OER Programme Meeting, 19 January 2011

Yesterday 19 January was the Programme Meeting for the OER Phase 2 projects in Birmingham. At Beyond Distance, we are participating in TIGER (new release project) and OSTRICH (cascade project).

We started with a few generic sessions relevant to all strands, including those led by:

  • Terry McAndrew (TechDis) on accessibility, and
  • David White (Oxford) on how OERs are being used – an interesting diagram available from his project blog, not too different from a 2×2 matrix currently being developed by OSTRICH.

Vic Jenkins (University of Bath, OSTRICH project partner) and I then joined the cascade strand discussions, where topics included working with partners, institutional embedding of OER in learning and teaching strategies and shared repositories. Highlights from these discussions included:

  • ‘Evaluation’. At BDRA, over the years, we have taken the view that in order to generate robust evidence that academics and others in the Higher Education sector can relate to, you need research. ‘Evaluation’ is useful and sometimes appropriate, but to foster meaningful and evidence-based change, you need more than that. The collection, analysis and presentation of research evidence (beyond sets of interesting quotations) may help to provide answers to the many questions we discussed (e.g. practice change, development and release, organisational and cultural issues, impact). Some of the questions overlap with TIGER’s research questions. It is no coincidence that the TIGER project has a full-time researcher in the team – this is precisely to generate robust and reliable evidence.
  • Innovative platforms for OERs, which perform highly visible marketing and a T&L functions, such as iTunesU. 30 million downloads of the Open University’s iTunesU resources, 2.5 million of Coventry’s in 2010 alone. We discussed how some HE Marketing Departments do not seem to realise the power of these platforms and the OERs on them. Even a relatively small presence, consisting of some frankly tedious resources, are of significant value to many prospective students, at a marginal cost to the university.
  • Single project repositories for OERs, as opposed to institutional, branded repositories. Are we saving or wasting our time by having ‘sanitised’, project repositories? Will institutions use these repositories after the end of the projects or will they generate their own fully branded ones?

A lot of ideas to think about as our projects develop.

Alejandro Armellini
PI, OSTRICH Project
20 January 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

The Good

It’s been one of those weeks where I have initially despaired of being able to find the open source software that ticks all the boxes of what I am trying to do.  I’ve been looking for free, easy to use video editing software that allows you to overlay either an image or another video.  Naively I thought this would be easy to find.  Turns out there is a lot of great free photo editing software out there (GIMP anyone?), but video editing software is thin on the ground. Finally I found the answer in VideoSpin, which is free open source video editing software from Pinnacle.  Pinnacle are part of the Avid family and I’ve seen their programs used in professional video editing suites so felt that VideoSpin could be a little gem of a program.  It is incredibly good as it makes editing video a lot easier but also means that with the videos from LFF10 we can overlay new images to block out any that infringe copyright or, if necessary, block out entire frames of video. 

The Bad

While editing these videos has become an enjoyable challenge (thanks to the discovery of VideoSpin, and honestly I’m not working on commission), there is the matter that an hour’s worth of video means a large file size.  Not necessary a problem if you are planning on keeping these files to yourself but when trying to place these files in an OER repository it can become a not-so-enjoyable challenge and one that we are still working on.  While using a friendly file format (MP4) and a smaller screen size (320 x 288) helps reduce the amount of megabytes in the video files we are still looking at 40-60MB worth of footage. But the finished video files are well worth a watch and will help us extend the impact of LFF10 so file size and storage remain high on my (and the other learning technologists) to-do list.

The Ugly?

I was going to use this heading to make unnecessary jokes at the Zookeeper’s Skoda, but since I’ve driven this beast myself I do have a new found respect for it. So I have decided to pick up on a news item that has been around for a while: broadband connection speeds.  The BBC has a couple of current news stories about this:

With the amount of photos, audio and video that are uploaded, downloaded and shared on the Internet, the need or want for everything to be faster to keep up to date with all the new developments in browser-based technologies, e.g. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, could become a real problem.  The first news story highlights some innovative ways of getting broadband, but it looks like maintaining and improving these speeds and connecting the entire UK could be tricky.  Perhaps this is an ‘ugly’ future?

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

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