Thursday, 11 March 2010

Approaches to releasing Open Educational Resources

We (Helen Beetham, Lou McGill, Karen Smith, Isobel Falconer and I) have been carring out the Synthesis and Evaluation for the JISC/HEA OER Programme (see press release). We are working with all projects, in institutions/ subject centres across England and Wales, on evaluation.

The projects seem to be gaining useful models for their own evaluation and progress, and have opportunities to share with other projects in a structured way, while contributing to the further development of the collective understanding of the programme. At the same time we are collating evidence of effective practice that will be made available to the wider global community at the end of the project in June2010.

Synthesis is achieved through a common evaluation framework we are evolving. The framework captures key dimensions of the programme. The framework provides a foundation and common language for collating data; offers a range of questions/issues to support evaluation and review; supports the collation of key messages, challenges, solutions and outputs; and enables the identification of key areas of interest and highlights useful approaches.

The generic framework has been compiled from three separate frameworks, which capture the specific strands of the programme (projects focused in institutional, subject or individual sharing). Strand frameworks are updated and shared with projects and other support teams on a regular basis and are continually augmented. These feed back into the generic framework to provide a programme wide overview.

Our research is surfacing a very wide range of complex issues. Three distinct approaches to releasing and sharing OERs are emerging:

Open release by institutions Institutions are more likely to release generic resources which have a high impact across subject areas, especially where there are reputational benefits for the institution. Institutions may be more reluctant to release specialist resources, particularly if they see opportunities to marketise content, though some specialist resources are released to highlight an area of teaching and learning expertise. Quality assurance is important, and institutions may also invest in ensuring content is repurposable e.g. by disaggregating and tagging it effectively.

Open release by individuals Individuals may share with the wider education community to build their personal reputation as teachers and subject specialists. They may adopt approaches that maximise the integrity rather than the reuseability of their resources. Release by individuals can have a positive impact on the institution and act as an example of good practice to encourage others, however it can be easier to leave out institutional branding if repurposing is a driver for the individual.

Sharing within tightly knit topic communities These communities already share areas of research interest and tend to have personal contact, often face-to-face. Open content may fit in well with the topic ethos, or the topic may already have a strong public interest element e.g. climate change, public health, Approaches to sharing adopted by these communities do not necessarily have impact on institutional practices. They may adopt approaches to sharing which work well among teachers and researchers in their community but are less effective for other potential users.

We also have evidence of Open release by topic communities

At this stage of evaluation it is too early to list conclusive outcomes. Helen, Lou, Karen, Isobela nd I thought it would be useful to share these emerging approaches. We presented our initial findings to the JISC and HEA at a meeting in London earlier this month and a brief report is going to HEFCE to inform the release of phase 2 funding.

More information on OERs

The OER evaluation and synthesis wiki is at

Monday, 8 March 2010

Caledonian debates the future of universities

On Monday 1st March 2010 the Caledonian Academy hosted an event to discuss the future of universities. The event was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the ‘Literacy in the Digital University(LiDU)’ project.

The event included research partners from the Universities of Edinburgh, Lancaster the UK Open University and the Institute of Education in London, along with colleagues from the Caledonian Academy and the academic schools at Glasgow Caledonian University. Throughout the day there was lively debate and discussion both onsite and at remote locations via Skype and Twitter (#lidu).

The opening keynote by Helen Beetham (article)highlighted research carried out by the Caledonian Academy (Helen Beetham, Allison Littlejohn and Lou McGill) in 2009 on Learning Literacies for a Digital Age (LLiDA).

The LLiDA project was funded by JISC to explore the relation of current literacy practices to educational, societal and technological changes. The research involved:
• a review of literatures at the intersection of learning, e-learning, literacy, and 'the digital'
• a review of relevant competence frameworks (UK, European, and English-speaking education systems)
• analysis of 40+ practical examples of digital literacy support and provision from UK HEIs
• analysis of data from 16 institutional audits of digital literacy practice, including 60 institutional strategic documents

The LiDU project website is at

An overview of the event is available at

The LLiDA project website is at

Caledonian leads the race to share and ‘mash up’ Online Educational Resources

The Caledonian Academy is leading a project to explore how the sharing and ‘mash-up’ of online educational resources will maximise learning opportunities.

The Open Educational Resources (OER) Programme, a multi-million pound initiative funded by the UK Joint Information Systems Committees (JISC), Higher Education funding council HEFCE and the UK Higher Education Academy, aims to make a wide range of on-line learning resources freely available, easily discovered and routinely re-used by both educators and learners.

By releasing a wide range of new course materials online, including complete modules, notes, videos, assessments, tests, simulations, worked examples, software, and other tools, and by exploring the lessons learned, the programme aims to discover what approaches to resource sharing are successful and sustainable long-term.

Glasgow Caledonian University was selected to lead the evaluation and synthesis of the programme through The Caledonian Academy which specialises in the research and development of innovative forms of learning and teaching for a wide range of students. In 2003 Academy Director and technology enhanced learning expert Professor Allison Littlejohn published the first international text on Reusing Online Resources and has since led a range of national and international projects in this area. She will lead a keynote address at a national conference on Open Educational Resources at te University of Cambridge this month [March 2010].

She said: “The concept of sharing and reusing educational resources isn’t new – learning and teaching has always involved practitioners sharing resources, but growing access to freely available Web2.0 technologies such as Facebook and YouTube means we can now share information in ways that were not previously possible, breaking barriers to access and enabling people to adapt, reuse and ‘mash up’ existing course content with all sorts of other resources, including student generated materials.”

“GCU’s role in the OER Programme is to identify barriers and enablers to effective release and reuse of materials, aiming towards significant amounts of high quality resources being openly released and effectively used in the long term.”

“The ultimate goal is to kick-start a change in the way we all think about educational resources. In the future we hope students and lecturers will play an equal part in the creation and sharing of learning resources. Universities such as MIT and the UK Open University have already invested time and funding into making their resources freely available to anyone in the world who wants to use them and there are benefits for every university – and for society – in doing so”.

“GCU has just released a range of open educational resources for mathematics. The resources were released under an intellectual property license, called Creative Commons, which permits open use and adaptation. This move has been viewed by colleagues in the maths community as a milestone in moving forward how students and lecturers access and use maths resources.”

David Kernohan of JISC said: “The Funding Councils have identified the innovative use of digital technologies to maintain the UK's position as a global leader in education as having high importance and this is the first time a single country has taken forward OER release on this scale. GCU's role is analysing how the information can be released in the most helpful, user-friendly and sustainable way so is absolutely key to our success. If we get this right, the impact it can have is potentially phenomenal”.

The JISC OER programme comprises 29 projects, most based at universities and colleges in institutions across England and Wales, some involving the Higher Education Academy subject centres, all working towards open content release. Central to the programme is achieving sustainable change in educational culture, moving away from a focus on content ownership and towards openly shared content. Learning resources created by the programme will be released into Jorum Open (JISC supported national repository), using the Creative Commons licence.

The final evaluation and synthesis report will be available by June 2010.

More information on OERs The OER evaluation and synthesis wiki is at