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.

HEAT program @ the OU Conference – day 2

Live blogging, 2pm – Conference Day 2

HEAT: Health Education and Training in Africa

Talk by Alison Robinson (programme coordinator)

Challenges in Africa:  high incidence of maternal and child mortality, HIV/AIDS , TB and malaria increasing, critical shortage of health workers, inadequate facilities and equipment. In Africa there’s 900 maternal deaths per 1000,000 births. Africa has 11% of the world’s population.

HEAT helps to address critical health workers shortage. The strengths of the HEAT program are that it delivers significant impact for relatively small investment, and it has the potential to train hundreds of thousands of health workers. HEAT materials can be delivered in print, online or disk.

The pilot country of HEAT is Ethiopia. One of the reasons is that all post-secondary education and training in Ethiopia is taught in English. Total population is around 81 million, of which 84% live in rural communities. Every year around 21000 Ethiopian women die due to complication of pregancy or childbirth. It is a country of contrasts.

The health extension workers in Ethiopia are paid a small salary by the Ministry of Health.  They need to be female, speak local language and basic English, amongst other things. Health Extension Workers’ initial training need to be upgraded to overcome the deficiencies in their initial training, and also because the workers are keen to have a career path. The HEAT training is provided by distance education. Restrictions on classroom capacity and availability of teachers would take more than 10 years to upgrade 31,000 health education workers.  Distance learning can be completed between 18-24 months.

HEAT will be an online knowledge bank of training materials, both in text and in multimedia form, delivered as OER . It will also include self-assessment questions, resources and toolkits with case-studies etc.

HEAT has the support of the Ministries of Health and Education in Ethiopia, funded by the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Trust. There will be 16 distance e-learning modules, each one assessed by means of a tutor-marked assignment. The first 4 out of 16 modules are being prepared and are due for completion be end of July.

Challenges: some authors are experiencing difficulties in writing in a second language. They are also leanring the methodology of distance learning.

Alison says that the work in Ethiopia has been enourmously rewarding.

HEAT beyond Ethiopia: all modules will be free to download. Conversations are taking place to localise the content to Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana and Zambia.  Modules are adaptable also outside Africa.

HEAT vision: ot create a consortium of countries and organisatiosn working together aim to tackle social inequalities in Africa.

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.



Live blogging, 18th March, 9AM

GUIDE workshop Rome – Dr Indrajit Banerjee opening talk – UNESCO

Dr Indrajit Banerjee of the UNESCO ICT in Education, Science and Culture starts by considering some of the challenges and benefits of distance education.

Next, he recommends practitioners the use of  the ICT Competence benchmarks for teachers, launched by UNESCO.

UNESCO is focusing on 3 key areas, having launched its Open Suite Strategy.  It has 3 components: 1) Open  educational resources (Unesco is developing its own educational resources platform); 2) Open Access to Scientific Information and 3) Free and open source software.

He also mentioned UNESCO’s Open Training Platform (OTP) with more than 3500 courses in 21 subject areas. The OTP has over 630 training providers and has attracted more than 1 million visitors (

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?

The Technology Empire and the Struggle of the Educationalist

11:00 AM

This morning I set myself to explore some technologies to support the upcoming OLnet virtual workshops. The OU itself offers a number of them, such as Cloudworks, Cohere and FM. These are great tools that have been used successfully by a growing number of people worldwide. Nevertheless it’s important for us to keep an eye on what else the world finds interesting, and try to understand how best to make use of these tools for community enabling and to support our research purposes. In less than half an hour of what I would call a ‘very modest’ exploration, within my own social networking links, I found out three new tools. This time I didn’t even have the luxury of doing a Google search! I realised that in order to keep up with the technology available out there I would have to keep both eyes on it and not only one (excuse my Brazilian irony, I hope it makes sense lol). Just by reading some colleagues’ twitter messages and blog posts, as well as by looking at the technologies they use, I found out this whole new universe in front of me, that if I were to seriously explore, it would take at the very least the rest of my day time. Most immediately after this realisation and a quick look at the clock, I gave up searching for new technology and decided to think about how to make the best use of the tools that I already know. But is this the best option? I wondered. Maybe yes, I could get things done timely and effectively! Maybe not…. I could be missing out on better ways of doing things… and I would also be missing on the innovation side of things… the buzz tools, the buzz words, the DIM DIM, the DIGG, the Wave….

What a struggle. I concluded. And this is because I am not the most dummy of the persons when technology is concerned. Ok, I am more of an educationalist than a technologist, but even though… Perhaps the problem is not so much on ‘how’ to use the tools (at least for me), the problem nowadays is that there’s too much out there. It’s a Technology Empire.

Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, excuse me the techie ones :-) But that this infinity of options can be rather blurring, distracting and time consuming, oh yes it can. And when it comes to OER design, use and re-use, do people actually have that much time to spend on shopping around the options? In fact, perhaps one of the biggest appeals nowadays about shopping around for technology is that it’s free: you can download and play as much as you want with the tools without digging a hole in your pocket. And pardon my rather naive comparison, but I wish make-up and shoes were available in the shops and free in the the same way … ;-)

Now, seriously, how on earth can we expect people to get grips with all that is around (even if it means two or three tools) and still produce wonderful reusable open content materials? And come up with great expertise and stories of success they can share with the world? And convince their institutions, colleagues and students that OER is a really cool thing to do? In most of the interviews with users I conducted for the past three years (teachers and general practitioners) they say something like this: “I love this technology, I really do. I think it is clever and could be really useful. But I sincerely do not have the time to invest in learning how to use it.” And they not rarely add “There’s a sea of options out there, I do not know what to choose and I do not even know where to get started. It’s a pity but it’s reality”. They are not alone. What to say next?

I still do not have a conclusion for my technology matter. It seems I am going round in circles, both counciously trying to get out of the technology trap (I like your term ‘trap’ Patrick) at the same time fascinated by the options these digital era gives me. And to give you an insider view, potential virtual workshop participants seem to prefer to use their own technology (they also develop cool things in their countries, you know?). So I wrote to my colleagues on Facebook, Twitter, Ning, Orkut, MySpace, Skype and Messenger (have I forgotten anything?) and asked for their help; I asked them to suggest me some interesting virtual learning environments and social networking websites that could make great mediation tools to our virtual workshops, something they would like to use. Some of them sent me some total unfamiliar (to me of course), really cool stuff they say, something we could never do without, all open source…. I must try them out… mustn’t I?

I need an aggregator, now I got it! I finally got the inspiration I was after, it only took me a blog post and it came my way. I am off to look for one now. Hum? The virtual workshops? The OER stuff? I think they can wait a little longer, I have something more important to do right now…

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: the 4 themes and their connections

Live blog post, 3pm

continued form previous post:

1) Models of technology:

All projects use a pool of technologies: social networking (e.g. Facebook, Ning, Cloudworks), repositories (OpenLearn, slideshare, flickr), mapping software (e.g. Compendium, Cohere).

2) Models of learning:

Common to all projects: an attempt to blend formal and informal learning;

Discussed: the individual and social dimension; structure and unstructured materials.

3) Models of community:

Various foci: content, social interactions etc. How do these things characterize different types of interactions between learners, how does leadership happen in these spaces?

Common to the projects: personalisation, content-focus, forums, openness. The concept of the collective, learning design (as a community)

4) Models of design:

Different models of design and how these projects can be placed in these models:

4 types of design model:

1) configuration and re-configuration design (creating new patterns from existing ones) LDI, SocialLearn, OpenLearn

2) Inspirational design (Creativity): OLnet, VirtualMphil

3) Effective design (for particular requirements): VirtualMphil, TERGU, Atelier-D

4) Collaborative design & Cooperative design (teams of people doing things): OLnet, Atelier-D

We will continue the conversation at Ning/Cloudworks. Cloudworks is open to the public view. Photos of the day are available at OLnetChannel on Flickr.