Reusing OER – SCORE Residential Fellowship Course

Reusing OER – session facilitated by Andreia Inamorato dos Santos  (OLnet/SCORE)

This afternoon I ran a session on OER reuse for the Open University SCORE short-term residential fellowship course. The task was for the fellows to pick a theme and look at their colleague’s OER created during the residential course, and also throughout the web and discuss a set of reuse questions. Interestingly, reusing OER does not seem to be the a simple task. Participants  have argued that quite often the OER sites link to resources that are not clearly OER (licensed materials) and it was very difficult for them to keep track of the licenses as they were searching for OER.

Finding suitable OER and assessing quality were also issues raised. Participants argued that they could not always find OER for the topic that they had chosen to work around. If they found OER, assessing quality did not seem to be straightforward. They mostly compared OER  in terms of the usability of the websites  rather than going through a checklist of OER quality indicators – authorship (credentials), design, license (copyright clearance),  etc. This shows the importance of the tools provided/not provided in the websites to reuse OER . Most academics in this group argued that the OER websites they came across did not seem to pay attention to the reuse aspect – they often used pdf materials and had complex navigation.


The development of OER in China

The Development of China’s OER – Chinese Course of Excellence Project and Case Study

Talk by Jia Yimin (lecturer) – Future Education Research Center, South China Normal University

Mentor at OLnet: Dr Elpida Makriyannis

Live blogging, 2pm

Jia Yimin came to visit the OLnet project as a fellow in the open educational resources program.

Yimin Jia

The focus of OER in China was initially to build resources, and then to sharing, using and on sustainability. Most OER research is into exploring the economical, legal and social systems for sustainable use of OER. Since 2000 higher education in China changed from a focus on the elite to mass education. For the  past 10 years the Ministry of Education has launched a series of projects to control quality on HE, and the National Courses of Excellence project (which is based on OER) is one of them.

OER in China have synergies with the international OER movement – it started with focus on developing resources (11139 National Courses of Excellence open to all universities in China from 2003-2006) and moved to a focus on sustainable development and use (although new resources are still being developed).

The 5 components of Chinese ‘open’ higher education are:

  • Open Standards and licences
  • Open Source software
  • Open Course Management System
  • Open Access Content
  • Open Sharing Consortium

The main OER initiatives in China’s higher education are:

  • The “National Course of Excellence” Project – funded by the Ministry of Education
  • Translations and collaborations around foreign OER, as for example, CORE (China Open Resources for Education:non-governmental organisation funded by foundations). It is a consortium of 100 Chinese universities and 44 provincial radio and TV universities – the focus is on translation and collaboration around foreign OER. It also aims to translate the courses developed by the National Consortium of Excellence.

Efforts to improve teaching quality and innovation in Chinese institutions are in 3 fronts: National, Provincial and University levels.  To date there are 3,910 National Courses of Excellence, 6,000 Provincial courses and over 10,000 University Courses of Excellence.

Courses of excellence are defined by the policy of the Ministry of education as courses that: “exemplify the characteristics of first-class teaching team, first-class teaching content, first-class teaching methodology, first-class course materials, and first-class teaching management”.

The national courses are selected in the following way: University level courses are proposed, approved and recommended by the Provincial level,  then eligibility is checked and finally the Ministry of Education select the courses to be funded (which therefore become a National Course of Excellence). These courses need to be 100% online and offered as an OER to all universities in China.

Challenges: after award of ‘national course of excellence’, some universities do not update them; low use and reuse rate, lack of follow-up funding, intellectual property rights issues.

Usage: 75% of students use the resources as reference material; and 77.2% of teachers use them as teaching resources.

Benefits: teachers learn from other courses ‘how to teach’.

The courses are distributed in the websites of all universities. The problem is that people find it difficult to find the courses. However, at most resources are collected (this website is a research project funded by the government).

Question: What are the motivations for universities to apply for National Course of Excellence status?

Answer: It is the ‘honour’ aspect of it – both for the professionals/lecturers and for the universities. It helps them to progress in their career. It is about the status it provides, and also the funding they get from the Ministry of education to help maintain the course. The money can be used by teaching team to update the course.

Question: What is the platform that courses are made available as a National Course of Excellence? How does interoperability work?

Answer: Some universities use their own platform, some  others use  commercial services – companies which transfer teaching materials into a platform. Some universities use Moodle, Blackboard, etc. Interoperability of systems do not seem to be a concern at this moment.

Question: How are the courses eligible for the National Course of Excellence standard developed? Are they developed through collaboration within a group of universities or developed by a particular university?

Answer: The courses are developed collaboratively by the teaching team of individual universities (constituted of experienced lecturers and young lecturers). The teaching method used is an important theme, because another aim of the government is to improve the quality of teaching in HE  – lecturers can learn from one another.

Opencast UK – Broadcasting via Matterhorn

Live blogging, 24th March, 10:30 AM

Presentation by Bjorn HaBler

Matterhorn basecamp

Bjorn starts by saying that Opencast as a community converts on a number of different projects, of which Matterhorn is one of them. It is an opensource data capture tool. It captures lectures, processes and distributes them in various media such as YouTube EDU. MH (Matterhorn) is also a management system that interfaces for searching videos, subscribing to RSS feeds, provides basic media annotation and allows for viewing close captions.

More info @:

OER10: The Openness Agenda

OER10 Conference, Cambridge, UK.

Opening Talk by Dr Malcom Read, JISC Executive Secretary

Live blogging, 10:30 AM

Dr Read starts by discussing the various contexts in which ‘openness’ is used:

  • Open source: software
  • Open standards: interoperability
  • Open Access: research  outputs, research data
  • Open Educational Resources: course material
  • Open Science: open innovation (the research process becoming more open via web 2.0)

OER New Challenges:  need to focus on the discovery and use of OER and also on learning form current experiences (reuse).

HEFCE funding for next year (2011) is  £4million and will incorporate the release of projects in identified priority areas only. Another goal is to improve the findability of OER resources.

OpenLearn Research Report 2006-2008

This is the OpenLearn Research Report of the OpenLearn initiative of the Open University UK. Here we discuss both the user and the provider experience with open educational resources (OER), and we bring to the fore the importance of collaborative activities to foster the use of such resources. A number of case studies are presented.

OER international community: how do we know what they need?

by Spoon Monkey

This week at OLnet we are having a pilot virtual workshop (twitter #olnetvw). The aim of the workshop is to promote reflective practice within the OLnet team, and also to enable us to come up with an approach to run virtual workshops.

We are taking a closer look at the UNESCO OER Toolkit, at the same time looking at other OER resources aimed at the community, such as the OER Handbook and the OpenLearn Research Report 2006-2008. The programme of the workshop can be found here.

In our discussion of the toolkit, I started by raising the question of what it is proposing itself to do. Here is a copy of my post in our virtual workshop page:

“I thought it was very interesting reading the UNESCO OER toolkit. I allocated 10 min this morning and went through sections A and B of the document, and I realised I was taking a lot for granted about it.

First of all, I did not know the doc was targeting developing countries. I thought it was just a nice and creative attempt to make available ‘OER-How to’ knowledge to all. It was definitely a surprise to me.

I wonder however whether there is a misconception in the doc – the assumption that practitioners in the so called ‘developed world’ already know how to use OER. Do they?

I do not think so. Despite the fact that the OER movement was initiated by more privileged societies (due to the funding received), I believe the take up is still very timid. Often, practitioners argue they do not feel confident in changing content developed by others, or they do not seem to find the time to do so. Some of them have not even heard of OER… or struggle with the technologies. That is why it feels odd to think of a toolkit developed to the developing world….

UNESCO’s initiative with the OER Toolkit is undoubtedly to be praised, and the work of all the collaborators too. I have read just a few sections of it so far but I can already see its potential. It is a document that can be changed and adapted to suit different audiences, and the fact that it is published in a wiki helps.

But to what extent has this toolkit taken into consideration the reality of the developing world? I did not find this reflection appropriately developed in the doc anywhere yet. So far, using the doc’s own language, it is all very ‘anecdotal’.

I would like to know more about how it came to be the case that the toolkit should focus on the developing world. Is it just because it ‘sounds good’ and is in line with the overarching altruistic proposition of the movement? And if not, how do we know we are offering the developing world what they need?”

I am playing a little bit of a devil advocate here I know, but I believe that many times in the OER movement we act based on assumptions. Not to say that it is wrong, but is it enough?

TU Delft Open CourseWare Seminar: The OUNL Experience

Live blogging, 10:00 AM – attendance by webinar

TUDelft University is hosting a seminar on open courseware today, mostly targeting the universities of the Netherlands. The idea is to bring together prospective and existing initiatives to discuss the challenges and the successes of OER provision.

The experience of the Open University of the Netherlands was presented by Robert Schuwer:

Started in 2006, followed by Delft in 2007. They have two institutional initiatives, OpenER and Spinoza. The OUNL is one of the fourteen universities in the Netherlands, and they focus on lifelong learning. With more than 20.000 students, they are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year.

Their aim with OER is to lower the threshold for access to formal HE, at the same time widening and increasing participation in HE in the Netherlands. They focus on offering high quality short open courses developed for self-study, what they call a ‘portal of temptation’ to higher education. They also offer the possibility to bridge informal learning and formal education, by means of official examination options. OpenEr was funded by both Hewllet Foundation and the Dutch Ministery of Education.

Figures of OpenER: the project generated a lot of media attention, attracted near 1.000.000 visitors, provided 25 courses online, 5700 users registered voluntarily, courses cost between 3.000-30.000 Euros each. The project ended formally in June 2008, but is now being incorporated to normal university activities. Approximately 10% of OpenER visitors signed up for formal courses at OUNL.

Three key best practices: Rely on quality awareness of authors (auhtorsd are already used to produce self-study materials); Support of top management (described as ‘crucial’), production of open courses should be a regular task of faculties (not dependent upon a few enthusiastic people).

Sustainability: can an OER project exist without grants? This is a challenge that all initiatives face, says Robert. At OUNL their aim is to incorporate the initiative to their business model. Each course they offer will have an OER (it may be all the course or a piece of it). They aim to be a service-oriented organisation and to offer interactive OER using different media.

Wikiwijs is a national OER initiative in the Netherlands. This national initiative was created due to the observation of the success of initiatives such as OpenER. They aim to offer school books for free and to make more appealing the ‘teaching profession’. It offers a platform where people can upload learning materials onto a repository at the same time being redirected to other existing educational materials (that they nicely call a ‘referatory’). The name of the initiative draws on the philosophy of Wikepedia, where together people create materials. Launching in Dec 2009 with the beta version, focusing on primary, secondary and community college sector. In January 2011 is the delivery of the implementation plan for the years ahead. Materials will be published under the Creative Commons License. Materials will be peer-reviewed.

Nice talk, Robert!

Explore, map and build: brainstorming questions

Live blogging:


continued from previous post:

What does each project think they can get out of this workshop?

What are the models of learning?

What do we mean by communities? What about collaborations?

In terms of technology, what are the experiences we have in terms of using different tools? How can we pull this knowledge together?

How can we use tools to better communicate and support communities?

How to explore ways of communication between OU existing projects?

What are the dimensions of formal and informal learning within our projects?

In terms of the design of materials, are there any approaches that would help us achieve what we want?

How can we draw on the visual elements of design? And representations in various ways?

Creative thinking and creative learning: how could people make the best of the opportunities that they are given?

Social technologies allow for creativity: what is the effect of this creative on the learning?

How can we build more authentic assessment drawing on users’ personal experiences?

Boundaries: how to manage our identity in social networking spaces?

How can we explore new ways of collaborating between the projects?

3 main themes: communities/collaboration, design/learning, technologies (formal &informal learning)

4 Models: models of learning: models of communities; models of technologies; models of design

Big question: How to explore ways of communication between OU existing projects?

We are now being divided into 4 groups, each group being a gatekeeper of each of the themes above. Our aim is to create a representation of how each of the 7 projects discussed today tackle the models above.

More to follow….

Explore, map and build workshop

Live blogging:


This morning we are gathered together at the Open University, The Design Observatory, Observation Space, to discuss the connections amongst the various OER projects existing in the university. By ‘we’ I mean representatives from projects such as OLnet, Atelier-D, OpenLearn, SCORM, LDI, iSpot, the TERG research group and the OU Library.

We started by ‘building’ a virtual representation of the projects, using traditional technologies such as pens, paper, glue and magazines! Interestingly, most posters have pictures that evoke meanings such as networks, international scope, multiculturality, technologies and mixed age-groups.

Andreia Santos started by talking about the main three elements of OLnet (Open Learning Network): networking, participatory research and fellowships. OLnet is an international research hub that aims to bring together OER researchers, providers and practitioners with a view to promote a space for the sharing of experiences in designing, using and re-using OER. It offers a website and links to tools such as social networking (Cloudworks), a mapping tool (Cohere) and blogging/discussion forums to support community engagement.

Lucia Rapanotti follows by talking about The Virtual MPhil, a research programme offered by the OU computing department aiming to support a diverse community through online technology, bringing together supervisors and students working at a distance. It involves a number of technologies, such as Second Life and Ning.

Andy Lane talks about OpenLearn as a test-bed, a project to develop OER on big scale (big ‘d’). It exposes the OU content and other people’s content , but it is also a platform in which many things can be done. There is the LabSpace and Learning Space, and overall 20000 download of study units every week. OpenLearn is a test-bed for learners, for students, for educators, for the universities. People can do things with it and they do not have to ask us to do so. Research continues to be an important element to the understanding of how useful these materials are for the community and actually what they ‘do’ with them.

Theo Zamenopoulos talks about Atelier-D: Achieving Transformation, Enhanced Learning and Innovation through Educational Resources and Design. Atelier-D is a design studio (of materials), a place for people to work together in collaboration with tutors and other students. It is a social environment for collaboration. The big question for the project is how to use the technologies to understand the dynamics of a traditional design studio. They use a mix of technologies such as Facebook, Second Life, Compendium, Flickr and Elluminate. They aim to bridge the use of these tools and try and create an infrastructure for the students to work with. How to integrate the complexities of the use of all these technologies is one of the project’s challenge (and of OLnet too, I should add!)

The next project showcased is iSpot; a project interested in wildlife and providing a space for the sharing of ideas within a friendly community. It is a place for informal and mobile learning, in which individuals can use the resources provided to observe wildlife and share information. The research side of iSpot is to observe people in their journey, how they use resources and make connections with them, although they say it is a real challenge!

TERG (Technology and Education Research Group) is a research group in the communication systems department, focusing on the use of technologies for learning and on how to learn with technologies. It involves different people at the OU collaborating and sharing experiences.

More on Explore, Map and Build to follow….

How to…OER

Live blog:11:25AM

New OER initiatives are popping out throughout the world. It is often the case that institutions are looking for answers on how to get started as OER providers, and how to get their staff and students involved in the process. Today I am in a meeting with some Dutch universities, which are either already offering content online or considering joining the OCW movement. The questions they ask and discuss in the meeting are, in my view, very relevant for any institution contemplating offering OER. These are:
What is the best audience for OER, learners or teachers?
What sort of support should an institution provide to its staff to design OER?
Should lecturers be involved in publishing the materials as well as developing them? Or should they only concentrate on designing, and the institution provide the infra-structure for publishing?
How to involve lecturers in designing and providing content?
What criteria to use to guarantee that the material offered is of high quality?
What do lecturers have to know before they get started?
With so much technology available, how to decide on the best media for OER provision?
OpenLearn has answers for many of these questions (perhaps all), but “does one size fit all’? By the way, this is one of the favourite questions of our new VC, Mr Martin Bean. And it is also something that OLnet is interested in finding out, evidence of best practices that can serve as a starting point for discussion around these issues. OLnet welcome ideas, experiences and stories to share with the community.