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IET researcher and project officer blogs

Opening Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) Launch

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Tue, 14/10/2014 - 12:35

Originally posted on :

Yesterday I was in Edinburgh, Scotland for the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project kick-off meeting and to run a “highly interactive session” to capture experiences and thoughts on OER and OEP in Scotland. Martin was also there, speaking on his forthcoming book (to quote, an “ideal stocking filler”) The Battle for Open. I’ve created this Storify to capture some of the discussion and activity. Enjoy!

OEPS Advisory Forum: “Magic happened here…” (CC-BY Beck Pitt)

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FutureLearn Academic Network, Southampton

On 10 September, I was at the University of Southampton, talking about the evaluation of MOOCs to the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN). This group is open to members of FutureLearn partner institutions who have an interest in researching MOOCs. If you fall into that category, and you’d be interested in joining, search for the group on Facebook. It’s a closed group, but straightforward to join, if you send a message introducing yourself.

The video shows the second half of the morning – start around 40 minutes in if you are interested in viewing my talk. There’s also an account of it on Sheila Webber’s blog.


Learning analytics data sharing workshop

Concept mapping at the LACE workshop

On 16-17 September, I was in Graz with the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) . Before our consortium meeting, we held the 1st Learning Analytics Data Sharing Workshop. This brought people together from across Europe to discuss possibilities for data sharing.

The workshop was designed to act as a bridge between research and practical action. It also dealt with the technical, operational, business, policy and governance challenges involved with data sharing – with a particular focus on privacy issues.

The workshop was followed by a consortium meeting, and plans for developing this Europe-wide learning analytics community further.

Super September: Monthly Review

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Thu, 02/10/2014 - 09:22

Originally posted on :

It’s been a super September at the OER Research Hub: here’s an overview of what we’ve been up to over the past month:

Open Research Course 

We had 139 people sign-up for our School of Open course Open Research! This four-week community reviewed course explores the nature and practice of open research and takes a closer look at how to conduct ethical and open research, dissemination and the relationship between reflection/evaluation and openness. We are just over half way through the course at present: if you’ve missed some of the great discussions and our weekly Hangout sessions, or just want to watch some of our videos, head over to our YouTube playlist or to the Discourse forums. There’s an overview of everything course related also available here.

Out and About 

Earlier in the month, Martin and Rob headed up to the University of Warwick for ALT Conference. Rob…

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Writing for Change: Pre-Course Survey

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Mon, 29/09/2014 - 11:05

Originally posted on :

Picture Credit: Nomadic Lass on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

This post was originally published on Peer 2 Peer University’s blog on 29 September 2014. 

Are you participating in Peer to Peer University’s (P2PU) Writing for Change course? Did you recently complete a pre-course survey? Curious as to what the survey was about or what the findings were? Well, read on!

First, the survey was conducted by the OER Research Hub in collaboration with P2PU. Who are the OER Research Hub? Well, we are an award-winning Hewlett funded project based at Institute of Educational Technology (IET) at The Open University (UK) and we collaborate with great organisations and initiatives such as P2PU to look at the impact of open educational resources (OER) such as Writing for Change. We’ve also been conducting some research with School of Open; you can find out more about our findings to date here. I’m

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OER Research Hub: August Review

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 29/08/2014 - 14:26

Originally posted on :

As September beckons, here’s a quick round-up of what’s been happening at the Hub over the past month:

Join us to explore Open Research

As you might be aware, we’ve been working on our School of Open Open Research course over the past few months … August saw the launch of our four-week exploration into of the concept and practices of open research, including how to conduct research ethically and in the open, dissemination and the relation between openness and reflection.

Sign-up is open until Friday 12 September with the course formally starting on Monday 15 September 2014. We’re super excited and honoured to have had so much interest in the course and hope that you’ll be able to join us!

You can read our blog post announcement here and also check out the course and sign-up here.

Your Open Research course facilitators! (Clockwise: Bea de los Arcos, Beck…

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Interested in Open Research? Sign-up for our School of Open course!

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Tue, 26/08/2014 - 12:38

Originally posted on :

It’s been in the pipeline for a while now, but we’re super excited to announce that our four-week School of OpenOpen Research course opened for sign-up yesterday! You can sign-up to participate in our four-week course until Friday 12 September 2014 with the course starting on Monday 15 September.

So what’s in store for participants? Week one of the course explores the idea of open research and encourages participants to think about the challenges and benefits of open research. In week two we take a closer look at how we can be both open and ethical when conducting research. Week three focuses on open access publishing and disseminating your research. We close the course with week four’s chance to look at where openness makes a difference to evaluation and reflection.

You also have the opportunity to be awarded our very own Open Research badge for participating in, and completing, the…

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Site Migration – New Home

openmind.ed - Dr Rob Farrow's blog - Tue, 19/08/2014 - 12:16

I have decided to move openmind.ed from server space provided by The Open University and onto a general site.  This will make the site more independent and give me a bit more control over how it works – but the content is essentially the same.  I will only be updating the new site from now on although some of the stuff in the sidebar will continue to update automatically.

You can find the new version of this site at:

#oerrhub on the LSE Impact of Social Science blog

openmind.ed - Dr Rob Farrow's blog - Tue, 05/08/2014 - 13:36

This is a duplicate of my article from the LSE Impact of Social Science blog which was published today.  You can find the original here.

Much sharing and use of open educational resources (OER) is relatively informal, difficult to observe, and part of a wider pattern of open activity. What the open education movement needs is a way to draw together disparate fragments of evidence into a coherent analytic framework. Rob Farrow provides background on a project devoted to consolidating efforts of OER practitioners by inviting the open community to contribute directly and submit impact narratives. Through the mapping of these contributions, the data can continue to grow iteratively and support the decisions made by educators, students, policymakers and advocates.

The Open Education movement is now around ten or twelve years old and has started to make a significant difference to education practices around the world. Open educational resources (OER) are resources (article, textbook, lesson plan, video, test, etc.) that might be used in teaching or learning. They are considered ‘open’ when they are openly licensed in ways that [permit] no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions or, more simply their free use and re-purposing by others.

This distinction might seem rather subtle and legalistic at first. But the whole of the open education movement is predicated on the idea that open licensing leads to far reaching and beneficial change. By providing an alternative to traditional copyright, open licenses make it possible to share and repurpose materials at marginal cost. It is often stated, for instance, that OER have the potential to increase access to education through lowering the prohibitive cost of textbooks or journal subscriptions. Some claim that OER allows for more innovative teaching and closer bonds between students and learners as a result of a more reflexive syllabus. Others hold the view that open licensing will align existing pedagogies along more collaborative and networked lines.

Image credit: via Flickr (CC BY-SA)

When open licensing in conjunction with digital technology can enable duplication and adaptation of materials almost anywhere in the world at next to no cost, it’s easy to see how the implications may be manifold for educational institutions. Perhaps the strongest evidence for this thus far comes from the open access movement, which continues to leverage academic publishers for better value.

Unsurprisingly, much research has gone into ascertaining the evidence that exists in support of these claims. A good portion of earlier OER research focused on establishing the relative quality of open materials and found that they are generally at least as good as equivalent commercial materials (though there are of course variations in quality). But there are reasons why establishing a clear picture of the wider impact of OER adoption is more complex.

Let’s leave aside for now issues around the much discussed and yet nebulous term “impact”. OER adoption is taking place within a world of education undergoing radical change. Where OER does change practices there are often multiple interventions taking place at the same time and so it is hard to isolate the particular influence of openness. Use contexts can vary wildly between countries and education levels, and cultural differences can come into play. Furthermore, much sharing and use of open educational materials (such as Wikipedia) is relatively informal, difficult to observe, and part of a wider pattern of activity. This is not to say that there isn’t good quality OER research out there, but the typical dependence on softer data might sometimes be thought unconvincing. Further complications can arise from inconsistencies in understanding what ‘open’ means to different groups.

Nonetheless, there remains a need for evidence that would support (or discount) from the key claims expressed in the rhetoric around OER, as well as an overall picture of global activity. What the open education movement needs is a way to draw together disparate fragments of evidence into a coherent analytic framework that can support judgments about OER impact for a range of use cases.

OER Research Hub (OERRH) is a research project in IET at The Open University which approaches these issues through an open and collaborative approach. Our project aspires to be open in both its focus and the methods we use to gather and share data. We’ve taken a mixed-methods approach to research depending on the context, and we’ve also undertaken some of the largest surveys about OER use and attitudes from a range of stakeholders. By using a survey template that is consistent across the different samples it becomes possible to see patterns across countries and sectors. Our research instruments and data are released on open licenses and we have an open access publication policy. By encouraging a culture of open sharing we have been able to consolidate the efforts of OER practitioners and help to build a shared understanding.

We work openly with a range of collaborators around the world to gather data and share practical experience and also have a fellowship scheme that helps to foster a worldwide network of experts. By focusing on collecting data around ‘impact’ in situ we are able to build up an evolving picture of changing practices.

The analytic framework for pulling together the data includes a set of research hypotheses which reflect some of the main claims that are made about OER. These help to provide focus but a further structuring is provided by the use of geospatial coordinates (which are of course universal) and map disparate data types on a map across a shared geographical base.

Image credit: OER Impact Map (OER Research Hub)

Mapping has become popular within the OER world, and there is a lot of interest in maps for strengthening communities and as tools for building a shared understanding of the world. Accordingly, OERRH’s OER Impact Map acts as both research tool and dissemination channel. By using a simple metadata structure for different data types it becomes possible to visualize (as well as simply ‘map’) information. For instance, real-time reporting of the evidence gathered across each hypothesis or visualising the sum of evidence gathered help us to understand the data. Soon it will be possible to browse the project survey data directly as well as interact with more detailed, structured narratives about OER impact. The map itself will continue to help us to see patterns in the data and cross-reference evidence gathered.

Image credit: OER Impact Map (OER Research Hub)

By no means is OER Impact Map complete; by its nature the data set continues to evolve. But openness is the key to the sustainability of a service like this: by inviting the open community to contribute directly and submit their impact narratives to OERRH the data can continue to grow iteratively and support the decisions made by educators, students, policymakers and advocates. Furthermore, open licensing of evidence records allows us to close citation loops and archive data more easily, and the relative ease with which open access research can be found helps it find it way into the evidence base.

It is worth noting that the combination of mapping and curation can be flexibly applied to other research questions in educational and social science. The code for OER Impact Map is available openly on GitHub, meaning others can use it build their own impact maps: or adapt this code to their own needs. The impact map is based on a JSON information architecture which supports multiple programming languages and flexible use of the data (like combining it with other datasets).

What our project illustrates is that the use of openness to solve challenges in the project can lead to innovation in approaches in understanding impact. The combination of mixed-methods research into hypotheses with mapping and data visualization techniques can be flexibly applied in support of traditional research activity.

OER Research Hub is funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Rob Farrow is a philosopher and educational technologist who researches open education at The Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University (UK). He blogs at openmind.ed and tweets as @philosopher1978.

OER Research Hub: July Round-Up

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Wed, 30/07/2014 - 12:13

Originally posted on :

What’s been happening at the Hub in July? It’s time for our monthly news round-up!

Open Textbook Bonanza

July kicked off with the release of a range of our research on open textbooks during the aptly named Open Textbook Research week. With contributors from all of our fantastic open textbook collaborators, this was a great chance to see what work we’ve been doing together. Beck (OERRH researcher) and Megan Beckett (Siyavula) co-authored a series of blog posts on the survey findings in South Africa, Clint Lalonde of BCcampus told us more about the Open Textbook Project Geography sprint in an exclusive post and we also released the revised OpenStax College educator survey findings, preliminary student survey findings and three educator interviews. Phew! With 11 blog posts in total there’s a wealth of research to explore.

If you missed out, don’t worry as you can find all of the…

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Listen to Barbara Illowsky on the Journey of Collaborative Statistics! (Part Two)

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Thu, 24/07/2014 - 15:33

Originally posted on :

This is the second part of an interview with Barbara Illowsky, OCWC Educator ACE Award winner, Professor of Math and Statistics at De Anza College and co-author of the OpenStax College open textbook Introductory Statistics (previously Collaborative Statistics). Read the first part of this interview to find out more about Barbara, De Anza College, the impact of high textbook costs, student savings, how Barbara was involved in changing State policy and her involvement with OpenStax College and Connexions.

Improving the Textbook Collaboratively 

Later in the interview I asked Barbara is there was any difference between authoring/creating an open resource such as Collaborative Statistics, and other material that Barbara has contributed to the Connexions platform, in comparison to materials Barbara uses in her own classroom.  You can also hear more about Barbara’s incorporation of the Vietnamese New Year gambling game of Tết into her Labs (mentioned in my earlier post: “It’s…

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Listen to Barbara Illowsky on the Journey of Collaborative Statistics! (Part One)

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Thu, 24/07/2014 - 15:11

Originally posted on :

Earlier in the year I posted transcribed excerpts from an interview with OCWC Educator ACE Award winner, Professor of Math and Statistics at De Anza College and co-author of the OpenStax College open textbook Introductory Statistics (previously Collaborative Statistics) Barbara Illowsky. You can find my original post on the OpenEd13 interview here, which is still worth checking out for an overview of the interview and key quotes. However, I’m now pleased to announce that you can now hear this fascinating interview in full!

Introducing Barbara and De Anza College

Listen to Barbara introduce herself:

Barbara on De Anza College, the students who attend and some of the challenges they face. Quoting Martha Kanter “we accept the top 100% of students who apply” Barbara also tells us why she doesn’t use the term “remedial”:

OER has an important role to play at colleges such as De Anza. Barbara told us…

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LASI@MK learning analytics summer institute

Together with Bart Rienties, I hosted visits from Shaun Boyd (NMIT, Australia, Victorian Higher Education and Skills Group Fellow), Shreeharsh Kelkar (MIT), and Adam Cooper (CETIS, Bolton) on 8 July 2014.

We organised a Learning Analytics Summer Institute (LASI@MK) event in association with these visits. This formed part of the worldwide series of LASIs organised in conjunction with the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR). The event was also associated with the European-funded Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) project.

LASI@MK included short presentations from:

  • Linda Price on the long history of learning analytics at The Open University
  • Avinash Boroowa on the development of an ethical framework for learning analytics
  • Doug Clow on the systemic implementation of learning analytics
  • Vicky Marsh on links with quality enhancement and quality assurance
  • Shailey Minocha on the use of learning analytics in virtual environments
  • Zdenek Zdrahal on predictive modelling
  • Adam Cooper on the LACE project

It also included more extensive presentations by

  • Denise Whitelock on the SAFeSEA project
  • Shaun Boyd on the implementation of analytics at his institution
  • Shreeharsh Kelkar on MOOCs, software and the study of learning.

Understanding student mindsets

At the beginning of July, working with one of our pro-vice chancellors, I presented to our vice chancellor’s executive (VCE) about understanding student mindsets.

We made the links between mindsets and learner persistence. Keeping students on board is a two-way process, universities retain and learners persist.

No matter how excellent a university course, students are likely to be distracted while studying it by significant life events. This is particularly true for part-time students, whose studies continue for longer. When the going gets tough for our students, it’s not good course design that gets them through, or good teacher support alone (though that certainly helps). Our students also need the resilience to carry on, and to cope with the extra challenges that life throws at them

This is where mindsets come into the picture. How can we help our students to develop persistence and resilience; how can we help them to understand that ability is not innate but is the outcome of focused work, and how can we help them to develop a deep approach to study? Research shows that it is possible to change mindsets, but to do so across a university requires systemic change.

Learning analytics: answering the FAQs

The conference venue: Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow

At the end of June, I was invited up to Scotland, to talk about learning analytics at the Society of College, National and University Librarians (SCONUL) summer conference. I focused on some of the frequently-asked questions about learning analytics, with the emphasis on the role and perspective of libraries in this area. What are learning analytics? Why are they used? How can they be used to help produce desired learning outcomes? What different types are there? What are the ethical issues? How can they be used in libraries?

Learning analytics FAQs from Rebecca Ferguson

OU Media Player June 2014 release

Dr Nick Freear's blog - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 14:39

I'm happy to be reporting on a new release of the OU Media Player that happened in mid-June.
This release fixed a number of bugs, including one relating to Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8, and another involved fixing security warnings for non-secure audio/video media files when the Player is embedded on a site via HTTPS.

There were also a couple of enhancements. One entails hiding the title panel on pages that are Open University branded. This has proved to be a stumbling block in some deployments, as the titles are not always meaningful to the public (they may be used internally to distinguish tracks), and it looks odd to have multiple copies the OU's shield logo.

Another feature we added was Google Analytics for the legacy media embedded in OpenLearn. This is feature isn't visible to the end-user. However, it is important so that we can track and report on usage. Based on this, I can already report that the Player is currently embedded in something like 2000 places and receives approaching 4000 plays per month.

Analytics tracks some "events" for the Player, currently, "play", "pause" and the audio/video track is "ended", . GitHub: ../mediaelement ../mep-feature-googleanalytics.js. We're interested in doing more with the Player analytics, so please watch this space.

You can see the full release notes for version 1.1.9.

Open Knowledge Festival 2014

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 11:52

Originally posted on :

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to head to Berlin with colleagues Rob Farrow and Martin Weller to participate in the Open Knowledge Festival (#okfest14) Open Minds to Open Action at the amazing Kulturbrauerei… Thank to everyone we spoke to over the course of the festival; it was great to meet old and new friends alike!

In addition to our Twitter activity (check out @mweller, @philosopher1978 and @beckpitt for more) I’ve created a Storify to capture a small selection of the amazing array of activity that took place during the Festival… Enjoy! #feedbackwelcome

Don’t forget to also check out the @OKFestival team’s Storify channel here.

Kulturbrauerei (Photo credit: Beck Pitt, CC-BY)

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5 Things That People Don’t Realize their Librarians Do #librarians

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 14:48

Originally posted on bluesyemre:

  1. Librarians are teachers. Many libraries have computer classes, which can include teaching a room full of people how to use Microsoft Office, how to use the internet safely, how to set up accounts and stay safe on social media, or how to use photo manipulation programs. Some libraries even teach computer programming classes. Librarians also do a lot of one-on-one tutoring if there isn’t a class that specifically covers the need of the patron.
  2. Librarians are tech savvy. Whatever computer classes librarians are teaching, or when we have to help a patron troubleshoot their own technology, we have to be computer and technologically literate in order to help. We have to know the basics of computer technology, at the very least. Most times, however, we know more, and if we don’t know the answer off the top of our heads, we know how to find it.
  3. Librarians are advertisers. Libraries…

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Elise Adamson on OpenStax College Textbooks

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 04/07/2014 - 16:47

Originally posted on :

Earlier in the week we heard from Paul Shaber on his experiences of using OpenStax College (OSC) textbooks. Today we’re going to hear from two more educators, who I was fortunate enough to speak with earlier in the year: Elise Adamson and Adrienne Williamson. This post is dedicated to excerpts from Elise’s interview and you can find Adrienne’s interview here.

Thanks to both Elise and Adrienne for taking time out to speak with me!

Elise Adamson 

Elise Adamson (Wayland Baptist University) is Professor of Math and Physics. Elise has been using the OSC Physics book with students who are largely studying to go into medicine. She is the first in her University to be using the materials and had support from both her bookstore and colleagues for using OSC. Sapling introduced Elise to OpenStax, her “first exposure” to open educational resources (OER).

Listen to Elise tell us more about how…

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