Lessons learnt from transforming teaching materials into OERs

As some of you may be aware, the OTTER project has now come to an end here at BDRA. I thought I will share with you some of the things I learnt as OER Evaluator on the project, screening and transforming materials received from academic staff and turning them into OERs. 

It was found that, because materials submitted by academic staff were originally developed for a face to face learning environment, content was included which was linked to Blackboard, the VLE used here at the University of Leicester. Understandably we also found that materials submitted were intended for specific target audience e.g. Masters level studies.

A related finding was that the materials were more oriented towards formal as opposed to informal learners. The other thing which emerged from screening the over 360 credits worth of teaching materials is that they were, pedagogically speaking, instructionally oriented. We also found, on some occasion, images without appropriate reference and a broken links embedded into the material.

I don’t think these findings are exclusive to OTTER and I suspect other projects in the JISC/HEA institutional programme on OERs found similar evidence.

What these issues call for are evaluation tools not just for developing OERs but ones that support the transforming of existing teaching materials into OERs.  In OTTER we spent a significant amount of time addressing these issues to ensure that the final product released was of high quality and reusable. An outcome of these efforts was the CORRE framework.

The above issues clearly have implications for institutions considering transforming existing teaching materials into OERs. I highlight a few:

  • Ensure that management is committed to the development of OERs possibly via an institutional mandate
  • Identify academic partners eager to become OER champions
  • Develop a memorandum of understanding between academic staff and the OER team
  • Ensure that teaching materials are designed from scratch with openness in mind
  • Where possible, decouple OERs from other resources and make them standalone
  • Raise staff awareness of copyright, especially creative commons licensing
  • Ensure that the content to be released is reality checked both internally and externally by staff and students and possibly information practitioners
  • For long-term sustainability gather evidence of the impact of the OERs through tracking of their use and repurpose.

Samuel Nikoi

11 May 2010

OTTERs at the OER10 Conference

Sahm (aka Samuel Nikoi) and I visited the beautiful city of Cambridge for the first time ever on Monday, although sadly we didn’t have time to be tourists as we were giving a paper at the UKs first big Open Educational Resources conference, OER10.  With more than 100 delegates from the UK and overseas, it was a great gathering of people with varying degrees of knowledge and experiences relating to the OER movement.

The keynote lecture from Malcolm Read, Executive Secretary of JISC, was extremely encouraging to those of us coming to the end of our one-year OER pilot projects in that it is clear JISC and the HEA wish to develop the OER agenda further, with a focus on researching the discoverability of OER, the user experience, and the attainment of a low cost, sustainable production and release model.

Sahm and I both attended a variety of sessions from the three parallel streams, and it is clear there is already some work going on which would address the issues on which JISC is proposing to focus:

Dr Momna Hejmadi from the University of Bath and Pangiota Alevizou from the Open University had both carried out some initial research into potential OER users, with Dr Hejmadi highlighting the differing viewpoints between junior and senior staff towards producing and using OER.  (The former being more enthusiastic but seeing the lack of incentives as a major barrier; the latter indicating that use of OER could be viewed as the lazy option, reducing the quality of and thereby diluting, degrees).  Pangiota’s initial results from her, admitted small, research sample, identified a distinction between Institutional and Community OER, whereby one feeds into the other, as well as six types of OER audience.  She also highlighted a developing preference for the creation of genres of learning, which linked in with Malcolm’s ‘aggregation of materials around certain themes’.

I was interested to hear Rowan Wilson reporting on the University of Oxford’s OpenSpires project, where, rather than reinvent the wheel, they had taken their iTunes U content production workflow and adapted it to create an OER workflow, whereas it is likely here at Leicester we will be going the other way.

Tom Browne from the University of Exeter struck a chord with many of us on the OER pilot projects, when he described his efforts to engage Senior Management in a discussion on creating a sustainable output of OER.

Alan Leeder from the University of Cambridge gave a great post-lunch presentation on GLO-maker 2.1 (I now know how to make a great vodka martini!) and I was interested to hear that they are working on creating a mobile front end  which will allow you to upload podcasts directly from your phone.  The technical theme was maintained by Loughborough’s Rob Pearce talking about their efforts to create an ‘OER supersearch’ facility using API’s.  They have not yet achieved perfection and feel it will be difficult to do so until ‘the internet becomes a fully global network with standardised protocols’.

And last but definitely not least, Sahm and I presented on the OTTER project’s CORRE workflow model for creating OERs. Our presentation (available at www.le.ac.uk/otter/otter-dissemination) led to an interesting discussion around how quality is monitored in OER development.

The main conclusion we drew from our attendance at Day 1 of OER10 was that it is clear that the OER movement will not be allowed to wither and die.  Time and money needs to be spent on making resources more searchable, on getting feedback from the users (lecturers, students, informal learners), and on identifying the best sustainable production, output and hosting model.

Tania Rowlett


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