Northampton TIGERS – it’s a wrap!

The interprofessional team on set.

As part of TIGER (Transforming Interprofessional Groups Through Educational Resources) Paramedic science and midwifery health professionals at the University of Northampton have joined forces with the police in the School of Social Science and academics and students from the School of the Arts to develop a new interprofessional learning resource.

Initially academics from health and social science met and agreed it would be really helpful to develop some interprofessional learning resources that focussed on situations where these three professionals found themselves working together. Interprofessional education has been an important part of health education at the university for ten years with a growing number of professions becoming involved. There has been much discussion about the police being involved in some interprofessional learning with recognition that new resources would have to be developed to effectively meet the needs of specific groups of students. At the CAIPE (Centre for advancement of Interprofessional Education) corporate forum, held at Leicester University in March 2011, the plans for this work were presented and there is some interest in this resource from the interprofessional education community.

Over some months a scenario was developed based on a real case of domestic violence involving a young pregnant woman with some amendments to ensure anonymity and to highlight interprofessional learning opportunities. Initial thoughts were that students could role play, this was discarded as we felt students would focus on the role rather than interprofessional learning. We then thought actors could role play with students observing and then facilitated discussion however it was felt this would be difficult to replicate and may difficult to organise as a regular event. It was agreed to ask acting students to play the role and we would film this giving us a resource that we could reuse with different groups of students with relative ease. This was where it really got interesting as the performing arts tutor began to work with us and the students, auditions were held on 13th May, the actors cast and filming set for 20th May.

On 20th May, acting, paramedic, police and midwifery professionals were at the ‘scene of crime’ house used for police training in Northampton with 2 police students and 8 acting students. We (health) had turned up with our Flip cameras thinking we would just point and film and be finished by lunchtime – not to be the case! Within an hour one of the Arts tutors had borrowed some equipment to make a broadcast quality film. We spent the whole day drawing storyboards, rehearsing and filming with the acting tutors directing the filming, with students operating the film equipment. Students put great effort into their acting roles with health and police professionals offering advice and guidance on the authenticity of their professional representation.

Why have I blogged this? Everyone involved enjoyed and benefitted from this experience and while our original aim was to develop resources for interprofessional learning what happened was that as a team we demonstrated effective interprofessional working and learning. There was great sharing of skills and expertise, definite learning with, from and about each other and the outcome benefitted from this. I learned about filming, the limitations of Flip, the benefits of having the right equipment and also importantly having someone with the knowledge and expertise required for the job. I also learned that every room has its own sound!

The film is currently being edited and it will be available as an open educational resource (OER) in the TIGER repository later this summer.

Key words: interprofessional education, TIGER, open educational resources (OERs), ukoer

Ali Ewing

The Hargreaves Report and copyright law in the UK

Last Wednesday (18 May), Professor Ian Hargreaves of Cardiff University published his review, commissioned by Prime Minister Cameron, of copyright law in the digital age.

The Hargreaves Report, by comment consent, recommended some much-needed changes but falls short of the ‘radical overhaul’ of copyright law demanded by many. Similar to the way the 2010 Digital Economy Act was concerned largely with targeting illegal digital downloads, the focus of the report is on protecting the intellectual property of  the copyright holder (the traditional approach) rather than offering ways that incorporate the idea of fair use, which would require new, innovative models.

Fair use is where significant portions of a work can be replicated without permission as long as the work or reputation of the copyright holder is not denigrated.

For example, I would’ve liked to have used a snippet from a Beatles song called I’ll Follow the Sun for – not surprisingly – our recent e-learning conference. The snippet is available on Wikipedia. When you further investigate the licensing, you’ll find that it’s been uploaded because it qualifies under the US fair use laws. But we don’t have a similar law in the UK, so I didn’t use the song, although clearly my intent was not malicious. The Hargreaves Report looks set to ensure this continues. 

That said, the Hargreaves Report does make a number of useful suggestions for UK copyright law:

  • legalising the practice of copying music and films for personal use (i.e. allowing the consumer to choose his or her media format)
  • the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange for orphaned works whose copyright holder cannot be established
  • relaxing the laws on parody (see for example the Newport State of Mind video)

Having flexible, fair and transparent copyright laws in the UK is vital if open educational resources are to become as mainstream here as many would like. These laws have to include fair use. President Obama’s announcement in January of a $2 billion fund is an acknowledgement of how central OERs are likely to become in education.

This week, Net pioneers led by Mark Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt have been lobbying the G8 summit in Paris against increasing attempts to regulate the Internet and especially the Web. Central to this has been the thorny issue of intellectual property.

But when it comes to copyright law, the traditional approach consistently trumps any innovative model. At least in the UK and EU, which is in the process of updating its intellectual property laws in a way that may make even the modest loosening up recommended by Hargreaves difficult to enact, that doesn’t seem likely to change in the near future.

Simon Kear

Keeper of the Media Zoo

A statistical approach to e-learning

What happens across the pond can give us food for thought. The American Society for Training & Development(ASTD) surveys annually the state of the learning and development industry in that country.

According to a summary of ASTD’s 2010 report , the industry continued to grow in 2009 compared with 2008. The sum spent on training by companies per employee was still rising, even in the recession. More than a third of all learning was delivered or facilitated electronically. Nearly a third was delivered online. Each hour of learning content was re-used about 60 times, compared with about 45 times in 2007. It sounds positive, from an e-learning point of view.

In the UK, Towards Maturity, a group that promotes learning technologies at work, conducts similar surveys. In its 2010 report  is an analysis of what 400 organisations (including a third from the public sector) were doing to ‘deliver business results’ with learning technology. In the top quartile, three-quarters of their staff used e-learning. Compared with traditional methods, e-learning saved 21% in costs, 27% in study time and moved from idea/need to delivery 32% faster. Positive again.

Brian Chapman, who runs his own e-learning company in Utah, surveyed 249 organisations (including a few universities), asking how long it took them to develop e-learning . A simple 1-hour unit (content and questions) took on average 79 hours to design, develop and test, at a cost of about £10K. It cost more to include greater interactivity and multi-media.

Surveys like these seem to provide great hope for learning technologists looking for jobs in difficult times! But all three were published by parties with a vested interest in promoting e-learning. Is there a bias in their statistics?

The Beyond Distance Research Alliance (BDRA) is modest in its approach to using statistics. With its collaborators in projects like TIGER and OSTRICH that focus on quality in online open educational resources, Beyond Distance aims to develop mutually beneficial procedures and OERs, rather than headline-grabbing statistics. At last week’s TIGER Steering Group meeting at the University of Northampton, I was impressed by the dedication and professionalism of staff at De Montfort, Leicester and Northampton, and by their attention to detail.

David Hawkridge

Loosening the UK copyright laws: has the time come?

Speaking recently at an event in London, PM David Cameron made the point that intellectual property laws are to be reviewed to “make them fit for the Internet age“.

The six-month review will look at the American model, and see what the UK can learn about using copyrighted material “without the rights holder’s permission”.

This is interesting, especially in the light of the recent – and fairly draconian – Digital Economy Bill (DEB).

It’s possible this is the first salvo in a policy that realises and accepts that new models of commerce must be produced for the Internet age. And part of this needs to be a reassessment of copyright itself, and particularly what “fair use” means today and might in the future.

Cameron seems to be suggesting that the lock-downs of DEB-type legislation are not conducive to economic growth. I don’t think I could argue with that.

As a result of the OTTER OER project here at the Beyond Distance Research Alliance, and the knowledge and experience of the University’s Copyright Officer and honorary OTTER, Tania Rowlett, we all have a much clearer understanding of these issues.

However, I’m aware that sometimes our enthusiasm in support of openness paints those opposed to loosening copyright in a bad light. This is unfair.

Take, for example, the academic publishing industry, one of the fiercest protectors of the principle of copyright. This industry has used a commercial production model that has worked extremely well since Gutenberg first developed his printing press around 1440. Yet now, in the space of probably less than a decade the revenue-generating potential of this model has come under threat from the technological revolution that Web 2.0 publishing has unleashed.

The fact that I’ve linked to Wikipedia – a free source of knowledge or information as some might argue – in the preceding sentence is a perfect example of this. If I still worked in publishing, I wouldn’t sleep very well either.

But download one of the Open University’s 100+ free interactive ebooks  – in my case, to my iPad … of course! – available through iTunes U to see what technology allows us to do. The new digital world can’t be all that bad for publishers. 

However, there does come a moment in human history when change has to be accepted and absorbed. The Prime Minister’s announcement may well be one of these moments for us in the UK.

If the dam is broken, it’s not worth throwing sandbags at it. Far better that the cascading waters are diverted, channelled and controlled to benefit everyone.

Simon Kear

Keeper of the Media Zoo

iTunes U in UK Universities

I was surprised to read – in the listserv used by members of the Association of Learning Technology, a British-based but international organisation – an animated discussion of iTunes U in UK universities.

What surprised me was the deep concern felt by some correspondents about relying on a huge American company, Apple, to provide the vehicle for accessing albums containing British academic material.

Admittedly, my own view of Apple is coloured by long and valuable use of the company’s products. And my view of iTunes U is particularly favourable because of its outstanding success at the Open University, where a very wide public continues to download over a million ‘albums’ a month, about 27 million to date.

To some extent, I suppose, I have an inside view of iTunes U at the OU, because one of my family is a leading member of the team there. I’ve seen the care that goes into selecting material and presenting it.

Recently, with four BDRA colleagues, I wrote a paper* about OERs and we included a section about iTunes U at the OU. I wanted that because I see quite a few parallels between the albums and OERs being offered now by many UK universities. All of them are free to users. Creating them requires fairly similar processing and rights clearance. Few of them consist of a complete course or even a large part of one, yet all offer opportunities to get acquainted with a field of study.

Now the University of Leicester is thinking about moving into iTunes U as part of its educational mission. Without the OU’s huge resource of multi-media material to draw on, Leicester may think twice before committing resources to the creation of more than a fairly small number of albums, enough to establish a presence. Perhaps it will draw on OTTER’s products. Leicester may look for more evidence to emerge first about the benefits it would gain in the new higher education marketplace about to be established in the UK following the Browne Report and news of the government’s cuts in university budgets. If Leicester looks for ways of advertising more widely its academic products, iTunes U may be a channel it turns to, one that Martin Bean, the OU’s Vice-Chancellor, certainly rates very highly.

Yes, an American company hosts iTunes U, and very well too, without charge. Amazing, isn’t it, that such a company enables UK universities, as well as American ones and some others, to promote themselves worldwide? No wonder a recent report in The Guardian stated that the UK exports a great deal via the Internet: doubtless that includes a lot of higher education: 89% of the downloads from the OU’s iTunes U are by people living abroad.

David Hawkridge

* Hawkridge, D., Armellini, A., Nikoi, S., Rowlett, T. and Witthaus, G. (in press). Curriculum, intellectual property rights and open educational resources in British universities — and beyond. Journal of Computing in Higher Education.

You say goodbye….

My time at Beyond Distance is coming to an end and I felt this was a good time to look back at some achievements during my work with DUCKLING, OTTER and the entire Beyond Distance team that I value most.

  • DUCKLING in an eggshell.   This poster an attempt to crack out of the typical ‘research project-poster’ style and is one of the deliverables of the DUCKLING project.
  • Being an award winning OTTER. I previously blogged about this but winning the virtual poster competition, but the chance to caricature all the OTTER team stands out for me. One team member even used his picture in his Facebook profile picture!
  • Producing 438 credits worth of OERs (with the OTTER team).  The team went above and beyond the call of duty (i.e funder’s requirements) by producing such an impressive amount of credits.  Take a look through our repository and let us know what you think!
  • A new Media Zoo banner and logo.  The Media Zoo website has moved into Plone (our content management system) and with it comes a new banner and logo.  I’m pleased with my attempt at capturing the feel of the physical zoo with the array animals that ‘live’ there.
  • Learning Futures Festival Online 2010.  To be part of an 8 day 24/7 online conference was a huge achievement during a snowy January that brought the UK to a standstill.  What makes this an even greater achievement is that we released over 75% of the keynotes, workshops and paper presentations as OERs.

And one more thing that I’m proud of is the small amount of photos of me that exist during my time here, to which my colleagues can testify!  As someone who does npot enjoy getting their photo taken this is definitely an achievement.

Finally could I take this opportunity to wish everyone at Beyond Distance and other colleagues at the University of Leicester the very best for the future while I (hopefully) say ‘hello’ to new opportunities.

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

OTTERs, DUCKLINGs and other creatures at ALT-C 2010

Between 7 and 9 September 2010, colleagues from all projects at Beyond Distance attended the ALT-C annual conference in Nottingham. DUCKLING was represented via 3 well attended and very well received papers – one presented by Gabi Witthaus on the use of Second Life in the School of Education, one by Ming Nie on e-books and e-book readers and one by myself on podcasting in curriculum delivery.

I also presented a paper on the lessons learned and deliverables from the OTTER project, with a focus on the CORRE framework for transforming teaching materials into open educational resources (OERs). This paper also attracted a very good audience. I took that opportunity to fly the flag of our Phase 2 OER projects, OSTRICH (under the ‘cascade’ strand) and TIGER (‘new release’ strand). Other Beyond Distance colleagues contributed excellent papers on SWIFT and CALF, two of our other research projects.

ALT-C was again a highly successful conference – where once more, the Media Zoo wildlife was prominent.

Dr A Armellini
Beyond Distance Research Alliance
University of Leicester

The Learning Futures Festival 2010 and OERs

It’s been roughly six months since our very successful (even if I do say so myself!) Learning Futures Festival. Since then, as part of our OTTER project, I’ve been busy beavering (ottering?) away on converting the presentations into OERs (open educational resources).

The OTTER team have taken a while to make sure as many presentations as possible fall under the Creative Commons licence; this has meant replacing slides or editing audio so that there isn’t any infringement. I’ve blogged more about editing video here:

It’s been great to learn how to edit video, however basic, and I’m still on a quest to find the perfect open source cross-platform software.

With copyright cleared and the video edited and uploaded we been able to release over 35 out of approximately 50 keynotes, workshops, presentations and daily addresses. That’s a staggering 70% of all presentations out of our festival which are available for you to download and listen to again.

Now for the really important bit; you can find and download the presentations here:

This is just one way we are helping to contribute to an open future. In addition, publicly releasing these presentations helps make the Learning Futures Festival 2010 a year long event, continually impacting and benefiting new people every day.

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

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

Curriculum, IPRs and OERs

I recently had a useful discussion with colleagues at Beyond Distance about how curriculum, Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and Open Educational Resources (OERs) relate to each other. Let me try to summarise the main themes.

First, we discussed where various OERs that we knew about (such as the ones from the OTTER project) could be placed in a 2 by 2 chart something like Fig. 1.

Admittedly, we ran into some trouble in defining what we meant by the terms, but for ‘Altruistic’ we had in mind institutions that created OERs for the benefit of learners who might not otherwise be able to access such knowledge. ‘Commercial’ was plainly the label for institutions that wanted to profit financially, at least indirectly, by creating OERs. ‘Supply-driven’ stood for institutions that created OERs despite the lack of solid evidence that learners would use and benefit from them, while ‘Demand-driven’ described institutions that respond to known demand for OERs by creating them.

When we discussed OTTER, it seemed to us supply-driven: the University of Leicester accepted a contract from JISC to create the OERs. Altruistically, the university will make these freely available to those who want to use them. If there is a commercial motive at all, perhaps it lies in the university’s hope that the OERs will ultimately attract more registered (paying) students.

OpenLearn, at the Open University, is similar to OTTER, but demand for (downloading of) its OERs has been considerable, so is it more demand-driven? TESSA, the altruistic OER programme for teacher education in Africa, leans towards being demand-driven as the governments of the countries involved have all asked for the OERs to be available to their students, including serving teachers for upgrading.

Our discussion then moved towards whether and how the curriculum can be influenced by OERs and how these two relate to academics’ intellectual property rights (IPR). Figure 2, a rough sketch, reflects some of our thoughts.

It occurred to us that academics, in protecting their intellectual property rights (IPRs), probably restrict the curriculum; they also restrict the OERs that can become part of the curriculum in their university and beyond. Individual authors may have the power to include their books and articles in the curriculum, or to exclude them. Yet the creation of OERs is a process that can weaken or challenge the authors by asking them to sign a Creative Commons licence that allows learners to use the OER materials for nothing. The more we looked at the sketch, however, the more we thought that the OER could inform, enhance and amplify the curriculum – at least the policy if not the practice. Certainly that’s the intention behind the general OER movement.

This is a hurried note of quite a lengthy and detailed discussion aimed at clarifying what we hope to write up this month in a paper for a journal. My thanks to Ale and Sahm.

David Hawkridge


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