My first OER – Computing Systems

Where I announce and reflect on preparing and releasing a set of course materials on Computing Systems as Open Educational Resources (OER)

A couple of years ago, at quite short notice, I was asked to redevelop an introductory level Computing Systems class for my University. Given a very narrow time frame, I turned to OER resources to try to find materials that I could use. There were some complete courses out there, but not any that met the remit for my course (which was going to be taught to a lot of non Computer Science students). In the end, I developed my own set of lecture and lab materials, but making heavy use of images and information from different open sources – including Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, plus a good number of original diagrams and photos that I prepared myself.

To share these publicly, I needed to remove a good number of UWS specific references (e.g. to our VLE, and to specific resources available at UWS) and perform some general tidying – but finally the material has been uploaded under a Creative Commons – Attribution – Share Alike license. There is a set of 12 lecture PowerPoints, plus a few lab exercises, such as a nice simple one on image file formats and compression.

I have created a home page for the material on this blog (here), and welcome comments.

As a brief reflection, these were some of the issues that caused a significant delay in releasing these materials:

  • Having to review and edit all lectures and labs to remove references specific to my teaching. This probably only took an hour or two, but still needed me to free up the time first.
  • Having to revisit the lectures to check for copyright on images. For most lectures this was not difficult, as I had prepared almost everything under Creative Commons from the start – but for one lecture (Micromen and Women) this had not been done as images of certain figures from the recent history of computing that were under Creative Commons licensing or public domain were surprisingly hard to find. For Chris Curry this proved to be incredibly difficult… until I found some recent pictures from a recent event on Flickr at which he had spoken on a panel. I found an image that I could use, cropped it and added it to the lecture. Then I added the image to his Wikipedia page for good measure. Finding a picture of Alan Turing that was unencumbered by copyright was also quite challenging. Finding these two images alone took up a whole evening (and was not the first time I’d tried).
  • Logging in to Jorum. Not their fault, but something went wrong with my institutional login – I had to get a personal depositor account (I actually had one previously, just needed to get the password reset) to allow uploading of material.
  • Virus checking of uploaded files. The very first file I tried to upload got blocked by the Jorum virus checker. Not sure what caused it, but it was a large file with a lot of embedded images. This was likely a blessing in disguise, as I took an alternative route of uploading everything into a Google Drive folder, then simply submitted the link to that folder to Jorum. Less uploading effort required, and this actually allows me to enhance/update the materials without having to visit the Jorum site or re-upload documents.

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