Event: Re-imagining open education, published works and social media, 16 Oct 2012, London

By Suzi Wells

Having booked at the last minute I was a little unsure what to expect at this one-day workshop. It was publicised through the MEDEV website. Not having a background in medical education I wasn’t sure how relevant it would be to me.

I’m very glad I managed to go along. Two main projects were discussed: Oxford’s Open Spires (and especially Great Writers Inspire and the World War I centenary); and Newcastle’s PublishOER (working with Elvisier to investigate the use of publisher’s materials in OERs).

There’s lots I’d like to follow up from the day, and it was fantastic timing for our new project on OERs at Bristol. My full (and rather rough) notes are below. A few of the key things for me were this:

  • OERs are not new, but it feels like we’re at the beginning of something
  • it is not an area that universities can ignore, and this seems to be increasingly well-recognised
  • if Elsivier are anything to go by, publishers are also recognising that this is something that they need to engage with (though Elsivier may have more reason to engage than most because of the academic boycott against them)
  • the issues around licensing (and, especially in the case of medical content, consent) are complex – they can be made more manageable but they will still be non-trivial

Workshop details on MEDEV website

Rough notes from the day…

Open Spires (Oxford)
– do have (had?) a document staff sign for each resource released – 40-50% released under creative commons
– Year 1 – small steps, using iTunesU
– Year 2 – Triton – politics OER project (with Cambridge too) – looking more actively for politics -PLUS- Ripple – OER support
– Year 3 – Great Writers Inspire – leveraging iTunesU, TED-like talks, marketing approach to OER and literature – public-facing

Using 3rd party materials in OERs (Newcastle) PublishOER project
– advertise how to buy the book (put in URL) in the resource – to make the publisher happy
– zero tolerance means doing nothing (Oxford: took risk averse – don’t release 3rd party material – OU: have a team of people working on this)

Amber Thomas, JISC – UK OER programme and where we are today
– OER Infokit under development
– Into the wild – book in draft
– workflows: consumption, creation, curation
– interesting things happening around transforming resources between formats

Kate Linsey (Oxford)
– successfully crowdsourced lots of material, partly by allowing online submissions, partly by local digitisation roadshows
– public also improved the metadata, among other things via Flickr
– now running across Europe
– student ambassadors & academic steering group select (curate) collections of high-quality items
– blogging as open publishing – academics did see the value for boosting their reputation and receiving feedback on their work – many found it hard to get the hang of writing for the web and still wanted someone to look over their work – a couple-of-hundred hit on each post in the first few days
– remarkably few open-licenced resources for education on a lot of these areas
– tweeting as a way to gather / publicise OERs on the Battle of Arras – gave their tweets fake geo-locations and then created a map from them
– “democratise the study of the past”

Rapid fire sessions from Great Writers Inspire / Publish OER – lessons learnt

Peter Robinson – Great Writers Inspire
– academics didn’t like the straightforward marketing-friendly title
– need team of academic champions
(- at first – asked for 5min TED-like talk – loved hearing their colleagues)
– build on established publishing channels – working with commercial partners can help the organisation move forward – good motivator
– community engagement early – educational community engaged in English Literature -> talking to them early was incredibly useful
– student ambassadors – blogging, writing, finding things, working with schools, driving the agenda (eg why not much feminist poetry) – especially good as academics have limited time

Nick Short – talking in place of Liz Mossop – Books or Facebook
– disconnect between what the academics thought the students were doing and what the students were actually doing … eg downloading the books from dodgy websites
– researching into students attitudes
– access to information: still use textbooks but supplemented by web resources … students caught between the two ways …. want quality assurance and not confident about online resources … students informally peer-review the content and pass this around through social media
– wide range of devices ebing used by students (from tablets and smartphones through to much more basic phones) and styles of use
– beginning to use Facebook to promote OERs as Facebook is still the most popular

Hugh Look, JISC Collections: national policy for opening up content
– many publishers wouldn’t engage
– publishers are willing to make materials available in OERs
– publishers quite unwilling to give indefinite licences so licences will be for limited periods [several people later commented that this severely restricted the value of engaging with the publishers]
– publishers don’t want blanket licences: case by case
– “creators of an OER will remove it from the OER on request from the licensor”

————– AFTERNOON —-

My notes from the Elsivier talk were a bit sparse – I was on a bit of a lull after lunch. They have various interesting open-ish initiatives and are looking to build on the PublishOER project. List of Elsivier open access journals.

Rapid fire sessions

James Outterside – breaking ePub files
– Pulled metadata out of ePub files, also the chapters
– Idea is to allow a student to look at a section of an ePub but retaining the metadata (this was done as part of a hack day)
– Also, searching within ePub files – spliced together textbook and dictionary – pulled out all the images from the ePub file
– creating personalised ePubs based on the stage of the course (ties in with their Dynamic Learning Maps system)

Daniel Plummer, Making seeking permission easier
– permission system developed as part of the PublishOER project
– central system: all information in one location, using APIs to communicate between systsems while publishers remain in control of the data, helps users fill in the form to request use, helps the uni track usage
– for some resources the API will allow auto-sign-off of the material – can remind people when their licence is about to expire too
– means valuable information can be fed back to the publisher
– looking into micropayments

Cleo Hanaway, Student Ambassador view on Great Writers Inspire
– just finishing her PhD
– why get involved? – personal interest in getting people to be less scared of Modernist stream-of-consciousness type novels, interact with academics and non-academics, great for CV
– Impact and Public Engagement – great thing to have on CV
– did link with her own research
– issue: people (teachers) expected completeness “a one-stop-shop” but content will only ever reflect what academics and students are interested in
– new angles developed working with wider public on projects like this are great for ideas to feed into research and teaching

Mark Moran – reusing published content & the future of education
– SS4V Sanders Solutions for Vets – for recently qualified vets
– technical developments, built to be something they’d keep re-using with new content, turned out to need re-developing every few years due to browser support
– developed for CPD but found that students were buying it (& believe that people will want this, or things like it, increasingly earlier in their education)
– resolving uncertainty over rights is vital: eg even using material from Elsivier’s books to produce digital materials to be published by Elsivier there were rights issues over images
– intellectual rights have to cover eg instructional design, coding, design … as well as the author (at least I think this is what he was saying)
– tech advances are constant and rapid – and you have to keep redeveloping stuff to keep up with technology
– opportunities for creating engaging *accredited* learning (PG / UG / pre-university)
– Uni’s will share the development of programmes – mentioned intro courses in particular / buy modules from “respected sources”
– Unis accrediting “open source” courses
– Similar messages to Hennessy on future of education


Martin Hawksey – JISC CETIS – is worth talking to re OER support

Nottingham have an OER policy

“Having a policy / strategy for engaging with the public through teaching (rather than engaging with the public through research) is a bit of a new thing for Unis” (?? is it – what about evening classes)

Elsivier / Newcastle Uni ran a hack day – 2 days, students competing to develop an app based on data provided by Elsivier, put up in a hotel so they could work overnight, about £1000 prize for winning team

Plagiarism and cc-by works – “cc-by enables plagiarism” (because it gives you the right to remix work as your own so long as you acknowledge)

Publishers have APIs