OpenLearn accepts Innovation award

As reported last month, OpenLearn was selected for a 2010 Innovation Award from the University Design Consortium at Arizona State University. Though unable to make the actual ceremony which took place yesterday, Open University Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean kindly recorded a video acceptance, embedded below. Thanks once again to the UDC!

Add comment March 9th, 2010 Posted by: lukebeaman

OpenLearn selected for Innovation Award

OpenLearn has been selected as one of four winners of a 2010 Innovation Award from the University Design Consortium (UDC) at Arizona State University, USA. The awards presentation will take place at the American Council on Education’s 92nd annual meeting in Arizona on 8 March.

The UDC was founded by Arizona State University and Sichuan University (China), challenging public universities around the world to develop innovative strategies to address the complex issues of the 21st century. Designed as both a think tank and a “do” tank, the consortium engages academic leaders and policy makers to share ideas, generate solutions, and take action to make a difference in society.

OpenLearn was selected “due to its promotion of equal education opportunity and development of web-based communities in the field of education content”. The UDC will also publish details of the OpenLearn initiative in their online Innovation Clearinghouse of Good Practices after the awards presentation.

4 comments February 3rd, 2010 Posted by: lukebeaman

OpenLearn celebrates 10 million visits

You may have seen the official story already on the OU Media Relations site (I was busy with the OL event yesterday) announcing we’ve had 10 million visits to OpenLearn since launch in October 2006.

OpenLearn started out with 900 hours of learning material, rising to 5,400 by the end of the pilot and still growing – there are over 500 study units now available, covering 40% of the OU course offering. In the first month we saw 70,000 visitors and regularly saw over 400,000 visitors a month during 2009, totalling 8 million unique users to date.

The OU was the first UK University to make materials available at this scale, thanks to funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. We’re also now a national support centre for OER (see earlier SCORE story) and OpenLearn is expanding in the coming months to be an online media hub, with a more community-focussed front-end featuring lots more interactive content.

Thanks to all who have supported us so far and continue to do so in future!

2 comments January 20th, 2010 Posted by: lukebeaman

OpenLearn Milestones Event

Yesterday was the OpenLearn event, “OpenLearn 3 Years On: Milestones & Future Outlook” (details on Cloudworks, presentations coming soon) which seemed to go very well indeed. You can catch the replay over at Stadium. The OpenLearn Twitter hash tag for the event was #ou_ol.

There were a couple of sessions beforehand, detailing the LearningSpace and providing a look at the new developments coming soon to the site. These were very popular and will be running again in the near future to meet the demand.

On the lecture theatre foyer were displays from:

OpenLearn
Creative Climate
Interactive Screen Experiments (ISE)
iSpot
iTunes
OLnet
YouTube

A huge thank you to everyone who supported and/or attended, here’s to the next 3 years!

1 comment January 20th, 2010 Posted by: lukebeaman

TESSA wins Queen’s Anniversary Prize

The Open University (OU) has won a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) programme. The OU is one of 20 winners announced today at St James’s Palace in London (OU Press Release).

TESSA creates open content multimedia resources and course design guidance for teachers and teacher educators in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is Africa’s largest research and development community for teacher education and 200,000 teachers will use TESSA materials this year, increasing to 300,000 in 2010. There’s a YouTube video of some of the work the OU is doing in Africa.

Freda Wolfenden, director of TESSA, said:
“New communication technologies have enormous potential to address some of the educational challenges in Africa and TESSA is one of the pioneer projects”.

Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of the OU, said:
“We are celebrating our 40th anniversary as an academic community dedicated to increasing access to higher education of the highest quality. This innovative and collaborative programme with its basis in research on new methods of delivery typifies our work and represents our unique mission. We lead the world in delivery of flexible learning. I am proud of the people who conceived and deliver the programme and of the benefits it offers to generations of students in Africa”.

TESSA is a consortium of 18 national and international organisations including 13 institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa and operates in nine countries – Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Major funding has come from The Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (who also supported OpenLearn and now support its research activity with OLnet).

The award will be formally presented by the Queen in February 2010.

TESSA also won an eLearning Africa Award back in May.

2 comments November 19th, 2009 Posted by: lukebeaman

Open University attending COP15

The Open University (OU) is attending COP15, The United Nations Climate Change Conference which takes place from 7 to 18 December this year.

COP15 provides an opportunity to create and realise a new global contract to reduce emissions, replacing the Kyoto protocol which is due to expire in 2012. Notable absences from the Kyoto protocol were Australia and the US, which it is hoped will change now that Barack Obama is in power.

The OU communications teams will be co-ordinating to widely cover the event via video and audio, online and print, reporting via numerous channels such as Twitter, Platform (more specifically here), Facebook, iTunes U, YouTube and OpenLearn.

OpenLearn content will be two-fold – there will be content in the LearningSpace to complement the units already available (see below) as well as new material in the LabSpace, which can be freely remixed and repurposed (in adherence to the Creative Commons license). LabSpace allows collaboration on topics, one major new project to create a space there being LLCC.

LLCC (Learning to Live with Climate Change) is a joint strategic collaboration between the Environment Agency of England and Wales and the OU. The project aims to support the development of new collaborative networks and practices required to move to a low-carbon and climate-adapted economy and society.

LabSpace also has a collaborative space for the 10:10 Climate Change Campaign which is led by a coalition that includes the Guardian, NGOs to major companies, leading political figures, and the Carbon Trust.

List of OpenLearn units related to climate change:

Climate change
Climate change is a key issue on today’s social and political agenda. This unit explores the basic science that underpins climate change and global warming.

Climate change: island life in a volatile world
What impact will global warming really have? This unit examines the potential problems faced by the people of the Pacific Island of Tuvalu as a result of rising sea levels. Where would you go if your island is only a few feet above sea level? Who would you blame?

Global warming
This unit provides an introduction to global warming. We will be considering the history of global warming by looking at the pattern of ice ages and analyisis of recorded temperatures. We will aim to gather meaningful information from this data. We will briefly assess the impact and influence of humans on global warming and, finally, we will examine climate models and how to predict future changes.

Managing coastal environments
Coastal environments are by their nature ever-changing. This unit looks at the example of the Blackwater Estuary in Essex, England, describing how the current state of the estuary came to be. It examines the contests and conflicts that centre on the estuary in terms of managing the environment for human needs and the needs of the other species who make their habitat there.

Water and human health
Water is a natural resource that is vital for human survival and health, although only a tiny fraction of the Earth’s supply is available to humans and terrestrial animals. In this unit we look at threats, such as pollution, to water’s capacity to support life around the world.

1 comment November 9th, 2009 Posted by: lukebeaman

Inside the Talis Incubator

Talis have produced a podcast of a review board round-table. The podcast provides insight into the Talis Incubator, as well as introducing members of the review board, commenting on their background and what they feel Talis can add to the area of Open Education.

For the unfamiliar, Talis is “an angel fund to further the cause of open education”. Talis launched at the ALT-C 2009 conference last month and provides funding of up to £15,000 to help individuals or small groups realise ideas which intend to further development of Open Education. In return, they request that all research and outcomes are returned to the community via ‘open source’.

Chris Clarke, Programme Manager for the Talis Education Division, gives an overview of the Incubator in the podcast – its motivations, some practical steps and time scales involved in applying and how the review board decides which submissions to take forward.

Other members of the review board involved in the podcast discussion are:

Prof. Andy Lane, former Director of OpenLearn at the Open University
(introduction at 00:08:30-00:12:30);

Steve Ryan from the Centre for Learning Technology at the London School of Economics and Political Science
(introduction at 00:12:35-00:15:16);

Dave Cormier from the University of Prince Edward Island
(introduction at 00:15:32-00:18:30).

The podcast runs for about an hour and is invaluable for anyone considering applying to the Incubator. To be considered for funding from Talis, you need to write a proposal according to the guidelines.

Direct mp3 download

1 comment October 29th, 2009 Posted by: lukebeaman

UNESCO Community Report on Access to OER

The UNESCO OER Community have published an Access2OER report, based on discussions earlier this year in February/March. The report is available in PDF or on their wiki. One of the main aims of the discussion was to stimulate new work in the area and generate new proposals, two of which are being actively pursued:

Introducing digital OER into Zambian primary schools through school-based professional development.

This project intends to overcome access barriers, and engage with OER for Zambian primary/secondary school mathematics teaching. Such barriers include issues around infrastructure, awareness and appropriateness of materials, though it is hoped that various experiences and solutions can be drawn upon to make this successful.

Funding is limited and will be used primarily to engage in Spring 2010 with teachers in Zambia through a North-South partnership. The outcomes will be reported at eLearning Africa in May 2010, at Lusaka. Further information is available here.

Continued engagement through the UK National Commission for UNESCO.

OER has been a long-standing theme within the Information Society Working Group. The second proposal, however, recommends a shift in focus to concentrate on issues around OER access and collaboration. To achieve this, UNESCO are running a series of meetings to further focus on feasible projects. The first meeting will take place in Nottingham on the 25th/26th in conjunction with the Nottingham Open Learning Conference and OER Africa

Also blogged by Bjoern Hassler over at Open Education News.

OpenLearn published a research report in July – news story.

Add comment October 29th, 2009 Posted by: lukebeaman

UNESCO OER Toolkit released

UNESCO (with support from their Communications and Information Sector) released their OER Toolkit today as a resource for academics and institutions, who are interested in participating in open education projects. The toolkit has also been created with a special focus on developing countries according to the press release, the draft facilitated by Philipp Schmidt of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

The toolkit is hosted on the OER_Wiki and will potentially be released as a refined PDF version in future if there is support from the community. As ever in the OER world, UNESCO advise that the toolkit is a work in progress (hence the wiki hosting) and as such may change and evolve over time as the outlook and oppotunities afforded the OER movement do.

The toolkit is primarily designed for academics with an interest in finding and using OER relevant to the courses they teach, or who wish to publish OER that they have developed – OpenLearn allows people to do this in the LabSpace. Some sections of the toolkit, however, are aimed at institutional decision-makers and academics that may aspire to set up their own OER projects. This content could also be of interest to institutional planners, IT staff or librarians who are interested in setting up an OER project and could benefit from understanding the academic’s perspective.

Add comment October 15th, 2009 Posted by: lukebeaman

Climate Change is BAD

Today is Blog Action Day and the subject is climate change. Over 8000 bloggers have signed up with an estimated readership of almost 12 million people. While I fear anything I say will be a further duplication, that’s really the point, to spread the message.

While we all believe we have a handle on climate change, how much do we really know and are we aware of small things we can do to have a positive impact? Personally, I don’t own a car and take the bus to work. I’m actually moving closer to work and will then be able to walk. I’m not obsessive but I recycle as much as I can and would say that 90% of general packaging now goes in a red bag as opposed to a black one. I started being more proactive about recycling 6 months ago and it’s quite scary to think how much recyclable material I was sending to landfill. I have a small bin on the counter in the kitchen now for regular waste and my 50L bin is now the recycling bin. I suspect many people do the converse and this is one simple way to literally turn climate change around.

I’m lucky that I live in a south-facing apartment and rarely need to use heating (I’ll simply wear an extra layer when I move). My wife is a vegetarian, I switch everything off at the mains (except for the PVR) at night, buy furniture from sustainable sources and, best excuse I’ve found so far, don’t have kids! So there you have it, simple, everyday actions like this mean my carbon footprint is pretty small and I’m sure many of us are able to implement at least one of these changes – though you shouldn’t really give up your kids.

The Open University (OU) had computers setup at their recent 40th anniversary event to calculate carbon footprint which I hope had an impact. The area certainly seemed popular – there’s some pictures of the events here on flickr. If we created the tools ourselves, they’re a well kept secret so here’s a good carbon footprint calculator.

OpenLearn, the OU’s site which gives free access to its learning materials has a number of study units relevant to climate change in the LearningSpace (detailed below). In the LabSpace, you can remix and reuse materials and there is also the opportunity for collaboration with others. There’s a collaborative space for the 10:10 Climate Change Campaign which also links to OU iTunesU podcasts, YouTube videos and use of the OU’s Cohere tool which makes sense of ideas/arguments and shows the connections between these and other people.

So there you have it. There’s plenty of information out there to become better informed and make a positive impact on climate change and global warming. Congratulations to Blog Action Day for informally raising the profile and getting people thinking and, hopefully, acting. You can follow Blog Action Day and OpenLearn on Twitter – @blogactionday & @OpenLearn.

OpenLearn courses related to climate change:

Climate change
Climate change is a key issue on today’s social and political agenda. This unit explores the basic science that underpins climate change and global warming.

Climate change: island life in a volatile world
What impact will global warming really have? This unit examines the potential problems faced by the people of the Pacific Island of Tuvalu as a result of rising sea levels. Where would you go if your island is only a few feet above sea level? Who would you blame?

Global warming
This unit provides an introduction to global warming. We will be considering the history of global warming by looking at the pattern of ice ages and analyisis of recorded temperatures. We will aim to gather meaningful information from this data. We will briefly assess the impact and influence of humans on global warming and, finally, we will examine climate models and how to predict future changes.

Managing coastal environments
Coastal environments are by their nature ever-changing. This unit looks at the example of the Blackwater Estuary in Essex, England, describing how the current state of the estuary came to be. It examines the contests and conflicts that centre on the estuary in terms of managing the environment for human needs and the needs of the other species who make their habitat there.

Water and human health
Water is a natural resource that is vital for human survival and health, although only a tiny fraction of the Earth’s supply is available to humans and terrestrial animals. In this unit we look at threats, such as pollution, to water’s capacity to support life around the world.

1 comment October 15th, 2009 Posted by: lukebeaman

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