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Post by Tom Browne on 19 April 2010 at 4:07 pm

Regular visitors to this blog will be aware that our project, like all the other JISC/HEA projects, will finish at the end of this April.   I’m busily writing our Final Report, which must be submitted by 26th April.

I’ve often said that we have had two projects, one to deliver the ‘hard’ deliverables, (e.g. the 360 credit equivalents of material and an institutional repository) and a story.   In the narrow sense of measuring the success of the project, I’m confident that we have fulfilled our obligations on both counts.

But tantalisingly, any real measure of ‘success’ will come after the project ends.   Will Open Exeter really become part of the embedded fabric of the University?  Will learning and teaching practices really respond in kind?   Will fresh waves of international students be knocking at our door, having been suitably impressed by our stunning materials?

Today, our Vice Chancellors Executive Group (you can go no higher …) will be considering a paper some of us have written entitled ‘Open Educational Resources: the way forward for Exeter’   and within which we have made some costed proposals.    If approved, I will make this paper available on our website.

If you have any positive vibes to spare, please direct then to the southwest.   Do not try to send by air travel.

Post by Tom Browne on 31 March 2010 at 4:08 pm

Ruminations on OER10 conference

OER10 conference, Cambridge, 22-24/3/2010

There have been so many folk blogging their thoughts on this conference, it clearly made quite an impact.    It certainly did for me – a whole conference dedicated to OER rather than some obscure parallel session.  Well done to the the conference organisors etc.
Abstracts are available at:
Programme is available at:

I presented a paper entitled ‘The challenge of OER on Academic practice’. The reviewed abstract and the presentation are available from our project website at:  The co-authors were Tom Browne, Richard Holding, Anna Howell and Sue Rodway-Dyer.

Ours was perhaps a somewhat sobering presentation, though not without its positive messages.    An underpinning theme was the potential tensions between institutional motivations and individual motivations.     Sometimes they converge, sometimes they don’t.

Other things that resonated:

Malcolm Read (Executive Secretary of JISC) in his keynote, emphasised that OER should be seen as part of a much broader ‘Open’ movement.   Also, not every academic has to engage – 10%-20% may be good enough to promote UK HE.  He also indicated that he had promoted the ‘marketing’ agenda as way to convince HEFCE to release funding.   I suspect we all paid rapt attention to the news that a 2nd round of funding will become available for targetted activities.

I was heartened by Simon Thomson’s presentation on the Leeds Met project and their view that the extra cost of OER is ‘negligible’.  We are using the term ‘marginal’ but it sounds like we are on the same lines.    I’m being pressed locally to ‘cost’ this term but we do not have any internal model for determining the Full Economic Cost of producing digital materials for our internal VLE, so its quite difficult to calculate a marginal cost on an unknown base cost!    We also seem to be on common ground in identifying staff development as an important means of enabling sustainability.

The JISC/HEA project synthesis programme workshop, run by Helen Beetham and Allison Littlejohn was lively because were were challenged to demonstrate hard evidence of the benefits of OER.    I doubt that there was any disagreement in principle within the workshop but for many of us it is premature to be able to provide such evidence.   As Prof Andy Gray from the OU said, it is ‘slow burn’.    In just one year, we have developed a substantial infrastructure (technical, organisational, policies, staff awareness etc) from the ground up.    Hard evidence will come a little later, though we are not short of anecdotes.

A small group were invited after the project to ‘have a conversation’ with John Naughton.  He is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and also the Observer’s internet columnist. Provocatively (deliberately, to provoke a reaction) he said:

  • OER is not working.
  • There is no business model.
  • ‘Open-ness’ is not open to objectivity – it is a matter of faith.
  • It is a low status activity.


Some other stray thoughts:

  • There is no shortage of ‘supply’, but everyone is bemoaning the lack of re-use. Maybe there is a reason? OERs are vacuous without some sort of scaffold.  Might this be Learning Design?
  • Ask what problems we want OERs to solve …
  • Skills materials – are producers of such materials (often professional support staff rather than academics) more in tune with sharing and repurposing?

And finally, somewhat said (apologies, I cannot recall who) that the top 20 universities in Japan all belong to Open Courseware Consortium.  Significant?

Post by Richard Holding on 10 March 2010 at 5:08 pm

Weekly Update

We’re now at the stage where we’re starting to double check through the material we have cleared, in order to demonstrate ‘due diligence’ before depositing it into our Open Exeter repository. We have already tested the process of creating ZIP files and IMS Content Packages, the latter of which we have successfully imported into Moodle to test unpacking. Once we have some OER material in our repository we can test the process of linking to it from JorumOpen.

With much support from Claire Turner (Head of Legal Services), Eversheds (our University lawyers) have agreed that we can use an internationally recognised Creative Commons License under which to release our OERs, rather than having to have a ‘University of Exeter’ variant. We will, wherever possible, be opting for Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike (cc by-nc-sa). We will also include the following accompanying text:

  1. You must not remove, alter, hide or modify any copyright notices and/or acknowledgments in the Work.
  2. The Licensor expressly disclaims, to the extent permitted by law, any liability with respect to the Work including but not limited to errors or omissions contained in the Work, libel, infringements of intellectual property rights or the disclosure of confidential information. You acknowledge and agree that your use of the Work is at your sole risk and the Licensor accepts no responsibility for loss suffered or incurred as a result of your reliance on the Work.

Tom is currently arranging to complete an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) spreadsheet, a comprehensive checklist that needs to be completed to enable the project to become a service within the University.

Post by Sue Rodway-Dyer on 5 March 2010 at 1:18 pm

OER Evaluation at Exeter

I am currently involved in evaluating OER at the University of Exeter.  The aim is to capture staff attitudes towards production and use of OERs, benefits and barriers, careers and the future of OER at Exeter.  This has involved interviewing key stakeholders at the University from various sub-sectors such as the steering group, contributors, staff within the project list and staff who attended a workshop session on OER.  A qualitative approach has been used which aimed to glean thoughts on all aspects of the OER project, good and bad!  As the project is coming towards a close, the report will soon be available for all to see.

Interestingly the results so far do align very closely to the current questionnaire designed as a survey tool by Andy Beggan and Steve Stapleton from the Nottingham BERLIN project.  The BERLIN project involves a different, more quantitative approach and many institutions, so it will be interesting to compare the outcomes.

Post by James on 3 March 2010 at 5:34 pm

Weekly Update

It has been a busy week for many of the members of the team, with the main focus being report and presentation writing in preparation for OER10 as well as the draft report for JISC.

We are also in the process of finalising the specification for the creative commons license out which will be applied to all the recourses in our repository.

Also this week we said farewell to Ahmed Abu-Zayed (the University’s Digital Assets manager) who has provided technical support for the project, specifically in relation to our metadata schema and repository. He has been an invaluable member of the open Exeter project team and we wish him the best of luck in his new role at the University of Qatar.

Post by James on 18 February 2010 at 12:57 pm

Weekly Update

Now that we have reached mid February the credit totals are our main priority, we are now getting very close to our 360 credit target. Because we are confident about reaching are target we have been spending some extra time making sure we maximise the content we have for the modules we are currently working on.

We have had more positive news this week. To our surprise some academics that had finished working on the project some time ago have got back in touch, stating they would like to contribute more materials. I believe that this shows how important it is to give academics the right incentives to contribute to the project. Not only is it likely they will give more contributions but they may also spread the word to colleagues which will eventually increase the sustainability of OER.

We have also been spending some time uploading some test materials to our repository and have so far been impressed with its accessibility.

Sue Rodway Dyer has been busy interviewing many of the contributors to the project.  The aim of the interviews is to find out their views on OER in general. So far the feedback has been very mixed and should provide some interesting reading in the final evaluation.

Post by Richard Holding on 15 February 2010 at 12:36 pm

Weekly Update

We are progressing towards our 360 credit target, with over 280 credits worth of material processed so far, and the remaining 80 credits in the pipeline.

Among the issues that we are discussing at present is the question of how we can tailor our resources to best meet the needs of our target audience(s).

Tom attended a workshop at the University of Nottingham on Friday to give a presentation on IPR.

Post by Richard Holding on 27 January 2010 at 5:31 pm

Weekly Update

Our institutional repository is almost up and running and we will commence depositing resources shortly.

The paper and accompanying presentation we are preparing for OER10 is coming along well.

The decision to streamline the copyright clearance process has enabled us to produce OER ready material at a greater pace. We have found that by focusing on the quality of materials and the copyright issues as separate elements, it has allowed us to continue to produce high quality outputs whilst reducing the processing time.

We have been given a couple of new modules from the Graduate School of Education – both from the Education programme. These will be used to replace some previously contributed modules that presented too many copyright issues to be suitable for the project.

Post by Tom Browne on 22 January 2010 at 12:04 pm

This blog was primarily written by our new recruit and educational technologist – James Peard.  But we are having trouble getting him ‘author’ rights so I’m posting it (Tom).

As we are all feeling the target to deliver 360 credits looming ever closer, we have decided to modify our approach just a little.   We aim to hit our target by mid February.  This would mean there would be ample time for packaging and depositing the materials, evaluating the project and any additional materials we gain at a later stage would be a bonus.

We will not relax our vigilance on any e.g. copyright and IP issues.    But we will now no longer spend so much time in seeking alternative ‘infringement-free’ replacements.    We had begun our clearing process by taking a ‘proportionate’ view on the number of credits we could claim for the amount of material we had cleared.   But we are now taking a more mainstream approach whereby we will ‘claim’ the credits so long as the volume of material cleared is sufficiently representative of the course as a whole.

This approach has been ratified by our internal Steering Group and is regarded as a pragmatic (and overdue?) response to the myriad of IP issues we are encountering.    It also means that we will gain valuable new insights into the pros and cons of such a modified approach. Naturally we still see the quality of the materials as being important so we are keeping a close eye on this and will still be looking for alternatives if we feel that removing content from a unit will really reduce its quality.  (I’m not going to enter the debate here regarding what we mean by ‘quality!)

Personally I have found this approach quite effective, although I have viewed it as a slightly backwards approach to how I used to work. Now rather than sitting on unfinished units which have outstanding IPR issues, I can just remove the problematic areas so that the units are still complete and ready to be deposited. If any issues are resolved at a later stage the removed content can be replaced.

Post by Anna on 18 January 2010 at 2:21 pm

Four months to go

Last week we had our first team meeting of the year, and reviewed where we are now and where we’re going next. We were sorry to learn of the death of one of the tutors contributing to OER over the Christmas period; another tutor has been in hospital but is now on the road to recovery. We may be acquiring some further course material to replace courses that were found to be unsuitable for OER due to the prohibitive cost of resolving their IPR issues.