Openness and learning design

In the last three years or so, the Carpe Diem learning design process has evolved – not only as a result of our own better understanding of it, but also as a consequence of the open educational resources (OER) agenda.

Carpe Diem is a creative, hands-on learning design process for academic course teams. It builds institutional capacity in learning design. It is not a ‘techie’ workshop on how to use certain tools. It has proven to be effective in the design and redesign of face-to-face, online and hybrid programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at over 15 UK universities and internationally. Carpe Diem delivers a blueprint and a storyboard for the course, a set of peer-reviewed and reality-checked e-tivities running online, a model for further development and an action plan. The planner used during the two days is available as an OER under a Creative Commons licence.

Developing a storyboard is at the heart of the Carpe Diem process – it’s collaborative, productive and fun. When we populate the storyboard with content (‘content’ is never our starting point!), participants usually refer to two ‘default sources’ of materials: previous versions of the course and new materials that the course team will have to ‘write’. We then introduce the concept of OER and show a few examples. While some colleagues are now more familiar with OER than three years ago, many have not heard of these resources, the repositories they are stored in or the licences they can be used under. They are often surprised by the amount and quality of open, free material they can access and incorporate into the course, with and without adaptation.

I usually invite course teams to conduct a resource audit under five headings: 1. course materials they already have and wish to reuse (such as materials from previous versions of the course), 2. material from OER repositories ready to use as is, 3. OER they can use with minimal changes, 4. OER that need repurposing before inclusion in the course, and 5. what they need to create from scratch.

The figure below maps curriculum design against OER design and shows the types of enhancement that can be achieved during the planning, development and delivery stages of a course. The top-right quadrant requires significant effort (and delivers accordingly), while the bottom-left one constitutes rapid, ‘opportunistic’ enhancement at a minimal cost.

Designing for openness

Figure 1: enhancing the curriculum with open educational resources

The development of a critical mass of OER worldwide and the awareness that the OER agenda has raised across the higher education sector have been critical levers in the evolution of Carpe Diem as a learning design intervention. Thus, Carpe Diem today does not only meet its original collaborative learning design objectives cost-effectively, but raises awareness of and disseminates OER and open practices across disciplines and institutions.

Dr Alejandro Armellini
Senior Learning Designer
Beyond Distance Research Alliance
University of Leicester

Opening the doar to Open Research Archives

A question high on the agenda for academics on the OER workshops I ran in Afghanistan last month was how they could access journal articles written by University of Leicester academics and others in the UK. Their institutions, which are struggling for funding, could not afford journal subscriptions, and as a result, many of these academics felt isolated from the international knowledge-sharing communities in their disciplines.  They were therefore delighted to learn that it was possible to access near-final versions of journal articles freely, through open research archives which contain ‘pre-prints’ – drafts of papers that are subsequently published in peer-reviewed journals. The Leicester Research Archive is one such example.

To find open access repositories around the world, one only has to go to the brilliant directory, OpenDoar, or the Repository 66 website, which provides links to open access repositories by location. Here is a sampling of open access archives found through these sites:

Leicester Research Archive, UK: https://lra.le.ac.uk/
Open University’s Open Research Online, UK: http://oro.open.ac.uk
University of Oxford, UK: http://ora.ouls.ox.ac.uk
Pakistan Research Repository: http://eprints.hec.gov.pk
Open Access Agricultural Research Repository (India): http://www.agropedia.net/openaccess
Stanford University School of Education, USA: http://openarchive.stanford.edu
University of the Western Cape, South Africa: http://repository.uwc.ac.za
University of Southern Queensland, Australia: http://eprints.usq.edu.au
Athabasca University (Canada): http://auspace.athabascau.ca

It is also possible to search for content in all the repositories in OpenDoar by keyword, by going to http://www.opendoar.org/search.php. To find repositories by location, go to http://maps.repository66.org.

In the SCORE workshop on OERs on 11 March, it was noted that for many institutions, the distinction between open research and open educational resources is becoming blurred. Both are part of a wider open access movement which aims to share knowledge openly and without discriminating against those in less fortunate countries. The Beyond Distance Research Alliance is committed to raising awareness among academics at Leicester and beyond of the value of open educational resources – both for research and for teaching.

Gabi Witthaus, 19 March 2011

It’s a colourful life

Colour.  Something the majority of us take for granted, but do you remember the days when there were only 256 colours?  Like me, you’ve probably not noticed that we’ve moved on from this limited palette. I was talking about web design today and in particular web safe colours and whether or not these were still relevant today.  Lynda.com summarises this issue far better than I can here: http://www.lynda.com/resources/webpalette.aspx The site also gives you a bit of background as to why web safe colours were first introduced.  We’re now enjoying far more colourful days in front of our screens, 16 million colours to be precise.  16384 of which most modern monitors are capable of displaying according to the w3c: http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_colors.asp.

You might be wondering why I’m talking so much about colour and what relevance it has on a blog about elearning.  There are a few reasons why and the relevance it has on this blog:

  1. My job.  I’m a Learning Technologist, I enjoy the technical side of things and regularly use colour tools to find hex codes in order to produce web graphics.
  2. Accessibility.  Colour, and more specifically colour contrast, can play a huge part in making text accessible to people with visual impairments.
  3. Openness.  The articles I’ve looked at to gather more information about this topic all speak for the Western world.  Not everyone in the world will have access to a modern monitor and being too colourful might reduce the openness of materials released.
  4. Technology.  Technology is changing and evolving.  Designing in 256 colours might, at one stage, have been an advantage for mobile technology with its limited colour screens. But at the rate this is evolving, mobiles will also become increasing colourful.

Along with the resources mentioned previously you might also find this resource useful:

http://www.colorsontheweb.com/

Use colour wisely, it’s easy to get carried away with an entire rainbow at the end of your mouse but keeping it simple will help focus a user’s attention and not overwhelm or distract from what you really want them to focus on, whether it’s a link, email address or text.

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

Registration is still open for our Learning Futures Festival Onlinewww.le.ac.uk/beyonddistance/festival

%d bloggers like this: