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Future direction of the OER Research Hub

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 03/09/2015 - 11:32

The OER Hub team prepare for launch

[Reblogged from OER Hub]

July marked the end of the initial phase of the OER Research Hub. It’s been a great three years, and Beck has pulled out some of the highlights. But what next, you are all asking! Well, we’re delighted to announce that we have received further funding form the Hewlett Foundation. The aim of the last grant was twofold: to try and develop an evidence base for many of the beliefs that people held about OER, and to raise the profile of quality research in the OER field. The new project seeks to continue these broad aims, by establishing the hub on an ongoing basis.

Having gathered data and developed tools for OER we also want to broaden our scope to other aspects of open education, including MOOCs, open educational practice, open access, etc. To this end we’re slightly rebranding by dropping an R and calling ourselves The Open Education Research Hub.

So, what’s happening next? Well we’re going to transition to the new Open Education Research Hub with a new website. We’ll also be publishing a series of data reports over this month from the previous research that focus on the different sectors of formal learners, informal learners and educators. If you’re into OER research, these are for you. We’re also running the Open Researcher course from 14th Sept.

The new Hub will become increasingly an umbrella for other projects. We already have a few of these underway, with OER Research Hub staff involved to some extent in the following:

We’re developing bids around other areas also. And of course, if you have any open education related research you’d like to collaborate on, then get in touch.

Open Research 2015 Launches for Sign-Up!

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Fri, 28/08/2015 - 10:00

Originally posted on :

At the beginning of August I blogged about the return of our successful open research course on P2PU’s School of Open this Fall. Well, I’m excited to announce that the course is now live and will run from Monday 14 September – Sunday 11 October 2015. Sign-up is now open so head on over to P2PU and put your name down to participate!

We’re looking forward to having you along for the ride whether you are a seasoned researcher, dipping your toe in the water or just interested in finding out more about open research. Come and share your experiences and thoughts!

So, what’s new…?

For those of you who are super observant, you might recall that we promised some tweaks and surprises in this iteration. The main changes to the course have been as a response to previous participant feedback and our own experiences of facilitating the course. Changes include:

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Corbyn, higher ed & the Overton window

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 27/08/2015 - 11:34

This post follows on from the previous one regarding our view of higher ed (yes, I’ve been thinking about it over the summer). As those in the UK will know, but overseas readers (hello!) may not, there is currently a leadership election underway for Labour, the opposition party. To everyone’s surprise, and to the chagrin of most of the senior Labour figures, it looks as though the left-wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn will win. This isn’t a post about Labour, or politics really, but about what the more general value of someone like Corbyn is in the current climate (and possibly why that has proven popular).

There is a political concept known as the Overton Window, which is defined as the range of ideas the public will accept. If an idea falls outside of the Overton window it is rejected. However, as Owen Jones argues in his book The Establishment, there are people, and groups, whose function is to effectively shift the Overton Window. It has been moving steadily right since the 1970s, so that ideas that even Margaret Thatcher thought were too radical, are now seen as standard practice. Ideas, such as privatising the NHS, would once have been political suicide, but aspects of them can now be discussed. For me then, Corbyn’s role is to help drag the Overton Window back to a more central position. For example, if a privatised part of the prison service performs badly, the media will focus on discussing whether that company is doing a good job, providing value for money, etc. But they will not question whether selling of services such as this is a good idea in the first place. That falls outside of the Overton Window currently. Corbyn’s presence makes that question a viable one to ask, and thus helps shift the window back. I’m not saying this will make him a successful leader, my point is rather that what is interesting here is the control of narrative.

And this shaping of narrative is something I’m interested in with regards to educational technology and higher education in general. I touched upon the importance of narrative regarding MOOCs in the Battle for Open. It is evident also in the “university degree as personal investment” narrative that has come to dominate higher education. In my last post I talked about the value of viewing higher education as a process and not just a product. The reason it is difficult to do so, is because a process view falls outside of our own Overton Window in higher education.

And just as I value Corbyn’s presence for helping shift the narrative ground in UK politics, so I regard many of the bloggers whose work I admire (Audrey Watters, Kate Bowles, Jonathan Rees, Richard Hall) as performing a similar service – they help shift the higher education window (or at least help resist it being dragged in a certain direction).

Product and process in higher ed

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Wed, 26/08/2015 - 10:26

When I was a young man I harboured dreams of being a novelist (instead I became the next best thing, an ed tech blogger). Recently by way of entertaining myself I have taken to writing fiction again. But I do so without any intention of ever publishing, sharing or doing anything with it. This was quite a liberating decision, it means I can just enjoy the process. And this set me thinking about tasks we do for the joy of the process itself, and those we do for the end result, the product.

Fiction writing is quite odd in this respect, and different from many other leisure pursuits. If you tell someone you are writing fiction, they will often ask (or assume) that you intend to get published. That you harbour dreams of doing a JK Rowling (and this is indeed true of many people who take up writing). In that respect it seems a pursuit that tends more (although not exclusively) towards the product side. Contrast it with other past-times people may take up, such as painting, or pottery. One would probably not ask of someone who is doing an evening class in painting “are you planning on holding an exhibition?” the way you might ask a writer “are you going to publish?”. It is understood that painting is something most people do for the joy of the process itself.

Exercise or sport is also similar in this respect. While people may have a product, a goal, in mind such as entering a race, or losing weight, exercise is usually undertaken for engagement in the process. You do not assume that your friend who has started running is planning on becoming a professional athlete.

And this brought me round to thinking about how we view higher education. It used to be firmly in the process camp. People went to university because the act of learning, critical thinking, engagement with peers and time away from the pressures of career were seen as valuable in themselves. There were undoubtedly vocational degrees which were more product centred – you did an accountancy degree usually because you wanted to become an accountant – but largely it was the process that mattered. Over the past twenty years we have seen a shift where the dominant rhetoric and mindset around higher education is one of product. When I did a degree in Psychology I would be asked by people of the older generation who hadn’t been to uni “what job are you going to do with that?”. They didn’t mean it unkindly, it was just that they had a more pragmatic mindset. But it was understood by most that in some ways the degree subject didn’t really matter. I was the first generation at uni and that was significant.

But the “what job are you going to do with that?” question now dominates, and is even the one students often have uppermost in their minds. I hesitate to use the term neo-liberal but I think this change in mindset did coincide with the rise of the neo-liberal dominance during the 00s. And it has become solidified with the introduction of high student fees. Fees make the conversation all about product. And a product focus is not necessarily wrong, I’m glad a surgeon had one, for example. But I’m pleased that some countries have resisted this product centric view of higher ed, and still understand that, like painting, and for me, fiction writing, there is value in the process that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Introducing ... Open Media Player

Dr Nick Freear's blog - Thu, 20/08/2015 - 15:23

I'm very happy to announce that we have released Open Media Player (formerly called OU Media Player), as a free/open source project. It has been our intention for a while to make the code open source, and we were finally able to plan in the time to make it happen.

Why open source?

We decided to open source because:

  1. Open Media Player aspires to the highest levels of accessibility, while being a mainstream player - a fairly unique proposition;
  2. We adopt a service-based approach, where the player is kept separate from the audio/video files, and the web sites it is embedded in. This aids maintenance, feature roll-out and is again a unique selling point;
  3. To help drive innovation;
  4. Principle – it fits in with the Open University's mission - open to people, places and ideas;
  5. Educational – help others learn from our best-practices and our mistakes.

We've done a lot of work to make the Player straightforward to install, and hopefully understand. Installation via Composer is as simple as copying and pasting this at a terminal:

composer create-project iet-ou/open-media-player --no-dev -sdev --prefer-dist

Some of the highlights of version 2 of Open Media Player:

  • New embeddable, themed YouTube player
  • Configurable site layout and authentication
  • Composer adopted, code-base re-factored into sub-packages
  • Upgraded to MediaElement.js 2.17.0
  • Improved player user-interface in high-contrast (ignore colours) mode

And, lots more!


It’s here! Open Research Redux

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Tue, 04/08/2015 - 10:11

Originally posted on :

Last year we received an amazing response to the launch of our first open course Open Research on P2PU’s School of Open. 139 of you, from at least 29 different countries across six continents, signed up to participate in the first iteration of our four-week course. Well, we’re excited to announce that we’re doing it all again… but this time with some tweaks and surprises!

So what was it like first time around? Here’s some of the feedback from our post-course survey respondents:

“Dissemination helped a lot by pointing me towards licenses and explaining the green vs gold vs other colour access levels — that sort of thing is mentioned a lot but never explained, so it was useful to get those definitions. The ethics conversation made me think about the implications of guerilla research, and reminded me what research ethics conversations are like. It’s been a long time since…

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Scholarship can’t afford itself

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 31/07/2015 - 08:56

This is not a detailed study in economics, but rather a view from inside the system. It’s occurred to me a few times, that as higher education (particularly in the US and UK) becomes increasingly commercialised and commoditised, there is pressure on academics to account for their time, and for it to be spent in revenue generating pursuits. These drivers come from Government, and also just the general post-recession context where every expenditure needs to be justified. I understand this and don’t think academics should be immune from the same pressures that society faces. But I have also felt that taken to its conclusion, it could create a system that undermines itself.

There is a lot of activity that an academic undertakes that acts as ‘glue’ holding together the whole scholarly practice. Consider the following tasks for instance:

  • Reviewing journal articles
  • Editing journals
  • Examining PhDs
  • Organising conferences
  • Giving keynotes, workshops, seminars, etc

Now, although there is sometimes an honorarium associated with these, I would suggest that we don’t really fully cost them as activities and charge appropriately. The reason is that it is understood that this is part of what is required to make the whole system function. Someone from University X examines a PhD student from University Y, and later someone from Y examines one from Z, and so on. I get asked to examine quite a few PhDs. It’s generally both a pleasant thing to do, and also very useful in that it helps keep me up with the field also. You will sometimes get an honorarium for these, say £200, but if we were to fully cost it, then the figure would be closer to £2000 I expect. I’m a pretty quick reader and reviewer, but even so it takes me a couple of days to read a thesis, and then there is the viva day itself. I know colleagues who will spend much longer reading a thesis. Some of that reading takes place in work time, some in my own time, some could be counted as research time, some as a service to the other university. So it’s messy, but the point is we don’t make an attempt to properly cost it. And that is a really good thing. If we did then the administration involved would add significantly to the actual cost.

Then look at all those other activities listed above (and you can probably think of more). As there is increasing pressure on universities to justify student fees, to account for staff time, to monetise every aspect of the education process, I fear that such activities will be ‘realistically’ costed. The result of which might be to make them unviable. There is also a strong element of game theory once we start costing these activities – it would be to your institution’s benefit to be selfish rather than benevolent, ie to get more out of the system than you put in. And then others start acting the same. When someone suggests that we start costing these activities appropriately, my suggestion is you quote Billy Bragg to them: “The temptation to take the precious things we have apart to see how they work must be resisted for they never fit together again.”

Apple Watch 2 months down the line

I’ve been using my apple watch for about two and half months so its about time I reflected on what I find it useful for. Like most Apple products, lets face it, like most technology products, each person will find different aspects useful. I know three other people with Apple Watches, one finds the ability to control music on his watch to be invaluable – yet I’ve never used that feature, I think it tried it out once, but it just isn’t useful to me.

I received the watch on Friday and flew out to Spain on Saturday. Just enough time to get a few apps working on the phone. I was quite excited to try out the easy jet app to scan my boarding pass. I tried this at the departure gate, but unfortunately the scanner was designed to slide the boarding card in a kind of slot a few cm deep. My hand and watch wouldn’t fit in this so no luck there, but the staff were very interested in it.

My GPSX app which allow you to record tracks, drop waypoints and all manner of other GPS related things was great fun. It is important to remember that all these apps are actually running on your iPhone, and therefore using up battery. It didn’t cause me any problems, but much has been said about battery life.

On the subject of battery life, I find I’ve generally got 60% or more battery left at the end of the day. I don’t generally talk on the watch for long – though it can be useful to answer a call on the watch instead of missing it whilst scrabbling around at the bottom of my handbag. This does not negate the need to scrabble around at the bottom of my handbag, I just look like even more of a geek as I talk to my wrist whilst doing it.

To be honest, it will take me a while to get used to talking to a caller on my wrist. For starters, everyone can hear the conversation so there’s no privacy. It feels a bit ‘Star Trek’ esque but it is handy to be able to answer a call when you can’t immediately put your hands on your iPhone.

I tried out the apple map directions. It was just awful. Maybe because the phone was in my bag, but the GPS didn’t update quickly enough and the directions were often just plain wrong. The best thing to do was to use the map on the wrist as a map and ignore the directions. They were mad!

The texting functionality is just lovely. You can send cute emoticons and little drawings to your friends. Of course your friends also need to own apple watches. You can also reply to texts quickly on the watch by either tapping on a pre-defined answer (you can define these) or by speaking your message. Siri is becoming so good, there are virtually no mistakes.

By far the most useful feature, for me, are the haptic notifications. I get a discrete little tap whenever a text message or email comes in (on the email addresses I enable for the watch). I can glance at the first line and know immediately if this needs dealing with now, or if it can wait till later. That doesn’t feel like being ‘always online’. It feels like a very useful tool to keep on top of the deluge of electronic communications we are all faced with these days.

So far, I’m a fan.

Oh and of course I bought a spare watch strap. It takes seconds to swap them over and now I can have a watch to match my handbag…….so long as my handbag is salmon pink or lime green


EMMA summer school

I was invited to lead a workshop at the ‘Design and deliver your own MOOC’ summer school run on Ischia, Italy, by the European Multiple MOOC Aggregator (EMMA) project from 6-10 July 2015. The summer school was organised jointly with JTEL, and the workshop was attended by people from both projects.

Workshop description: This hands-on workshop will work with learning design tools and with massive open online courses (MOOCs) on the FutureLearn platform to explore how learning design can be used to influence the choice and design of learning analytics. This workshop will be of interest to people who are involved in the design or presentation of online courses, and to those who want to find out more about learning design, learning analytics or MOOCs. Participants will find it helpful to have registered for FutureLearn [] and explored the platform for a short time in advance of the workshop.

Puzzling spike in Slideshare views

Intriguingly, my presentation (slides above) was immediately very popular on Slideshare, taking only eight days to become my most-viewed presentation ever – far outstripping a presentation with exactly the same title that I posted a few months ago, as well as my other presentations that have steadily been building up views over the past seven years.

CALRG conference and FLAN

FLAN participants at CALRG 2015

The 36th annual CALRG conference took place from 15 to 17 June 2015 at The Open University. This year, we began the programme with a day for doctoral student work associated with the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN). The keynote address, An Ecology for eLearning: MOOCs, Minnows and Monsters, was given by long-time CALRG member Professor Sir Tim O’Shea, Principal, University of Edinburgh.

Presentations included:

CALRG: Computers and Learning Research Group

Building Knowledge seminar slide. Credits: and

Along with colleagues – Liz Fitzgerald, Janesh Sanzgiri, Jenna Mittelmeier – I am responsible for organising weekly meetings of the Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG). The group brings together research staff and doctoral students within our department, as well as people from other areas of the university who have similar research interests.

We have established a pattern of events that continues throughout the year, with breaks where necessary for major events and holidays.

First Thursday: CALRG Seminar Regular slot for internal and external speakers to share and discuss their research.

Second Thursday: Reading Group Discussing key papers in the area from the past and the present. The contents of this forthcoming book help us to identify ‘must-read’ papers. In the autumn, Janesh and Jenna will be running short sessions before the reading group in order to give new doctoral students the confidence to share their views.

Third Thursday: Building Knowledge Seminar An opportunity for us to share our expertise by talking about our research, introducing methods and discussing new opportunities. At a recent session on writing up quantitative and qualitative research, I introduced ways of presenting and evaluating these types of research and then group members discussed how they had done this themselves, and the challenges they had faced.

Fourth Thursday: Cake Drop! An informal session. Chat to your colleagues and enjoy cake. Mmm.

The granularity of personalisation

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 17/07/2015 - 14:21

(with apologies for that title, it sounds like a bad Milan Kundera novel).

In my post on personality, I may have suggested that I thought courses such as DS106 and Rhizo were a cult of personality with Jim and Dave at their head. This wasn’t my intention. I highlighted them because I think they are good examples of where the founder’s personality is in the DNA of the course, but that it has then been shaped by others. The course itself has personality.

And this, along with the many excellent responses (60! It’s like 2006 all over again in the edublogosphere) got me thinking about courses with personality and how people react to them. I have sent students on the OU Masters in Online education to look at DS106. And their reactions are very interesting. Some absolutely love it, and become converts (why aren’t all courses like this?) and others have a real aversion to it. Both of those reactions are perfectly valid of course, and highlight what a personal thing the learning process is.

This got me thinking that when we talk about personalisation in learning we often mean at the level of the resource. For instance, you will see different resources based on a score. Or depending on your preferred ‘learning style’ you may get more textual or visual based resources. Learning styles are hugely problematic, but that doesn’t seem to stop them popping up when people talk about personalisation. This type of personalisation is a very technology driven view, with a dream of a the perfect course for you being assembled automatically instantly. I have to say this type of personalisation doesn’t excite me very much, and I’m not sure it’s been very successful. But here’s a thought, maybe we’ve been looking at the wrong level of granularity (hence my Kundera-esque title).

Personalisation may occur within a programme of study by taking different course with different ‘personalities’. Within a degree programme, say, you might have some core courses, structured fairly traditionally. But then there are options which you choose based not on their content, but on their approach. Of course we have a high degree of modularity and optionality in most degree programmes now, but this is usually around content (do you want to study linguistics or philosophy as your first year option in psychology). But open education, yes I mean MOOCs but also other options, mean you can have the same subject area, but different approaches to it. Here the choice might be more “do you want to study the creative, collaborative approach to statistics or the methodical, strictly paced approach?”.

Such personalisation may encourage educators to create courses with variety, instead of uniformity, because enough people will like that approach. And it also reinforces the importance of the human educator in the process, and gives students courses they can relate to in a mixture. You might also force them to take a type of course they don’t much like just to experience different approaches. Vive la difference may work better at the programme level than the resource one.

Steve Jobs isn’t your role model

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Fri, 17/07/2015 - 08:25

Others have written about this, so I’m not saying anything new here, but it’s my blog, so I get to vent when I want, and I’m amazed at how much of this Steve Jobs as role model stuff still persists. It annoys me when I continually see articles along the lines of “Steve Jobs did X, so if you want to be successful, you should too.” The rather explicit assumption in all of these is that being like Jobs is a desirable thing to be. So recently there was a spate of “Steve Jobs did a lot of his thinking while taking a long walk, so you should do walks too”. There is pretty good evidence that walking does help stimulate thought, but that Jobs did it is not relevant. He is also the poster boy for “dropping out of college is a smart career move”.

I’m not going to discuss the Jobs legend here, whether he really was a genius or not. Let’s assume all the accolades he is regularly awarded with are merited, that he changed our world. Even so, here are four good reasons why elevating Jobs to role model is a really bad idea.

1. He’s an outlier. Outliers always exist, and are the worst possible choice for you to base your career or life on. You are probably not an outlier, that’s why they’re outliers. Copying their characteristics will not make you like them.

2. We shouldn’t indulge bullies. There were elements of the psychopath, sociopath and bully in Jobs. Taking point 1, you are not Steve Jobs, so if you adopt many of his characteristics, you’re just going to be a nasty bully. But more widely, we shouldn’t indulge these traits in people because they’re the talent. Everyone – genius, billionaire, celebrity – is accountable, so we shouldn’t reinforce the myth that this type of behaviour is acceptable and even desirable.

3. He was a product of his time. Even of you accept the “Jobs was a genius” line, he was a genius in the right place at the right time. Steve Jobs wouldn’t be as successful as Steve Jobs if he were around now because the context is different.

4. It reinforces privilege. If language is couched in terms of ‘the next Steve Jobs’, then it’s likely that you will have a sub-conscious confirmation bias for a white, american male. You’re more likely to believe that such a person standing in front of you making a pitch is the next Steve Jobs, than, say, a Chinese woman making the same pitch.

So if you want to promote walking to encourage thinking and problem solving, please do. But don’t use Steve Jobs to justify it. The next Steve Jobs will not be at all like Steve Jobs, and for that we should be grateful.

MOOCs 2030: A Future for Massive Online Learning

What lies in the future for MOOCs? This chapter, which I wrote with Mike Sharples and Russell Beale, looks ahead 15 years, to a time when MOOCs have left the hype cycle behind and are being used by millions of people worldwide as a part of their learning journey. The book as a whole provides a comprehensive overview of the past, present and future of massive open online courses around the world


This chapter looks ahead to the year 2030 and considers the ways in which current visions of massive open online courses may develop into realities. In order to do this, it considers the changes in pedagogy, technology, and the wider environment that will be necessary in order for them to flourish. The chapter argues that, by 2030, the systems that develop from MOOCs will be meeting the needs of societies by educating millions of digital citizens worldwide. These systems will have opened up access to education and be enabling people from all over the world to enjoy the benefits of learning at scale. In order for this to happen, MOOC providers, policy makers, and educators will all need to proceed with this vision in mind. In effect, if MOOCs are to make a difference and truly open up education while enhancing learning, the pedagogies in place by 2030 must take into account entirely new groups of learners as well as vastly new roles that will emerge for educators. Such pedagogical approaches must also utilize innovative approaches to the design of that learning, whether it be MOOCs or some other form of learning delivery at scale.

Citation: Ferguson, Rebecca, Sharples, Mike, & Beale, Russell. (2015). MOOCs 2030: A Future for Massive Online Learning In C. J. Bonk, M. Miyoung Lee, T. C. Reeves & T. H. Reynolds (Eds.), MOOCs and Open Education Around the World. Routledge



The role of personality in education

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 09/07/2015 - 08:32

This is one of those posts where I don’t have a firm conclusion, I’m just thinking some stuff through. I’ve been thinking a bit about what the role of personality is in eduction, particularly online and distance ed. In my own institution, The Open University, there has been a long tradition of removing the personal from teaching material. While the course materials we produce are written in an accessible manner, they are not imbued with one person’s personality. Although one academic may write them, they go through multiple reviews, and editing. Course units are often attributed to the “The Module Team”, or “written by X on behalf of the Module Team”. The idea is that this is an objective view, created through collaboration to distill clear teaching material. The trouble with making them based around a personality is that this can be a barrier to accessing the content, if you don’t respond well to that particular personality (but the opposite is also true, it can be a boost if you do like that person). When I joined the OU removing myself from the writing was one of the difficult aspects of learning to write distance ed material, while still keeping it engaging and not too ‘dry’. I mean, who wouldn’t want my personality stamped all over their units on Artificial Intelligence, right? (don’t answer that).

Now, many of my more constructivist inclined colleagues will laugh at the idea that any teaching content can ever be objective, or that it isn’t shot through with individual assumptions, cultural history, etc. This is true to an extent, but less so when you adopt a deliberate policy of writing from a collaborative perspective and specifically looking for cultural bias (this is always one of the aspects of peer review that we ask people to comment upon).

But then along come MOOCs, and they’re all about the personality. Ironically, I find that cMOOCs, for all their intentions at being hierarchical and distributed, have a very strong cult of personality driving them. To be successful they often require someone with a well established online network to gather enough momentum, and because creating successful cMOOCs is hard work, that person usually needs to really be central in driving the course forward. And when this works well, it really does create a very engaging learning community. As you’ll know, I’m a BIG FAN of Jim Groom, but it’s hard to say that DS106 isn’t a product of Jim’s online personality. Indeed it is all about that, which is exactly why it’s fun. Similarly, I think Dave Cormier’s Rhizo courses are truly innovative and beginning to explore what a networked take on education might look like. But I think Dave’s (loveable, cuddly) personality is a big factor in its success. And then there are xMOOCs with Rock star professors. There is even talk of actual rock stars (or film stars anyway) presenting MOOCs.

This all takes place in the context of social media now of course, which wasn’t the case with original OU material. Whenever I do my social media for academics sessions, I always stress that it’s called social media for a reason, so put a bit of yourself in there. What I’m genuinely unsure about is the extent to which we should deliberately seek to place the learning process. If we remove it, learning can become dull and dry and possibly out of sync with the social media world it needs to operate within. But if we place too much emphasis on it, we risk highlighting the extrovert academic, the jokester, the good looking one, above academics with better subject skills. I’m just sharing my pondering here, not making a call one way or the other.

The battle for open – tales from the front

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 02/07/2015 - 11:59

I know some people don’t like the whole “battle” idea in my book, and I get why it isn’t always applicable. But sometimes, it really does feel that way. In what could become a regular feature, if I could be bothered, I thought I’d do a quick round-up of stories that really emphasise the battle (or struggle if you prefer) aspect of open education currently.

The battle for language: This story that the University of Guelph trademarked the term “OpenEd” has largely resolved itself now. Understandably most of us who have worked in Open Ed for years were outraged, particularly when Guelph then aggressively pursued BC Campus over its use of the term. Brian Lamb and Clint Lalonde both captured this sense of outrage. Eventually, Guelph backtracked and climbed down. I won’t dwell on how misguided the attempt was in the first place, but rather just highlight that this shows that “Open” has market value now, and that commercial interests will seek to control what that means.

The battle for money: I could pick a similar story every month, but this CBC piece comparing the profits publishers make with the dire straits of many university libraries caught my attention. The researcher found that “the five largest, for-profit academic publishers now publish 53 per cent of scientific papers in the natural and medical sciences – up from 20 per cent in 1973. In the social sciences, the top five publishers publish 70 per cent of papers.” That’s a lot of control we’ve ceded to them. Make no mistake, we, as academics, messed up here and lost control over our own content and knowledge dissemination. A similar story in that Russian libraries lost access to Springer journals because they were unable to pay the fees.

The battle for ownership: Thanks to my OU colleague Simon Knight for flagging this. Potentially a change in European copyright laws might see the loss of the “freedom of panorama”. That is, you can take photos of public buildings without breaching copyright. As Simon highlighted, there is an implication for OERs here that include photos of public buildings. It’s supposed to allow non-commercial use, but that can be a grey area (eg if you are sharing them on a commercial site such as Facebook, Slideshare, that might count as commercial use). It’s one of those detailed legal arguments that might come to nothing, but equally we might found someone being prosecuted for by some over-zealous claimant. It also adds in another potential barrier, fear factor and layer of confusion for educators who just want to create a learning resource.

The battle to share: Colombian student Diego Gomez faces a potential prison sentence of 4-8 years for sharing an academic article he liked on Scribd. He didn’t make any money from it, he just thought others would benefit from reading it. The author sued for economic damage and the full weight of the law kicked in. Even if you think it was wrong of Gomez to share, the response seems massively disproportionate – it is an example of a legal system designed for one use, coming smack into the digital world and then floundering around like a bully. These type of confrontations will become more frequent.

When you view these, it’s hard not to frame it as a battle, one to make sure openness stays open, and that it isn’t closed down or thwarted for other uses. Or maybe I’m just paranoid and see it everywhere…

Caring Counts in the Workplace launch, Glasgow: 8 June 2015

Dr Beck Pitt's blog - Wed, 24/06/2015 - 17:10

Originally posted on OEPScotland:

by Beck Pitt and Caroline Anderson (OEPS project)

Beck, Bea and Caroline were at Citizen M, Glasgow on Monday for the The Open University (OU) in Scotland’s symposium to launch Caring Counts in the Workplace, an exciting new open educational resource (OER) to enable managers to support carers in balancing their caring and work roles. Nicely timed at the beginning of Carers Week and also in the year that Carers Scotland celebrates its 50th anniversary, the day brought together carers, support workers and employers to learn about the new course, find out more about how it was developed, its benefit to both employer and employee, and its potential for transforming lives. This post aims to act as a snapshot overview of some of the rich and interesting discussion and events from the day.

Caring Counts in the Workplace builds on the success of, and accompanies Caring Counts: a reflection and planning…

View original 711 more words

Preparing for the digital university

Professor Martin Weller's Blog - Thu, 18/06/2015 - 12:10

George Siemens, Dragan Gasevic and Shane Dawson have produced an excellent report with this title. I think it’s a very ambitious and also very timely thing to do. They synthesise the research of distance, blended and online learning to provider an analysis of the benefits and issues for each. As nearly all universities offer one or more versions of these forms of learning, it is very useful to have a report to start from. As we’ve often voiced in the OER field, there is a lot of research published that is of questionable quality, and in order to make good decisions we need to be drawing on sound evidence.

So, I applaud their efforts and what I offer here is by way of an addendum, not a major criticism. I have two points I’d add to the report, both of which arise from my Open University experience. I fully appreciate that in wanting to produce a readable report they can’t give the detailed history of distance education. But I’d like to add the following two items for consideration:

i) The discussion of distance education seems to be focused on correspondence tuition and then jumps straight from here to interactive, online modes. Anyone who has worked at the OU becomes sensitive to this, so maybe it doesn’t matter to others, but I think it’s worth highlighting the Supported Open Learner model developed by the OU (and then successfully replicated across the globe). This has a range of elements all specifically designed to aid the distance learner, including course material designed to be studied individually, a part-time tutor allocated for support (by face to face tutorials, phone, online, etc), a regional centre support system, summer schools, use of different media and assessment constructed to be a feedback and progression mechanism. I stress it because many universities and online providers still haven’t discovered this rich support mechanism. I expect one will reinvent it soon, amongst much fanfare, but the point is that different elements have greater significance for different students. Think of it like reversing a car: you use side mirrors, rearview mirror, reverse sensor, look over your shoulder. All those elements are useful. I feel the report rather brushed over the significance of this in a rush to get to blended learning.

ii) The report states that distance learning has high retention. This seems odd, and makes me wonder what version of distance ed is being considered here. Distance ed is not synonymous with open education, but it has often been used as a means by which open education can be realised. One of the things about open education is that it doesn’t have high retention rates. Just as MOOC developers are now discovering, if you have open entry, it makes comparison with filtered entry difficult. MOOC providers are also making claims that traditional metrics of completion rates are not as applicable. This has always been the case for truly open education. Many open ed students come in, try one or two courses, and then leave the system, quite satisfied. They have got what they wanted and they never intended to gain a degree. This is why funding systems based solely on whole course completion are a disaster if you care about social mobility, inclusion, or open education. So to claim that distance learning has high retention seems a bit at odds with some of the reality experienced.

Apart from that, thanks George, Dragan and Shane, I really did enjoy reading it, and apologies if I’ve misinterpreted anything here.

Open University’s CALRG Conference 2015 – Notes Day 3 #calrg2015

Martyn Cooper's blog - Wed, 17/06/2015 - 08:00
CALRG Annual Conference   17 June 2013 Day 3: Paper Presentations Jennie Lee Building, Ambient Lab 9:30-9:45 Opening remarks – Canan Blake   Session V– Chair: Ann Jones 9:45-10:15 Helen Farley

Making the Connection: eLearning and mobile learning for prisoners

  • Project working on for the last 18 months
  • Prisons are overcrowded
  • Education reduced recidivism
  • When  back in the work released prisoners will have to deal with the digital world
  • Australia all time prison population high 34,000
  • Increasing number from non-English speaking backgrounds
  • Asylum seeker
  • Aboriginal prisoners 4% population but about 27% prison populations
  • So project puts emphasis on Aboriginals
  • Prisoners have no access to the internet and limited access to computers
  • Have been offering education into prisons for about 25 years
  • Use a Moodle based Learning Management System and eBook readers
  • Restricted devices because of security concerns – leads to time consuming systems support etc.
  • The prisoners like the dictionaries on the LMS for their Scrabble contests
  • Can now send 2-3 DVDs to the prison educational centre to update server software
  • EEE – eLearning, Empowerment and ???
  • Reverted to hard-book copy because not allowed to use eBook readers but then prison authorities suggested using tablets
  • In 2012 44% tertiary students could not access the internet
  • Project Scope
    • – Also now in Victoria and Western Australia (with interest from other states)
    • – Funded by Australian Government
    • – Aboriginals half as like to finish year 12 school education
    • – Now can been invited into a women’s prison
  • Technology designed to be robust and easily maintainable
  • Important after the project that everything does not just fall over
  • Self marking quizzes, games, etc. but not blogs
  • Now narrowed spec down to one laptop, one tablet and 1 notebook
  • Moodle does not run well on the notebooks to introduced a HTML layer
  • It’s not easy – system and processes are complex to ensure life after the project
  • Now have an off-line authoring environment
  • Course development environment deposits content into a repository – developed a compiler for this so isolation from internet maintained
  • Educational officer can download courses for their institution
  • It’s not just about the technology
  • Looking at English for academic purposes courses – just a 10 week course so ok for prisioners with short sentences
  •  Diplomas:
    • – Arts
    • – Business
    • – Science
  • Looking at incorporating OpenLearn courses
  • Problems:
    • – copyright
    • – prejudice
  • High level endorsement from the University and the Government Authorities
  • Issues of getting funding for prisoner related work – so style it as not internet users on funding bids

Brief question time  10:15-10:40 Anne Pike

What makes the difference? Understanding the interactions and experiences of ‘at risk’ learner

[This presentation not blogged]  10:40-11:05 Annie Bryan and Lisette Toetenel

Designing for inclusion: Supporting disabled students at the OU

11:05-11:30    TEA/COFFEE    Session VI – Chair: Doug Clow 11:30-11:55 Martyn Cooper

Learning Analytics and Accessibility – what can be done and pragmatic considerations

[I can’t live blog my own presentation but here is a link to the slides instead]

Learning Analytics and Accessibility:

11:55-12:20 Jenna Mittelmeier, Bart Rienties, Denise Whitelock

The Role of Culture in Student Contributions to an Online Group Learning Activity 12:20-12:45 Ann Jones

Informal language learning with mobile technologies: reflections on three recent studies 12:45-13:10 Ann Grand, Richard Holliman, Helen Donelan, Peter Devine

Linking research and practice: the evolution of “the snakes and ladders of social media” 13:10-14:00    LUNCH    Session VII – Chair: Simon Cross 14:00-14:25 Katy Jordan

Characterising the structure of academics’ personal networks on academic social networking sites and Twitter 14:25-14:50 Anne Adams and Gill Clough

The E-assessment burger:  Supporting the before and after in e-assessment systems 14:50-15:15 Tim Coughlan

Creating Structures for Engagement with Open Knowledge: Interpreting the links between art and location in the ArtMaps project 15:15-15:40 Lucia Rapanotti, Canan Blake​, Jon Hall

Enriched student context in online professional learning 15:40-16:00 TEA/COFFEE and Close of the Conference

Open University’s CALRG Conference 2015 – Notes Day 2 #calrg2015

Martyn Cooper's blog - Tue, 16/06/2015 - 08:50
CALRG Annual Conference   16 June 2015 Day 2 Paper Presentations: Jennie Lee Building, Meeting Room 1

This is a semi-live blog of Martyn Cooper’s notes from Day 2 of the OU’s Computer and Learning Research Group’s annual conference in 2015. 9:30-9:45 Opening remarks Patrick McAndrew – IET Director (not blogged)   Session I – Chair: Rebecca Ferguson 9:45-10:15 Eileen Scanlon

Collaboration and interdisciplinarity in Technology Enhanced Learning Research

  • I am an educational technologist – what is that?
  • – Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) (EU term)
  • – eLearning (also widely used)
  • Missionary zeal about working in TEL
  • Educationalist think they are teaching computer scientists about the real world
  • Computer scientists think they are teaching educationalists how to use computers “properly”
  • The trials of interdisciplinary work! E.g. even a term like “scenario” means different things to different disciplines
  • Need mediating artefacts – e.g. diagrams giving high level system view and function specification
  • The challenge of where to publish when undertaking interdisciplinary work and still score points for the REF (UK National Research Assessment Exercise that takes place every 7 years or so)
  • Are you really interdisciplinary? – It is hard to work this way however necessary and rewarding.
  • Eileen – shows photo of an EU project team and highlights the range of disciplines represented
  • Working with mutual respect even if have to suspend disbelief and work with the methods of another discipline
  • What is the difference between interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary – suggests it is that new knowledge results from the collaboration specifically
  • When you start to look at the complexity of the infrastructure around TEL – bricolage (a tinkerer who works with the tools)
  • TEL is more than research informed products
  • Strategic Research Investment (“OpenTEL”)
  • The OU is investing in this area and in IET among other units – giving funding for additional PhD studentships.
  • Working with colleagues in KMi, Science, NPL, ….
  • Invitation for project ideas for interdisciplinary work to exploit this investment
  • Eileen will be continuing work on interdisciplinarity working with Josie Taylor (former Director of IET) who is returning as a consultant

Brief question time  10:15-10:40 Mark Gaved, Iestyn Jowers, Gary Elliott-Cirigottis

Makespaces: distributed design studios for distributed design students? 10:40-11:05 Shailey Minocha, Steve Tilling, Tom Argles, Nick Braithwaite, David Burden and James Rock

Pedagogical advantages of 3D virtual field trips and the challenges for their adoption 11:05-11:30    TEA/COFFEE    Session II – Chair:Beck Pit 11:30-11:55 Annika Wolff

Smart tourists: Using mobile technology to close the gap between physical and conceptual neighbourhoods across cultural points of interest 11:55-12:20 Trevor Collins

Enabling innovation in technology-enhanced learning through co-research 12:20-12:45 Andrew Brasher, Ann Jones, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Mark Gaved, Eileen Scanlon, Lucy Norris

Designing and evaluating incidental learning 12:45-13:10 Mark Gaved, Richard Greenwood, Alice Peasgood

Location triggered language learning using beacons 13:10-14:00    LUNCH    Session III – Chair:Liz Fitzgerald 14:00-14:25 Bea de los Arcos, Rob Farrow, Beck Pitt, Martin Weller

Building Understanding of Open Education: An Overview of the Impact of OER on Teaching and Learning 14:25-14:50 Lucy Norris, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Andrew Brasher, Ann Jones, Mark Gaved,

Eileen Scanlon, Jan Jones

Conducting a field trial in Milton Keynes: Lessons from the MApp 14:50-15:15 Chris Douce, Dave Mcintyre and Jon Williams

TT284 Web Technologies: The tutor’s experience 15:15-15:35  TEA/COFFEE 15:35-16:00 Session IV – Chair: Canan Blake

Chris Edwards, Maria Luisa Perez Cavana

Improving language learning and transition into second language learning, through the Language Learning Support Dimensions (LLSD) 16:00-16:25 Elaine Thomas, Leonor Barroca, Helen Donelan, Karen Kear, Jon Rosewell

Diverse approaches to using online ‘studio’ based learning in Open University modules 16:25-16:45 Summary and End of Day 2

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