it – or what they would have not got, had the resource not existed. Talked about MIT taking 10 years to demonstrate worth of their Open Courseware site. Akin to libraries making many materials available that few people use – but if they weren’t there, it would have diminished someone’s learning experience.
At this point we closed for lunch. After lunch we looked at some demos of objects in the Leicester OER, including a video with some upside down bits. Following this we applied the CORRE framework to our own teaching examples – in my group’s case Marta from SDSS’ session on evaluating evidence. We touched on the need to redesign teaching session objects from the ground up, if they were to fit through the CORRE framework – as they stand there is too little context to make them work alone, or too much referencing to other materials.
Finally the day reflected on how OERs and designing for openness has impacted on the work of the BDRA. In particular thinking about stuff they are designing with this in mind from the start; alongside designing for the student. They ask themselves “Can we make it open and can we enhance visibility for ourselves and our work through making it into an open resource?”
Overall this was an enjoyable and engaging day, and the chance to think about CORRE I think could have filled an entire day if we’d worked through it methodically. Even though I don’t do that much teaching these days I found plenty to think about, and look forward to future engagements with the BDRA.
Slides will be available on the OTTER sige, along with the podcast from the day (with the odd audible comment from me on it).