On Friday 11 March 2011, Gabi Witthaus and I attended a SCORE event entitled ‘Institutional strategies for Open Educational Resources (OER) in the Open University Nottingham campus. (Gabi wrote about this event on the OSTRICH project blog with a slightly different focus.) Several featured speakers described their experiences implementing the production and use of OER in their institutions, including how they made the case to stakeholders. Among my take-home messages from each speaker:
University of Exeter – Tom Browne: When making the argument for OER, it is important to include the evidence of demand for OER. Open access academic work must be tied to institutional mission. Production of OER should be seen as scholarly activity within staff development. Exeter has now launched Open STEM, and while this initiative was specifically for STEM subjects, it sparked enthusiasm in humanities subjects as well.
Oxford University – Melissa Highton: The most successful OER production is built on existing workflow – Oxford academics were lecturing anyway, so a decision was made to just audio-record as they do it and make it simple enough that lecturers can do much of the process themselves. This is how Oxford launched and runs their iTunes U channel. Although Oxford offers both audio and video lectures, their data shows that audio-only lectures get downloaded three times as often as video versions. To those who may still ask “why capture a lecture?” Melissa argued that a lecture is a unique academic event – this person will only be speaking about this topic or research in this way and with this audience today and not again, so capture it and allow any Oxford student to hear it, in fact, allow anyone to hear it. Melissa described a new skill for academics to become fluent in open content provision : open content literacy (releasing open learning material in an ethical fashion). Finally, she presented evidence of reuse: schools using Oxford lectures in their own teaching and finding it unnecessary to chop or rehash the lectures.
University of Nottingham – Steve Stapleton: Their university saw the social responsibility of publishing OER, showcased in their work with OERAfrica. Steve’s presentation emphasised improving student experience by focus on open content – academics became more conscious of quality because they knew the material would be open. The University of Nottingham will now feature information about their open content in the university prospectus and observe any effect on their marketing. Steve concluded by mentioning Nottingham’s new ideas: U-Now and a university Flickr account.
There were also excellent presentations on work by University of Cape Town to create and provide OER–even allowing lecturers to upload their own material to the repository, similar to a ‘pride of ownership model’ at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Delft University of Technology reported a definite increase in the number and quality of international PhD students after publishing courses as open, as well as faculty satisfaction with their improved reputation as a result of OER publications. It was these academic benefits of OER which I believe should be particularly persuasive for institutions considering OER publication. I will be looking at these benefits and related impact specifically as I examine iTunes U in the SPIDER project.
Learning Technologist, SCORE Fellow, and Assistant Keeper of the Media Zoo