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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.

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OER13 in the press

We were very pleased to have invited Chris Parr from Times Higher Education to observe (and we hoped, write about) the conference and the discussions at OER13. Gratitude is due to one of our conference co-chairs, Jackie Carter, for her efforts in making this possible.

So far we’ve seen two articles, one about the keynote from Toni Pearce (NUS) and one looking more generally at responses to the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) phenomenon, drawing on comments from Professor Patrick McAndrew of the Open University and Darco Jansen of the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities.

Unfortunately the publication of these articles coincided with THE’s re-establishment of their paywall experiments of the early 00s. This means that some people may not be able to read the articles when and where they want to – so in the spirit of openness we have attempted to offer a summary of each here.

Toni’s presentation has already created a lot of interest, and you can read full reports from Lorna Campbell and OER Research Hub online already. Chris’ article focused on Toni’s assertion that students were willing to defend the “traditional” lecture and were less demanding of technology-driven alternatives than may be expected.

“I was quite surprised to find that students will absolutely defend to the death the lecture – a mode of learning that many of us are getting used to thinking of as an out-of-date method of teaching.”

Her presentation was drawn from the findings of a research project conducted jointly between the NUS and the HE Academy as a part of the UKOER programme. A full report will be released later this year, but this early glimpse did give the impression that students are very keen on the personal and community aspects of learning.

“We can accomplish a great deal more when we’re working in a community than when we are working alone”, she noted.

A second article, published today looked at the ways in which MOOC – specifically the larger commercial MOOCs – can constrain this feeling of community. Patrick McAndrew was quoted at length on the matter.

“They are creating a sort of closed community in the open. […] You now have people who have been through a [Mooc] programme saying: ‘I want to talk about what I’ve done. I want to show people what I’ve done. But if the system itself is closed you can’t do those things.”

Patrick argued that the use of closed resources and closed platforms also restricts the opportunity for students to interact fully with the presented material, for example to translate into other languages or reuse in other settings.

Darco Jansen of EADTU was quoted in strident voice on the implications of “open” courses for educators, and the canard of MOOCs as a means of widening participation in education:

“Most students that participate in Moocs already have good access to higher education…or they have already completed higher education. So how can you say Moocs are creating more accessibility?”

Despite the arguments around the inclusiveness and spontaneity of open education practice, Darco is quoted as highlighting the classic transmission model of learning (and the neo-imperialist undertones of this model) employed in MOOCs.

“Who is providing open educational resources? They are rich people, rich companies, rich universities, because they have the money to put out free educational resources and Moocs online […] There is a lot of company money involved. It’s a new Western imperialism to conquer the world,”

It is wonderful to see OER13 reflected in the mainstream education press, and we hope that in capturing a taste of the debates and discussions during the two day conference we can encourage further participation in such debates, both online and in submissions for OER14.

Lightning Talks #abs50 #abs73 #abs77 #abs112

Title: Writing in Booksprints

Presenter and authors:  Phil Barker, Lorna M. Campbell, Martin Hawksey, CETIS and Amber Thomas, University of Warwick.

Session: LT50, #abs50

A booksprint is a facilitated, highly structured intensive writing process.  This booksprint ran for two and a half days, involved four people and was facilitated by Adam Hyde.  The aim of the sprint was to produce a synthesis and summary of the technical outputs of the UKOER Programmes  Once a chapter is written it’s passed on to another author, not for editing but co-creation.  The initial author does not “own” the chapter.  During this sprint each chapter was re-written by three authors.  The team used Booki.cc open source authoring platform to facilitate the collaborative writing. Booki is much like other collaborative writing applications but incorporates additional tools for ebook creation.   By the end of the two and a half day sprint the team had written a 22,000 word book.  Some of the authors were concerned that the quality of the writing would be compromised but this does not seem to have been the case. Colleagues who have read and reviewed the book have all responded positively to it.

Phil Barker - Writing in Booksprints

Booksprints are ideal for people who have a shared conception of a topic and want to present it together, or alternatively want to present different aspect of a topic.  The content has to be material that is already known to the authors. This is not unlike the situation lecturers are in when they are producing course materials.  Booksprints could be an excellent way to produce educational resources as it’s an inherently open approach to content production.  We talk a lot about sharing educational resources but we don’t talk nearly enough about sharing the effort of creating those resources.  In order to produce really high quality resources we need to share the task of content creation

Into the Wild – Technology for Open Educational Resources can be downloaded free from CETIS Publications.  A print on demand edition is available from Lulu.

For further information on booksprints, see booksprints.net


Title: Libraries, OA research and OER: towards symbiosis?

Presenter: Nick Sheppard, Leeds Metropolitan University

Session: LT73, #abs73

Leeds Metropolitan University have established a blended repository to manage both their research and teaching and learning resources, including OERs. They have been involved in a number of JISC funded projects including the Unicycle UKOER project.  The blended repository was originally based on Intralibrary and they have now implemented Symplectic.  There has been considerable emphasis on developing research management workflows.

Open access to research is changing dramatically in light of Finch and role of institutional repositories and there are synergies with Creative Commons potentially being mandated by Research Councils UK.  Nick also referred to Lorcan Dempsey’s recent posts on “Inside Out” libraries, which focus on the changing role of institutional repositories and libraries.

Nick Sheppard - Closing the institutional UKOER circle

Leeds Met have worked closely with Jorum and Nick said that he believed that the new Jorum API is a game changer which will allow them to close the institutional OER circle.


Title: Why bother with open education?

Presenter and authors: Viv Rolfe & Mark Fowler, De Montfort University

Session: LT77, #abs77

De Montfort have undertake a huge body of OER work since 2009.  OER is incorporated into the institutional strategy for teaching an learning and OER is also is part of  the De Montfort PG cert course.

Despite this, when the team interviewed senior executives about OER, none could name any major institutional projects.  They saw the marketing potential of OER but didn’t appreciate the potential of OERs to enhance learning.  There is a distinct lack of buy in from senior staff and a lot of work is needed to change their mindsets.

Viv Rolfe

Student researcher Libor Hurt undertook a student survey on attitudes to OER.  28% had heard of OERs. OERs are used to supplement lectures and for informal learning.  They are seen as being good for catching up with complex subjects but are less used to study for assessments. Students overwhelmingly share stuff with each other, usually through facebook and e-mail. This is naturally how students work now and could have a major impact on OER down the line.  Students also loved producing OERs, lab videos and quiz MCQs.  However while students are happy to share within the university, they are less happy about sharing their OERs with the public, or those that are not paying fees.  Institutional strategies need to be mindful of this and need to communicate that universities are not giving away whole courses, they are just sharing some of the best bits.  Only a few students cited plagiarism concerns as a reason not to share.  From a student perspective, there is a real tension between paying fees and sharing OERs

It doesn’t matter if everyone in the institution isn’t sharing, as long as there are enough to get momentum going.  However it is important to get senior managers on board, OERs need to be enshrined in institutional  policy.


Title: Taking care of business: OER and the bottom line

Presenters and authors: By John Casey, University of the Arts, Jonathan Shaw & Shaun Hides Coventry School of Art and Design, Coventry University.

Session: LT112, #abs112

Talking about open in a closed education system is a lightening conductor for many thorny issues – power, control, ownership, identity, pedagogy, technical infrastructure, cultures, policy, strategy and business models.   The OER space is a very productive but scary space.

Media is about coproduction and teaching is itself a form of media production.  Coventry fell into open learning with the #Phonar and Creative Activism #creativact courses which opened up their classes.  Rather than having courses led by individuals, they now have teams of people all thinking and operating in different ways. Professional partners have also shown an interest in participating in these courses.   They are thinking about how they conceive the design process of teaching, and are working with students and professional partners to let content evolve.

Shaun Hides - consequences of oer

OER is a political problem, you need to lobby senior management. OERs don’t just open up content, they change institutional practice.  There are many unintended consequences and we need to deal with new educational and economic models of co-production.

T n T – sharing practices between two different scale OER developments #abs61

Theresa Connolly and Teresa Connolly both presented on this project, and so I simply couldn’t help myself thinking of this presentation as T ‘n’ T. OpenLearn, the platform of open courses developed at the Open University and focused on the HE community, was originally funded as a 2-year project, but many more years later is still going strong. ORBIT, a Cambridge project, drew from existing teacher practices, encouraging teachers to edit and craft and create. VITAL was a wiki project, providing educators with access to free, innovative and dynamic teaching resources as well as peer-to-peer networking opportunities.

Theresa Connolly and Teresa Connolly discuss large OER projects at the OU

Theresa Connolly and Teresa Connolly discuss large OER projects at the OU and Cambridge

OpenLearn informed VITAL, which supplied re-crafted materials to ORBIT and adapted OpenLearn pro forma. As the two Ts worked on these projects and worked together, it became clear that as in a community of practice model, these open projects and their stakeholders influenced each other freely. Often those who ‘practice openly’ benefit as much as those who receive the ‘products’ of such projects.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, University of Leicester

Professor Alan Ford – Opening OER13

As Pro Vice Chancellor of Nottingham, Professor Alan Ford welcomed us to his campus and offered us an overview of Nottingham’s extensive open work. Nottingham is a large research and teaching institution with 2 overseas institutions, one in China and one in Malaysia.

Professor Alan Ford, Pro Vice Chancellor, University of Nottingham

Professor Alan Ford, Pro Vice Chancellor, University of Nottingham


U-Now launched in 2007, joined OCWC in 2008, and now offers many channels under the umbrella of Open Nottingham. Open publication and open source tools such as Xerte and Xpert have been developed under this umbrella. I can respect a professor who has used Xerte, as he has , and he assures everyone it is both quick and easy. Nottingham was a very early adopter of YouTube. edu and their iTunesU, joined in 2010, recently reached 1 million downloads and views.

WHY is Nottingham open? Professor Ford cited altruistic reasons such as social responsibility, a wish for excellence in education (academic practice, learn from others), and promotional reasons such as branding the university. Also, with Nottingham’s internationally-located campuses, the cost of sharing of materials across campuses is high so open channels help to keep costs down.

At this point, 70a% of the University’s schools are engaged with OER, and they have created an OER course for all staff, as well as an optional module on PGCHE, to encourage new staff engagement with openness.

In wishing to roll out OER awareness to students, especially internationally, Nottingham has found that Chinese students are particularly open to using open materials! (This dovetails with a finding from my own iTunesUReach project in which I learnt of a Chinese app consisting of CC lectures from iTunes U with added Chinese subtitles!) Their students’ union encourage OER use as ‘extra help with your degree.’ Prospective students are offered open learning materials under the title: ‘Experience our teaching’. It only makes sense that prospective students might wish to sample what learning is on offer at that university.

Nottingham are now moving into book and ebook publication — iBook, epub. This is especially due to a wish to encourage sustainability – non-paper reading material. Another driver is interdisciplinary study which can’t fit into timetables, but may be creatively and openly be taught online. And MOOCs are next. Of course!

Professor Ford offers Martyn Poliakoff as the shining star of Open Nottingham, with 13 million hits on his YouTube channel, a 90% retention rate for subscribers which is unusual on Youtube, and that is 10,000 more subscribers than Chelsea’s football site. Professor Ford sees how the number of fans drawn to the Poliakoff Chemistry videos indicates that there is still more room for creative, open science teaching online.

Professor Ford concludes by assuring us that he is actually registered for this conference and invites us to speak with him about whatever open topics we might wish to discuss with him. I will say that this is unusual, and I could sense the professor’s excitement and openness to open.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, University of Leicester

Love is a stranger in an open car… to drive you toward OEP

I would like to encourage you to follow my SCORE colleague Alannah Fitzgerald’s blog covering her TOETOE project in open educational practice (OEP) in the area of English language teaching. Alannah will present at the OER13 conference with the title Stories from the Open Frontier of English Language Education Resources. Her post Love is a stranger discusses what drives people to investigate and begin to use and share open educational resources, and includes her own journey. Having recently seen some new drivers toward OEP in the medical and social work field — the need for hard-to-create video clips of patients coupled with the frustrations of locked-down networks in the public services — I can see the drivers question as a necessary tool for OEP practitioners to get to grips with.
Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow