OTTERing knowledge round the world

BDRA’s OTTER (Open, Transferable and Technology-enabled Educational Resources) project enables the production and release of high-quality open educational resources (OERs) drawn from teaching materials delivered at the University of Leicester. You can already use OERs from 12 different subject areas. This very successful project is soon to end, though there’s some chance of similar research being funded at BDRA in the near future.

OTTER – funded by JISC and the Higher Education Academy – enables, pilots and evaluates systems and processes designed to enable individuals, teams and departments to release high-quality OERs for free access, reuse and repurposing by others under an appropriate open licence, in perpetuity.

International interest in self-funding OERs

There’s international interest in OERs. I’ve just come across Justin Johansen’s US study. Here’s the abstract (unfortunately I couldn’t access the whole document):

Since MIT launched the first OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative in 2002, responses from the academic community have ranged from exuberance to angst. Some institutions have been reluctant to adopt a program of open publishing because of concerns about long-term funding and possible adverse effects on paid enrollment. Money is an issue, forcing some organizations that initially created OCW programs to furlough them due to funding challenges. This study examined the cost of converting online distance learning courses to OCW, the impact of opening these courses on paid enrollments, and the long-term sustainability of OCW through the generation of new paid enrollments. As part of this study, At Brigham Young University the Independent Study Program (BYU IS) converted three university and three high school courses to OCW. BYU IS provided an option for OCW users to pay regular tuition and enroll in the online course for credit. The average ongoing cost to convert BYU IS courses to OCW was $284.12 per university course and $1,172.71 per high school course. The six opened courses generated 13,795 visits and 445 total paid enrollments in four months. The profit margin on the paid enrollments OCW generated was calculated to be 3.81%, sufficient for open publishing to be financially self-sustaining at BYU IS.

Can students create OERs?

OTTER is working with academics to produce OERs, but can learners successfully produce their own? Ari-Matti Auvinen’s paper, ‘The challenge of quality in peer-produced eLearning content’, describes some production principles and proposes validation through peer review. Learners are creators of the content, no longer purely consumers but they participating in learning therefore influencing it. Peer production can empower a wide variety of professionals to generate learning content but is the quality good enough? This article introduces QualityScape, a method developed by the European Quality Management in Peer Production (QMPP) project for assuring the quality of peer-produced eLearning content. QMPP found that quality is the result of the interplay between peer production of digital content and peer validation processes of digital content.

Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments

Meantime, I couldn’t resist having a look at a new journal I hadn’t spotted before: The International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments (IJVPLE)Like me, you may be interested in the review of what is claimed to be the first book in its field: Judith Molka-Danielson & Mats Deutschmann’s Learning and Teaching in the Virtual World of Second Life. Trondheim: Tapir Academic Press, 2009. It’s about a state- funded Scandinavian project on using Second Life in adult education.

David Hawkridge


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