Live blogging 9AM – 18th March 2010 – GUIDE Workshop, Rome

Dr Indrajit Banerjee of the UNESCO ICT in Education, Science and Culture starts by considering some of the challenges and benefits of distance education.

Next, he recommends practitioners the use of  the ICT Competence benchmarks for teachers, launched by UNESCO.

UNESCO is focusing on 3 key areas, having launched its Open Suite Strategy.  It has 3 components: 1) Open  educational resources (Unesco is developing its own educational resources platform); 2) Open Access to Scientific Information and 3) Free and open source software.

He also mentioned UNESCO’s Open Training Platform (OTP) with more than 3500 courses in 21 subject areas. The OTP has over 630 training providers and has attracted more than 1 million visitors (

The OER debate

February 11, 2010

Martin Weller reports on his EdTechie blog that he won a debate on the value of OER at his end of project meeting in Fiji. Unfortunately he was speaking on the side of the anti-OER. While he makes it clear this is not his personal stance Martin lists 8 issues that get in the way of OER being a success. His points are all valid but of course in a debate he only has to present one side of the argument. So I thought I would try to balance with the counter-arguments.

  • Sustainability – pricing OER as if it was a completely separate activity makes no more sense than if we started to cost giving a lecture as if that was all a “lecturer” did. Rather working with OER has an impact across many aspects of work, if you stop counting it as a *separate* activity and see being open alongside other things you do the extra cost becomes more reasonable. Any other process that finishes in hidden and closed resources is wasteful: OER is the ultimate “green learning”.
  • Lack of reuse – this is inventing a barrier to OER by laying out the difficult process for taking, changing and giving back content. Rather surely OER is about helping learning happen and there the balance of evidence is different: use, feed through, flexibility v reuse, put back and structure.
  • Reuse is hard – yes it is if you define it as hard. Saying look at this resource and do section 5 is easier than editing out the previous 4 sections. So do it that way.
  • Individual/institutional resistance – also individual/institutional enthusiasm (rarer but growing).
  • Leave it to others – join in with others. Adopting open approaches mean that we can safely put content out there on Slideshare, Flickr, scribd, … The build your own repository is a temporary feature.
  • Lack of evidence – there is not enough evidence but there are many pieces and the stories are not to be ignored. Including some from Martin/SideCAP/EduShare. More needs to be done – but again care is needed to avoid setting high barriers that cannot be met by other approaches.
  • Cultural imperialism? – I covered some of this in a presentation to JISC. Yes OER carries a cultural message but openness also provides mulit-way communication and cultural diversity to counter the imperialsim.
  • Quality/Depth – OER gives a route to quality and depth by extending the base of content beyond those in the same institution – providing a superset of content over that previously available.
  • Learn through creation – last summer I tried an exercise (with Grainne Conole and Andrew Brasher) guided by Yannis Dimitriadis looking at OER to find material that would help learners work collaboratively. This felt exciting and inspiring – and at a later workshop the same message came back. OER can be a creative process for the user (or even reusers).

In the spirit of debate perhaps one sided and my academic side leads me to add this note that actually there is a balance between the points I am trying to make and Martin’s. I have also strayed into his big OER v little OER territory so he might well be able to catch me out on a technicality!

Live blog post, 3pm

continued form previous post:

1) Models of technology:

All projects use a pool of technologies: social networking (e.g. Facebook, Ning, Cloudworks), repositories (OpenLearn, slideshare, flickr), mapping software (e.g. Compendium, Cohere).

2) Models of learning:

Common to all projects: an attempt to blend formal and informal learning;

Discussed: the individual and social dimension; structure and unstructured materials.

3) Models of community:

Various foci: content, social interactions etc. How do these things characterize different types of interactions between learners, how does leadership happen in these spaces? 

Common to the projects: personalisation, content-focus, forums, openness. The concept of the collective, learning design (as a community)

4) Models of design:

Different models of design and how these projects can be placed in these models:

4 types of design model: 

1) configuration and re-configuration design (creating new patterns from existing ones) LDI, SocialLearn, OpenLearn

2) Inspirational design (Creativity): OLnet, VirtualMphil

3) Effective design (for particular requirements):  VirtualMphil, TERGU, Atelier-D

4) Collaborative design & Cooperative design (teams of people doing things): OLnet, Atelier-D

We will continue the conversation at Ning/Cloudworks. Cloudworks is open to the public view. Photos of the day are available at OLnetChannel on Flickr.

Live blogging: 2:15pm continued from previous post: What does each project think they can get out of this workshop? What are the models of learning? What do we mean by communities? What about collaborations? In terms of technology, what are the experiences we have in terms of using different tools? How can we pull this knowledge together? How can we use tools to better communicate and support communities? How to explore ways of communication between OU existing projects? What are the dimensions of formal and informal learning within our projects? In terms of the design of materials, are there any approaches that would help us achieve what we want? How can we draw on the visual elements of design? And representations in various ways? Creative thinking and creative learning: how could people make the best of the opportunities that they are given? Social technologies allow for creativity: what is the effect of this creative on the learning? How can we build more authentic assessment drawing on users’ personal experiences? Boundaries: how to manage our identity in social networking spaces? How can we explore new ways of collaborating between the projects? 3 main themes: communities/collaboration, design/learning, technologies (formal &informal learning) 4 Models: models of learning: models of communities; models of technologies; models of design Big question: How to explore ways of communication between OU existing projects? We are now being divided into 4 groups, each group being a gatekeeper of each of the themes above. Our aim is to create a representation of how each of the 7 projects discussed today tackle the models above. More to follow….

Live blogging:


This morning we are gathered together at the Open University, The Design Observatory, Observation Space, to discuss the connections amongst the various OER projects existing in the university. By ‘we’ I mean representatives from projects such as OLnet, Atelier-D, OpenLearn, SCORM, LDI, iSpot, the TERG research group and the OU Library.

We started by ‘building’ a virtual representation of the projects, using traditional technologies such as pens, paper, glue and magazines! Interestingly, most posters have pictures that evoke meanings such as networks, international scope, multiculturality, technologies and mixed age-groups.

Andreia Santos started by talking about the main three elements of OLnet (Open Learning Network): networking, participatory research and fellowships. OLnet is an international research hub that aims to bring together OER researchers, providers and practitioners with a view to promote a space for the sharing of experiences in designing, using and re-using OER. It offers a website and links to tools such as social networking (Cloudworks), a mapping tool (Cohere) and blogging/discussion forums to support community engagement.

Lucia Rapanotti follows by talking about The Virtual MPhil, a research programme offered by the OU computing department aiming to support a diverse community through online technology, bringing together supervisors and students working at a distance. It involves a number of technologies, such as Second Life and Ning.

Andy Lane talks about OpenLearn as a test-bed, a project to develop OER on big scale (big ‘d’). It exposes the OU content and other people’s content , but it is also a platform in which many things can be done. There is the LabSpace and Learning Space, and overall 20000 download of study units every week. OpenLearn is a test-bed for learners, for students, for educators, for the universities. People can do things with it and they do not have to ask us to do so. Research continues to be an important element to the understanding of how useful these materials are for the community and actually what they ‘do’ with them. 

Theo Zamenopoulos talks about Atelier-D: Achieving Transformation, Enhanced Learning and Innovation through Educational Resources and Design. Atelier-D is a design studio (of materials), a place for people to work together in collaboration with tutors and other students. It is a social environment for collaboration. The big question for the project is how to use the technologies to understand the dynamics of a traditional design studio. They use a mix of technologies such as Facebook, Second Life, Compendium, Flickr and Elluminate. They aim to bridge the use of these tools and try and create an infrastructure for the students to work with. How to integrate the complexities of the use of all these technologies is one of the project’s challenge (and of OLnet too, I should add!)

The next project showcased is iSpot; a project interested in wildlife and providing a space for the sharing of ideas within a friendly community. It is a place for informal and mobile learning, in which individuals can use the resources provided to observe wildlife and share information. The research side of iSpot is to observe people in their journey, how they use resources and make connections with them, although they say it is a real challenge!

TERG (Technology and Education Research Group) is a research group in the communication systems department, focusing on the use of technologies for learning and on how to learn with technologies. It involves different people at the OU collaborating and sharing experiences. 

More on Explore, Map and Build to follow….





How to…OER

September 28, 2009

Live blog:11:25AM

New OER initiatives are popping out throughout the world.  It is often the case that institutions are looking for answers on how to get started as OER providers, and how to get their staff and students involved in the process. Today I am in a meeting with some Dutch universities, which are either already offering content online or considering joining the OCW movement. The questions they ask and discuss in the meeting are, in my view, very relevant for any institution contemplating offering OER. These are:

  • What is the best audience for OER, learners or teachers?
  • What sort of support should an institution provide to its staff to design OER?
  • Should lecturers be involved in publishing the materials as well as developing them? Or should they only concentrate on designing, and the institution provide the infra-structure for publishing?
  • How to involve lecturers in designing and providing content?
  • What criteria to use to guarantee that the material offered is of high quality?
  • What do lecturers have to know before they get started?
  • With so much technology available, how to decide on the best media for OER provision?

OpenLearn has answers for many of these questions (perhaps all), but “does one size fit all’? By the way, this is one of the favourite questions of our new VC, Mr Martin Bean. And it is also something that OLnet is interested in finding out, evidence of best practices that can serve as a starting point for discussion around these issues. OLnet welcome ideas, experiences and stories to share with the community.

The aim of OLnet (Open Learning Network) is to establish a network for information sharing about OER research. Questions such as ‘How can the design and reuse of OERs be improved?’ and ‘How can we build a socio-technical infrastructure to serve as a collective evolving intelligence for the community?’ are the heart of OLnet’s  interests.

Launched in January 2009, OLnet is in its very early days, but already planning a number of initiatives to start up its engagement with the research community. A fellowship program is being structured, in which researchers from all over the world will be able to invest their expertise in researching and sharing OER best practices and challenges. Alongside the fellowship program, OLnet first event will take place at the Open university in Milton Keynes in February, in which the OU community will have the opportunity to join the network and share experiences. The OLnet website is