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OER startup meeting in London – 9th June

On 9th June Matt Newcombe and I attended the Open Educational Resources Programme Start-up Meeting. I say 9th June, it really started the day before with an early night in order to get up at 5:30 to catch the train to London.
This meeting was for all 3 programme strand projects (Individual, Subject and Institutional) and it was run jointly by JISC and the HEA. The agenda, with links to presentations, is available at:
http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/oer/startupmeeting090609.aspx

As someone who has inhabited the JISC world in various guises over many years, much was familiar – JISC’s expectations, role of JISC support services (JISC Legal etc), but nonetheless extremely useful.

Of particular value was meeting folk from the other institutional projects – there is much scope for cooperation and sharing. One of the delegates from Leicester mentioned that they wish to give a particular focus to the quality of their materials. This has much resonance with our project – we have views on how we will ‘evaluate’ material both when it is offered and after it has been divested of any IPR-offending material that cannot be resolved. We also need to ‘evaluate’ what we mean by ‘evaluate'(!)  as it is a term that can only properly be understood within a particular context, and there will be many legitimate contexts.

The particular dimension that most delegates will have found new was that of Open Jorum, the JISC-funded repository where we have been asked to deposit our materials. Or have we? The ability to be able to link back to the material on our institutional repository is provided, but is not being encouraged except under particular circumstances. But do we then have two ‘master’ versions? I see difficulties here, but could we construct a different identify for each whilst maintaining consistency?

I also found the metadata requirements for Open Jorum remarkably undemanding and it is making us rethink the extent to which we need to pursue more exacting criteria that we had in mind and which is being promoted by standards aficionados such as CETIS.

There is also some confusion in my mind regarding the Creative Commons declaration that is signed as part of the Open Jorum deposit process and the licence wrapped around the resources on our own institutional repository. Is there some potential for confusion?

Some of the above has also been rehearsed within a very useful summary on the Leeds Met blog. Clearly we are all learning together on something that is very new for us all.

Tom Browne

7 comments to OER startup meeting in London – 9th June

  • Tom,

    It’s really useful to see what you’re thinking about the OER Programme.

    (For background on technical requirements, see: http://ie-repository.jisc.ac.uk/280/)

    One of the things JISC has learnt through Jorum, content projects and repository projects, is that there is a fine balance between the requirement from users for information to help them find, evaluate and use content, and the effort required from contributors to provide that information. This balance depends on the strength/type of motivation of contributors and users, their expectations of how things should work, and ease of use of the software.
    It is because of this moving target that we haven’t wanted to set the bar too high for contributors, so that we can collectively work towards a critical mass of content.
    One example of how “open” is different is that because content on the open web is likely to be found via a whole range of mechanisms (other than structured catalogue records), the effort put into describing content is not necessarily going to be made use of by discovery mechanisms. Rich information about the content can still be useful once the user has found the content, and we very much encourage as much detail as the contributor is able to give.
    We don’t yet know enough about how open educational resources are found and evaluated on the open web to be able to confidently mandate a new application profile.
    The content being released through this pilot, in its diverse and distributed nature, should help us identify some common sustainable approaches to OER release.

    Interested to hear more thoughts …

  • I have to call you on the statement that “the metadata requirements for JorumOpen [are] remarkably undemanding and it is making us rethink the extent to which we need to pursue more more exacting criteria that we had in mind and which is being promoted by standards aficionados such as CETIS.” The metadata requirements for JorumOpen looked to me to be entirely consistent with those promoted by CETIS for the UKOER programme, see http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/lmc/2009/03/30/metadata-guidelines-for-the-oer-programme/

  • Matthew Newcombe

    Phil is correct that the requirements being implemented by the OpenJorum repository do match those that were suggested on the Cetis blog. This is a step change for Jorum not to implement a formal metadata standard and I feel that institutions will want to ensure that internal standards and procedures are reflected in published materials placed in internal or external repositories. This also relates to the question of depositing or linking to Open Jorum to meet the requirements of the funding – should items be placed in more than one repository with differing metadata attached to them??

  • Tom Browne

    Well, that’s told me then!

    However …. I suggest that there is still a conversation to be had around whether we identify a very formal, highly defined metadata schema (that may well frighten potential depositors away) and (what clearly went down like a lead balloon) an ‘undemanding’ schema, which may make resources difficult to find.

    Our current thinking is to define a schema that requires nothing more than should be found on our formal module descriptors, when courses are seeking approval.

    Reading again Lorna’s extremely help blog (which I had read as part of preparing our bid) I note the text:

    ‘we are instead identifying the type of information that projects must record for the resources they create without mandating how this should be done. Hopefully this will give projects considerably greater flexibility as to how they describe their resources and ultimately we hope that this will result in richer descriptions that are of value to end users.’

    So, I hope that our approach contributes to that debate.

    Lorna’s blog then goes on to say ‘However we do recognise that this freer approach is likely to have some impact on interoperability.’

    Quite so, hence the need for a wider debate.

    I’m delighted that Heather Williamson has just sent round details regarding our our institutional blog entries and has highlighted this thread. I really hope that this will lead to a productive exchange whereby we can all share and learn from other people’ experiences.

    Regards to all.

  • On the unicycle project at Leeds Met we also began discussing the issue of duplicated content (and also versioning) and also metadata creation and how it might differ from Jorum Open.

    One question I posed in some of the conversations was whether it really matters whether there are duplicate materials (i.e. on institutional repositories as well as Jorum Open). Surely the purpose of the project is making materials open and available?

    The “master” version does not necessarily matter once it is in the public domain as we are encouraging people to change it, add to it and then offer it out into the community again.

    Quality is also an interesting debate – how to measure quality across subject areas, levels of learning and for the range of potential audiences. In theory any item (or part) of material in the repository could be of use to someone (regardless of our initial perception of it’s quality). Are we to deprive access to materials because we have already measured it’s quality before it enters the Open resource community?

    Alternatively could we pursue an agreed collaborative approach across projects regarding quality (this could very well be too much of a challenge so early on in the process).

    Finally – could we implement quality control from within the repository? How about getting users to “rate” the materials with a traditional 5 star rating? Rather than quality being measured before the inclusion into the repository could the end users be the quality controllers?

    So many questions and at the moment not too many answers. Hopefully by the end of the project at least some of these will have answers and hopefully all of them will have been explored.

    A version of this reply is also a blog post at the following URL:

    http://unicycle-leedsmet.ning.com/profiles/blogs/quality-control-amp-ownership

  • Hi there, apologies for coming to this discussion rather late. Tom is right that the big dilemma here is whether to mandate more or less metadata and potentially compromise willingness to deposit or ability to search. This is one of the big issues that we hope to explore through this pilot programme. Although CETIS have no easy answers it’s probably worth saying that we are able to help with advice on metadata creation, resource description etc whether you want to discuss the use of tags or the creation of formal application profiles. We’re following the OER blogs with great interest but feel free to send direct queries either to myself or Phil Barker or to the CETIS Metadata and Digital Repositories SIG mailing list at

    One last thing, in response to Matthew’s comment, you can put your resources in as many “repositories” as you like with as much or as little metadata as you think is appropriate, however you will have to think about how you manage your resources and track their use.

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