Author Archives: Gabi Witthaus

About Gabi Witthaus

Open educator. Blogger at Art of E-learning. Learning design consultant at University of Birmingham. PhD scholar in Higher Education Research, Evaluation and Enhancement, Lancaster University. Previously Research Associate at University of Leicester (Beyond Distance Research Alliance and Institute of Learning Innovation); Learning and Teaching Facilitator at Loughborough University; Distance Learning Manager at Bradford University School of Management. Qualifications: Masters in Training and Development (USQ, Australia); Masters in English Education (Wits University, South Africa), PGC in Mediation (Robert Gordon, Scotland), BA Hons in Applied Linguistics (Wits University, South Africa).

OER Policies in 26 countries – POERUP at OER13

One of the highlights of OER13 for me was the opportunity to meet with University of Leicester’s European partners in the POERUP project. One of POERUP’s main aims is to find out what is happening in terms of OER policies in countries around the world, and to disseminate this information in order to stimulate the uptake of OER policies.

The first presentation from POERUP, on day one of the conference, was by Ming Nie, who gave a snapshot overview of the types of policies in different countries emerging from the research: countries with OER policies (such as the Netherlands, the USA, South Africa and Romania); countries active in OER activities (such as New Zealand, UK, Australia, Spain, Poland and Canada), and countries driving open education (such as Greece, Italy, France Hungary and the Scandinavian countries).

On day two, Terence Karran followed up with his in-depth presentation on OER developments in Mexico. His catch phrase was “the tortoise, not the hare” – in other words suggesting that while progress may be slow here, there are indicators that Mexico might ultimately win the OER race.  The major success factors he listed were: a strong tradition of open and distance learning (ODL); the growing use of ICT in general and technology in learning in particular; an emerging directive approach to national policy; a privatised but gradually opening telecommunications industry; and a strong and growing ICT manufacturing base. These wide-ranging factors were presented to show that although the use of OERs in Mexico has only just begun, we can expect to see much greater engagement in time to come.

Finally the POERUP team presented a fast-flowing “elevator pitch” of OER policies, covering 26 countries in 26 minutes. It was a great team effort involving six of us (Paul Bacsich and Nick Jeans from Sero in the UK, Robert Schuwer from the OU Netherlands, Terence Karran from the University of Lincoln and Ming Nie and myself from the University of Leicester). We presented the OER policy “highlights” from the research so far.  Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the POERUP findings so far can go to the POERUP wiki to read the 26 full country reports, or refer to the longer list of all countries that includes further information about other countries.

Gabi presenting elevator pitch for South Africa

Gabi presenting elevator pitch for South Africa

The next step for POERUP is to conduct case studies of several large OER networks or communities, using social network analysis methodology. Information will be shared via the POERUP website.

Opening up our minds to Wikipedia at OER13

Pete and Sarah sharing their knowledge of Wikipedia (and their brown bag lunches) with us

Sarah and Pete sharing their Wikipedia knowledge (and their brown-bag lunches) with the POERUP team at OER13 (CC-BY)

Wikipedia and the OER community – natural bedfellows? One would think yes, but the reality is, according to Pete Forsyth and Sarah Frank Bristow of CommunicateOER, those of us who are involved in OER projects and programmes tend to play a very limited role in creating and editing Wikipedia articles. The focus of Pete and Sarah’s session today was to raise our awareness of the need for volunteers to improve the existing articles on OERs and related topics. See, for example, the entry on Open Educational Resources, which at the time of writing, has only the briefest statements on “Definition” and “Aspirations of the OER movement”.

One of the reasons for the lack of activity on Wikipedia may be that we feel a bit daunted by the Wiki markup technology that confronts us when we hit the “edit” button. CommunicateOER and the P2PU School of Open are offering a MOOC-type course at the moment, Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics and Beyond. It has just started, but is still open to anyone who wants to join in and is willing to catch up.