Tag Archives: OER

ALT-C Review Part 1: Open Country

Open and OER were very big topics this year – coming up across multiple sessions. From what I saw primarily stories around how course teams produced OER and/or shared OER – not so much on how OER was brought into individidual courses or brought into institutional practice.
The Open Country session with Amber Thomas, David White, Helen Beetham and David Kernohan brought together many of the themes and ideas being discussed around OER – while stretching the ‘Open Country’ theme almost to breaking point – the first ALT-C cosplay? Perhaps not the last…

ALTC 2011 Hoedown

Discussion generally focussed on OER as content – though Diana Laurillard’s question effectively reminded us that OER also includes instructional designs, teaching plans, and so on – she placed more emphasis on how content is used to provide ‘education’. I guess her motivation in asking this question is essentially that which has driven work in systems like LAMS which aim to make it easier to plan, manage and share sets of learning activities for specific lessons.
But I think to dismiss content-focussed as effectively libraries rather than schools denies how useful libraries can be in helping develop educational programs. The libraries of images on Wikimedia Commons, videos on YouTube, detail on Wikipedia, etc. have helped me develop numerous sets of lectures and notes over the past while.

On passing the JORUM stand, I added another star to the feature request chart to the many already placed on ‘discoverability’. It seemed to be the clear winner by Tuesday lunch time – obviously I’m not the only tutor who has found searching for useful resources on JORUM to be a frustrating (I would say hostile) experience. And when I search JORUM I only get access to the relatively small amount of content on that particular repository – why isn’t this stuff indexed on the OERCommons? Because we want to force people to waste time wandering from repository to repository?

Building on this, my own (unasked – perhaps for next year) question is whether we could/should be thinking more about how learners, rather than educators, might find useful resources. We aren’t always doing a good job helping the latter group, perhaps if we focus on how the learners themselves would find the resources we might do a better job. If I post my content on a blog or other dedicated site, is that better or worse for promoting reuse? Basically, can we just throw stuff online and trust in Google to let people find it?

This might not sound effective, my own experience shows otherwise. During the last academic session I posted some of my own notes on 3D graphics programming to a dedicated blog I created for the purpose on wordpress.com. These are fairly fragmentary as much of the course is based on textbooks and materials that are in copyright. One set of notes to help students install the software libraries required was also posted to scribd, with a link included to download some related files. Less than a year later, there have been almost 7000 views of the Scribd document and well over 1000 downloads of the files. I don’t think my 50 students could have been responsible for too many of these downloads.

Are students finding these notes using Google? Are instructors pointing the students to the notes? Does it matter? If I had posted the material on JORUM Would I have achieved the same impact (I doubt it!)? If I had posted this material on JORUM as well as the blog would that have increased the impact?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I have my suspicions. None of this is to argue that we shouldn’t have repositories like JORUM are useless, but I it poses fundamental questions over how they should work.

To post stuff online we need somewhere to post it. Online cloud services are not always suitable – file size limits, registration requirements, subscription fees, etc. can pose problems that OER repositories can and do solve. But experience shows that the meta-data capture on systems like JORUM is either not up to job of supporting discoverability or that people are simply incapable of entering useful meta-data. Maybe we should forget that, and just expose the contents to the search engines, because I have little faith that we can do better than Google.

Open Education: My Year

Over the past couple of years I have become increasingly interested in Open Education Resources (OER). Though I have to admit that I often find the task of finding OER resources for use in my own classes more challenging than it should be – having to plough through pages of results from an Jorum search, for example, looking for resources that actually match what I need for my class.

As far as releasing my own resources, over the past few years I’ve increasingly been posting Creative Commons licensed images and documents to Flickr, Scribd and Slideshare – though these are often related more to my research & development work than my teaching. This year I finally took some steps towards sharing my teaching resources with the wider public.

My 3D graphics classes rely heavily on copyright material from books written by others – which makes it a challenge to share what I’ve been doing. This last year, however, I started a blog  on 3d game development where I could post some of my own additional lab and lecture materials. The very first post on Getting Started with GLTools details how to install the required software. I included notes on getting the libraries to work with the latest version of Visual Studio in an embedded Scribd document – which has now been viewed over 6,000 times, while the linked zip files have been downloaded over 1,000 times. I had around 50 students in my graphics classes, so I’ve been able to reach 20 to 100 times as many people as I actually taught – simply by placing some of my materials online. I didn’t post the notes to a repository, in the vague hope that another tutor might find the materials and think them useful. Instead, I simply posted the materials online in the form most convenient to me and let other students, tutors, professionals, or whoever, find them however they might.

In the second semester I took over a first year Computing Systems class – this was a bit of a challenge as it required a substantial rewrite as the class had to be applicable to a much wider audience than previously. I wanted to provide much greater context and to make the material much more approachable and up to date. I looked to Jorum and existing text-books, but generally the available materials were aimed squarely at Computer Science and Engineering students – too much depth, not enough context – and it would have been a major task to revise the material to suit. Instead I opted to pick a very general book that had broad coverage of material and provide additional depth myself through tutorials, lab exercises and additional notes. This would still have been impossible without Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, which respectively provided a great deal of information for use in lectures and images for the presentations. I could also refer students to Wikipedia for further reading, rather than trying to fit everything into the lectures. The PowerPoints I created are currently available online here, while Screencasts are available here. To be honest, I think there is a mass of room for improvement, but I was working to a very tight deadline – and I’m happy how well these materials and other changes to the class (including online formative and summative tests and SMS polling in class) were received by the students. In the module review feedback at the end of semester I received probably the highest praise and most positive response from any class I’ve taught… ever.

I may not have deposited any OER into any recognised repository, and I may have only made minimal use of the same, but in using open resources and in sharing what I’ve produced openly online, I made my life easier, improved the classes for my own students, and reached out to an audience well beyond my university campus. Not a bad result, all told.

My OER 2011

I’ve not written much about Open Education Resources recently, but I have produced some over the last year.

While I was teaching 3D graphics, I produced a blog to collect some of my notes and materials – this might be of interest to C++ / OpenGL programmers out there: http://3dgamedev.wordpress.com/ (My notes on getting the OpenGL Superbible GLTools library to work with Visual Studio 2010 seem to be something of a hit, and some of the files I made available are regularly downloaded – so its of use to some people out there, which is nice).

I also took over a first year class in Computing Systems that needed substantial reworking. This had to meet a broad audience – with some of the students on programming focussed courses and others on more business oriented courses, I did not think that a traditional Computer Systems course was going to work. I needed something broader, but that allowed students to study individual topics in much greater depth according to their interests. So this was a complete re-write from ground up. With limited time, I turned to Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons for help, alongside textbooks and other OER online courses. The resultant Computing Systems lectures are available on Screencast, and you can download the lecture slides (for now at least) from box.net.

I should package these up, and upload to some repository… perhaps when I have the time…

Open Access Again

Peter Miller reminds us that it’s Open Access week again, and shares instructions in a nice and brief tutorial that will get you set up with OpenSim on a USB stick and loading and saving sim archive OAR files. Very handy. Peter also points out usefully that OAR has some limitations – notably that it does not preserve (for now at least) information on who actually created the objects in the archive. I guess that that is one area where OAR (and OpenSim itself) could be improved – with the ability for objects & entire sims to preserve real IDs for creators, and attached licenses.

My own contributions for Open Access this year are little to do with virtual worlds – but over on 3dgamedev.wordpress.com I’ve been posting tutorials, labs and comments on 3D game development with OpenGL.

Browsing OpenJorum

Browsing OpenJorum… and its not a fun experience. A shame as OpenJorum is a fantastic resource and needs to be supported by the UK education sector – not just the funders but the tutors and students who stand to benefit by using the resources that exist on OpenJorum. The HEA-ICS recently published a number of complete courses on OpenJorum, so there are some fantastic resources there – I think. I’m sure I’ll find them eventually – though the search features seem a bit underpowered and the browsing experience is simply awful. Worth comparing with the advanced search features on OER Commons to see how it could be done…

Start browsing OpenJorum, and it isn’t long before the problem becomes apparent… browsing for content relating to computer science in HE, the following is an excerpt from the first page of results (click here to see how it looks on OpenJorum itself with formatting intact):

Tom Boyle (2010-01-13)
Staffordshire University (2010-03-02)
UKOER; Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science; Rong Yang (2010-02-02)
UKOER; Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science; Rong Yang (2010-02-01)
UKOER; Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science; Rong Yang (2010-02-01)
UKOER; Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science; Rong Yang (2010-02-01)
UKOER; Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science; Rong Yang (2010-02-01)
UKOER; Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science; Rong Yang (2010-01-21)
UKOER; Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science; Rong Yang (2010-01-21)
UKOER; Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science; Rong Yang (2010-01-21)
UKOER; Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science; Rong Yang (2010-01-21)

This set of results seems pretty typical – a page can have anywhere from 3 to 9 identically titled resources with no information to explain what the difference between them is – without clicking through each one individually. Compare with browsing on OER Commons. As soon as I start browsing, a rich set of options on the left allows me to specify more exactly the type of resource I’m looking for, and an ‘expand all’ button at the top of the results allows me to see a summary of each resource without having to click through each one individually.

If it takes too long to find useful resources in a repository, I won’t use that repository much. Luckily OER Commons is an index to materials on other respositories – with any luck they’ll provide the interface that OpenJorum needs.

Opening up access in virtual worlds

Here’s one I did earlier…
Back in October I gave a talk on OER in games and virtual worlds at SJSU.

This talk was recorded at the time and the video has been online for an age – so about time I gave a link to it. It’s available through the SJSU SLIS homepage, but also on blip.tv here.

Many thanks to Dale David for recording the talk – and for a little post-production editing to cover up some of my slips!

OER in Games, Sims and Virtual Worlds

My talk earlier this week at SJSU SLIS on ‘Opening up education in games, simulations and virtual worlds’ went pretty well, with some good questions and response from the audience on campus and in Second Life. A video of the talk is being prepared by the tech support folks, but in the meantime I’ve posted my slides to SlideShare (under CC-Attribution-ShareAlike).

To summarise some of the key points:

  • Generally speaking computer games are too expensive to produce for most OER purposes
  • Even where games include source code and art assets, and allow remixing, the level of expertise required means that 3rd party remixing of OER games is unlikely
  • User-generated content in *some* virtual worlds (Second Life is the key example) can be produced much more cheaply than creating novel games or simulations
  • There are current challenges in effectively sharing OER content in virtual worlds
  • ‘Open’ can refer to content that is free to use/visit, content that might be free to copy, content that might be free to give-away and content that might be free to remix/repurpose. Check the terms and conditions!
  • Being able to backup content out of virtual worlds more readily will allow virtual world OER content to be stored in repositories outside of the virtual world, and help guarantee availability over longer periods of time
  • Linden Lab have recently announced policies relating to copying items out of Second Life, and more action is expected soon. Using some copying technologies may result in banning?

My day at ALT-C 2009

What I did at ALT-C 2009…

Short version: I hung around for a bit, chatted to some people, then went to the pub.

Long version – featuring open education resources, debating the value of VLEs, Michael Wesch’s keynote and more…

Despite leaving home incredibly early, I managed to miss the opening of Michael Wesch’s keynote (due to some faffing about at Machester Airport). Wesch’s talk necessarily covered many points that featured in his well known videos, but with more depth and context – and had some fun stuff, such as tracing the evolution of ‘whatever’. From discussion after and reading online comments, reception was mixed – this being (apparently) largely the same keynote he’s delivered elsewhere, and some differing reactions to the talk itself. For me the issue was principally that if you’ve seen Michael’s videos already, and if you’ve read a few articles or posts from him online, the keynote didn’t contain enough surprises. There was a lot of humour there, and enthusiastic presentation. Good but not life changing.

Content wise, Michael mentioned that his group is studying how people ‘flock’ on the internet – they’ve adopted this term in place of ‘group’ as they feel it better reflects how people may come together, travel some way together, and split off at any time. I think it does capture the very informal nature of a lot of web-based groups with loose membership that changes over time – but I don’t think it helps us think about how people may be members of multiple (possibly overlapping, possibly not) groups at any one time. Conceptually, I understand multiple group membership better than multiple flock membership – which brings to my mind images of deadly avian pile-ups. Can anyone suggest a better term? If not, lets just call them groups, and not complicate matters.

I was going to see Richard Noss’ talk on the grand challenges for technology-enhanced learning next – but decided to check in at the halls where I was staying. This turned out to be a waste of time, as check in didn’t open till 2pm… back to the conference, where I caught up with a few folks and chatted networked.

Next session I went to was ‘Technology Enhanced Feed-Forward‘ – this presented results of a study of student reactions to audio (podcast) and video feedback. Quick take home message was that in the trial *many* students disliked getting feedback via mp3, and it was identified that tutors giving feedback via podcast have to be much more careful how they give their feedback. The feedback has to be much more constructive and very supportive in tone otherwise it can be a very negative – harrowing even – experience for the students. There was also some good discussion after.

More chatting networking over lunch.

The VLE is Dead was a deliberately provocative symposium session with a range of speakers defending or attacking the use of VLEs. This was a packed out session, with Josie Taylor valiantly managing to keep control in the face of heated debate with some audience members chipping in their comments out of order (ahem). What started as a debate about institional VLEs vs Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) developed into much wider debate about the role of universities and open vs. closed models of learning. The session was recorded, and you can see the video on James Clay’s blog here – The VLE is Dead: The Movie. Worth watching the opening statements at least – some very astute and  some funny metaphors and allusions thrown in for good measure.

The feeling I got from this overall, and speaking to some of the panellists later, is that students use diverse and individual ranges of technology regardless – so they already have their PLE, with the institutional VLE being but one part of that. Like many others I believe that the VLE brings benefits of providing a known and common ‘base’ for students’ online learning. One which members of staff can easily make the launch pad for a whole load of external Web 2.0 activities if they so wish – and that many faculty already do this. What didn’t make it into the debate, but is a worthy note, is how VLEs are adapting to the social web. Moodle 2.0, for example, is introducing a repositories API for interacting with the external web – where a repository can be Flickr, a blog or somesuch, not just some ‘formal’ or closed institutional repository.

There was a gap on my schedule after that – I hadn’t spotted the ‘Virtual Midwifery’ session. Instead I wandered down for coffee. Where my new laptop bag was spotted and greatly admired. Is it particularly shameless at this point to link to my wife’s Folksy store? Oh well, done it now. She sometimes takes commisions, btw.

Next up I was meaning to catch the HEA presentation – but ended up chatting networking some more instead. I was also hoping to catch up with someone at the TLRP stall, having missed Richard Noss’ invited talk earlier. But when I wandered down there was no one about. From the JISC intute stall I learned that subject specific versions of their online tutorial on evaluating web sources/resources exist. We’ve used their more generic ‘Internet Detective’ web-quest several times in induction sessions for new students before, the ICT-specific web-research tutorial might be even better.

During the final session I managed to make it to 1 1/2 sessions relating to Open Education Resources. First up, the Talis Open Education Incubator – Chris Clark outlined the program whereby Talis will be proving seed funding to a number of (mainly small) OER projects. Its a very moderate amount of funding overall, but hopefully enough to help get some good work off the ground. Then I dashed upstairs for the OER Matters session. Having missed the start, I didn’t realise till afterward that the panellists were each playing a character with a different take on OER. Opinion was divided as to whether this device helped make the views on OER clearer or whether this just made things a little confusing.

Still, as Im hoping to start publishing some of my own materials as OER soon, I took this opportunity to continue the chat about OER over dinner – sat between the OU’s Chris Pegler and Thursday keynoter Terry Anderson. When they weren’t both admiring the afore mentioned laptop bag, we did chat about OERs and some of the barriers to publishing. Chris commented that personal insecurity about the quality of notes was perhaps one of the biggest barriers to OER publication – that tutors are unwilling to publish notes before they are perfect prevents them from ever appearing. I have to agree that if I prepare materials for my own students it does not matter too much if there are mistakes – I am there with the students to discuss and work round any issues.

One solution is to publish materials within a conversational framework – knowing that the notes are not perfect but inviting comment and corrections – Tony Hirst has already provided an example of this, with his Digital Worlds game development ‘uncourse’. I’ll hopefully be able to get my finger out soon and get started on my own…

Finally, the pub with F-Alt and more chatting networking.

Universities: Death not impending after all

Over at Edge, Don Tapscott appears to have a flawed and somewhat limited understanding of teaching and learning at universities as he predicts their imminent demise (though not without some truths in there). For all that he derides lectures, he might be surprised of the extent to which students sometime prefer to attend lectures. [Another similar story].

Actually, I’d happily drop most of my lectures for more discursive forms of interaction – though I can only do this if students adequately prepare and take steps to learn enough of the subject so we can actually have a discussion. Some of my trials with this have not been totally successful, others have worked a little better. Without any hard statistics to back this up I’d say the success of such an approach depends a lot on many contextual factors: the students, the institution, the delivery mode (online vs campus), the tutor (maybe I’m just not that good at this?) and perhaps most significant of all the course itself (to what extent does the core content of the course suit such a learning mode, and do students need to gain some degree of technical knowledge before discussion becomes possible?).

Anyway, there are two replies to Don’s piece on the Edge website, both making quite strong cases to illustrate that Don is somewhat out of touch. One of these is by Marc Hauser – whose weighty volume on the Evolution of Communication I referred to a lot back when I was doing my PhD. In his reply, Marc says:

Tapscott’s article thus underestimates the ingenuity of good teaching, that from my perspective, continues to thrive in many universities, and is not based on the premise of a blank slate student, waiting for professorial scribbling. Although I realize that many universities are turning to online classes, with virtually no personal engagement with the students, I find this trend sad. There is nothing more riveting than the dynamics of a class, when it is buzzing with discussion, to and from student to professor.

Indeed, in Don’s piece he seems strangely ignorant of the extent to which many universities world over are trying to adapt to new technologies to supplement and enhance teaching and learning. It’s not as if there is a shortage of material out there. If Don is serious about understanding how the internet may be changing education – and how some universities and leading academics are actively trying to extend the reach of their material out to users who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend university then I would recommend the MIT Press book Opening Up Education – and he doesn’t even need to pay for it, as the book itself has been published online for free: