Graphic showing origins of a number of communities involved in open education as a braid

OpenEd 2012 (2/2)

Following on from my general blog post about OpenEd12, there’s lot’s of the conference that I’m not going to comment on – too much time has passed. However, for me at least, there were two presentations that highlighted pivotal issues and which have shaped how I’m thinking back on the year. One from Rory McGreal and Terry Anderson presented on disaggregating the university (audio link, not sure where the slides are) which they followed up with Anderson, T., & McGreal, R. (2012). Disruptive Pedagogies and Technologies in Universities. Educational Technology & Society, 15 (4), 380–389. Though sadly at first glance the paper doesn’t put the question as starkly as “~where is the RyanAir of higher education? or why does education think it can avoid such competition in some areas?). They’re certainly not the only ones talking about this question but it’s heartening to continue to have a more nuanced articulation of models of doing tertiary education differently be considered by two people with their level of experience both in the academy and in the open movement; as gulp-inducing as the presentation and implicit realities for those working in the sector might be. George Siemens also made this point about the lecture in one of the  NGLC Summer Learning Series webinars discussing MOOCs – whether we like it or not some aspects of HE are open to disruption. Whether lectures or support services, the currently bundling that is higher education is likely to diversify and outside of a few institutions appears highly susceptible to change (and frankly many of those who might chose to be immune to change are highly involved in it) .

The other presentation was David Kernohan, Amber Thomas (not present), & Sheila MacNeill’s presentation on the prehistory of OER (somewhat focused on UKOER). I’m familiar with most of what David and Sheila talked about and was involved with them in a fair chunk of it. The details are in their presentation but I was really struck by their three strands of the open education movement slide which captures something important about where the ‘Open Education’ movement (in the UK at least, but I suspect more widely) came from and why. The convergence of efforts from a number of different domains helped create a peculiar opportunity for, interest in, focus on, and shared identity around OER.

Graphic showing origins of a number of communities involved in open education as a braid

Braid of Open Education Origins by (Kernohan, MacNeill, Thomas )

I think that the diagram is particularly important at this stage of the ‘Open Education’ movement because it helps us remember that we all got into this for similar but slightly different reasons and as we begin to see other options emerge we have different responses to them and are perhaps surprised at each other’s responses. It may also help us remember that together these strands achieved something that they might not have otherwise been able to do.

Perhaps the obvious example of this identity tension is that many new MOOCs are ‘free’ but not exactly ‘open’, they offer (in lowest common denominator terms) access to educational stuff and various forms of structure around it. Is this:

  • a good thing,
  • an inevitable thing,
  • a hijacking of good intentions,
  • an abomination,
  • a beginning of a new model?

I’ll not claim that there is an answer but, as much as I value open, I’m beginning to feel that free (as long as it lasts) is also a good thing (not the best, likely to mutate, but nevertheless good). [One of the perils of writing something and not finishing it is that life happens – FWK is now both an example of models mutating and of the benefits of open over free for the community in the long term].

I also wonder if this mixed heritage is one reason that newcomers to the community may not quite get some of the things that frustrate some of us and perhaps help understand why some funders, though also committed to open, are backing MOOCs.

There’s more that could be said about this but for now I’m left grappling with the double-edged priority of access to education – I want licence/license to be secondary to reach and impact but I know that is somewhat shortsighted. It’s easy for me to say not using an open license will cause problems in the long run but I’m left with the fact that I still like CC: BY NC SA for my work (rather than work funded to be open) and there are plenty of colleagues who see that as a dead end.

6th Sloan C Emerging Technologies for Online Learning cfp #et4online

The 6th Sloan C Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium has just launched their call for presentations:

The conference is April 9-11, 2013 in Las Vegas. The call for presentations, posters, and workshops closes December 10th.

“The Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium, a joint Symposium of Sloan Consortium and MERLOT, is designed to bring together individuals interested in the review and evaluation of emerging technologies’ impact on online teaching and learning. We seek interactive sessions that engage and inform participants. Presenters and facilitators from the following areas are encouraged to submit proposals:

  • Higher Education and K-12 Faculty
  • Future professors and graduate students
  • Educational technology leaders
  • Students
  • Instructional designers
  • Instructional technologists
  • Academic administrators

Proposed sessions can be targeted to all attendees or novice, intermediate, or expert levels of proficiency.”

There are a number of tracks outlined in the call in the areas of: “Learning Spaces and Communities, Open and Accessible Learning, Evidence-based Learning, Faculty and Student Development, Innovative Media and Tools”

“ET4Online seeks submissions which emphasize evidence-based practice and the impact of topic tracks on teaching practices and student learning outcomes using a range of research methodologies (e.g. case study, longitudinal comparisons, within group comparisons, quasi-experimental, etc.) and rigorous approaches to the analysis of supporting data, qualitative or quantitative.”

I’d like to draw attention to the Open and Accessible Learning track:

This track will explore three key issues in online and blended learning: openness, accessibility, and affordability. It invites papers which share evidence and practice through discussion of these issues in relation to Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare, Open Textbooks, MOOCs, Open Practice or relevant topics of your choice. This year a focus on the impact of these issues and topics on the learner’s experience is encouraged. Suggestions include:

  • Which emerging open practices work in everyday instruction? How open is open?
  • What evidence-based practices exist concerning the inventive uses of open content or open content adoption to improve outcomes in learning, accessibility, affordability, faculty satisfaction, or student satisfaction?
  • What tools do we have to evaluate the sustainable impact of emerging trends in openness, accessibility, and affordability?
  • What benefits, risks, and costs are there for an institution in using open content?
  • What emerging practices or technologies can make credentialed education more affordable today?

Please note, it is the intent of this track to have a balanced program to promote the discussion of how these three issues intersect.

[disclosure: I’m the track chair, so have a vested interest in promoting this, i.e. I want to hear what you’ve been doing and have a realistic and useful conversation with you all about what is happening and how we build on our success and failures thus far and help improve open, accessible, and affordable learning; also note that we’re hoping to *flip* the conference somewhat so that, beyond hearing what each other has been up to we can engage with each others work in a hopefully more substantive manner ]

New OER for Information Literacy report and mailing list

As a complement to the work Gema has been doing on the role of Libraries and Librarians in OER Initiatives, Nancy Graham & Jane Secker have recently released a report on Information Literacy OER and established a mailing list to support the further development of the network. From their announcement:

“Following a survey earlier this year and a recent event held at the University of Birmingham looking at how librarians share information literacy (IL) open educational resources (OERs) as a community of practice, we are pleased to announce the release of our report ‘Librarians, Information Literacy and Open Educational Resources: report of a survey’. The report is available here: The event and work on the report has been kindly supported by the CILIP Information Literacy Group.”
“One outcome from the Birmingham event is a JISC mailing list for those interested in IL OERs: We will be posting to this list any events, research or discussions relevant to IL OERs. If you have anything to share or report on, please do use this list, we would like it to be a virtual meeting point for the community. To subscribe to this list please follow this link:

We have also set up a wiki at The outcomes of discussions at the Birmingham event are posted here along with details of many existing IL OER initiatives, projects, websites etc.”

UKOER 2: without the collections strand

An intial look at UKOER without the collections strand (C). This is a post in the UKOER 2 technical synthesis series.

[These posts should be regarded as drafts for comment until I remove this note]

In my earlier post in this series on the collections strand (C), I presented a graph of the technical choices made just by that part of the programme looking at the issue of gathering static and dynamic collections, as part of that process I realised that, although the collections strand reflects a key aspect of the programme, and part of the direction future I hope future ukoer work is going, a consideration of the programme omitting the technical choices of strand C might be of interest.

The below graphs are also the ones which compare most directly with the work of UKOER 1 which didn’t have an strand focused on aggregation.

Platform related choices in UKOER2 excluding the collections strand

Platform related choices in UKOER2 excluding the collections strand

Standards related choices in UKOER2 excluding the collections strand

Standards related choices in UKOER2 excluding the collections strand

I’m hesitant to over-analyse these graphs and think there’s a definite need to consider the programme as a whole but will admit, that a few things about these graphs give me pause for thought.

  • wordpress as a platform vanishes
  • rss and oai-pmh see equal use
  • the proportional of use of repositories increases a fair bit (when we consider that a number of the other platfoms are being used in conjunction with a repository)


now in a sense, the above graphs fit exactly with the observation at the end of UKOER that projects used whatever tools they had readily available. However, compared to the earlier programme it feels like there are fewer outliers – the innovative and alternative technical approaches the projects used and which either struggled or shone.

Speculating on this it might be because institutions are seeking to engage with OER release as part of their core business and so are using tools they already have, it might be that most of the technically innovative bids ended up opting to go for strand C, or I could be underselling how much technical innovation is happening around core institutional technology (for example ALTO’s layering of a web cms on top of a repository).

To be honest I can’t tell if I think this trend to stable technical choices is good or not. Embedded is good but my worry is that there’s a certain inertia around institutional systems which are very focused on collecting content (or worse just collecting metadata) and which may lose sight of why we’re all so interested in in openly licensed resources (See Amber Thomas’ OER Turn and comments for a much fuller discussion of why fund content release and related issues; for reference I think open content is good in itself but is only part of what the UKOER programmes have been about).


  • the projects have been engaged in substantive innovative work in other areas, my comments are purely about techincal approaches to do with managing and sharing OER.
  • when comparing these figures to UKOER graphs it’s important to remember the programmes had different numbers of projects and different foci; a direct comparison of the data would need a more careful consideration than comparing the graphs I’ve published.

Post UKOER? the Saylor open textbook challenge

Are you wondering what to do with your OER next? Are you wondering how to keep the ball rolling in your institution and share some more educational resources openly? Are you looking for a tangible way to get your open content used? or perhaps looking for a way to turn your OER into something a little more tangible for your CV?

well, this might be your lucky day…

If your OER is transformable into a textbook (or is already a textbook) and is entirely licensable as  CC: BY content (either already CC:BY or you’re the rights holder and are willing to licence as such), the Saylor Foundation would like to hear from you. There’s a $20000 award for any textbook they accept for their curriculum.

full details are available at:

key dates

  • round 1 funding deadline: November 1, 2011;
  • round 2 funding deadline: January 31, 2012;
  • round 3 funding deadline: May 31, 2012

There have been a number of UKOER projects working in some of the areas which Saylor are looking for materials, so it’s worth a look.

There’s this whole thing about referrals but (to keep life simple) here’s the referral link which Creative Commons generated: .

If you use this link to submit a textbook which gets accepted those clever folk at Creative Commons get $250.