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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