Cool webinars for Open Education Week 2014

This year Open Education Week falls 10 March through 14 March 2014.  What is Open Education Week, I hear someone ask? Open Education Week raises awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Open education encompasses notions of open educational resources or OER, open courses such as MOOCs, and other open practices.

Because the Institute of Learning Innovation is working on the EU-facilitated eMundus project, we are doing a special themed webinar on Friday, 14 March, at 11am until 12noon GMT. Our webinar is one of a series showcasing aspects of the eMundus project, which is (among other things) mapping out institutional partnerships in open education, such as universities which accept MOOC credits for transferring in, and the OER University. Our Friday webinar will look at the pedagogies of MOOCs. Check out  the poster below for more cool webinars you can join in during Open Education Week. With special thanks to Athabasca University for facilitating our whole series of webinars!

OER benefits for enrolled students

The open education movement has often focused on explaining the benefits of open educational resources (OER) and other open education initiatives to people beyond the reach of formal education — those who cannot afford it, who live too far away from schools, who cannot access formal education for any number of reasons. But in addition, current students benefit from the use of OER. This article by CK-12 Foundation gives good examples of how American schools are making OER work for students, largely through saving money on textbooks.

The Manufacturing  Pasts project (video above) was funded by JISC to digitise and mash up into learning materials artefacts from Leicester’s industrial past.  I had the privilege of working on the project. Now, a year on since the project ended, I can see that the work we did is benefiting current students in ways we did not expect. For example, I was just helping to teach a digital media session in University of Leicester Museum Studies department. The students are putting together museum displays with sound and video installations augmenting the photos and physical items. When we directed them to and the Manufacturing Pasts collection, and told them these were all CC-licensed, there was an audible sigh of relief that they did not have to hunt for copyright permissions as they must for other items.

Another way OER and open practice benefits currently-enrolled students is in the way some universities are launching MOOCs designed to help their own students. University of Northampton, for example,  has launched and is continuing develop a MOOC teaching academic skills (referencing, how to handle feedback, writing) — with a version for undergrads and a version for postgrads. These MOOCs require only about 2 hours weekly and are offered to students who have been accepted to the university, as well as any student already having begun to study. Academics who were already teaching these things to smaller groups of students have put together the online materials. It’s a bit early to conclude yet how well these MOOCs will help the student. I will check back with Northampton in a few weeks as I continue to gather stories of how open educational practices can and are helping students currently enrolled at the participating institutions. Please comment if you have such a story.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist & SCORE Research Fellow, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

A Pedagogical Look at MOOCs

As a part of Open Education Week 2014, Professor Gráinne Conole and I plan to hold a webinar (details to be announced shortly; watch this space) on the topic of A Pedagogical Look at MOOCs. This webinar is not simply a University of Leicester production; it will be part of the EU-funded eMundus project, one task of which is to map out patterns of open educational partnerships between institutions around the world. An example of such a partnership would be the OER University, or a university accepting some form of credit for successful completion of a MOOC.

Our webinar will take a pedagogical look at MOOCs in the following way: first we choose 5 MOOCs, each corresponding to a primary learning approach taken in the MOOC. Then we map each MOOC against 12 dimensions identified originally by Grainne in her blog post “A New Classification for MOOCs” (and with thanks to Stephen Downes for identifying the last two dimensions (Downes, 2010)). Below is my initial attempt, having chosen only 2 MOOCs so far: the Open University Learning Design MOOC (OLDS), which I identify as constructivitst, and the original George Siemens Connectivist MOOC. Many thanks to Paul Rudman for his input on this mapping exercise as well.

One obvious question is: how does one pedagogically categorise a MOOC? Another big question: how are we defining these dimensions and what would constitute Low, Medium, or High for each one. I am interested in your views on these and other questions — please comment! I include the webinar abstract at the end of this post.


Webinar Abstract: As the number and variety of free online courses and MOOCs increases, it becomes more important to be aware of their differing pedagogical approaches. After initial attempts to categorise MOOCs as cMOOCs and xMOOCs (roughly, C for connectivist and X for EdX –style), it began to be clear that more nuanced categorisation was needed, and especially when considering the course’s primary learning approaches. Taking Conole’s 12-dimensional MOOC classification (Conole, 2013) and choosing 5 learning approaches often used in elearning (Mayes & De Freitas, 2004) (Bird & Conole, 2013), we categorise 5 MOOCs as an exploratory exercise for this webinar. Does this exercise display clues to the direction of MOOCs and free online courses in general? Are there any warning signals which we as educators should note? In the context of the eMundus project, does this classification help quality officers make decisions in open educational practice, for example about accepting credit for a completed MOOC?

Bird, T., & Conole, G. (2013). From E-Learning to M-Learning. In From E-Learning to M-Learning. Singapore. Retrieved from

Conole, G. (2013). A new classification for MOOCs. e4innovation Blog. Retrieved January 25, 2014, from

Downes, S. (2010). Fairness and equity in education. Huff Post Education.

Mayes, T., & DeFreitas, S. (2004). JISC e-Learning Models Desk Study Stage 2 : Review of e-learning theories , frameworks and models.

 Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester

New global open education trends: policy, learning design, mobile

Snapshot of New global open education trends webinar

Snapshot of New global open education trends webinar

Happy Open Education Week 2013!

At the Institute of Learning Innovation, we celebrated Open Education Week with a webinar. Four speakers shared their recent work on open education topics including several projects we have been part of.

Professor Grainne Conole started us off with ‘Open practices and the implications for education’ – beginning with open education’s place on the timeline of E-learning, continuing with her work on OPAL and POERUP, and rounding off with openness in learning design as examined in the SPEED and METIS projects.

Dr Ming Nie then took us on a whirlwind tour of open practice, looking at OER policy as practiced around the world. OER: The Policy Context was based on the POERUP project.

Next Terese Bird presented Mobile devices and open education: match made in heaven or shotgun wedding? The idea here is that open education, like education in general, is moving toward mobile devices. But corporate interests exert ever-heavier influence and may lead to more expensive and less open solutions.

Finally, Bernard Nkuyubwatsi presented A View from a Developing Country, describing how he learnt English by radio programmes created by the BBC. These lessons taught English with the help of Elvis Presley songs. The power of radio in education should not be underestimated especially in the developing world.

Gabi Witthaus expertly guided the discussion and chaired the webinar, and we were joined by participants from all over the world. And as usual, it was a lot of fun! If you missed the webinar or would like to review it, you can access the recording here.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, Institute of Learning Innovation University of Leicester

New global open educational trends – policy, learning design, and mobile


Beyond Distance PhD students and colleagues from around the world

To celebrate Open Education Week (begins 11 March 2013), Beyond Distance colleagues will be doing an online webinar to which you are cordially invited! We hope to have discussion, debate, and controversy! So please save the date and time —- more information and a link to connect will be blogged closer to the time.

Webinar title: ‘New global open educational trends: policy, learning design, and mobile’

Date and time: 11 March (Monday) at 12:30 -14:00 GMT

Presenters: Professor Grainne Conole, Gabi Withaus, Dr. Ming Nie, Terese Bird, Bernard Nkuyubwatsi

The webinar will be in format of a roundtable discussion. Informed by our work on various open educational projects of international scope (POERUPSPEED, TOUCANS, SPIDER, and iTunesUReach, among others) our team will share their perspectives and invite discussion on intercontinental policies for OER uptake, developments in the use of open resources and open practice in learning design, and issues around open practice in mobile learning, with a special focus on the view from the developing world.

Hope to virtually see you there!

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow

OERs by Video

I am preparing for a project in which I will need to make video open educational resources (OERs). I will be creating split-screen video clips of lectures showing the presenter on one side, and whatever she is demonstrating on the computer on the other side. I am trying to imitate some Open Yale lectures I have seen here. I’m pretty sure Open Yale is using some sort of hardware and software lecture-capture solution which I don’t have. My solution will be low-cost: I will film the presenter, and capture whatever she is presenting via some screencast software such as Quicktime Pro or Camtasia, and use the split-screen wizardry of Final Cut Express to create the final product. If you want to learn more about how that is done, see my blog post from last week.

The next wrinkle in the video OER saga is that some of the footage will contain unsavoury language, and some may contain images of vulnerable adults and minors. Therefore, I need to bleep out words and blur out faces. I found a great tutorial for the face-blurring here, and I embed below a very helpful tutorial on bleeping out unwanted words.

Final Cut Pro Tutorial: How To Bleep Out Words So Your Mama Doesn’t Hear It from Andy Coon on Vimeo.

These are new issues for me in the realm of creating OERs. These learning materials will be created for a very specific medical-related audience (I will reveal more when I have something to show), but because they will be open-access, they should reach unknown audiences and unforeseen uses. That’s the beauty of OER!

Terese Bird, CMALT

Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester

My so-called digital life: making split-screen video OER

It has been a while since I have written a blog post. I got busy; I got out of the habit. And yet I know how useful it is to write a blog post on what I’ve been learning lately, what I’ve been musing on, problems I’ve been trying to solve, conferences or events I have attended and learnt from. And so I am back, trying to get back into a good habit of digitally reflecting, as part of my so-called digital life. On Tuesday, I will be describing the benefits of blogging to a group of PhD students here at University of Leicester. And so, it’s time to start practicing what I preach.

Since I last wrote a blog post, I helped carry off Follow the Sun 2012, our very successful third online-only conference on the future of learning. I also earned my CMALT. Thank you, Association for Learning Technology! These are good to note. But what else have I been doing? Mainly, I have been building open educational resources (OER). I have done some for the history-focussed Manufacturing Pasts project. I will link to these and share them out when the website is ready, which should be in the next few weeks.

Intro to Final Cut Express by Techcast Focus

I have also been learning to use Final Cut Express, because I have to build OER out of a film of a presenter, combined with a film of what she is demonstrating on the computer. The best way I can think of do this, with the resources available to me, is to make a split-screen video comprised of the two films.  I am pretty good with iMovie, and decent with MovieMaker, but have never touched Final Cut Express. And so I went to YouTube for tutorials. I link above the first of a series of 5 very useful tutorials posted by Techcast Focus — I highly recommend these if you are just getting started in Final Cut Express.  I learnt how to do the split-screen process from this tutorial by oneironaut420. I plan to make the video of whatever is being demonstrated on the computer by a simple screencast — probably using Quicktime Pro if it can be done on a Mac, or on Camstudio or Debut if it must be Windows.

One main reason I decided to blog about this is that if I don’t, I will forget this technique. Blogging is my open research notebook.

Please comment on what you blog about, how you keep yourself going with blogging — or your own cool tips for building video OER!

Terese Bird, CMALT

Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester

New Project: Manufacturing Pasts

Manufacturing Pasts is a new JISC-funded project with the aim of creating open educational resources (OER) from artefacts of twentieth century British industrial history. Wow! This is a new sort of endeavour for Beyond Distance on a number of fronts. First, no animal acronym! Second, we are the junior partner, supporting our University of Leicester Library, the Centre for Urban History, and the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester, and Rutland as they head up the project. And third, while creating OER is not new to me, this is the first time I am considering issues of creating OER from material originating in the private sector.

Ghost sign for Fashion Hire on Belgrave Gate, Leicester, by Dennis Duggan
This project is particularly exciting for me because I will get to help decide on and configure the distribution channel of these materials from the ground up. D-Space? JorumOpen? Merlot, perhaps? Humbox! All of the above! Maybe even iTunes U!
Some of the resources to be turned into OER are already available on the My Leicestershire History website which has lots of interesting materials but which are not all licensed to allow for reuse. So that’s the job of this new project. Also, these materials will be incorporated into modules here at University of Leicester, and the educational value of the OER evaluated, so there should be some very interesting outputs from the project. (The photograph above is taken from the My Leicestershire History collection).
Finally, the whole project team, myself included, will be blogging about this as go along on the Manufacturing Pasts blog. We’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #manufacturingpasts. Follow us as we trace and share the industrial past of Leicestershire with Manufacturing Pasts!
Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Fellow

Steve Jobs: Star of Informal Learning

The sad news today of the passing of Steve Jobs brings a deserved flurry of tributes and perspectives on his work. This morning, close to one-fifth of all Twitter comments had to do with Steve Jobs. American president Obama described Jobs as being “among the greatest of American innovators.” Besides the immense consumer appeal of the  iPad, iPod, and iPhone, there is the multi-faceted impact of Mac computers, and Jobs’ reinvention of film animation at Pixar. I would like to relate a personal story of how Jobs’ innovation both affected an industry and reveals the power of informal learning.

Steve Jobs in an early Stanford computer lab of Macs. Courtesy of The Seb on Flickr

When I studied computer programming in the 1980s, I worked on an IBM 360/370 with terminals. After graduation, I took a job with a printing company in Chicago and tried my hand at typesetting. My father was a printer; he used to set type the ancient way, with little pieces of metal held together in a mold. At my company, we used a new-fangled method called phototypesetting, a combination of computer tech and photography. I typed commands (which were strangely similar to html) at a terminal, pressed a few buttons, and out came the imprinted photographic paper dripping with fixing fluid, ready to be hung up to dry.

My husband was also from a family of printers. Once on a visit to their company, my mother-in-law showed me this little computer called a Macintosh. She demonstrated how she could set type in a wysiwyg environment, using both a keyboard and a mouse (which I could not get my head around). When I saw how simply I could select fonts and sizes and see the piece laid out on the screen, I had a feeling that everything was about to change. Indeed, the desktop publishing revolution was right around the corner, and everything did change.

The Mac was the first computer to pay any attention to typefaces. If you watch Jobs unveil the Mac in 1984 (worth a watch for many reasons), you can see how important he felt it was to get typefaces right. Jobs learned about typefaces in a college calligraphy class, which he attended after he dropped out of college. Without a degree yet with academic instinct, Jobs applied what he learnt and made it integral to the Macintosh. He famously insisted on quality design and beauty at every hidden level of all of Apple’s innovations.

First Macintosh showing off typefaces - from the demo video on YouTube

My current SCORE project about iTunes U as a channel of free learning resources ( has let me appreciate this public platform given to universities and educational institutions. It’s not all philanthropy; of course iTunes U shows off how nice multimedia looks on the various i-gadgets. And yet, my research into how iTunes U materials are used by ordinary folks has revealed their importance as informal learning resources. It’s almost as if Steve Jobs brought his academic experience full-circle, allowing lots of people to ‘audit classes’ even if they are dropouts or never accessed higher education.

Thanks, Steve, for a lifetime of innovation and inspiration.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Fellow

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

%d bloggers like this: