Open Educational Resources

Supporting the OSTRICH project at the University of Bath

Topic: Evaluation

Lessons learnt from OSTRICH

📥  Evaluation

With the OSTRICH Open Educational Resources (OER) project coming to a close, the lessons learnt so far from the project will offer valuable guidance for any future OER practice at the institution.

To gain a better understanding of the experience of those involved in the project, participants who prepared materials for release were asked questions about working with OERs. A summary of feedback and lessons learnt from the OSTRICH project was then developed from the views expressed by participants and from themes and issues arising in conversations with other project stakeholders that took place during the life of the project.

Key points have been highlighted by the OSTRICH project that could guide ongoing OER work at the University of Bath in the future:

  • There is interest in releasing a variety of learning materials as OERs; these range from 'big' OERs such as entire unit level resources, to a more granular approach of  'little' OERs that are made up of smaller reusable chunks of material.
  • Different motivations for engaging with the creation of OERs can be found; from personal beliefs about the openness of education and a culture of sharing, to opportunities for offering 'taster' or marketing materials for prospective students.
  • Creation or conversion of materials for OER can potentially be time-consuming and resource heavy. Building open practices into existing processes and making the most of planned changes and reviews could make the process more sustainable. The Design for Openness process (based initially on the CORRE model from the OTTER project) was developed by the institution to demonstrate a possible integration of OER into learning design.
  • Concerns about copyright and other intellectual property (IP) rights need to be addressed with adequate support and guidance.  In light of this, the project has created a variety of support resources in this area and has developed solutions to IP issues specific to OER at the University of Bath.

The OSTRICH project has left the institution well-placed for future OER developments. The OERs made available in the OSTRICH repository will offer examples of good practice for future contributors. With expressions of interest in releasing learning materials as OER continuing to be directed to the e-Learning Team, the support resources and processes developed during OSTRICH should prove to be valuable reference points for both the team and for individual content developers.

Questions for OER creators

Engaging with OERs
o    Why have you decided to release content as OER?
The process for creating and releasing OERs
o    Did you convert existing content, create new content or release both?
o    What did you find easy/straightforward about creating or converting your OER resources?
o    What challenges did you encounter?
Perceived impact of OSTRICH project
o    How has engaging with the OSTRICH project impacted on your OER practice?
o    Has there been a wider impact beyond the scope of the OER project?
o    Now you have released OERs, how do you envisage they will be used and by who?
Sustainability of OER production
o    Do you believe there are particular barriers or enablers to engaging with OER?
o    For further engagement with OERs, what support will be required?
o    Where do you see OERs fitting in with your learning and teaching practices in the future?

Project Stakeholders
o    OER team
o    e-Learning developers
o    e-Learning team and Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office
o    Academics and content creators
o    Senior management
o    Institutional Services (Legal, Library, Web)
o    Students

Converting learning materials with CORRE

📥  d-CORRE, Evaluation

A first experience of applying the CORRE model to an existing piece of learning content has been really helpful for highlighting issues and changes that will need to be made to the materials before their release as an Open Educational Resource.

The learning resource in question is the fifth element of a Moodle unit on Academic Writing and comprises an Exe learning object on ‘How to Avoid Plagiarism’. The learning resource has 21 pages of content that include text, images, and multiple-choice questions.  The main CORRE elements that impact on the conversion of these learning materials will be:



* Media and Format - The learning resource is currently offered as an Exe learning object. The University has recently moved to working with Xerte for the creation of this type of resource and so it may be rebuilt in this format.  The author and other members of the original project team are also considering the release of the Xerte project file so that end users can make any institution-specific amendments that would be useful in their context.

* Structure and Layout – In places the content is difficult to read because of font size, spacing and background colour.  If the resource is rebuilt this is likely to be taken into consideration.

* Language, Learning Design – On revisiting the resource the original author has already found elements of the text that he would like to rewrite before release as an OER, such as simplifying the text in some places to make it more accessible to a wider range of students.


Rights Clearance

* Copyright – there are a limited number of third party images in the resource with no signposting to their origin.  It was decided that it would be best to replace these with CC images and guidance will be given on where these might be sourced.

Transformation - Decoupling

* Numbering of the pages/elements is currently related to the fact that this is the fifth module of a wider course (e.g. 5.1.1) and will need amending to reflect the learning resource as a standalone object (e.g. 1.1.1).

* Text that currently refers back to other elements of the Academic Writing Moodle unit will need amending

* At one point the resource opens the student’s Journal Activity for the Moodle unit as a live window for the student to record their reflections – this approach will need revisiting if the resource is to be offered outside Moodle.

* On each page there is a link back to a Glossary of Terms in the overarching Moodle unit – the author has suggested that the terms relevant only to this Academic Writing module could be reproduced within the learning resource on a separate page towards the end so that this can be linked to from each page instead.

Something that came out quite strongly from our discussions around preparing this resource for release as an OER is the impact that the process can have on future quality and a drive for redevelopment that this can set in motion for an author.  The ‘breathing space’ between its initial creation and this reassessment point can provide an author with a more objective impression of a resource’s strengths, and can more clearly highlight those elements that might benefit from a rewrite or new approach.

And from the module author’s perspective...

‘The original team look forward to receiving guidance in ‘repurposing’ a single module taken from a suite of six modules designed for a single institution where the user group is well known. We are ‘testing the waters’ by using a small, fairly self-contained module to see whether we might ultimately repurpose the whole suite in a more sophisticated form as an OER.

As a writing academic, a learning developer and a professional writer, my involvement in the project has already highlighted personal challenges. On the one hand, I embrace the scholarly tradition of ‘intellectual knowledge’ and the creation of a web (network) of sourced and credited knowledge that is the hallmark of a discipline. On the other hand, there are the practicalities of creating and sharing educational material to as wide an audience as possible.  I look forward to seeing how this dichotomy plays out in the weeks ahead.’

Eight things that I took away from OpenEd2010

📥  Conferences, Evaluation, Miscellaneous, OSTRICH














Between November 2nd and 4th, 2010, and thanks to the support of the Division for Lifelong Learning, I attended OpenEd 2010 in Barcelona, the first time the annual conference has taken place outside of North America. The conference was held at the impressive CosmoCaixa (Science Museum) on the western fringes of the city and attracted over 200 delegates from countries as far apart as Chile, South Africa, Canada and Estonia. The theme of this year's conference was OER: Impact and Sustainability and aside from the keynotes there were a number of key themes including best cases/project reports, Open Ed on the cheap and policy/strategy. Most of the conference papers are now available for download at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya's open access repository and there is also an unofficial conference wiki set up by one of the participants which contains some useful material.














Rather than cover all the sessions I attended I'll focus instead on eight messages and lessons that I took away from the conference. Here they are (in no particular order):

  1. Design OER for mobile first, desktop PCs second. According to Rory McGreal there are 3.4 billion mobile devices in use, and the majority of people accessing the internet do so via mobile devices. Yet much OER content, from simple Word documents to complex Flash-authored learning objects, are either inaccessible or poorly optimised for mobile devices. And with the vast array of Android and iOS mobile devices appearing, this may be a real issue for many people who choose to learn untethered from their desktop PC.
  2. We can afford to disrupt learning. Erik Duval's keynote on day 2 was entertaining, insightful and contained some 'wow' moments that were, perhaps, absent from some of the other presentations that I saw. His message was that we shouldn't be afraid to experiment with technology enhanced learning, even if things do get a bit messy as a result. Learning is the essence of being human, kids who fall off bikes and hurt themselves usually get straight back on again because they are desperate to learn how to ride. One important step in this process is to open up educational resources to be freely available and easily accessible to all, thus removing some of the 'friction' that currently exists with the abundance of OER material on the web. Mega OER search engines such as GLOBE ( are a step in the right direction in this respect.
  3. We need to be less obsessed with OER content and more switched on to wider issues such as global consciousness, equalising access to the tools to create content, reducing/eliminating poverty and developing platforms for sharing that are open, organic and accessible. The inspirational session given by Brian Lamb, Scott Leslie and Novak Rogic showcased a range of open platforms and tools such as the UBC wiki (minimal institutional marketing yet significant take-up amongst faculty and students) and the excellent open online trading card game Phylo. The underlying message? OER is "a step . . . toward reclaiming the mandate of higher education as leaders and guardians of free and open enquiry."
  4. OER, meet Web 3.0 . . . One of the exciting things about educational technology conferences is coming across tools you've never heard of but can see a real use for. Two are worthy of particular mention. The first is Cohere, a collaborative 'sense-making' tool developed by the UK's Open University in association with the Knowledge Media Institute. Cohere provides an online environment where users can annotate web pages, add connection labels between annotations and people, and create semantic filtering of ideas and open resources. The second tool is the JISC/OU-funded Cloudworks, a social networking site for sharing learning ideas and resources through the concepts of 'clouds' (shared knowledge and information around teaching and learning) and 'cloudscapes' (collections of clouds centred around conferences, workshops, debates etc. For an example see the OpenEd2010 cloudscape). It's perhaps too early to say whether tools such as Cohere and Cloudworks become widespread but they certainly have the potential to harness the 'collective intelligence' of those involved in the open education movement.
  5. An iPad (or an Android/Blackberry/Windows tablet equivalent) makes an excellent conference tool. After 3 days tweeting, surfing and note-taking with the iPad I can't say I missed not having a laptop. Multitasking would have been nice (this was pre-OS 4.2) and the iPad still lacks a really good blogging App in my opinion (the WordPress App seems a bit flaky). However there was a big problem with connectivity which was sporadic and was only really usable first thing in the morning and late afternoon. Last year's OpenEd in Vancouver was live-streamed which would have been ideal for those unable to travel this time around. Many of the presenters were forced to load up web pages at their hotels in the morning and switch between them in their sessions, but the lack of a reliable connection resulted in a number of occasions where presenters were unable to show content on the fly. The outcome was a rather muted Twitter backchannel (#opened10) given the size of the conference.
  6. From learners as consumers to producers/authors of open content. While the focus of the majority of OER projects is on the systemised production and delivery of a set amount of OER content this tends to buy into the neo-liberal/capitalist model of academics as owners and producers of content and students as mere consumers of material that they have little say over. Challenging this model is the Student as Producer project at University of Lincoln involving conference presenters Mike Neary and Joss Winn is an attempt (fully supported by the Dean of Teaching and Learning, VC Mary Stuart and HEA funded to the tune of 200k) to reverse the idea of students as passive consumers of education and instead get them fully involved as participatory and collaborative producers of knowledge, fully engaged with academic research and teaching.
  7. Take existing open resources, (re)mix, match, (re)assemble and repurpose them. Don't reinvent the wheel. Don't spend hours creating open resources from scratch before seeing what's already out there and can be used (Rory McGreal again). Are learning technologists and open educators the new DJs?
  8. Where are the Produsers? I was surprised by the lack of coverage of user-centred design issues in OER development and delivery. Perhaps it was just the sessions I attended but nobody seemed to address explicitly how the process of OER creation has to have 'produsers' at its centre. Produsage is Axel Bruns term for those engaged in user-led content creation. Think Jon Beasley Murray's Murder, Madness and Mayhem project where his students actively contributed to featured articles on Wikipedia. I think the idea of learners and academics as produsers might be key to envisaging open education as more than just the creation of 'things.'













Evaluating our first steps in OER creating/converting

📥  d-CORRE, Evaluation, OSTRICH

Our initial plans for supporting the Division for LifeLong Learning in creating/converting OER learning materials are taking shape.  Regular meetings are in place for this term: both so that we drive the initiative forward to ensure that the CORRE process is underway; but also to structure opportunities to evaluate our developing d-CORRE (devolved-CORRE) framework as we work through this process for the first time.

The next meeting in a week or so will be between a representative of the OSTRICH central team, the devolved OSTRICH OER support (in the form of the Division's own e-Learning Development Officer) and the 'Author' of the materials (in this case the Division's e-Developments Manager).

We will be looking at one of the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) units that is planned for partial release and considering the following:

  • Do the learning materials overall need redesigning? To what extent?
  • Which elements of the unit could/should be released as OER - how can the context of partially released materials be made clear for end-users?
  • How much in the way of third party materials is contained in the current materials
  • In what form to release the materials - structure, file formats etc
  • What metadata could/should be collected, by whom and at what point
  • How to effectively discuss/plan learning design, structure and copyright within one process
  • Where responsibilities might lie for each element of the process (author, devolved support, central team) and where these might overlap
  • What support will need to be in place for a d-CORRE framework to be effective - support materials, FAQs, templates, scenarios, exemplar materials, workshops/seminars
  • What validation in the way of quality checks are appropriate? What might the process be for checking?

From initial discussions, the following requirements/questions have already been raised:

  • A step-by-step copyright checklist for assessing content is essential
  • Devolved expertise (eg on copyright) was considered desirable, but staff need to know where they might go for  support on more complex issues
  • Although we will recommend replacing third party materials with open Creative Commons versions as far as practical, this will not always be possible.  In these cases, who will undertake/administer/track the contacting of and negotiating with publishers and rights-holders for permissions. It was considered that central support/administration would be essential for the long-term sustainability of OERs.

Our experiences with this first unit will be mapped against a developing d-CORRE process - in particular with regard to responsibilities and required support materials working from this initial and incomplete workflow diagram:

Initial workflow/responsibility model

The plan is for the first version of the workflow to be evaluated and commented on this blog. Then an updated version can be applied by the devolved support team to a second unit, the process evaluated and then further refined.