Working on the OpenLearn project means looking at quite a range of issues: how people learn, production processes, software design, impact of social software, research methods, theories, sustainability, … . Recently I went to a gathering of Hewlett funded projects in Houston and my colleagues went to a meeting of the Open Courseware Consortium in Santander. These were very positive event – but we came away with the feeling that some people felt we were not telling them everything we were up to. They are right – and so I feel we need to find methods to get our work out there. Not quite sure what is the best approach as actually after only six months of running means we have quite a few uncertainties, but have a couple of plans in progress.

First move has been to declare a writing week starting with a brainstorm where in about half-an-hour we generated more than 50 titles. We have shared these out a bit and next stage is to see which make the good starts of papers. Some of these will then definitely become submissions and full papers, others may well have a life as a couple of page reports, and I am sure some will fall by the way. It has definitely generated some ideas and helped firm up plans.

The other aspect is a start at redesigning the LabSpace. Several motivations behind this but one is to move towards more ways to bring in participation and collaboration.

Ideas for later trials

July 24, 2006

The open content system is potentially of use to eveyone. However as Maurice Sloman said in a recent seminar it is hard to design only for emergent use, he would rather try to meet the needs of some user group, and then let other uses emerge. This means we should  pick some targets we expect to be included and set out to study them. Candidates include:

  • Transistion from school to university

  • Remote communities – the commonwealth of learning has sugested the virtual university of the small states of the commonwealth

  • Enthusiast communities – e.g. Birdwatchers, sports fans, health, etc.

  • Retired people

  • Education drop outs

  • Partner universities eg in Brazil

There are many more.

Trials

July 24, 2006

We are starting to plan the trial set for OpenLearn. I am very keen to set up two early trials. One would be be as initial technology trial with some friendly users very probably from aross the university. They would be able to understand the role for the system and step it through but stop short of a real test. The second trial though would take a potential uer group through a scenario. This use of trials worked well  on the MOBIlearn mobile learning project and should take place as soon as we can, in practice that will be September.

I have now produced the research and evaluation plan. I always knew it would be quite tricky to do this so had written in a couple of month delay before issueing it. That time has been very useful in bringing out ideas and adjusting the emphasis however I have also felt the lack of a written plan so with hindsight I should have made myself deliver this earlier. I intend the plan to serve as a way to collect thoughts and options as well as tie down things that must be done. This fits with the model for agile research that I proposed last year. To emphasise the living nature of the plan I am putting it in a space on the wiki and also publicly available on the KN. Preparing the plan also remminded me about our short timescales and the need to get moving on a research environment, initial trials and data collection methods.