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OER 2010: Exploring OER Content, Design and Communities
by Theo Lynn and Neil Bruton


OER10, organised by RLO-CETL, was held in the Gillespie Centre at Clare College, Cambridge from 22 to 24 March, 2010. The conference comprised a judicious mix of keynotes, project presentations and case studies, refereed papers, workshops and demos all promoting and disseminating best practice in Open Educational Resources (OER). Over 100 delegates were primarily drawn from OER organisations and higher education institutions in the United Kingdom with some representation from Ireland, Kenya, Norway, Turkey and the US. Unsurprisingly, there were few “conventional” publishers present: Ian Grant (Encyclopaedia Britannica) being the notable exception.

The keynotes were delivered by Dr. Malcolm Read (Executive Secretary, JISC) and Professor Allison Littlejohn (Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University) which linked together well. Dr. Read highlighted some of the challenges and learning from the open content movement in UK higher education making the point that while some of these challenges are changing over time, Intellectual Property Right (IPR) issues remain. Professor Littlejohn outlined a possible solution to providing structure to informal learning using both social networks and both open and conventional education resources. ‘Charting’ was presented as a method to support both the creation and consumption of knowledge from the ‘Many’ but also to encourage connection and contribution to the collective thereby improving not only the individual learner’s productivity but that of the collective.

Alison Littlejohn (Glasgow Caledonian University) and Tom Boyle (London Metropolitan University)

Figure 1: Alison Littlejohn (Glasgow Caledonian University) and Tom Boyle (London Metropolitan University)

While OER10 had over 70 presentations of different types, it was scheduled extremely well in that every session had good attendance, discussion and at times, debate. Many presenters provided detailed case studies of open content initiatives in their organisations and outlined how technical, cultural and institutional barriers were overcome. Support and active sponsorship from institutional leadership is key and open content as a driver of student recruitment traffic was a strong argument leveraged by a variety of presenters including University of Nottingham, the Open University and the University of Westminster. The need to develop open content literacy and capabilities was also key take home message. A number of presenters addressed this topic highlighting a variety of approaches e.g. communities of practice (the Irish National Digital Learning Resources (NDLR) project) and free online seminars (Dublin City University’s 4C Initiative). In their paper, Lindsey Martin and Alison Mackenzie from Edge Hill University described an Open Content Literacy Framework developed to support engagement and inform decision-making of staff new to working with open educational content whether as creators or ‘consumers’. This framework has great potential in adding structure and helping to plan open content engagement.

 Neil Bruton (DCU LINK)

Figure 2: Neil Bruton (DCU LINK)

JORUM and JISC had a significant presence at OER10 and as international delegates we were impressed by the investment and commitment to OER in the UK. The extent of local innovation is always impressive yet highlights a key take away message – the open content movement may need to consider whether greater coordination and centralisation is needed to avoid duplication and dissipation of effort and scarce resources. Some projects of particular interest included the Xerte Online Toolkits, GLOmaker, SpokenMedia and Matterhorn. The Xerte Online Toolkits provide a browser-based suite of tools to create interactive learning materials. Similarly GLOMaker (www.glomaker.org/) seems to be an easy-to-use authoring tool for learning objects which has been used to good effect by London Metropolitan University and its Women’s Library to engage staff in creating rich and engaging multimedia learning objects. Some of the samples presented also made impressive use of TextAloud software. Brandon Muramatsu’s presentation on MIT’s SpokenMedia project focuses on the development of tools to enable better search, interaction and use of video recordings of university lectures. SpokenMedia has made impressive progress in speech recognition and automated transcription of video lectures. On a similar theme, Matterhorn is an end-to-end, open source platform that supports the scheduling, capture, managing, encoding and delivery of educational audio and video content. Matterhorn is scheduled for release in August 2010 and promises great things for university lecturers interested in sharing their presentations with the wider community.

OER10 Panel Session

Figure 3 OER Panel Session, Day 3

 

For those interested in open educational content, OER designs and open educational communities, OER10 was a great success.  The programme, abstracts and presentations from the conference are available at www.ucel.ac.uk/oer10/programme.html. It is also worthwhile following the extensive twitterfeed for the conference on #oer10.

Theo Lynn
Neil Bruton
Learning, Innovation and Knowledge Research Centre, Dublin City University
theo.lynn@dcu.ie

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